Working in partnership with the Minnesota Council on Foundations (, we invited the region’s charitable foundations to share information about their history, their mission, and recent projects. Edited versions of their stories were published in Giving Back; here are their responses in full.

Ameriprise Financial

Year founded: Ameriprise was founded as Investors Diversified Services (IDS) in Minneapolis in 1894.

Why: We have a 120 year legacy of giving back here in the Twin Cities and other markets nationwide. In our 10 years as an independent, publicly-traded company, we’ve focused on serving the most basic needs of people in our communities, like hunger and shelter.

Primary mission: As a firm, we help clients plan for their financial futures. But we know that the help many need is getting through the next day or week. This is where we focus our giving and volunteerism — providing the next meal, a bed for a night, and support for programs that build vital communities.

Areas of focus: We support an array of programs benefiting families, veterans, disaster relief and recovery, the arts and other causes. A focal point of this work is our commitment to domestic hunger relief, providing more than 40 million meals and more than 130,000 volunteer hours to support hunger-relief organizations nationwide.

Recent project(s): Ameriprise hosts a huge volunteer effort in partnership with Feeding America and its nationwide network of food banks each fall. Last year we turned out more than 12,000 volunteers at warehouses, assembly lines and kitchens in all 50 states, easily exceeding our goal of preparing and packaging more than 1 million meals. In the six years since we started this initiative, it has grown to become the biggest volunteer event hosted in partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. The response has been so strong that we’ve instituted a second day of service each June to help feed families during the summer. This year’s fall event will take place on November 13, with volunteers at our headquarters in Minneapolis and at Second Harvest Heartland in Golden Valley.

Blandin Foundation

Founded: 1941

Why: Charles K. Blandin was born into poverty and eventually became publisher of St. Paul Pioneer Press and then owner of Blandin Paper Company.

Primary mission: Blandin Foundation is all about Minnesotans imagining, leading, and growing, vibrant, resilient, rural communities, especially in the Grand Rapids area.

Areas of focus: Blandin Foundation is Minnesota’s largest rural-based and rural-focused private foundation. It also is one of only a handful nationally focused exclusively in rural communities. The foundation has been invited to provide training programs to more than 7,000 individuals over 29 years, awarded 8,000 grants totaling $365 million in rural Minnesota since 1941, and is engaged in issues related to rural broadband use, early childhood through early career, economic vitality and inclusion.

Recent project(s): At home, Blandin Foundation doubled down on their investment in early childhood and the Invest Early program, a $2.5 million per year investment and a commitment for another 10 years. Invest Early wraps both a child and their family in supports that are proving to eliminate disparities in readiness and success in school. Many other youth-focused efforts, including backbone of a local cradle-to-career initiative around student success and $1 million per year in grants to nearly 400 students who attend school after high school.

Statewide, Blandin Foundation continues its wraparound support of rural leaders eager to bring the power of broadband to their communities. Through participation in the Blandin Broadband Communities program, nearly 50 rural Minnesota communities have moved the needle on rural residents using high-speed Internet to improve their health, access more education, and make their voices heard on community issues.

Nationally, Blandin Foundation is rallying other leading voices in philanthropy to showcase rural’s national impact and build the case for more informed and sustained investment in rural leaders, projects and issues.

Ecolab Foundation

Founded: 1986

Why: Ecolab Inc. is committed to strong communities and funds the Foundation, providing sound investments that benefit our community.

Primary mission: The mission of the Ecolab Foundation is to contribute to the communities where our employees live and work, leveraging our products, leadership, employee involvement and volunteerism whenever possible.

Areas of focusL The focus of Ecolab Foundation grants and volunteer initiatives are in the areas of water, youth and education, arts and culture, environment and conservation, civic and community development (basic needs-housing, food, jobs)

Recent project(s): Ecolab launched a global giving program, Solutions for Life, to enhance the company’s work to conserve water and improve hygiene around the world through partnerships, philanthropy and employee volunteerism.

Ecolab committed $1.5 million to the Project WET Foundation to reach more than two million people with the co-created Clean and Conserve Education Program. This free, downloadable interactive curriculum offers hygiene and water conservation education activities for youth ages three and up.

An additional $2 million commitment to The Nature Conservancy is supporting freshwater conservation through the “Securing and Restoring Water Sources Around the Globe” initiative. Recently, The Nature Conservancy launched its Minnesota Headwaters Fund with Ecolab as the initial sponsor. This $10 million, privately funded investment supports The Nature Conservancy’s work to implement high-impact conservation projects within the Mississippi River watersheds in Minnesota to protect clean water supplies from the effects of converting land to agriculture and urban uses.

GHR Foundation

Year founded: 1965

Why: Ever-mindful of the inextricable link between the success of business and community, 15 years after launching the Opus companies, Gerald (Gerry) A. and Henrietta (Hanky) Rauenhorst started GHR Foundation as vehicle to bring hope and opportunity to those who need it most.

Primary mission: GHR Foundation seeks transformational change in health, education and global development, and partners with the world’s experts to achieve impact.

Areas of focus: GHR’s funding includes Alzheimer’s prevention research, support for Catholic schools working to close the achievement gap, family support and child protection in Zambia and Cambodia, support for Catholic sisters and interreligious action.

Recent project(s): GHR recently made a three-year commitment to bringing City Connects to the Twin Cities. This innovative program connects urban students with resources to meet their out-of-school needs. From tutoring to mental health resources and housing support, City Connects works to surround learners with the services they need to significantly improve student achievement. Through a $2 million, three-year grant, GHR is bringing the City Connects model to seven urban schools to help Twin Cities Catholic school students succeed. A program of Boston College, City Connects is a data-driven model that has proved an integral part of closing the achievement gap in other communities across the United States.

Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation

Founded: 1967

Why: As a nonprofit operating company rather than a foundation, proceeds from our operations as a privately-held company go to advancing our philanthropic mission of getting more students into and through college.

Primary mission: Great Lakes supports an education philanthropy that has just one goal: helping low-income students, students of color and first-generation college students gain access to and graduate from college.

Areas of focus: We work to make sure high school students, as well as adult learners, show up on Day One of college academically and financially prepared. We also help college students navigate challenges that can derail their education by making sure they have support for academic, financial, social and cultural issues.

Recent project(s): We are especially excited about our largest competitive grant award to date, a commitment of $12 million over three years to 33 universities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio.

Career Ready Internship Grant recipients in Minnesota earned a combined $2.7 million to help fund 1,587 new paid internships for juniors and seniors with financial need. The seven recipients are Augsburg College; Hamline University; Metropolitan State University; St. Catherine University; University of Minnesota, Morris; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; and University of Northwestern, St. Paul.

Paid internships benefit everyone. Colleges see increased completion rates, graduates are better prepared to secure good jobs, and employers gain a pipeline to fresh talent.

Over the next three years, each university is required to cover an increasing percentage of funding for internships. Many are leveraging their business partnerships to share the financial commitment, which we believe will help make these paid internship opportunities sustainable beyond the end of our grant period.

H.B. Fuller Company Foundation

Year founded: 1986

Why: In 2014, the H.B. Fuller Company Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to The Bakken Museum, as The Bakken’s engaging, hands-on approach to exhibits and educational experiences aligns with our belief that learning about science should be interactive and fun.

Primary mission: H.B. Fuller aims to spark science innovation and leadership potential in the next wave of power thinkers, so our foundation’s focus is on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and youth leadership development.

Areas of focus: Our foundation focuses its resources on STEM and youth leadership development. We support organizations that align to our mission. In 2014, we gave more than $1.5 million to these focus areas, as well as to projects benefiting education, the environment, health and human services, and arts and culture.

Recent project(s): In addition to grant making, our foundation also focuses on encouraging employee volunteerism. Through our communications, time off policy and matching gifts program, our employees are encouraged to get involved in the communities where they live and work. Every October, thousands of employees take part in H.B. Fuller’s Make a Difference campaign, our company’s worldwide community service campaign. Since the program’s inception in 2009, nearly 2,000 H.B. Fuller volunteers have given more than 25,000 hours of their time. Projects range from facility spruce-ups and building houses to packing meals and assembling science kits. In 2015, Minnesota-based employees participated in volunteer projects with Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Feed My Starving Children, Merrick, Cookie Cart, St. Paul City School, Cesar Chaves Elementary and Johnson High School.

The McKnight Foundation

Year founded: 1953

Why: The McKnight Foundation was established by an early president and board chair of 3M, William L. McKnight, and his wife Maude L. McKnight. Their daughter, Virginia Binger McKnight, took the reins in 1974. It is her vision and leadership that set the standard for the Foundation’s work today.

Primary mission: The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. We use all our resources to attend, unite, and empower those we serve.

Areas of focus: Program interests include regional economic and community development, Minnesota’s arts and artists, early literacy, youth development, Midwest climate and energy, Mississippi River water quality, neuroscience research, international crop research, and rural livelihoods.

Recent project(s): Last year, The McKnight Foundation granted $88 million to hundreds of organizations working to strengthen communities in Minnesota and around the world. Beyond our annual grantmaking, we’re committed to a fund management approach called “impact investing”  which means making investments that generate social and environmental returns alongside financial returns. We’ve dedicated 15 percent of our $2 billion endowment to impact investment strategies that align with our mission and long-term program goals. Impact investing is an opportunity to mobilize all of our resources — above and beyond our grant dollars — to contribute to a thriving, sustainable Twin Cities, restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River, and accelerate the growth of a clean energy economy.

The Minneapolis Foundation

Founded: 1915

Why: Founded 100 years ago, The Minneapolis Foundation is one of the world’s oldest community foundations. It was started by a lawyer, two bankers, and two lumbermen. Their vision was groundbreaking: A place-based nonprofit that would enable residents from across the community to pool their charitable giving for greater impact. Today, the Minneapolis Foundation administers more than 1,200 charitable funds for individuals, families and businesses. Donors support more than 1,000 causes in Minneapolis and beyond, while the Foundation also makes grants to meet community needs.

Primary mission: The Minneapolis Foundation convenes, collaborates, and advocates, offering leadership on community issues.

Areas of focus: The Minneapolis Foundation invests the majority of its resources in six areas: education, civic engagement, economic vitality, arts & culture, community health, and environment & conservation. Through its competitive grantmaking, which focuses on the first three of those areas, the Foundation strives to increase social, racial, and economic equity in Minneapolis.

Recent project(s): The Minneapolis Foundation celebrated its Centennial this year with a series of public events that brought the community together to honor a century of innovative philanthropy in the Twin Cities and discuss a shared vision for the next 100 years. On its official 100th birthday weekend, the Foundation teamed up with the Twin Cities’ bike sharing program for the #NicestDayEver. For every Nice Ride trip made on June 28, the Foundation donated $1 to Free Bikes 4 Kidz, a local nonprofit. Twin Cities cyclists came out in droves, setting a new single-day record for Nice Ride. In September, the Foundation hosted the Face Forward Futurist Conference, where more than 1,500 Twin Cities leaders and residents gathered to learn about innovative approaches to some of the community’s biggest challenges and opportunities.

Minnesota Timberwolves FastBreak Foundation

Year founded: 1993

Why: The Foundation’s largest fundraising event is its annual Taste of the Timberwolves where guests are able to mingle with the entire Timberwolves roster and coaching staff. To date, Taste of the Timberwolves has raised more than $4 million to support youth-focused, hands-on programs and events.

Primary mission: The FastBreak Foundation provides and supports hands-on programs that positively impact Minnesota youth. Through giving, education and basketball opportunities, the Foundation enables young people to make responsible decisions, contribute to their futures and experience lifelong memories.

Areas of focus: Two main areas of focus for the FastBreak Foundation are the recognition of military members and supporting youth education, mentorship and health through year-round programming, on-court recognitions and special events.

Recent project(s): One of the most impactful events the organization hosts is during the holiday season, when 22 deserving children available for adoption are surprised with a $500 Target shopping spree. Upon arrival at Target, the children are surprised to find that Timberwolves players are there to shop alongside them. In addition to having a huge impact on the children, the event helps raise public awareness for some of the 500+ children waiting to be adopted in Minnesota. It has even resulted in some families reaching out to inquire about the pre-adoptive process for children involved in the event.

The National Parkinson Foundation Minnesota

Founded: 2006

Why: Minnesota is one of the highest states per capita for incidences of Parkinson’s disease. While Parkinson’s symptoms can present at any age, the average age of diagnosis is 60. By, 2030, 24 percent of the Minnesota population will be over the age of 65. One in 100 people over the age of 60 live with Parkinson’s disease.

Primary mission: At the National Parkinson Foundation Minnesota, we believe everyone with Parkinson’s should live their best lives possible. Yet too many people struggle to get the care they need to live well. NPFM has free resources and connections to help people with Parkinson’s live better.

Areas of focus: The National Parkinson Foundation Minnesota offers the support that you and your loved ones need. Discover a Parkinson’s Friendly Community near you. Apply for a support grant from our foundation. Connect with others living well with Parkinson’s disease through the First Hand Help program. Participate in a Support Group.

Recent project(s): In 2014, NPFM added Help at Home and Exercise grants. During the last 18 months, NPFM has reached nearly 200 families with funding for respite grants, Help at Home and Exercise grants that pay licensed providers to provide either help at home or exercise to reduce Parkinson symptoms. The demand for this program is currently double what it was a year ago. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the NPFM campaign will be added to the current level of funding for the Parkinson Support Grant program to help meet the increased demand.

Northland Foundation

Founded: 1986

Why: In the 1980s, recession devastated Minnesota. Farms, manufacturing, and mining suffered. Greater Minnesotans left rural hometowns to find work. The McKnight Foundation responded in a historic way, establishing six Minnesota Initiative Foundations to tackle challenges in their respective regions. Thirty years later, this thriving Minnesota-made philanthropic model is envied nationally.

Primary mission: The Northland Foundation is a place-based philanthropic resource to the seven counties of Northeast Minnesota. Our unique blend of grants, loans, KIDS PLUS program, and other work is intended to flexibly serve the region’s evolving needs within a mission-driven framework of strengthening families, growing a sustainable regional economy, cultivating leadership and philanthropy, and fostering respect.

Areas of focus: Our priorities include children, youth, and families; opportunities for self-reliance; and aging with independence. Core activities include: grants to nonprofits; KIDS PLUS operating program, nurturing children birth to adulthood; Business finance, providing development lending to support job creation; assisted living for older adults in rural communities; and connecting people and resources.

Recent project(s): In 2013, the Northland Foundation launched an initiative to enhance the quality of child care in northeastern Minnesota by increasing participation by licensed child care providers in the Parent Aware quality rating process. What began as limited to St. Louis County quickly grew into a seven-county effort. Relationships in community, a partnership with Child Care Aware — Minnesota Northeast District, along with funding support from the Mardag Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, and Sheltering Arms Foundation have been key to bringing providers on board with Parent Aware. Child care providers, especially family-based, are pressed for time and many were unsure if Parent Aware was worth their investment. Through continued outreach, free trainings and other incentives, and bringing information to providers in rural communities — where they live and work — northeastern Minnesota now has the highest Greater Minnesota participation rates, and this initiative has gained attention statewide.

Securian Foundation

Founded: Securian Financial Group was founded in St. Paul in 1880 and promptly established a tradition of being a good neighbor through philanthropy and volunteerism. Securian’s commitment to our local community was furthered with the formal founding of the Securian Foundation in 1980.

Why: The Securian Foundation receives 100 percent of its funding from Securian Financial Group, maintaining a corpus to fund our giving programs, ensuring our commitment to the community for the long run.

Primary mission: The Securian Foundation’s community giving mission is to enhance the quality of life and vitality of our community by investing in nonprofit organizations that make a positive difference and advance the common good.

Areas of focus: Education; health and human services; economic independence, civic and community needs; arts and cultural organizations.

Recent project(s): The Securian Foundation recently committed $150,000 to the Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Career Academies Initiative, designed to bridge gaps in student achievement and job skills training that align with private-sector need. The goal is to ensure more low-income students and students of color have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees in a low-cost and accelerated model and prepare them for high demand career fields. The initiative will allow local high school students to earn postsecondary credit while providing work-based learning, career awareness and mentorships.

The Securian Foundation is funding and will be working closely with two local high schools — Humboldt High School and White Bear Lake High School — to establish Information Technology (IT) Career Academies serving 25-30 students at each school. Utilizing Securian’s IT talent and knowledge, we are excited to invest financial and people resources in this initiative to produce a more diverse and better prepared workforce.

The Sheltering Arms Foundation

Founded: The organization began in 1882 as an Episcopal orphanage. In 1983, the foundation was established with the proceeds from the sale of the land and buildings of the original orphanage.

Why: The organization was established by a dynamic Episcopal deaconess named sister Annette Relf. She was an entrepreneur who in addition to creating the Sheltering Arms Orphanage, created Episcopal Homes and other charitable organizations. The creators of the foundation continued her mission to serve vulnerable children and families in Minnesota, this time by funding the nonprofits who assisted them.

Primary mission: The Sheltering Arms Foundation invests in the lives of Minnesota’s children to help them reach their full potential. We fund nonprofit organizations and support policies that benefit children and their families who have the least access to resources.

Areas of focus: The Sheltering Arms Foundation supports early childhood education and youth development programs for children twelve and under in Minnesota. We support both direct service organizations and also advocacy and policy initiatives that ensure that children are academically, socially, emotionally and physically ready for kindergarten and lifelong success.

Recent project(s): We are very proud of our role in the MinneMinds campaign that has fought successfully for public investments in high-quality early childhood programs for low-income Minnesota children. We are part of a coalition of Minnesota early childhood funders called Start Early that has supported this effort and added our own voice to the call to ensure that Minnesota children be ready for kindergarten.

West Central Initiative

Founded: 1986

Why: Ghirty years ago, The McKnight Foundation board and staff visited rural communities to see how they could help counteract the 1980s farming/mining crises. They heard: “We know what’s needed for our communities.” McKnight helped fund the Minnesota Initiative Foundations — including West Central Initiative — to develop strategies specific to each region.

Primary mission: West Central Initiative serves as a regional foundation for nine counties in west central Minnesota. Its number-one goal is to help strengthen the economy of the region, so its families, businesses and communities thrive. WCI uses many tools to achieve this, like business loans, grants, planning assistance and promoting philanthropy to help create a better tomorrow for west central Minnesota.

Areas of focus: Business and workforce development, regional economic development and transportation planning, promoting philanthropy throughout our region and in our communities, community leadership and mobilization, early childhood.

Recent project(s): Thanks to a Bush Foundation Leadership Network Grant, West Central Initiative collaborated with Springboard for the Arts and Cindy Bigger & Associates to pilot the Creative Action Network. CAN brings together alumni from regional leadership development programs to explore the role of creativity in community leadership. Through a series of fun, engaging workshops, professional artists share simple artistic processes and engagement methods that anyone can use to help address challenges in their own community. So far, participants have learned how pottery can help facilitate a meaningful conversation, how theater and storytelling can get a community “unstuck” and spark action, and how creative place-making might be just the tool a community needs to get people out walking, saving historic buildings or filling vacant downtown spaces.