Skip to Main Content
Image: Image for News Item: Blandin Names Grants Director

Blandin Names Grants Director



Blandin Foundation selects new director of grant-making


Grand Rapids, Minn.  (March 16, 2012)—Entrepreneur, active community leader and seasoned grant-making professional Sonja Merrild has been named director of grants for Blandin Foundation, announced foundation President and CEO Kathy Annette this week.

“We know Sonja well through her work in the field of rural philanthropy and through her research with us here in Grand Rapids last year,” said Annette.  “We are honored that she has accepted the invitation to join our staff.

“Blandin Foundation and local communities are gaining Sonja’s very deep passion and skills for strengthening rural communities, as well as her great interest in being part of the Grand Rapids area.”

Merrild’s work in rural community development and grant-making has included work for WellPoint Foundation in Indianapolis, Ind.; Marna M. Kuehne and Homer A./Mildred S. Scott Foundations in Sheridan, Wyo.; Tailwinds nonprofit consulting in Sheridan, Wyo., and research in Grand Rapids, Minn., with Blandin Foundation.   She also has co-owned and managed a 22-person real estate brokerage firm, led a seven-organization marketing and business development team as director of marketing for a Midwestern architectural and engineering firm and managed the business office and managed business and local communications for a Nevada-based professional leadership training organization.

Most recently, Merrild studied the patterns and practices of 35 national private foundations for Indiana University Foundation, where she has held a graduate assistant position while finalizing her Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies and Certificate in Nonprofit Management at the university.

Merrild also holds degrees in business administration from the Niels Brock School of International Business in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in leadership studies from Bellevue University in Omaha, Neb.

Her nonprofit leadership has included fundraising, board development and strategic planning work with the Center for a Vital Community at Sheridan College, CASA, the Y, Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary International (as youth counselor), American Cancer Society Relay for Life, The Senior Center and The Wyo Theatre in Sheridan, Wyo.

Former Blandin Foundation grants director and current Foundation vice president, Wade Fauth, said that Merrild will officially join the Foundation and begin leading its four-person grants team on May 30.   In 2012, Blandin Foundation will receive and process more than 600 applications for grants, donations and scholarships and grant nearly $13 million, primarily in the Grand Rapids/Itasca County area.

“We are very thankful to the many excellent candidates who stepped forward with interest to work with the Foundation in this role,” said Fauth.  “I know grantees and other partners throughout the Itasca area and beyond will appreciate what an exceptional opportunity it is to have Sonja working with us to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area.”



Blandin Foundation strengthens rural Minnesota communities by investing in community leaders and working with partners to expand opportunity for all rural residents, especially in the Grand Rapids area. Located in Grand Rapids, Minn., it is one of only a handful of foundations in the U.S. focused exclusively on rural communities and the largest rural-based private foundation in Minnesota. Information on Blandin Foundation grant-making, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives are at


[NOTE TO EDITOR: Photo available.]

Media Contact:

Allison Ahcan, Director of Communications

Blandin Foundation


T: 218-327-8717

C: 218-259-2893


Web: and , Blog:, Twitter: @BlandinFound


arrow icon pointing up Back to Top