A smiling person pushing a cart of food at a food shelf distribution center

About Mardag Foundation

Mardag Foundation is a family foundation that for the past 50 years has focused on ways to engage with and invest in communities across Minnesota through nonprofit grants. The Foundation has evolved its grantmaking as community needs have changed, while staying true to our founder’s commitment to caring for those most in need.

A Legacy of

Begun in 1969, Mardag Foundation has continued the legacy of its founder, Agnes Ober, who overcame poverty in her early life and whose charitable spirit led her to create a permanent means by which to give back to and strengthen her community.

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Our Mission

Mardag Foundation supports Minnesota nonprofits to remove barriers and create opportunities for low income or traditionally marginalized children, youth and families; older adults with barriers to living independently; and to build capacity of organizations supporting the arts and humanities.

Board and Staff Dedicated to Equity

Mardag Foundation is a member of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. The Foundation is led by a volunteer Board of Directors and supported by staff of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. Staff are responsible for grantmaking recommendations, investments, communications and more. Prospective grant applicants are encouraged to discuss grant needs with the Grants Team.

Meet the Grants Team
View the Board and Leadership

Our Relationship to the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation

Mardag Foundation is a partner foundation of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. Mardag Foundation’s grant program is administered by Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation staff. Together, Mardag Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation and the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation offer a variety of grant opportunities to support nonprofits meeting diverse community needs across the East Metro and Minnesota.

Learn about the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation

Our Impact


Grants Given in 2023

Supporting youth and families, older adults and arts across Minnesota


Dollars Granted in 2023

Providing general operating and some capital support to nonprofits


Years of Generosity

Investing in the well-being of children, youth, families and older adults

A History of Strengthening Communities

Mardag Foundation was established in 1969 as the Ober Charitable Trust, but the heart of its mission was formed with the birth of Agnes Dagmar Maas Elmer in 1887.

Agnes experienced profound poverty when she was just six years old, after the death of her mother. Her charitable spirit was rooted in her experiences and stayed with her even as her fortunes changed with her marriage to Saint Paul businessman Edgar Ober.

Agnes’ childhood experiences were never far from her memory no matter how great her wealth in later years. She and her husband Edgar were deeply involved in serving the community.

Agnes died in 1969. Her will instructed that the Foundation benefit religious, charitable, scientific, literary and educational efforts within Minnesota. She cared deeply about the welfare of children and older adults, the arts and humanities, and our community, and that commitment continues today.

In its early days, the Foundation supported projects ranging from education to cultural heritage and the arts to social services and the environment. In 1992, in order to improve operating efficiencies, the Trust dissolved and became Mardag Foundation. Today Agnes’ legacy lives on through the work of Mardag Foundation, which strives to ensure a good life for the youth, families and older adults in our community.

Download Mardag’s 50th Anniversary Booklet

Agnes Ober, Mardag Foundation founder
Agnes Ober, Mardag Foundation founder
Mardag Foundation founder Agnes Ober with her family

Celebrating More than 50 Years as a Foundation

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Nonprofits We Fund

We are proud to invest in community-led solutions and partner with nonprofit organizations doing incredible work in Minnesota.

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News and Updates

You’ll receive monthly communications with stories, news and updates about the work of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and our partner foundations, F. R. Bigelow Foundation and Mardag Foundation.

Learn About Our Grant Program