Front Door


The Graves Foundation believes youth development happens all day, every day--at school, at home, and in our communities. We work to support conditions for thriving in all of these areas.

COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT: At the Graves Foundation, we are working to determine our best role in this time of great uncertainty. Our commitment to Minneapolis youth and families from historically underrepresented communities guides our response to the economic and social ramifications of Covid-19. We believe transparency is crucial in these unprecedented times and so want to communicate openly our plans for 2020 funding in light of our new reality. 
We are committed to our current grantees and partners and will continue supporting these organizations per our funding agreements formed prior to the pandemic. The only change to those agreements will be to remove restrictions from any restricted funds to allow grantees and partners the greatest flexibility as they address Covid-19. 
All remaining, uncommitted 2020 funds will be reallocated toward Covid-19 response and recovery efforts. We are working with community leaders to learn how to best address needs as they become clear. Our initial round of Covid-19 grants have been made proactively. We will be holding on future rounds of funding until longer-term needs clarify.


We fund and support historically underrepresented communities' leaders and organizations. We incubate people and ideas, grow and nurture networks, and act collectively through campaigns and initiatives. 

To realize a Minneapolis where all youth can thrive, we believe in the promise of effective local government. We believe in the power of long-term, trusted relationships. We believe in the ability of citizens to organize and influence civil society. 

Together with local leaders and coalitions, we hope to preserve and advance a Minneapolis free from structural barriers, with abundant opportunity and welcoming communities for youth and families.


In 2014, John and Denise Graves sold Convey Compliance Systems, the company they had spent 28 years building. From a small business run primarily out of the family home, Convey had become the industry leader in tax information reporting with the help of a strong management team, visionary technologists, and a customer-centric corporate culture with strong employee buy-in.

John and Denise used the proceeds from the sale of Convey to endow The Graves Foundation and asked their son, Bill Graves, to launch and manage it. In early 2017, the foundation moved into its permanent home in the Midtown Exchange building, across the hall from the Midtown Global Market.

The positive impact achieved through The Graves Foundation would not be possible without the Convey team’s professional dedication and proven success throughout the company’s many years in business. The Graves family remains deeply committed to seeing The Graves Foundation realize its full potential as a force for positive change in our community.  

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DeSeandra Sheppheard

Director of Grants & Operations

DeSeandra is a wife and mother with over fifteen years of experience in organizational development, leadership, and human resources management. A Minnesota native, DeSeandra grew up in St. Paul's Frogtown community, graduated from Metropolitan State University with a B.S. in HR Management, and has spent her career working in various leadership roles within the Twin Cities’ non-profit and for-profit sectors.

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Kyrra Rankine

Director of Partnerships and Initiatives

Kyrra has over twenty years of experience in the fields of education, social work, coaching, and organizing. After graduating from Minneapolis Public Schools, she went on to earn a B.A. in sociology and fiction at Northwestern University and an M.S.W. at Hunter College in New York City. Kyrra spent six years coaching, developing, and organizing educators and community members on issues related to educational equity and social change. Kyrra loves gardening, running, DIYing things, writing short stories, and hunting for good finds on eBay when she isn’t hanging out with her husband and two kids.

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Courtney Cushing Kiernat

Executive Director, Peris Housing

Courtney joins Peris Housing as its first Executive Director with experience in family philanthropy, resource development, public education, community engagement and partnerships. Courtney considers herself a generalist who knows enough to be dangerous but whose value is getting the right people at the table to get important work done. Courtney grew-up in Minneapolis and Karachi, Pakistan and now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and their three and a quarter dogs, who keep her busy now that her two children are in college. She enjoys serving on nonprofit boards, volunteering as a therapy team with one of her dogs, gardening and photography.

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Bill Graves


Bill is the founding president of The John and Denise Graves Family Foundation. Prior to his work with the foundation, Bill worked in the technology and creative consulting sectors as a business analyst, writer, producer, and resource manager. He lives in Northeast Minneapolis with his wife, Mary, and two daughters.

As President of the Foundation, Bill represents the Graves family’s vision for impact. He works to ensure time and resources are stewarded toward broad impact and invests in the learning and growth of Graves team to effectively execute that vision.

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Carla Godwin

Operations Manager

Carla developed experience in operations, logistics, and communications in the non-profit sector where she worked as an organizer of progressive churches and founded and directed a non-profit committed to promoting gender equity in churches. In that work, she has connected people through events, podcasts, writing, and speaking. Carla has an M.A. in English from the University of Nebraska. She lives in Midtown Minneapolis with her kids. 

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Jillian Stockmo Chapman

Education Project Specialist

Jillian began her career in the classroom, teaching 1st and 2nd grade – since then she has had experience in the non-profit sector in teacher preparation and school and community partnerships. After graduating from Minneapolis Public Schools, Jillian went on to pursue a B.A in Religion and Anthropology from Amherst College, a M.A in Teaching from Hamline University and is currently pursuing her Doctorate as a part of Hamline’s Ed.D program. Jillian lives in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband Tyler; together they love hiking, playing tennis, working on projects, and visiting National Parks.