Thursday, December 15, 2016

Now in our 30th year, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation has been working alongside of YOU to help sustain our rural communities. We want our twelve county area to be the place you love to live and work.

By acting on our mission and vision we are determined to make a difference -- for our businesses and the economy, for our nonprofits and their leaders, for children and families, for our natural resources, and for people who want to donate to charitable causes.

Since inception in 1986, we have received generous support from The McKnight Foundation, other foundations, and many individuals, organizations, and businesses. Our legacy of projects and activities have helped move the region closer to that vision. Working with you and for you, we accomplished the following:

· Business loan programs have made 626 loans for a total of more than $26.4 million

· Creation or retention of almost 2,700 jobs

· Made over 9,300 grants totaling $44.1 million

· Adult and youth leadership programs have provided training for nearly 4,000 leaders

· Specially designed non-profit management and training programs have addressed the special needs of 359 organizations and 45 communities

· Local Early Childhood Coalitions in 11 communities that help assure our littlest citizens have the best start possible

· $65.5 million total assets

· 360 component and community funds with assets totaling more than $27.3 million

· Grants from community funds totaled $430,750 region-wide; $449,641 was distributed from their 31 sub-funds (FY16)

· Convening IMPACT 20/20: a framework and vision for economic stability in the region

· New economic opportunities including the IDEA Competition.

Programs delivered by NMF are made possible because of the generosity of many people. You are also a part of this community making process, and we hope you can feel good about your contributions helping to build and sustain our region.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I ask you to consider a gift to our Critical Issues Endowment. You may also designate your gift to support current NMF program areas, either Training and Education or Natural Assets.

Please join us in our Circle of Giving with a gift of $500 or more to the NMF endowment. The gift will be used to strengthen the programs we offer throughout the region. Or you may choose to make a gift to any of our component funds using the enclosed envelope. Secure, online donating is also available for your convenience at

We can now accept gifts all year round from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that will be tax deductible. Get in touch with the NMF staff if you’d like to learn more.

Thank you. With each gift, we take another step toward our vision of an even better future.

Happy Holidays!

Pete Haddeland, Chairman NMF Board 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


If you are over age 70½, the Federal government permits you to rollover up to $100,000 from your IRA to charity without increasing your taxable income or paying any additional tax. These tax-free rollover gifts could be $1,000, $10,000 or any amount up to $100,000 this year. The gift satisfies your required minimum distribution (RMD) for this year.

Not yet 70½?  This law has been made permanent and in the future you may want to take advantage of what it offers. Also, if you are helping someone in this age group with their finances and planning, please consider sharing this information.

IRA Rollover
Your IRA may have increased in value over the years and you have more income than you need. The IRA rollover gift is a simple and easy way to provide for your favorite charity while not increasing your taxable income. Simply contact your custodian and request that an amount be transferred to charity. The nonprofit receives a nice gift and you avoid any additional tax and satisfy your RMD for the year.

Major Gift
Perhaps you are considering your tax planning goals and would like to make a major gift to charity. Like many individuals, your IRA may be the largest asset in your estate. Your CPA may be looking for ways to save taxes. By making an IRA charitable rollover gift of up to $100,000, you can reach your goal of helping charity in a significant way and reducing taxable income.

Future IRA Gift Options
While you have the opportunity to give through your IRA now, there are other options available for making future gifts from your individual retirement account to charity.

Bequest of IRA
One option is to designate charity as the beneficiary of your IRA. This permits you to continue to take withdrawals from your IRA during life and then leave the remaining value of your IRA to charity.

Testamentary IRA Gift Annuity
Another option is to make a future gift of your IRA to charity while providing life income to your heirs. Your family members will receive fixed payments based on their ages.

Testamentary IRA Unitrust
An IRA could also be transferred to a special “Give It Twice” trust that usually provides income to children for a period of up to 20 years. After that time, the trust may pass to charity, creating a wonderful way for you to make a charitable gift.

To learn more about making an IRA gift to NMF’s endowment or to one of our component funds, contact Development Officers Lisa Peterson, or Dawn Ganje at 218 759-2057 or visit our website at

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Deb Zak Awarded 2016 Outstanding Community Builder

The Northwest Minnesota Women’s Fund recently named Deb Zak of Crookston as a 2016 Outstanding Community Builder. Outstanding Community Builder Awards are presented to local women who have demonstrated leadership in improving their communities in their chosen professions, as volunteers, as mentors and in raising or supporting families.

Since the inception of this award in 1998, 49 women have been recognized for helping to make Northwest Minnesota a better place to live, work and raise families. A reception in Zak’s honor was held October 12th at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

You can read more about Deb here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cindy Serratore 2016 Outstanding Community Builder

Cindy Serratore, 2016 Outstanding Community Builder

The Northwest Minnesota Women’s Fund recently named Cindy Serratore of Bemidji as a 2016 Outstanding Community Builder. Outstanding Community Builder Awards are presented to women from the region who have demonstrated leadership in improving their communities in their chosen professions, as volunteers, as mentors and in raising or supporting families. A reception in Serratore’s honor was held September 26th at the Mayflower Building in Bemidji.

You can read more about Cindy's contributions to her community at, under NMF News, or click here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Race Equity is Important in Northwest Minnesota

Nate Dorr - Program Officer - Grants

It’s true Native Americans make up the vast majority of northwest Minnesota’s people of color. However, the number of foreign-born residents continues to increase. Many of the challenges among diverse racial groups are preserving cultural heritage or identity, overcoming systemic barriers, and creating a shared understanding to engage all members of our communities.

Although the portion of people of color in northwest Minnesota is lower than Minnesota as a whole (roughly 15% in NW MN vs. 18.4% MN) , these rates are both significant and growing steadily since 2000, using data sourced from Minnesota Compass.

NMF's Community Connections Grants Program supported a variety of community-led initiatives centered on race equity in the last year. These recent grants speak to the diversity and rich cultural heritage of our region.

Bemidji Area Indian Center began a program to restore traditional Ojibwe food systems and cultural practices. They will organize participants around seasonal activities, engage the public during special events, and share cultural practices to help enrich the lives of Whites and people of color. A grant from NMF and Blandin Foundation helped them hire their first paid staff to deliver this grassroots programming.

Voices for Racial Justice hosted several community meetings this year to discuss how to overcome racial disparities. This work quickly grew beyond people sharing intimate stories of discrimination and personal struggles, to include the important work of crafting policies and practices that we can enact locally. This group includes individuals self-identifying as Anishinabe (Ojibwe), Latino and Latina, White Anglo, and African American populations in rural northern Minnesota.

Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota opened an office in Moorhead to begin serving individuals and families in northwest Minnesota. They are working with immigrant communities in Crookston, East Grand Forks, Roseau, Thief River Falls, and the Bemidji area. 

With grant support from NMF and Blandin Foundation, staff from the Immigrant Law Center help clients maintain documentation for work or student visas, navigate refugee status issues, enforce the Violence Against Women Act, and provide education services. The center is a critical link between the local community and the international communities of our immigrant populations.

Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota was recently invited to work in Warroad. Sunny Chanthanouvong, Executive Director, has brought Lao college students and elders to Warroad from the Minneapolis metro to share in their experiences around community engagement. They visited the Buddhist temple, met with Warroad Laotian students in the K-12 system, and met with local officials and community members to open pathways for dialogue. They hope to establish a youth leadership program, host tours of colleges, and work with the aging population in the Warroad area.

NMF is proud to partner with Blandin Foundation in co-funding many of the projects described above here in northwest Minnesota. Current efforts around racial equity, diversity, and inclusion have been championed by many organizations with a wider reach, like the Minnesota Council on Foundations, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and major funders like Bush Foundation, Blandin Foundation, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and McKnight Foundation. Our collective hope is to practice empowerment within and alongside marginalized communities.

Photo: House District 5A Rep. John Persell (left) receiving a “Champion for Racial Equity” from Vina Kay, Executive Director of Voices for Racial Justice (right). Photo credit Walker Pilot Independent, 2015

Monday, July 11, 2016

Northwest Minnesota Foundation Receives a Significant Donation

The most welcome news was relayed to Northwest Minnesota Foundation President Nancy Vyskocil. It was revealed that Charles Swanson, a Red Lake Falls, MN farmer bequeathed a gift of just over $360,000 to NMF. 

Charles Swanson

“We regularly receive donations supporting our 345 component funds,” Vyskocil said, “but it isn’t often that such a large gift is given to support the overall work the foundation does within the region. Growth in our endowment allows us to continue to address changing needs.”

Upon learning of Swanson’s generosity “the development team and I could not contain our delight,” Vyskocil added. “It is gratifying when people choose to help us fulfill our mission to make the region a better place to live and work. We will honor this gift and represent the values and hard work of Charles Swanson.”

Swanson was born in 1926 in Red Lake Falls and attended church and high school in St. Hilaire, MN. He graduated in 1947 from the Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston, MN, where he participated in basketball, track and band.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II then returned home to run the Swanson family farm, which bordered Red Lake and Pennington Counties. Swanson raised livestock, small grains, and enjoyed the farm life.

In his spare time, he liked reading, bird-watching and traveling. Long-time Red Lake Falls resident Allen Bertilrud said that Swanson was not well known; he was a quiet, private man who kept mostly to himself.

Swanson’s financial advisor, Pat Thibert of Edward Jones was instrumental in connecting Swanson to NMF after learning of his desire to leave a legacy that would benefit Northwest Minnesota.

Lisa Peterson, NMF senior development officer said the staff is grateful to have good working relationships with professional advisors in the region. “Many people learn about how they can partner with the work done at NMF through our network of accountants, financial institutions and attorneys,” Peterson said. “It’s wonderful when a person like Charles comes forward to help us with such a generous bequest. It will continue to improve the quality of life in our region for years to come.”

NMF works collaboratively with development staff from a range of foundations and nonprofits to educate professional advisors, including investment managers, accountants, financial planners, insurance brokers and attorneys. Low-cost workshops are held around the 12-County region that feature speakers who have proven expertise in common gifting methods along with knowledge about the latest legal and tax implications for charitable giving. Oftentimes, professional continuing education credits are also available to benefit the participants by providing inexpensive and time saving training that fills their requirements.

It is a worthwhile investment when a financial planner like Thibert puts the pieces together for a very meaningful gift that meets his client’s bequest objectives.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What's Behind the Numbers?

Financial summaries and financial position statements always take up large sections of annual reports. NMF’s recently published Fiscal Year 2015 annual report is no different. There are plenty of numbers, but little explanation. 

Thanks are due to Sandy King, our long-time colleague, friend and partner at West Central Initiative, for helping come up with the ideas here that provide great information about annual reports and foundation endowment structure.

The last two NMF annual reports have been redesigned with less text and more graphics. Besides cutting down on length, the new format met our goals of producing a vivid picture of NMF’s financial status, an easily understood look at our program impact, and a snapshot of our gains in raising funds for the region.

Upon reading the financial section, you may be wondering “Why does NMF have over $63 million in assets?”

Over 65 percent of the assets represent philanthropy – both in terms of NMF’s general endowment and our 345 component and community funds. Of the remaining 35 percent, over 30 percent is restricted for our programs, which include economic development, nonprofit training and capacity building, and program grants. The remaining five percent represents special projects and long-term capital assets, such as NMF’s facility. And, what does this mean? And why can’t we just give all the money away?

Northwest Minnesota Foundation is governed and lives by the rules set forth by the State of Minnesota and the Internal Revenue Service. Since our inception in 1986, NMF has operated as a public charity. Under this designation NMF must raise over 33 percent of our income from the general public. NMF’s current public support far surpasses that number! Each of the many gifts given by our partner organizations and individuals is designated towards a specific use as directed by the donor. Gifts come in many different sizes and with many different structures. NMF exercises our due diligence and follows the rules set forth by our governing structure.

Philanthropy represents the largest percentage of our overall assets primarily because it includes NMF’s permanently restricted endowment fund. In addition, NMF administers more than 345 component and community funds. Their resources are also included in this classification.

NMF’s unrestricted endowment is the financial backbone that supports the many ways we invest resources in our communities for regional success. We began building the endowment as a permanent asset for the region based on the guidance and encouragement of The McKnight Foundation.

Since the early 1990s The McKnight Foundation has offered a matching contribution toward gifts received to build a permanent asset for the region. Over the past two decades, 550+ donors have helped grow the endowment fund to its current level. The unrestricted endowment is YOUR KEY to financial resources for generations to come. Not only are the earnings from the endowment put to work each year to provide current resources to northwestern Minnesota, but the goal of the endowment is to be a long-term, flexible resource for the region – for good, forever.

You can be a part of this ongoing, 30-year philanthropic story. Please consider joining our Circle of Giving with an annual gift of $500 by donating online. We will honor your special commitment with prominent recognition on our website, in our publications, and at our events.

Thank you for your interest in Northwest Minnesota Foundation – we are excited about the future of our region based on our own financial growth, the programs it allows us to continue, and the strength of our partnerships and positive leadership in our rural communities.


Thanks for reading,

Lisa Peterson, NMF Senior Development Officer