Expanding Opportunities for Children and Families

Photo: Hiawatha Academies

Our Goal

We seek to assist children and families living in poverty to attain equitable access to academic and social development opportunities and systems, thereby providing the potential for an educated, informed, and empowered student, parent, and community.

Our Beliefs

To achieve this goal, we believe:

  • Education is key to helping children, families and communities overcome poverty.
  • Academic achievement and social emotional well-being happen through a comprehensive network of quality home, school and community support.
  • Continuous, intensive and relevant support spanning consecutive years along the continuum of learning for children (ranging in age from prenatal to 18) produces effective and sustainable outcomes.
  • Knowledge, experience and perspectives of children, families and communities have significant value for delivering outcomes.
  • A strong ecosystem of education leaders, advocates and policy will produce lasting outcomes for children, families and communities.

Photo: Northside Achievement Zone

Our Partners

We are interested in partnering with nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations and public schools that directly serve or strengthen systems that directly serve children and families living in poverty in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Our desire is to support:

  • 501(c)(3) organizations serving a population with at least 60 percent of people living in poverty, as defined by the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • We welcome unrestricted or program requests from organizations.
  • We will consider program/project support for public schools (district or charter) serving a population with at least 80 percent students receiving free and reduced lunch.
  • 501(c)(3) organizations strengthening systems that serve people living in poverty.

Photo: WE WIN Institute, Inc.

We support organizations that:

Partner with home, schools and communities

Connecting to children and families’ homes, schools and communities as demonstrated by programs aligning with or imbedding within school systems, engaging and empowering parents as partners, and engaging and empowering the community to build upon existing strengths and assets as solutions. For example, an organization that coordinates and engages all entities surrounding a child.

Provide consistent, sustained and rigorous support over multiple years

Supporting children (ranging in age from prenatal to 18) and families along the continuum of learning, either by offering direct services over multiple years or intentionally connecting and transitioning the children and families to services outside of the organization to continue receiving support as needed. For example, an organization that provides three years of programming for a child or two years of programming with an intentional connection to the next level of programming needed for growth.

Work toward outcomes

Organizations either:

  • Attain academic outcomes (by having some indicators and measurements) or
  • Contribute promise and practice on future outcomes (by having evidence-based or culturally-relevant strategies that have some evidence of effectiveness even if indicators and measurements are not yet determined) or
  • Influence systems that attain outcomes


Examples of outcomes and indicators may include:

Aspect of development that program can influence

Evidence that development is either taking place or has been achieved

1. Preparing children for school

1.1 Children are age-appropriate in their social, emotional, cognitive, language and physical development
1.2 Children receive early interventions as appropriate

2. Helping elementary-aged children demonstrate academic growth

2.1 Children improve reading and literacy skills
2.2 Children improve oral language skills
2.3 Children maintain academic skills over the summer months.

3. Helping middle and high-school aged children demonstrate academic growth

3.1 Youth show growth on tests

4. Supporting children in learning and demonstrating social and emotional skills

4.1 Youth develop social-emotional skills (i.e. interpersonal competence, self-awareness and management)
4.2 Youth feel a sense of belonging
4.3 Youth feel empowered to contribute to positive change in their communities

5. Helping families support children’s success

5.1 Families demonstrate positive, responsive parenting techniques
5.2 Families access community services as needed
5.3 Families connect with schools and programs that support students beyond school
5.4 Families advocate for students

6. Shifting behavior and systems that precede population-level outcomes

6.1 Organizations and alliances engage in advocacy and improved policies
6.2 Alliances focus on improving systems practices

Demonstrate quality

Demonstrate strong program quality by using evidence-based strategies, evaluation and/or quality assessment processes, or external accreditation or measurement tools. For example, programs that:

  • Use evidence-based strategies or culturally-relevant strategies that have some evidence of effectiveness
  • Use data-driven practices, including assessments and evaluation
  • Are Parent Aware 3- or 4-star rated for early child care and education programs
  • Utilize quality measurement tools (examples include YPQ, YPQA)
  • Are accredited through an accrediting body (examples include NAEYC, Council on Accreditation, or MnSACA)


Strive for organizational excellence

Ensure a strong organization that supports overall work. For example, organizations that:

  • Utilize focused and intentional strategy by having a well-defined set of goals, connecting strategies and activities to desired goals and making activities build upon each other
  • Exhibit strong leadership and qualified, experienced staff
  • Cultivate an inclusive and culturally responsive environment
  • Develop significant caring and trusting long-term relationships in the communities they serve
  • Support continuous organizational improvement, continuous personal growth and staff retention through professional development, reflection and learning


Engage beneficiaries in design

Offer programming designed with and around children’s and parents’ interests and needs. For example, programs that:

  • Build and support leaders from within
  • Utilize student and parent input to design and improve programs


Although the following strategies may complement our overall Foundation goal, they fall outside of our desired focus: Research, Nonecumenical organizations or programs, direct religious activities or organizations that receive a significant source of funding from sectarian solicitations, special events or sponsorships, and support to an individual.

The Mortenson Family Foundation may make multi-year grants as an additional way to support partner organizations with two- or three-year grant commitments that are capped at 33% of the following year’s projected grantmaking budget. The Foundation will use its discretion in considering an organization for a multi-year grant.

The Foundation will not be accepting Letters of Inquiry from prospective partners in 2022. Please check back in first quarter of 2023 for updated guidelines and application process.

Geography:  Minneapolis and Saint Paul

Photo: OneVillage Partners

Our Committee

James C. Burroughs II


Susuga Leiataua
Dr. Robert Jon Peterson


Sheila Williams Ridge


Nathalie Mortenson


Samantha N. Diaz


Rinal Ray


Dana Mortenson


David Mortenson


Katie Mortenson


“There’s no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.”

Photo: Northside Achievement Zone