BEMIDJI -- The Northwest Minnesota Foundation looks to once again improve the lives of women in the 12-county region it serves, and is willing to provide funding to do so.

The foundation plans to accomplish this through its Northwest Minnesota Women's Fund, which provides grants to projects and programs that benefit women and girls in the region. The service area includes Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau counties.

"Every year, the women's fund offers a fall and spring grant round," said Ashley Johnson of the foundation. "But this year, for 2020, we're just doing one round. We're accepting applications for up to $10,000."

According to Johnson, the fund acts as a "catalyst for improving the quality of life for women." Grants through the fund can be used for several types of activities, such as bringing in speakers, research projects, professional development and educational materials.

In a press release, the foundation cites the following goals to accomplish:

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  • Developing entrepreneurial and economic opportunities for women.
  • Supporting programs that lead to a safer environment for women and girls.
  • Building networks of women in leadership positions throughout the region.
  • Encouraging and equipping women and girls to achieve their full potential.

Proposals, which are due March 2, must meet the following criteria:

  • Describe the relationship of the project to the women's fund's mission and goals.
  • Evidence of grassroot support involving women.
  • An identified purpose and need for the project.
  • Clear goals and action steps for completing the project.
  • A description of the working relationship with other partners and/or funding sources.
  • The potential long term impact of the project.
  • Evidence of an evaluation plan.

While the fund is providing dollars this spring for projects, it's not its only specified use. Johnson said the fund has two functions, with the other providing scholarships for students attending college in the foundation's service area.

Scholarships are available to women pursuing post-secondary education at any public institute in the region, such as Bemidji State, Northwest Technical College, Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks, and the University of Minnesota Crookston.

According to Johnson, there are two scholarships specific to institutions, with one for women attending UMC, and the other being the Myrtie Hunt Scholarship for those attending BSU. The deadline to apply for the scholarships is April 15.

Along with applying for grants and scholarships, Johnson said there are also opportunities for people to administer the fund.

"We are looking to revitalize the women's fund, because it is a regional fund," Johnson said. "We typically have meetings in Crookston and Bemidji, so, if anyone's looking to sit on the advisory committee for the fund, we'd like them to contact us."

The foundation can be found online at https://www.nwmf.org/ and can be reached by phone at (218) 759-2057.