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Meeting this Moment: Rural Boost Grants ignite rural doers to action

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Rural Minnesota communities are experiencing change at breakneck speed.

The pandemic accelerated the way rural learners, workers and employers are using technology. Aging communities are managing workforce transitions, wealth transfers and housing and healthcare strains. The urgency of the climate crisis is destabilizing economies built on unsustainable industries. Political tensions are driving deeper wedges between neighbors, friends and family.

The piling and swirling of these forces of change are enough to tire anyone out.

And leaders are tired.

But they’re also inspired.

“Change is inevitable, but growth is optional,” author John Maxwell once said. The Rural Leadership Boost Grants were launched to support local vision and ignite the dreamers and doers ready for growth.

Starting as a back-of-the-napkin idea to help rural communities emerge from the stressors of the pandemic, this new grant opportunity challenged Blandin Foundation’s systems and ways of thinking about making grants.

More than 300 Letters of Interest were submitted for funding, far more than anticipated. Based on the type of requests received, we opened three grant rounds for Community Planning, Capital Projects in small towns under 3,000 people, and Creative Placemaking. To better support the many strong requests, the total amount of funding available increased from $1 million to $5.5 million after our board approved an additional $3 million in June and a $1.5 million grant was secured from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

Rural places often get the short end of the funding stick. Only a fraction of public and private dollars make their way to rural, leaving a big resource gap for communities working for stronger rural futures. When we see stats like only 5 percent of philanthropic dollars and 10 percent of federal small business loan funds go to rural, this creates resource roadblocks to future opportunity. While the leaky pipes intended to bring resources into rural communities need a complete overhaul, Leadership Boost Grants are one way we can spark energy and action toward sustainable rural futures.

This week, we’re excited to award the first round of Boost Grants totaling $1.35 million for 26 projects happening across rural Minnesota. You can check out the list of projects here.

We’re inspired by the tenacity and grit of these leaders stepping up to move their communities forward. Congratulations!


Learn more about these projects through our grantees’ media coverage.

Detroit lakes receives $90,000 art grant to further creativity – Valley News Live

Community Education Corner: Moose Lake receives $70K grant – Pine Journal

Planned Firefly Center for Art and Wellbeing Near Fosston Receives Large Grant – Lakeland Public Television

Granite Falls Area Community Foundation receives $15,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

Tower-Soudan Historical Society receives $125,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Timberjay

Worthington City Council accepts $50,000 Blandin Foundation grant – Worthington Globe

C3 receives $100,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Alexandria Echo Press

Getting a boost: Art of the Lakes receives grant – Fergus Falls Journal

Wells Historical Society awarded $125,000 to renovate lunchroom – Faribault County Register

New mural project is coming to Hutchinson in 2023 – Hutchinson Leader

$100,000 will help the Two Harbors Public Library become more accessible – WDIO-TV

Sleepy Eye Downtown Revitalization Committee receives $10,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Sleepy Eye News

Lanesboro receives $50K to plan winter tourism –  Winona Post

Wykoff Commons receives $50,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Fillmore County Journal

Big boost for center – Tracy Headlight Herald

Biwabik civic association receives $70,000 Blandin grant – Hometown Focus

Hoyt Lakes library receives a $55,000 Blandin grant – Hometown Focus

Worthington City Council accepts $50,000 Blandin Foundation grant – The Globe

Alexandria Public Schools receives $25,000 Blandin Foundation grant – Alexandria Echo Press

St. Peter Diversity nonprofit gets $100,000 – The Free Press

ReVive Virginia receives $20,000 Blandin grant – Hometown Focus

Cloquet receives $50K grant for cultural riverfront signage – Cloquet Pine Journal

Chill-Inn Lanesboro project receives $50K grant to help boost winter tourism – KAAL-TV

Chill-Inn Lanesboro project receives $50,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce

Economic Development Communication Project receives $40,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant – Aitkin Age

Renville Co Receives $15,000 to Promote Diversity/Equity/Inclusion – KDUZ/KARP/KGLB

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