How Community Foundations impact communities

Many donors want to keep their philanthropic dollars local, to better the community where they live, work, and raise their families. That’s why local community foundations are so important-they provide a way to keep assets and resources in the community.

For many years, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) has helped establish and grow community funds as a way to expand resources within our 20-county region. Currently we have 21 community foundations and four designated funds under our umbrella-helping to build local philanthropic capacity for communities to do grantmaking. Collectively over the years, these funds have built $1.78 million in assets and have awarded more than $3.4 million in grants and programming.

Take the Gateway Academy Summer Day Camp held in Kinglsand school district, for example. This summer camp is unlike any other in southern Minnesota, as it prepares middle school students for the rigors of high school science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classes. Due to its cost, this prestigious program is generally offered in large, metropolitan school districts. However, because of a seed grant from the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation, Kingsland students attend the camp free of charge.

Because of the Foundation’s support in getting this program started, the community is already planning to continue the camp next summer. The community believes that the camp addresses educational needs by providing hands-on learning experiences that inspire creativity and imagination in science, technology, engineering and math.

Addressing specific community needs is what a local community foundation can do that other grantmakers cannot. Because community foundation board members have a deep knowledge of local needs, local foundations are successful in identifying practical projects to enhance their community, and then raising the funds to complete them. They are also able to ensure that charitable gifts are used effectively to meet a community’s most critical needs.

Managing investment dollars for community foundations is one of the many benefits SMIF offers to area communities. Right now, we are also offering two opportunities for community foundations to capture additional SMIF dollars of up to $8,000. The first is a matching endowment challenge, which provides a $1 match for every $2 the community foundation raises up to $5,000. Second, we provide a matching grant opportunity that provides a $1 for $1 match up to $3,000 for community foundations to support projects in the early childhood or entrepreneurship categories.

If you are interested in learning more about starting a community foundation in your community, contact our Development and Outreach Officer Jennifer Nelson at 507-455-3215 or

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