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Blandin Foundation grant to CommunityGiving helps rural MN create community-driven development strategies and tap millions in future wealth transfer

$500,000 grant aims to transform rural development by strengthening community foundations

Key points:

  • A $500K, three-year grant from the Blandin Foundation to CommunityGiving will help 10-12 small rural community foundations create powerful local development strategies through coaching cohorts, matching grants and an annual regional conference. 
  • The grant supported the commissioning of a new study showing $5.6 billion in Central MN wealth will transfer to the next generation in the upcoming decade, creating unprecedented opportunities for grantmaking, endowments and local investment in rural communities. 
  • Strategies developed as part of this grant to build and retain rural wealth will be captured and disseminated to other rural community foundations. 
  • The grant aligns with the Blandin Foundation strategic commitment to building community wealth and strengthening the people, skills and assets of rural Minnesota.

St. Cloud, Minn. (May 2, 2024) – Today the Blandin Foundation announced a three-year, $500,000 grant to CommunityGiving (CG), a St. Cloud-based organization that strengthens local communities by empowering community foundations.

We have learned the best solutions originate within our communities, not outside of them, said Blandin Foundation CEO and President Tuleah Palmer, pointing to the organization’s decades of involvement in leadership training and broadband access. This grant centers rural people, resilience and innovation, which will be powerful tools in fundamentally transforming the approach to rural development.

By leveraging a CG assessment tool developed with the support of a previous Blandin Foundation grant, participating communities can develop actionable plans to strengthen resource development, improve governance and create community-driven models for sustainable growth.

Grant outcomes include:

  • Using wealth transfer research in Central Minnesota to inform small rural foundation (SRF) strategies.
  • Creating cohorts of 10-12 SRFs that will participate in a capacity-building initiative with targeted coaching to improve resource development and organizational sustainability. As part of the grant, participating SRFs will be eligible for $25,000 matching grants.
  • Capturing strategies to build and retain rural wealth in a guidebook and disseminating to other rural community foundations.
  • Growing participation in the Empower CF annual conference.

With the divisiveness we are experiencing as a society, community foundations offer a bright spot where people can come together and form relationships around getting things done, said Steve Joul, President and CEO of CommunityGiving, noting that community foundations still enjoy some of the highest levels of public trust among private and public sector institutions. “This grant recognizes that our neighbors are the critical tool for building community and how important it is to include those who are not normally heard.”

Wealth Transfer Study

The United States is in the midst of the largest generational wealth transfer in history, with as much as $84 trillion expected to change hands nationwide over the next 20 years. Since rural communities in MN skew older than urban areas, the transition is happening faster in Greater MN. Amid this transfer, a new study by University of Minnesota researcher Ben Winchester commissioned as part of the grant shows $5.6 billion in wealth across 10 counties in central Minnesota will transfer in the next decade, creating unprecedented opportunities for grantmaking, endowments and local investment in rural communities.

Capturing a small fraction of that amount for one-time investing or new endowments could generate millions for the region while strengthening the rural community foundation infrastructure.

  • Capturing even one percent ($56 million) and applying these funds to local nonprofit and philanthropic use could significantly benefit local arts, recreation, crisis centers and other critical community needs.
  • With five percent ($280 million) of the 10-year transfer invested in new endowments over two decades, the captured pool could support grantmaking of nearly $335 million. Nonprofits could leverage those dollars to support new workforce housing construction, develop major nonprofit capital projects and help lower-income residents launch new businesses.

Simply understanding the scale of Central Minnesota’s net worth can help residents understand our incredible assets and correct the perception that rural Minnesota is stuck in a deficit, said U of M researcher Ben Winchester, the author of the Wealth Transfer Study and recent studies showing an emerging brain gain in rural America. Philanthropic giving represents the greatest underdeveloped financial resource a community can mobilize. It is time to start dreaming about and planning for what is possible.

Central Minnesota Transfer of Wealth Study

Minnesota Statewide Transfer of Wealth Study Summary

Blandin Foundation is a private foundation based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. One of a handful of rural-based, rural-serving foundations in the country, Blandin Foundation serves rural Minnesota, focusing resources in north-central Minnesota. Our grants, opportunities that connect rural leaders, and policy work build up financial and human capital, so rural Minnesota places can welcome diversity, address injustice, and embrace change to create a sustainable and equitable future.

CommunityGiving is a collaboration of community foundations united under a single framework to create efficiencies that maximize the impact of our donors.  The core foundations working with CommunityGiving include the Alexandria Area Community Foundation, the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, the Community Foundation for Carver County, the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, the Paynesville Area Community Foundation and the Willmar Area Community Foundation, all based in Minnesota and the Derby Community Foundation, based in Kansas. Collectively, CommunityGiving administers over 1,100 funds totaling over $225 million in assets.


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