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Small Communities & Rural Placemaking Grants

Request for Proposals

The purpose of this RFP is to identify and support projects focused on capital needs and planning for community, organizational and program development.

NOTE: Letters of Inquiry for this RFP have closed.

About Blandin Foundation and 2024 Grantmaking

Mission: We connect, fund and advocate for ideas and people to inspire resourcefulness and move rural places forward.

As one of the few foundations in the nation devoted exclusively to rural needs, Blandin Foundation has shifted our strategic focus to better meet rural Minnesota’s urgent challenges. The COVID pandemic and racial turmoil accelerated many of the economic and social disparities that originally inspired our collective passion for rural philanthropy, and we realized we had to take bold steps to meet the moment.

We are entering a stage of exploration, inviting organizations across Minnesota to apply for funding focused on rural placemaking and small communities’ strategic priorities. Our intent is to support rural communities and Native Nations in tapping courage, ingenuity, and resourcefulness to rebuild connections that have long been a source of their strength and identity.

Community Context for this RFP

Small communities are an integral part of Minnesota’s rich, unique culture. However, rural disparities are deepening and these places have few resources available to them.

Placemaking fosters socially connected communities that have increased civic capacity and collective ability to make positive change within the community, including helping to build, restore, and preserve community identity – particularly in communities who have experienced racist and anti-cultural oppression.

Because we understand the diversity of rural Minnesota communities, we prioritize funding for organizations located in rural communities and led by rural leaders. We encourage new or expanded partnerships across sectors and engage those who will benefit from the intended change – particularly traditionally marginalized people who are typically excluded from participation.

Purpose of the Placemaking and Small Communities RFP

The purpose of this RFP is to identify and support projects focused on capital needs and planning for community, organizational, and program development. Projects should intentionally engage a broad section of the community, including people who often are underrepresented. Below are impact outcomes that the Blandin Foundation intends to address through this RFP.

Small Communities

  • Bring about positive, visible change in the community, including increasing community/leadership engagement, planning, nurturing community pride and revitalization.
  • Engage around issues affecting small, rural Minnesota communities, including race, class, gender, and other community-identified divides.
  • Prepare for the future by enhancing community aesthetics and amenities, cooperating with neighboring communities for mutual benefit, and laying the groundwork for future development.

Placemaking

  • Increase visibility of culture and arts in the community.
  • Enable positive, visible change in the community, including increasing civic engagement, pride in place, and nurturing the creative economy.
  • Improve the quality of civic discourse around issues that affect a community’s ability to thrive.

Examples of eligible projects include:

Projects in small communities that create, improve, or enhance indoor and outdoor public gathering spaces.

  • Projects that include arts and culture components will be viewed favorably. This may include beautifying elements like murals and planters, interpretive signage and displays, and interactive or functional art installations.

Community planning initiatives. This may include:

  • Creating or updating a community’s comprehensive plan.
  • Engaging in a community planning process that includes creating new or improving existing indoor and outdoor public spaces.

Eligibility and Proposal Considerations

Grantee organizations and projects must align with Blandin Foundation’s mission and meet the following requirements:

Applicants under this RFP will be required to meet the following target geography and population requirements:

  • Funding benefits rural Minnesota communities with populations under 5,000, including Native Nations, cities, towns, and townships. Find the size of your community using the U.S. Census.
  • Organizations (including fiscal sponsors) located in rural hubs of more than 5,000 people may apply if funding can be demonstrated to directly benefit small communities.
  • Metro-based organizations are ineligible to apply for funding under this RFP.

For applicants utilizing a Fiscal Sponsor, please contact our grants team prior to submitting an LOI.

Funding should address one or more of the following.

  • A known community need and/or issue facing its residents.
  • Show engagement across different beliefs, races, ages, genders, socioeconomic status, educational, physical and cognitive abilities, and differing experiences present in the community.
  • Systemic barriers through new or continued partnerships; implementing projects that are sustainable, innovative, scalable and/or replicable; increasing the capacity of the community to engage in, plan or facilitate activities.
  • Demonstrate ideas that move small communities forward.
  • Show evidence of community support.
    • Examples of community support (monetary and nonmonetary):
      • Volunteer time
      • Professional services (electrical, plumbing, etc.)
      • Donated space
      • Donated equipment uses and labor

While not required, when reviewing an applicant’s proposal, the Blandin Foundation will consider the following criteria favorably:

  • Primarily benefits a small community with a population of 1,000 and below.
  • Remote communities located approximately 25 miles away from a town or city with a population of over 5,000.
  • Significantly benefits Black, Indigenous, Hispanic Latino, People of Color, LGBTQIA, Non-English Speaking, Disabled, and other marginalized residents.
  • Significantly benefits residents living in poverty.
  • Proposed activity is viable, the approach is both realistic and achievable, and addresses inequities along the lines of place, race, and class.
  • Addresses an opportunity, challenge, issue, or need facing the community.
  • Intentionally engages a broad section of the community including people who often are underrepresented.
  • Demonstrates collaboration with other organizations, coalitions, or networks in the field or geographic area.
  • Has the potential to sustain itself without Blandin Foundation funding.

Please note: We anticipate a high number of inquiries; Blandin Foundation funding will be directed toward the smallest, lowest income, most diverse, and remote communities.

We will not fund the following:

  • Grants primarily supporting cities/towns with populations more than 5,000
  • Grants to organizations outside of the state of Minnesota
  • General operating support
  • Grants to individuals
  • Grants intended to influence specific legislation, specific candidates, or lobbying
  • Intervene in any campaign for elective public office, or support or oppose any political party, by expenditure of any resource, including volunteered labor, or in any other way
  • Supplant public funding for development of infrastructure ordinarily provided by government entities such as water, sewer, roads, streets, and public safety
  • Religious organizations seeking funding for religious purposes
  • Grants for private benefit, including for-profit businesses or commercial ventures

Funding Range

Please request an amount that speaks to what you need to complete your proposal. Typical grant awards will be between $25,000 and $150,000.

Timeline

Milestone Date
Letter of Inquiry Opens March 11, 2024
Letter of Inquiry Closed March 29, 2024
Proposal Opens April 15, 2024
Proposal Closed May 3, 2024
Application Review Period May 6 - 24, 2024
Organizations Notified of Grant Award May 27 - 31, 2024
Grant Agreements Issued July 1, 2024

These dates may change depending on the volume of applications received.

Application Process

Applicants who have reviewed the eligibility criteria and see alignment are welcome to apply utilizing a two-part application process.

Part 1 (closed March 29, 2024)

Applicants will complete a brief online Eligibility Screening and Letter of Inquiry.

See our frequently asked questions about part 1 below.

Part 2

If selected, Blandin Foundation grants staff will send applicants steps to complete the full Proposal Form. Applications received without prior invitation will not be considered for funding.

Applicants recommended to the proposal phase will be invited to participate in a short phone call pending the timely completion of your application.

See our frequently asked questions about part 2 below.

Decision-making Process

Members of our grant-making team and staff across the foundation will review applications. Decisions will be made after review of the eligibility and proposal, follow-up with applicants, and discussion with Blandin Grants team and key Blandin leadership.

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1

Questions and answers for the Eligibility Screening and Letter of Inquiry portion of the application process.

The Eligibility Screen and Letter of Inquiry is due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 29, 2024.

Please request an amount that speaks to what you need to complete your project.

Grant duration can be up to 2 years.

There is not a matching requirement.

Yes, you can save your progress and resume later.

Please include information necessary for us to understand the connection between the project and it’s work towards the outcomes identified in this RFP. Additionally, we recommend referencing where the work will take place.

Notifications will be made the week of April 15, 2024.

If you have any questions, please email grants@blandinfoundation.org and your question will be directed to a member of the Grants Team.

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 2

Questions and answers for the Proposal portion of the application process.

The grant proposal is due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 3, 2024.

There are character limits that will appear underneath the text boxes once you start answering questions.

Yes, you have the option to save your progress and resume at a later time.

You will be prompted to provide three attachments:

  1. Your organization’s most current IRS Form 990. If your organization is not required to complete a 990, e.g. municipalities, you can upload your most recent audited financial statement.
  2. For municipalities, or if your organization’s operating budget does not require submitting a 990, please upload your annual budget.
  3. List of your organization’s Board of Directors and Key Staff Leadership.

No additional attachments are required for the application of this grant but if you feel there are important supporting materials beyond what is outlined in the prompts, they can be emailed to grants@blandinfoundation.org.

We expect funding decisions to be made around the end of May 2024; however, depending on the volume of proposals received, the timeline may shift.

Additional funding opportunities will be made available in 2025. Please continue to watch for updates on the Blandin Foundation’s website and other social media outlets.

If you have any questions, please email grants@blandinfoundation.org and your question will be directed to a member of the Grants Team.

Contact Us

We encourage you to reach out to our Grants team members at any time with questions.

Linda Gibeau final

Linda Gibeau

Grants Program Officer – Small Communities

Send an Email

Direct: 218-326-8702

Mary Magnuson

Mary Magnuson

Grants Program Officer - Rural Placemaking

Send an Email

Direct: 218-326-8738

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