Here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), during the past year, we highlighted our work in entrepreneur development. It was an exciting year of partnerships, growth and progress as we watched our dollars at work in the lives of business owners across our region.
In 2014, we will spend the year highlighting our community development work. Since inception in 1986, SMIF has worked to create economic prosperity and community vitality within its 20-county region. Over the past 28 years, we have worked to identify and leverage our region’s assets to achieve these goals. Southern Minnesota’s culture has long cultivated a spirit of collaboration that brings together neighbors, communities and the public and private sectors. We are proud of our role in continuing to bring local leaders together to pool resources and ideas for greater outcomes.
One area of our community work is helping to establish and grow Community Foundations as a way to expand resources within our 20-county region. Currently we have 23 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 $2.06 million in assets and have awarded more than $3.1 million in grants and programming.
In addition, through the support of our donor partners, we are able to do even more. For instance, SMIF’s collaboration with Valspar Corp. has enabled us to grant thousands of gallons of paint to community projects across our region. Historical buildings, community centers and local murals have all received fresh coats of paint through our Picture-It-Painted program. These projects also bring citizens together in collaboration, volunteerism and community pride.
We also play the role of convener on a variety of regional issues. A few years ago, we invited communities to gather and discuss regionalism and how it affects our economy and ties to the global economy — the project was called Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness. We continue to convene communities around interest areas (early childhood or entrepreneurship) to facilitate ongoing conversations that impact our region. We partner with local governments, other foundations, entrepreneurs, businesses, early childhood professionals and leaders across the region; together we strengthen southern Minnesota — this place we all call home.
As always, I welcome your questions and comments. You can reach me at 507-455-3215 or [email protected]
Tim Penny is the president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Inititave Foundation.