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Northwest Minnesota Foundation gives out more than $1 million in first quarter

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation has already given out $1 million in the first quarter of its fiscal year, as its switching to regular impact statements to help give a broader understanding of everything the organization does throughout the region.

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BEMIDJI — Only three months into its fiscal year, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation has already provided over $1 million in grants and loans across the region and given more than $500,000 through its philanthropic activities.

“We’re really excited about where we’re at,” said Bethany Wesley, communications director for NMF. “It’s shaping up to be a really impactful year.”

These numbers are part of the organization’s new strategy, which will include public quarterly impact statements to give communities an overview of the work that NMF does throughout the year.

“Our plan is to release these (reports) quarterly so everybody gets a better understanding of impact. Otherwise we usually just release it at the year’s end,” Wesley explained.

The numbers released for the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2023, which began in July and ran through September, show the organization running at a good pace for its work in the coming months.

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“In Fiscal Year 2022, (we gave out) just over $3 million in grants and forgivable loans, and just over $2 million in philanthropic activities,” Wesley said. “So for this year to be where we’re at, we’re certainly in a really good place.”

Highlights of the first quarter

The first report for 2023 breaks down NMF’s impact in three areas: philanthropy, loans and support for local businesses, and internal programs.

Already in its first quarter, NMF has approved 102 philanthropic fund grants, amounting to $560,000 dispersed throughout the area. This includes over $130,000 in scholarships, 11 of which were awarded to students at Northwest Technical College.

Other highlights of NMF’s philanthropic branch included $148,950 provided to community service funds, including support for homeless shelters and churches; $23,757 to cultural fund grants that go towards music, theater and arts; and $35,600 in funds that went to support local cities, school districts and nonprofit organizations.

The business branch of NMF approved 13 loans for businesses throughout the region, totaling $329,500. These loans included businesses in Beltrami, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods and Polk Counties.

Through its internal grant programs, NMF has already provided more than $156,000 in the first quarter of this year, including for a new program aiming to provide young adults with affordable access to transportation.

“That will be a big win for us. Transportation is one of those things we always hear concerns about,” Wesley explained. “Transportation is a huge barrier for people who need access to services or supports.”

Providing perspective

Wesley hopes that by providing regular and comprehensive reports, organizations and communities working with NMF will have a better understanding of the broad range of everything that the organization encompasses.

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“We’ve had long-standing partnerships with different economic development groups, nonprofits and agencies in our region, but what we’re finding is that they don’t necessarily know the totality of what we do,” Wesley said.

The new quarterly reports will hopefully be a solution for this, outlining each of the organization’s branches and their projects — from grants and business loans to college scholarships.

“Our hope is that by putting it out in one big package on a regular basis people will have a better understanding of how we’re working foundation-wide to build better lives throughout northwest Minnesota,” Wesley said. “We refer to ourselves as a force and a resource for the region, and we want to make that a little bit more clear.”

A new round of grants will be announced next week by NMF, and more information can be found on the organization's website about grant opportunities, NMF funds and its other projects.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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