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Senior Vice President of Community Impact Anil Hurkadli reflects on how the Foundation’s grantmaking has made an impact in 2022.

By Anil Hurkadli, Senior Vice President of Community Impact

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and our partners — F. R. Bigelow Foundation and Mardag Foundation — are dedicated to ensuring nonprofits have not only the resources to serve their communities, but also the support they need to grow and thrive as an organization.

This year, we made some significant changes to our grantmaking to better meet the needs of our community partners. Below you will learn more about what we have done in the hopes of making a bigger impact in the years to come.

How This Year’s Grants Rounds Compared to Previous Rounds

The Foundation experienced some change this year, which presents us with ample opportunities to learn and continuously improve in our work to be more effective grantmakers.

Since the Foundation’s last grant round, the team navigated the ambiguity and complexity of a senior leadership transition. We completed a conversion to a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which impacts how we receive, process and review grant applications. We also saw a drastic increase in grant applications, which was consistent with what we heard from peer foundations.

It’s also worth repeating that the ongoing trauma from the pandemic and the uprisings for racial justice remains with each of us and will remain with us for some time. As members of the communities we hope to support, our individual and institutional healing mirrors what we see as opportunities for repair and care in the community.

Standout Community Needs

With a significant increase in demand for grant funding this round, we noticed a few patterns in the applications that we’ll continue to observe and seek to address across all aspects of our work:

  • Burnout and turnover – The past several years have been incredibly difficult for folks who are struggling, and nonprofits rose to the occasion and provided care and support in countless ways.

    Of course, that comes at a cost. At every level of many organizations we support, people are facing exhaustion and burnout. This is particularly true in the health, human services, and education fields, though variations on this theme exist everywhere. We saw several grant requests that would accommodate for wage increases and other forms of institutional care for workers, which we think is urgent and important as the economy slows.
  • Costs are rising – Related to the above point, inflationary pressures are increasing the cost of doing business. This was especially true in capital requests, where building and labor costs increased rapidly.
  • Collaboration opportunities – As a funder across multiple focus areas, I’m thinking a lot about an Audre Lord quote that captures the complexity of our work: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

While we have specific focus areas, the work that many of our nonprofit partners are doing sits at the intersections of so many identities, issues, opportunities and challenges. As such, we saw a lot of interesting and effective partnerships happening across organizations and sectors.

Creating Innovative Community Solutions

Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, classism and other forms of oppression still infect the sectors and institutions our grantee partners operate within, and this creates systemic challenges to doing good work on a day-to-day basis.

As a Foundation with a focus on equity, some of the most innovative approaches were those that are designed to achieve wide-spread outcomes by explicitly centering those experiencing the most marginalization.

Learnings as a New Leader

What I’ve learned this year is that community foundations are complex! I’m still learning the various ways we express our mission, and it feels like there are always new and exciting ways for us to steward the Foundation’s resources to achieve more just and equitable outcomes.

What Grantees Can Expect for the Future

The team is in a continuous process of learning and improving our grantmaking approach, and we expect there to be a few changes as we consider how to be more clear and transparent about our funding priorities.

The Foundation and our partners offer two grantmaking cycles a year. Our grant opportunities include general operating grants, program/project grants and capital grants to organizations located in Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties.

Grant applications for the 2023 Building Community Capacity Grant Round, Round 1, will be accepted Jan. 9, 2023 - Feb. 1, 2023, at 3 p.m. To learn more, view our grant opportunities or email a member of our Grant Team with additional questions and feedback.

About the Author

Anil Hurkadli (he/him/his) considers it his life's work to ensure people are equipped with the knowledge, skills, mindsets, and relationships necessary to thrive. He first joined the philanthropy sector as the Learning and Strategy Officer for the Thrivent Foundation, where he was responsible for ensuring equity in every foundation policy and practice led to equity in its strategic outcome areas of family-sustaining employment and financial health. Prior to that, Anil served as the executive director for Teach For America in Minnesota and the interim executive director for Minneapolis Public Schools’ Office of New Schools.

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