Grand Rapids, Minn. —Entrepreneur, active community leader, and grant-making professional Sonja Merrild has joined Blandin Foundation as its director of grants. In this capacity, she leads the Foundation’s work to fund Minnesota organizations imagining, leading and growing healthy, vibrant, resilient rural communities. In 2012, Blandin Foundation will receive and process more than 600 applications for grants, donations and scholarships and award nearly $13 million.
“Sonja’s deep passion and skills are a great help as we stand with Minnesota communities, supporting the hard work of community leadership, of genuine inclusion, of reaching across boundaries and building lasting relationships,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, Blandin Foundation CEO. “Sonja has direct experience with us, our programs and with rural communities throughout the country. We are honored to have her on board.”
“Blandin Foundation is committed to strengthening rural Minnesota communities,” said Merrild. “We invest in education, the economy and community inclusion. We train, support and connect leaders. The Foundation has come to believe that in the rich blend of these activities, communities come together, defining and claiming their future.”
Merrild’s work in rural community development and grant-making has included work for the WellPoint Foundation in Indianapolis, Ind., the Marna M. Kuehne and Homer A. & Mildred S. Scott Foundations in Sheridan, Wyo., Tailwinds, LLC nonprofit consulting in Sheridan, Wyo., as well as assessment planning and research in Grand Rapids, Minn. with the Blandin Foundation. Prior to her work in the nonprofit field, she co-owned and managed a Sheridan-based national real estate franchise, directed the marketing and business development team for a Midwestern architectural and engineering firm, and managed the office of a Nevada-based professional leadership training organization.
Merrild holds the Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies degree from Indiana University and Bachelor of Arts degrees in business administration from the Niels Brock School of International Business in Copenhagen, Denmark and in leadership studies from Bellevue University in Omaha, Neb.
Her rural nonprofit leadership experience includes a mix of board leadership and development, fundraising, and strategic planning for several Wyoming-based organizations, including the Center for a Vital Community at Sheridan College, CASA, the Y, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary International (as youth counselor), the American Cancer Society, the Sheridan Senior Center, the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, and the Wyo Theatre.
Located in Grand Rapids, Minn., Blandin Foundation is one of only a handful of foundations in the U.S. focused exclusively on rural communities and the largest rural-based private foundation in Minnesota. The Foundation seeks and supports vibrant rural Minnesota communities.