As people work together for the future of their community, we will support them through grantmaking and customized training opportunities that focus 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see us increasingly raising our voice, and the voices of rural Minnesotans, to challenge and advocate for changing the outdated funding structures holding back rural communities.
Rural communities were dealing with challenges that just kept snowballing. After two years of constant stress from COVID, increasing political tensions and racial unrest, we knew our work needed to evolve to meet today’s needs in rural places.
After talking to rural leaders across rural Minnesota, and doing some deep research, we came to a few conclusions on what’s needed:
- People need to feel connected to each other, and to the future of their community, to work together and make change happen.
- They also need access to resources, like money and new ideas and opportunities.
But tensions from the last two years are splitting communities further apart and making it more difficult for people to work together. And old and outdated government policies aren’t getting funding and other resources where they’re needed most.
We needed a new approach to get us to our vision.
We are, and always will be, focused on moving rural places forward. While we are changing out the tools in our toolbox, we will continue supporting the doers and dreamers working toward better rural futures. Not all of our programs are fully formed yet, so we encourage you to watch for more information as it’s communicated.
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.
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, race and class. Through our priority areas, we will strive toward equitable rural futures where policy creation and implementation, regulation, and decision-making tables will fairly include rural perspectives from different-sized places, of different racial, immigrant or cultural identities and varying wealth and income levels.
We will work towards this through three priority areas:
- Rural Placemaking for arts, culture and systems people use to create the unique destinations and social fabric rural folks love about their home places.
- Community Wealth Building so communities can build their bases of knowledge, money and more, and keep it close to home.
- Small Communities to get those places, especially in our home giving area, grants to fund work, and the skills they need, that changes systems to work better for everyone. This work prioritizes communities with populations under 20,000.)
Our three departments will be fully integrated to advance outcomes in our priority areas.
- Rural Grantmaking – funding organizations making 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 training and programming to community champions so rural communities can identify and access the resources needed to thrive.
If you’re interested in a grant, please start by submitting an inquiry. It is the first step toward a potential grant and will prompt a program officer to follow up with you.
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. Now is the right time to support them to refresh and learn new skills to work on the issues that matter most. As we imagine what our rural capacity building offerings will look like, we will be making program design decisions based on how we can get the knowledge and skills to the people who have had the greatest barriers and, also, greatest potential to ignite lasting change.
We will be taking the next 6-12 months to develop these opportunities. Sign up for special announcements for training opportunities or follow us on social media.
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 in and around Grand Rapids.
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 learning from you and with you as we step forward together towards strong rural communities – close to home and across rural Minnesota.