Mortenson Family Foundation Announces New Community-Centered Grants,
Shares Progress on Its Racial Equity Commitments

Wild Rivers Conservancy
Wild Rivers Conservancy

Minneapolis, MN [April 6, 2022]— In 2018, the Mortenson Family Foundation board grounded itself in its mission to build partnerships to strengthen community-driven approaches that advance equity, opportunity, and sustainable systems.

In pursuit of this, the Foundation embarked on a journey to grow strong relationships with partner communities. Additionally, the board and staff have been working on examining root causes of systemic injustices, challenging root causes in pursuit of lasting change, learning, and reflecting on how we can be part of the solution, and last but not least, finding new ways to support creativity and innovation. 

Throughout our journey of becoming grounded in equity in all that we do, we have been encouraged by our grant partners and new community grant committee members to communicate more about what we are learning and the actions we are taking toward advancing equity.

In June 2020, our Foundation made eight commitments to increasing racial equity.

Part of the commitment included a $3 million grant budget and $1 million loan pool to support racial reckoning, COVID recovery, and community-building to thrive and prosper. We spent significant time in conversations with community leaders to listen and learn how to deploy these resources with a racial equity lens. We heard that to create change we needed to support local ownership and place the community’s voice at the center. 

In 2021, to support local ownership, the Foundation combined $600,000 of the $3 million grant budget and the $1 million loan pool to support Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Multicultural Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), many of which were located on the cultural corridors in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And because we had the ability to invest the $1 million loan pool in modest loan amounts, we could support smaller CDFIs. 

The following seven CDFI organizations were recommended by the board and funded:

African Development Center

African Economic Development Solutions

Latino Economic Development Center

Northside Economic Opportunities Network

Mni Sota Fund

Neighborhood Development Alliance (NeDa) Centro Fund

Land Bank Twin Cities

As the Foundation continued to understand how to best center community voice to create change for the remainder $2.4 million grant budget, we were grounded in these beliefs: 

  1. Community holds the solutions to the issues it faces and can achieve solutions when there are adequate resources; 
  2. Support should be given to community and proximate leaders for what they feel their priorities are, without measurements designed by the Foundation;
  3. Community needs to lead and control its outcomes and destiny, and 
  4. Support should be for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) with an emphasis on addressing anti-blackness and supporting the African American community.

Different from how we have measured success in the past, for these grants, we will evaluate our success by how well the community believes the Foundation partnered with the organization. 

We are pleased to announce that our board recently approved grants totaling $2.4 million to the four organizations listed below. We trust these amazing leaders and entities to work with the community by taking the lead from them. 

Minnesota Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness & Realize Racial Justice: $1,000,000. The Collective is a Black-led movement building the first Black community-led foundation that centers the dignity and genius of all Black people in Minnesota. By investing in culturally grounded solutions across transformative justice, safety, economics, health, and well-being, the Collective is working to redefine and build philanthropic power to resource, support, and sustain the ecosystem of Black-led social change for generations to come.

Linking Leaders: $1,000,000. Linking Leaders is led by African American Leadership Forum (AALF), Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL), LatinoLEAD, and Tiwahe Foundation and builds  alliances, partnerships, and collaborations to change systemic conditions to make Minnesota work better for everyone. Linking Leaders has become a model of cross-racial collaboration and solidarity in strengthening and building leadership and co-creating initiatives that are authentic and accountable to BIPOC communities. 

United by Black, Powered by All (UB): $300,000. UB is based on Black-centered design and led by African American Leadership Forum to develop a baseline of community experience and aspirations across six focus areas; convene impact partners and impact leaders in each focus area to align and fortify partnerships to support Black-centered impact efforts; support at least ten community efforts in an impact incubator and at least six Black-centered efforts in an impact accelerator; advance a comprehensive advocacy agenda; and create effective partnerships for the investment pipeline with initial contributions of at least $5M to support impact efforts.

Headwaters Foundation: $100,000. Headwaters works to amplify the power of community to advance equity and justice through three grant-making initiatives: The Giving Project, Black Seed Fund, Fund of the Sacred Circle.

In addition to the distribution of funds to CDFIs and these four organizations, our Foundation recently joined seven other foundations in a blog series with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to share stories of change. Each story was created in response to the question: Since early 2020, what is one of the most important changes that you made at your foundation that you plan to sustain going forward, and why? The purpose of the blog series was to foster learning and inspire further action among funders. We hope that our story and the stories of other foundations resonate with and inspire others to make changes, too. Read CEP’s Report

There is also another resource available as a companion to this report that features rich, actionable, candid stories of change from funders across the nation, including Mortenson Family Foundation. Read CEP Companion Piece.

With all that is going on, we are still maintaining our regular grantmaking. To learn more about our grantmaking, visit our newly redesigned website

We welcome questions and conversations about our work.