NMF Holds Lunch & Learn Events Around the Region to Introduce New Programs

Staff from the Northwest Minnesota Foundation hit the road in October to hold Lunch & Learn events in five communities around the region. The goal of these public forums was to engage with community leaders and long-time partners of the Foundation about the changes that are coming to the organization.

For those who were unable to attend, we’ve provided excerpts from the Lunch & Learn presentation to give you a better idea of what you can expect from the organization moving forward:

Our new strategic framework will take NMF boldly into the next decade and will position us to help address the many challenges facing our region. We do not do this work alone. We value all of our partners throughout the region that support the foundation and are passionate about where we live. For 15 years now—the Northwest Minnesota Foundation has worked tirelessly to transform our region into a better place to live and work. It’s what we call Quality of Place. Over the years we’ve invested to shore-up the four asset areas associated with Quality of Place—Natural, Structural, Social and Economic.

As we prepared for our next chapter, we talked with partners across the region and we heard about many great successes and bright spots, but we also heard about many challenges and needs—housing, child care, community vibrancy, small business development, and we heard about poverty, disparities, and the opioid crisis. Quality of Place is now embedded in our mission. As we build upon the great successes of Quality of Place we plan to be bolder and more focused—to have an even greater impact on the region we call home.

Living our values of Strategic Collaboration, Integrity & Responsibility, and Boldly Making a Difference, Our work will be driven by an all-encompassing purpose: building better lives. Working towards this purpose we’ll be offering expanded resources, new tools and enhanced solutions that enable individuals and communities to reach their full potential.

Our work will be guided by principles and commitments we make to you and the region:
  • We commit to equity for all in our region. We seek to ensure that all programming and work involving the foundation has been designed to be culturally-supportive and effective for all.
  • We build relationships with organizations that share our goals, seeking mutual understandings and solutions to shared challenges.
  • We develop community leaders through our partners who offer world-class leadership development programs. We recognize that real change will be led at the community-level and we commit to helping connect our community leaders to opportunities, to grow their leadership capacity.
  • We value our natural assets for the quality of life and economic resources they bring to the region, and we commit to promoting stewardship of the region’s natural assets.
Nate Dorr, senior program officer for community impact,
answers questions from guests in Thief River Falls

Since our inception in 1986, we have worked to grow our total assets to more than $70 million dollars. We’ve made over 7,700 grants totaling more than $39 million dollars. In our region, 2,000 children five and under live in poverty and our region needs an additional 3,700 child care slots to meet the needs of families. To assist our region, we seek to see Children and Families strengthened in communities with higher needs and larger disparity gaps and with committed leadership and a desire for change.

We will initiate a deep dive into three (3) targeted communities with high poverty rates and disparity gaps to help strengthen children and families through improved family supports. We will promote and facilitate the Collective Impact structured framework to organize community-led, community-driven “coming together” for a shared vision and action. The Collective Impact framework recognizes that no single organization can address the type of social change that is needed for children and families. It looks like our first deep dive will be around youth homelessness in Beltrami County with additional connections to this challenge throughout the region. We will help to grow the capacity of quality child care in the region.

We lead and support collaborative efforts in communities to find innovative, sustainable solutions to help solve their unique child care needs. We incentivize child care providers to improve the quality of their care and embrace the Parent Aware rating system. We assist child care providers and communities with financial and capital needs through flexible lending and grant products.

Better lives are built when our children are provided quality care and families can enter the workforce on their terms and not be hindered by the lack of available child care in their community. Supporting communities with early child care efforts—we aim to see 1,000 child care slots added in the region in the next six years, and it looks like we are well on our way to exceeding this goal. Since the summer of 2017, our region has seen 87 new child care businesses open which means approximately 700 new slots added.

We launched our Child Care Finance Program in July 2018 and in just three months we’ve closed 18 loans, impacting 154 new child care slots and supporting 56 existing child care slots.

Helping spur development throughout our rural communities—we are excited to lead new regional efforts that are focused on current critical issues surrounding housing. We lead and support collaborative efforts to add housing capacity in the region and we provide a mix of lending and grant products to assist housing efforts in our region’s communities. Activities and products are designed to address workforce, affordable, and transitional housing needs. We build better lives by ensuring that our region has sufficient housing availability and that lack of housing is no longer an obstacle to shelter and jobs. To this end, we will work to create 1,500 additional housing units by 2024.

Dedicated to serving communities, organizations and causes that align with our mission, values and expertise—we’ll help the region tackle critical issues by taking a new collective approach that provides enhanced resources and better support.

For more information about our programs, follow this link to our website!

Missy Okeson, program officer for community impact, discusses
critical child care needs with guests in Warroad
The Bemidji Lunch & Learn event drew in a crowd of over
40 people


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