2020 National Philanthropy Day Award Honoree

Bill and Susan Sands
Invested leaders with a dedicated approach to advancing charitable impact

Bill_and_Susan_Sands.jpgBill and Susan Sands are examples or how time, talent and treasure can all come together in a lifetime. They both have spent much of their lives building, encouraging, and supporting causes that seek to increase equity for many. Both Bill and Susan had the opportunity in their professional lives to impact this critical work. Susan began her career as a social worker, and in 1977, she co-founded the first chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.  Bill had a long career with Western Bank, including over a decade of leadership as President, CEO and Chair. Under his leadership, Western Bank established a Community Development Corporation in 1990 which later became the Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC), one of the first Twin Cities nonprofits dedicated to training and financing small business owners. Both organizations still exist today, and have impacted the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs, many of whom identify as people of color.

As their careers continued, Bill and Susan combined their professional opportunities with a personal mission for a better Minnesota. Bill and Susan engage deeply with organizations they support. Despite having made transformational financial gifts to organizations throughout the Twin Cities, they are most proud of the gifts of time they have been able to provide through their work as volunteers.

In 2013, Bill and Susan established the Sands Family Social Venturing Fellowship at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Business. Through this fellowship, Carlson MBA students are eligible to receive a grant to create a transformative social venture for the benefit of the local community. One of the program’s first participants, Jeff Ochs, founded the Venn Foundation which promotes Program Related Investments (PRIs) as a tool for philanthropy. As an example of the dedication the couple has to all aspects of philanthropy, Susan now serves on the Venn Foundation’s board of directors and continues to educate and inspire other donors to think creatively about their philanthropy and maximizing their community impact.

Bill has led and served on many nonprofit boards. He chaired the board of the Family Housing Fund, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Regions Hospital Foundation. In addition, he has recently served on the boards of Ujamaa Place, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, and the American Composers Forum.

Susan has taken on board leadership roles with Jeremiah Program (both local and national), District Energy St. Paul, Venn Foundation, Westminster Presbyterian Church, James J. Hill Reference Library, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Women Venture, and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

Through these organizations and more, Bill and Susan have shared their time, expertise, and generosity towards making the Twin Cities a better community to call home.



Return to the NPD Event Page

Pay-What-You-Can Registration


This year, you decide what amount works for you! Your registration is considered a donation benefiting Minnesota’s nonprofit community through AFP-Minnesota's work to advance ethical and effective fundraising.