Strengthening Developing Communities

Photo: OneVillage Partners

Our Goal

We seek to increase the standard of living for youth and families living in poverty in developing countries.

The Foundation will open its application process in late Spring of 2024. As we live into our equity commitment, we seek to engage a broader base of voices for our grantmaking process. If you are interested in being involved, please sign up here:

The Foundation believes that the standard of living is about what individuals can do and become, as well as the economic terms of the Gross National Product. Individuals need both capabilities and opportunities to pursue a life of dignity and value.

Photo: Seeds for Progress

The Foundation supports sustainable and integrated solutions that increase capability and provide opportunity. Individuals can understand what they can become and understand their needs. So, individuals within the community need to be involved in designing and delivering solutions. To address the complexity of poverty, the coordination of solutions are essential in recognition of a range of critical needs, including, but not limited to:

Economic Development:

Opportunities may vary based on rural or urban settings, and all well-defined opportunities are welcome for consideration. Because the largest population of individuals living in poverty connects to agriculture, support that includes building agricultural skills and sustainable agriculture markets is of particular interest.

Educational Attainment:

Education comes in many forms, from primary and secondary education to building the skills of adults. We are interested in options that increase capabilities, provide opportunities, and lead to improved livelihoods.

Affordable Access to Healthcare:

Family planning and reproductive health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

Basic Needs:

Nutrition, housing, and other basic needs are critical in ensuring that opportunities can be utilized.


Individuals who have repeatedly faced barriers may need additional support to find their strength and determine their direction.

Our Beliefs

These characteristics are important in how the work is done:


Sustainable systems do not hand out tangible commodities that will be gone after support concludes. Instead, sustainable systems ensure that human and natural resources are nurtured, grown, and produced from within the community and continue to exist even when outside aid is no longer provided.

Gender Equity

Grant partners must have practices that ensure all women and men have equitable access to, authority over, and benefit from the programs. Partners will demonstrate their work increases the capability of women and girls to understand their rights, determine the direction of their life, and influence decision-making in households, communities, and societies.

Photo: Fabretto

Photo: Fabretto

Economic Equity

It is important that economic growth opportunities are shared equitably across class, ethnicity, race, birthplace, and family backgrounds. Grant partners will demonstrate their work increases opportunity for all and does not leave behind any group in the community’s economic progress.

Beneficiary engagement

It is important that grant partners learn from the community and support the community in creating their own methods to increase the standard of living. Grant partners will demonstrate that beneficiaries have had a voice in designing and managing the activities and influencing outcomes. While it may be worthwhile to engage United States skilled volunteers to increase partner capacity, U.S. volunteer engagement should not be the primary objective or significant revenue source of the grant partner.

Our Partners

We are interested in partnering with non-governmental organizations that can directly provide (or partner with other nonprofit organizations that directly provide) either a comprehensive system of support to families or integrate a specific intervention into a comprehensive system of support based on the needs expressed by the community. We are most interested in partnering with innovative partners and we are willing to take project risk with a proven organization.

Although the following strategies may complement the overall Foundation goal, they fall outside of our desired focus:

  • Conferences, sponsorships, festivals, and events
  • Nonecumenical organizations or programs, direct religious activities, or organizations that receive a significant source of funding from sectarian solicitations
  • Support to an individual

Photo: The Nature Conservancy

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 extends invitations to prospective partners to submit an application.


Central America
(Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador)

(Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Senegal)

Photo: OneVillage Partners

Our Committee

In 2020, the Foundation committed to engaging community members on each of its three grant committees as part of its equity commitment.

Currently, the grant committee is comprised of Foundation board members. As we live into our equity commitment, we seek to engage a broader base of voices for our grantmaking process.

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

Photo: Seeds for Progress