Executive Director’s Message
The financial difficulties of 2008 and after have caused waves of change in our region, affecting needs and opportunities. To some extent, we're all aiming at moving targets. Despite that fluidity, there are a few things we're crystal clear about at the Otto Bremer Foundation.
The main point of clarity is our vision for the communities we serve: we hope they will be places where basic needs are met, mutual regard is prized and opportunities for economic, civic and social participation are within everyone's reach. (Our Mission and Meaning statement explains this vision in detail.)
We're also clear about our role in helping to build healthy, vital communities. We seek to support opportunities that have the potential to move a community forward in powerful ways. This requires us to understand the region and the communities. We devote significant time and effort to increasing our understanding and to capturing and sharing that learning.
Strategically responsive grantmaking — our basic work
The Foundation's basic work is responding to requests from our communities. We are open to a broad variety of issues important to the places we serve. Because the requests from communities, taken together, usually ask for more money than we have in our budget, the Foundation is strategic in choosing which of the many good proposals to fund: we try to support the work that will best move the communities toward the vision explained above. We assess what to support by looking at how grant applicants address six main topics. We seek to understand the community, the proposed work, the impact the work will have, the applicant organization and its resources, the applicant's partners in the work and what the future is likely to bring for this work. More details are provided in our grant application.
Learning and strategically proactive grantmaking — responding to themes we see throughout the greater Bremer region
We learn a lot by reviewing more than one thousand grant applications every year, talking to grant applicants and participating in meetings throughout the region. Certain themes come up over and over again:
- Economic issues, including the need for people in our communities to find and retain good jobs
- Youth issues, including the need for teenagers to have better support as they navigate the path toward healthy development
- Library and literacy issues, including the opportunity for libraries to be community centers and a hub for literacy learning
- Access to dental care, particularly in the rural areas of the greater Bremer region
As we identify themes, we try to elevate our learning in these areas and sometimes initiate a cluster of targeted grants to support the communities' efforts to make progress on these important issues. Targeted grants last year included funding to providers aiding homeless youth in the Twin Cities, and funding to help the city of Mankato support healthy development for all its teens.
Sharing our learning with the communities
This year we look forward to sharing what we're learning with the communities and others. Our new website allows for:
- Easy searching for grants by grant type, region and year
- Spotlights on selected grants
- Resource pages, to share what we are learning from applicants and others
- A blog that provides brief discussions of community and grantmaking initiatives, as well as other Foundation news and announcements
As the year goes on, we'll issue periodic e-newsletters highlighting Foundation news, lessons learned and other information. Please visit the sign-up page to subscribe.
We will continue to share news about the communities and Foundation as the next year unfolds.
Randi Ilyse Roth