Pahoua Yang Hoffman, the new senior vice president of community impact at the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation, is working with other nonprofit leaders to promote racial equity and help rebuild small, minority-owned businesses damaged in the unrest after George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day.
Hoffman joined Minnesota’s largest community foundation in mid-May after six years as executive director at the St. Paul-based Citizens League.
Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police led Hoffman to team up with Chanda Smith Baker, senior vice president of impact at the Minneapolis Foundation, and Acooa Ellis, senior vice president of community impact at the Greater Twin Cities United Way.
In early June, their organizations created the Twin Cities Rebuild for the Future Fund to support small businesses damaged in the unrest. They announced June 25 that the fund will distribute $2.5 million to 11 nonprofits to help business owners pay for repairs, get technical assistance and disseminate information in their native languages.
A member of the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation’s executive leadership team, Hoffman serves as its chief strategist for grant making.
Hoffman was born in Laos and immigrated to the United States with her parents after a year in a Thai refugee camp. She earned an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and was a 2013-2015 University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs policy fellow.
Hoffman also has served as government affairs manager at Twin Cities PBS and an international student adviser at St. Thomas.
“Pahoua’s leadership and experience embody the foundation’s strategies and values,” said Eric Jolly, CEO of the foundation, which has $1.6 billion in combined charitable assets.
“She’s convened diverse groups of citizens to inform rich, community led-solutions. In the advancement of equity, she has worked tirelessly to cultivate a Minnesota where all voices are counted, heard and appreciated,” he said in a statement. “Her vision has inspired generosity and contributions of all kinds.”
Q: What’s motivating your collaboration with Acooa Ellis and Chanda Smith Baker?
A: We all know each other, we trust each other, we listen to each other and we hang out with each other. It’s going to take collaboration with these two women and more to say who is doing what, where are we not spending the money, where are the gaps? It’s working together with a shared vision for what it is that we all feel is needed.
Q: What is a priority for you in your new role?
A: At the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation, it’s about racial equity and how do we carry out the work that we want to do through that lens. I am very interested in pursuing how we can support nonprofits that are led by leaders of color or that are serving communities of color and Indigenous populations. When you think about the greatest challenges that we’re facing as a state and as a country they are largely issues affecting these populations.
Q: How do you do that?
A: One piece of our strategic plan is that the community informs the solution. The foundation may hold the funding and may get donors to contribute, but that doesn’t mean we have the knowledge of where it should go. I love the idea that the foundation is saying we are about listening, about learning what’s happening in the community and having the community tell us where we should make these investments.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.