This project is a testament to the remarkable spirit and legacy of rural philanthropy in Minnesota over the past 25 years, and to the commitment of six regional foundations that have forged our own Minnesota model to lead the way.
In 1986, Minnesota faced widespread financial hardships, high unemployment, and shifting rural economies. Similarities to 2011 are striking, but with six critical differences: the Minnesota Initiative Foundations. A network of partners that didn’t exist in the early 1980s, these days they work tirelessly to stabilize and fortify Minnesota in the midst of the current financial crisis.
Established by The McKnight Foundation and statewide leaders 25 years ago, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations are independent, regionally focused entities reaching throughout Greater Minnesota. In a quarter century, each has found its own path, creating unique programs and operational structures. Working for today and for the future, they provide business loans, grants, and direct services for the greatest positive impact statewide.
The vision behind these powerhouses owes much to a key philosophy of McKnight’s own founder, business leader William L. McKnight: “Give people the room they need.” McKnight believed that life’s best solutions could be achieved by providing the right people with appropriate resources to do what’s needed. Proof positive, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations are enduring models of independent rural philanthropy, self-determination, and deeply rooted regional partnerships. With the ongoing support of government agencies, foundations, businesses, and individuals, they transform financial investments every day into innovative socialservices, prosperous industries, and stronger, more vibrant communities.
As demonstrated throughout their work and history, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations recognize the added force of aligned visions and key partnerships. In the following pages, we highlight a few of their many points of intersection: maximizing opportunities for Minnesota’s youth, our natural environment, communities and downtowns, and statewide economic development. To help illustrate their efforts along these themes, we commissioned three independent photographers around the state to capture real-life stories. And we invited a few of Minnesota’s best thinkers to gather their insights in personal essays exploring Minnesota’s past, present, and future.
The Minnesota Initiative Foundations hit the ground running in 1986, and they haven’t slowed down. Every year, they forge dynamic new collaborations and help define the spirits of giving, of innovation, and of engagement that are hallmarks of our state. They stand collectively among The McKnight Foundation’s proudest and farthest reaching legacies — both for the progress they have made and for the promises they hold.
On behalf of McKnight’s board of directors and staff, we are pleased to celebrate the Minnesota Initiative Foundations and to share their work with others, in hopes that their stories may inspire regions around the country to sow and reap the benefits of locally powered, rural philanthropy.
President, The McKnight Foundation
The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grantmaking, coalition-building, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, we use our resources to attend, unite, and empower those we serve.