I wanted to share the following note from the Blandin Foundation…
Rural communities have been dealing with challenges that just keep snowballing. Years of tensions that split
communities further apart are making it more challenging for people to work together. State and federal fiscal policies
have not kept up with public funding needs in counties, cities and small towns. Folks often serve in a half-dozen or more
community roles at the same time and are expected to do more with less. Recession looms in many of our memories
On top of that, two-plus years of constant stress, grief and loss from COVID, increasing political tensions, racial unrest,
and the quickly changing environment.
These realities have called Blandin Foundation to find new ways to help rural people build bridges toward strong futures.
After talking to leaders across rural Minnesota, and doing deep research, we came to a few conclusions about what’s
needed to make change happen:
• People need to feel connected to each other and to the future of their community. Connected individuals stay
healthier, are happier, achieve higher education, improve their job outlook and are more likely to have longterm economic upward mobility. Connected communities thrive amidst change, both unintended (disaster,
economic uncertainty) and proactive (future-forward community initiatives).
• They need access to resources, like money and new ideas and opportunities. Rural America receives only about
5 percent of the nation’s available funds (like grants) from philanthropy, even though 20 percent of the
population lives in rural areas. In addition, rural and Native Nations in Minnesota, like rural regions across the
country, have faced disinvestment and resulting decline for decades.
Energy generated by our new vision, mission and values invigorates our work.
Two fresh frames bring rural Minnesota’s needs into crisper focus: equity – of place, race and class, and the imperative
to change outdated policies that don’t serve rural well.
These lenses led us to focus on 3 areas of priority:
• Rural Placemaking for arts, culture and systems people use to create the unique destinations and social fabric
rural folks love about their home places and their identity;
• Community Wealth Building so communities can build their bases of knowledge, money and more, and keep it
close to home; and
• Small Communities to get those places, especially in our home giving area, grants to fund work that changes
systems to work better for everyone.
We’ve retooled our grantmaking to focus on our 3 priority areas, and will develop programs focused on advocacy and
rural capacity that will build on our experience in community leadership and broadband.
We remain steadfast in our donor’s intent – to focus on the quality of life for the worker – especially in our Home Giving
Area. Moving rural places forward, to equitable and sustainable futures will take us all. We look forward to learning
from you and with you as we step forward together towards strong rural communities.
President and CEO