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Strategic Direction FAQs

As people work together for the future of their community, we will support them through grantmaking that focuses on Community Wealth Building, Rural Placemaking and Small Communities. You will also see us increasingly raising our voice and the voices of rural Minnesotans to advocate for changing the outdated funding structures holding back rural communities.

We are shifting our strategic focus to better meet rural Minnesota’s urgent challenges and to realign our current work with Charles Blandin’s original vision. Pandemic turmoil accelerated many of the economic and social disparities that originally inspired our collective passion for rural philanthropy, and we must take bold steps to meet the moment.

Over time, rural communities have been forced to do more with less. Although 94% of Minnesota communities have populations of fewer than 20,000 people, investment in rural communities has fallen behind. Since 2009, local government aid (the state aid that balances tax bases to provide access to core services regardless of zip code) has fallen 38% below inflation. Nationally, rural receives only 10% of small business loans. Of the nearly $2 billion dollars given to Minnesota organizations in 2019, only 9% went to communities under 20,000.

This focus shift is the product of a bottom-up, community-informed process with rural partners and leaders all around the state to identify priorities that will make the most impact.

We recognized that rural MN has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and needs our best effort more than ever. Our communities are facing urgent challenges:

To meet these challenges, we met with leaders, grantees, and nonprofit partners across rural MN and asked what our priorities should be. These in-depth, community-informed sessions framed our strategic plan. A bottom-up process of interviews, surveys, listening and data pointed us to measurable outcomes, equity and leadership.

Armed with this information, we began to realign our work with current rural challenges and Charles Blandin’s original vision. Charles Blandin created the Foundation for the betterment of the worker and to foster harmony in rural places. Distilling all these factors into a robust strategic planning process, we identified the areas where we can have the MOST impact.

  • Community Wealth-Building – building the rural bases of knowledge, money, workforce, entrepreneurship, and investment – and keeping those powerful resources close to home. [will link to additional grant language when we have finalized for each of these]
  • Rural Placemaking – bolstering the arts, culture, natural resources, creativity and opportunities to come together that help us feel connected, invested and proud of where we live.
  • Small communities – funding resources, skills and needed system changes in rural Minnesota’s smallest communities.

Current grantees: If you are a current Blandin Foundation grantee, your grant agreement will not be altered. Your funding will continue as planned until its completion date.

We will continue to be focused on moving rural places forward. While we are changing out the tools in our toolbox, we will keep supporting the doers and dreamers working toward better rural futures. Our commitment to Charles Blandin’s vision, rural Minnesota and our home giving area remains rock solid. The framework in which we achieve that mission is shifting to one keenly focused on impact and building rural capacity.

Not all of our programs are fully formed yet, so we encourage you to watch for more information but to start planning for the future, all grant inquiries must address one or more of the Blandin Foundation’s three impact areas:

  • Community Wealth-Building – building the rural bases of knowledge, money, workforce, entrepreneurship, and investment – and keeping those powerful resources close to home. [when we have more language finalized in each, link to the website]
  • Rural Placemaking –  bolstering the arts, culture, natural resources, creativity and opportunities to come together that help us feel connected, invested and proud of where we live.
  • Small communities – funding resources, skills and needed system changes in rural Minnesota’s smallest communities.

To ensure funding makes a difference in the lives of rural Minnesotans, inquiries that emphasize sustainable, measurable outcomes and regional coordination will be viewed favorably.

At the core of Blandin Foundation’s new programs is the belief that rural places and people have been held back by long-standing unfair structures, systems and practices based on place (where we live), race (who we are) and class (economic status). Through our priority areas, we will strive toward equitable rural futures where policy creation, implementation and decision-making will include broader rural perspectives. Policies that reflect a wider range of economic, racial, cultural and geographic interests will better serve our entire state.

Blandin Foundation has refocused our efforts on the areas where we can make the biggest difference toward those goals:

  • Community Wealth-Building – building the rural bases of knowledge, money, workforce, entrepreneurship, and investment — and keeping those powerful resources close to home.  [when we have more language finalized in each, link to the website]
  • Rural Placemaking – bolstering the arts, culture, natural resources, creativity and opportunities to come together that help us feel connected, invested and proud of where we live.
  • Small communities – funding resources, skills and needed system changes in rural Minnesota’s smallest communities.

Our three departments (below) will be integrated to advance these outcomes.

  • Rural Grantmaking – funding organizations that make change in our three impact areas: rural placemaking, community wealth building, and small towns.
  • Rural Advocacy – raising rural voices and perspectives in service to people and places pushed to the margins, who live the realities of outdated policies every day.
  • Rural Capacity Building – delivering programming to community champions so rural communities can identify and access the resources needed to thrive.
General inquiries

Give us a call at 877-882-2257 or email info@blandinfoundation.org. We’ll be sure your questions and comments reach the right staff person.

Grantseekers

Our grants department is testing out new ways to make grants in our three impact areas: Rural Placemaking, Community Wealth Building, and Small Communities. Throughout 2023, we will develop exploratory grant opportunities in these impact areas to better define longer-term grantmaking strategies and program structures. Sign up for Grants eNews announcements or follow us on social media to watch for developing grant opportunities.

Community champions interested in skill building

Rural leaders lead by serving. We are upgrading our popular leadership training program for 2024 to :

  • better meet the modern needs of rural residents with technology
  • create a wider range of enrichment and training opportunities, possibly ranging from shorter online offerings to mentorship to more formal academic pursuits
  • include a broader cross-section of rural Minnesotans

While the program redesign is underway in 2023, we are continuing to support leadership development with funding and boost grants. Contact Director of Programming Jaci David for more information at 218-326-0523 or jsdavid@blandinfoundation.org.

We remain steadfast in our donor’s intent – to focus on the quality of life for the worker – especially in our home giving area in north-central Minnesota.

When C.K. Blandin laid out his vision for Blandin Foundation, he had his paper mill workers at the center of its design. He wanted Grand Rapids, and its surrounding areas, to continue having a strong workforce and for its workers to have access to opportunities so that the “the spirit of harmony” continued to thrive.

As we set out on a new strategic direction, we’re looking at CK’s will with fresh eyes and a modern community context.

  • Addressing disparities felt most deeply by today’s workers in rural Minnesota and our home communities carries forward Mr. Blandin’s desire for the Foundation to benefit workers.
  • Working folks in rural need ways to build community wealth, so resources of knowledge and money stay close to home, building up economic independence and the dignity that brings. We believe that calls us to focus on workforce education and development, support rural entrepreneurship, and give people the tools to advocate with lawmakers and others for what they need, so funds intended for rural places land here.
  • Mr. Blandin also understood that art and music feed a community’s soul and add to the quality of life for workers: some of the first grants were to the high school band. We see and support the ways arts and culture – music, theater, pow wows, sculpture, museums and more – are sources of creative placemaking that celebrate the ingenuity and resilience that are the fiber of rural people’s being.

Grantmaking activities will continue to be overseen by Ramsey County District Court, as Mr. Blandin established. Accounts will still be reviewed every 3 years. The Foundation will continue to distribute at least 60 percent of all grants paid to the Grand Rapids/Itasca County area over a six-year rolling average as established with the court in 2015. The Foundation also will continue its independent self-reporting to the court each year. More information and our most recent report are available on our website.

Moving rural places forward to equitable and sustainable futures will take us all. We look forward to your partnership as we work toward strong rural communities.

Give us a call at 877-882-2257 or email info@blandinfoundation.org. We’ll be sure your questions and comments reach the right staff person. You can also sign up to receive special announcements and follow us on your favorite social media:

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More About Our Strategic Direction

Contact Us

Your feedback strengthens our programs. Contact us to share your thoughts. You may also subscribe to our mailing list, or contact the following team members.

Jaci David_CasualGreen_WhiteBkgd.3.23_web

Jaci David

Senior Director of Programming

Send an Email

Direct: 218-327-8705

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