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Foundation receives approval from Court following regular review, released from special master

UPDATED 5.5.2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Ramsey County District Court approved on April 28, 2015, the petition of the Charles K. Blandin Residuary Trust for approval of its accounts, a transition in verification and reporting,  and also reviewed the Blandin Foundation’s commitments to the Itasca County area for the years 2009 to 2011.

Representatives from Blandin Foundation and the Charles K. Blandin Residuary Trust updated the Court April 21 on Trust and Foundation activities, including consideration of a new way to report and verify that the Foundation is meeting its commitments to the communities of its local giving area (Itasca County, plus neighboring communities of Remer, Hill City, Blackduck and Northome). This new verification process received court approval April 28, which allows for the release of the Court-appointed special master who has worked with the foundation, the Court and local community members over the past 12 years. 

The Court also agreed to an increase in the minimum amount of grants paid in the foundation’s local giving area communities from 55 to 60 percent, as measured on a six-year rolling basis, effective this year.  The first six-year period spans January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2020.

“Healthy organizations are transparent and accountable, and Mr. Blandin had great foresight in building regular Court reviews into the plans for his trust and foundation,” said President and CEO Kathleen Annette.  “Because of ongoing and rigorous reviews, plus the leadership of community members who want to see Blandin Foundation to be the strongest possible partner, Blandin Foundation is among the healthiest private foundations in the country.”

“On the eve of Mr. Ulmen’s discharge as Special Master, we extend our thanks for his contributions in working with Blandin Foundation, which is one of the healthiest private foundations in the country today,” added Annette in her testimony to the Court.

In 2003, the foundation and others agreed to a minimum of 55% of grants being paid in communities of its local giving area.  Since then, attorney and accountant Peter Ulmen has served as special master, providing Judge Marrinan and the Minnesota Attorney General with an annual report of the foundation’s compliance with this and related commitments.  The Court has found that Blandin Foundation consistently has complied with the 2003 order and exceeded its commitments.

At the April 21 hearing, the Foundation reported to the Court that for the year ending in 2011, the average of grantmaking over the previous six years was 64 percent paid in the foundation’s local giving area and 36 percent in other rural Minnesota communities.  For the most recent audited period, the year ending in 2013, the percentage of grants paid over previous six years in its local giving area is 69%.

The foundation’s new method of annual, independently verified reporting includes:

  • Annual reports will continue to be provided to the Court, Attorney General and public,
  • Decisions forged with the Court and special master during the past 12 years will continue to be the basis of this reporting,
  • The foundation’s independent auditors will rigorously review, verify and confirm compliance reports prepared by the foundation, and this audit be publicly available, and
  • A new policy will be established to formalize and make public the foundation’s process for addressing questions or concerns raised by any member of the Grand Rapids community. 

The first annual report and financials prepared using this process will be submitted to the Court on or about September 30, 2015.

Ramsey County District Court will continue to review the Foundation’s annual reports, and to hold hearings every three years to review the accounts of the Charles K. Blandin Residuary Trust. Court review of Blandin Foundation dates back to the wishes of founder Charles Blandin who asked that the Ramsey District Court review the distributions and operations of his trust when he was no longer able.  Since Blandin’s death in 1958, the C.K. Blandin Residuary Trust (which oversees Mr. Blandin’s estate) and the Blandin Foundation (responsible for distributing the proceeds from the trust) have provided such an overview every three years.  Given its role in oversight of the state’s charities, officials of the Minnesota Attorney General’s office also regularly participate in Blandin Foundation reviews.

The next triennial hearing for Blandin Residuary Trust and Blandin Foundation is scheduled to be held in late 2015, for review of accounts and activities from 2012 to 2014.

Details related to Charles Blandin’s will and Court action over the years are available at the foundation’s website, www.blandinfoundation.org.

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Blandin Foundation, the sole beneficiary of the Charles K. Blandin Residuary Trust, is Minnesota’s largest rural-focused private foundation and one of only a handful in the nation focused exclusively on rural communities.  The Foundation works to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, through grants, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives.