Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have committed a five-year, $10 million grant to continue the work of Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) to help 1,000 impoverished families upgrade skills, increase household income and get their kids through high school and college.
NAZ was seeded originally by a $5 million annual grant from the federal government, which has expired. NAZ CEO Sondra Samuels has turned to business, foundations and individuals to raise $35 million to help balance a $10.7 million annual budget over the next several years.
The Ballmer philanthropy vehicle, Ballmer Group, focuses on identifying and supporting innovative solutions to ending intergenerational poverty nationally. And its mission dovetails with NAZ’s focus on education and workforce development.
Samuels said in a statement Wednesday: “Ballmer Group’s grant, the leadership role of our corporate and philanthropic community, and the contributions of individual Minnesotans should give all Minnesotans great confidence that NAZ’s work is being held to rigorous standards, that our resources are being used efficiently and that every dollar invested will be leveraged many times over.”
Said General Mills CEO Ken Powell, who chairs NAZ’s investment campaign with Target CEO Brian Cornell: “Ballmer Group’s grant should inspire and challenge all Twin Cities business and civic leaders to lean in and work together in support of NAZ.” He continued, “Our community and our future workforce depend upon it. NAZ is working to reshape outcomes with game-changing results.”
NAZ will use a portion of the investment to launch a three-year early-learning scholarship fund of $1 million a year for low-income NAZ families. It also will help fund parenting education classes, in addition to family support in housing, health and careers.
Although NAZ has not achieved highest expectations yet, it is showing progress.
A Wilder Foundation study last year showed that, so far, there is a $6 return to the families and public for every $1 invested in NAZ from increased household income, family stability, higher student performance and lower public costs.