Jim Wolford's Favorite Nonprofits
Jim’s philanthropy, kindness, and compassion were unmatched in the Twin Cities. He contributed millions to the arts, mental health, cancer research, veteran support, refugees, disabled persons, youth programs, homeless shelters, food banks, green energy, and many others. Read on for more detail about some of Jim’s favorite nonprofits.
Lifeworks Services – Lifeworks envisions a community where people with disabilities are more broadly valued, hired by employers, receiving support, and participating in ordinary activities.
Jim was a fixture at the Lifeworks Annual Celebration for nearly two decades. He would often address the crowd and was known to go off script. Always being sure to bring as many friends, family, clients, and employees as possible, Jim introduced more than 800 people to Lifeworks and raised $750,000 for their cause.
Fraser – As Minnesota’s largest and most experienced provider of autism and early childhood mental health services, Fraser hopes to make a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of children, teens, adults and families with special needs.
In 2018, Jim made a significant pledge to their East Metro Capital Campaign to help build Fraser Woodbury—a state-of-the-art clinic, designed to be a soothing environment for individuals with sensory processing issues.
Jim’s giving wasn’t just external but internal at Atomic Data. He dedicated several rooms after key nonprofits he supported and Fraser was one of them. The room was modeled after Fraser’s sensory services and provided a calming conference room which was even outfitted with a bean bag chair.
Start Reading Now – Start Reading Now gets books into the hands of kids who need it the most. This non-profit addresses summer reading set-backs and inspires kids to read by choice. By hosting book fairs right before summer break, it helps kids create their own library of 30 books built over 3 years – at the end of 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade.
In 2021 when Start Reading Now was struggling to survive, Jim took control and funded operations indefinitely so kids would continue receiving 10 free books a year. Jim would serve as Chairman of the Board until his death in 2023.
Alight – An organization committed to providing humanitarian assistance to millions of beneficiaries for over 35 years. Alight helps people rebuild lives of dignity, health, and self-sufficiency.
As a longtime American Refugee Committee then Alight partner, Jim was a changemaker and force for positive impact felt around the globe. Jim was a remarkable individual who touched the lives of many with his generosity, humor, and willingness to co-create radical opportunity. He was unwaveringly supportive of Alight and their mission.
Nakivale Community Library Network – The Nakivale Community Library Network is a community-driven library and information resource center located in the Nakivale Refugee Settlement of Uganda, Africa.
During a 2012 visit to Africa, Jim quickly recognized the severe lack of learning materials and opportunities in Nakivale Refugee Settlement. Shortly thereafter he went to work with Alight on the design and construction of the permanent free library in Uganda. The library, with both an adult and children’s facility, employs 9 full-time staff and provides education and opportunity for 3,000 book-starved refugees a month.
The Sanneh Foundation – The Sanneh Foundation serves the holistic youth development needs of the increasingly diverse Twin Cities metro area. Their mission is to empower youth by supporting and promoting educational attainment through in-school and after-school support, improve lives by providing programs that strengthen physical health and social and emotional development, and unite communities by advancing diversity, equity, and community well-being.
Jim developed a close friendship with Tony Sanneh over the years and would often speak at Sanneh’s annual Gala4Goals.
Passion Collective – Passion Collective is a community of women who are helping each other thrive in work and life. Passion Collective creates the space for professional women to take off their armor. Their founder, Laura Best, remembers the first words Jim Wolford ever spoke to her when the two were neighbors. One day while Best was on a walk, Wolford drove up to her, rolled down his window, and said, “I know what you’re doing for women. I want to help you. Let’s get lunch.”
Before his sponsorship, Passion Collective was working with around 500 women. Now, more than 8,500 women from across the globe are part of the program’s community. Wolford was never one to make an empty promise, Best said.
Jim and Atomic Data would go on to create the Atomic® Grants program – helping to eliminate the financial barrier to women who are curious about pursuing their passions. 8,000 applicants from more than 50 countries have applied and $20,000 has been awarded so far.
People Serving People – People Serving People is the largest and most comprehensive emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness in Minnesota and a dedicated leader in homelessness prevention.
You could not find a bigger champion than Jim for People Serving People and for families experience homelessness. His support of their annual fundraiser since 2017 and in-kind giving of IT services has enabled PSP to serve 2,000 individuals annually.
“Jim challenged us to look to the far horizon and open our minds to how technology could advance our mission of seeing families thrive.”