The Otto Bremer Trust is growing beyond its typical borders, expanding to offer grants and program-related spending in Montana and eastern Wisconsin.
The St. Paul-based charitable foundation, which owns a majority of Bremer Bank, has supported nonprofits in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin since it was founded 75 years ago by businessman Otto Bremer. But officials are announcing Tuesday that the trust has grown to $1.1 billion in assets, allowing it to expand its charitable reach in 2020 to organizations in the rest of Wisconsin and Montana.
Bremer designated that the trust could work in those four states — where he was doing business — back when the trust was established in 1944, but this will be the first time the foundation has been able to give grants and investments to nonprofits in all four states consistently. Minnesota nonprofits will still remain the largest bulk of the grantees.
The announcement also comes at a time that the trust is increasing its work helping nonprofits beyond grants, providing more loans, equity investments and seed money to startup organizations.
“We’re moving well beyond grantmaking,” Brian Lipschultz, co-CEO and trustee of the trust, said on Monday. “Organizations cannot survive on grants alone.”
For instance, the Otto Bremer Trust gave a loan to Second Harvest Heartland for the construction a new facility in Brooklyn Park. Minnesota’s largest food bank, which provides surplus food to food shelves and nonprofit programs, received $18 million in state bonding money and raised $16 million from private donors and foundations for the $52 million facility. But the loan from the Otto Bremer Trust helped fill in the gap.
And this month, the trust announced a first-of-its-kind revolving line of credit to the Sheridan Story, a Roseville-based nonprofit that provides food to children in need.
“That’s never been done before,” Lipschultz said.
Rob Williams, executive director of the Sheridan Story, said they sought out a revolving line of credit from banks to help bridge the gap in donations, which are often concentrated during the holiday season, but as a nonprofit without collateral, it wasn’t possible. Instead, the Otto Bremer Trust is providing a low-interest loan that will allow the nonprofit to buy more food while weathering the ebb and flow of seasonal giving, Williams said.
“This has made a huge difference,” he said.
Unlike corporate foundations, the Otto Bremer Trust and Bremer employees own the bank, which pays the trust 92% of its dividends each year.