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Celebrating 80 Years of Impact

A reflection on eight decades of work to create a just and vibrant Minnesota By Foundation President and CEO Eric Jolly, Ph.D.

Dr. Eric Jolly, President & CEO
Dr. Eric Jolly, President & CEO

2020 is the Foundation’s 80th Anniversary.

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation’s history speaks to the dedication of people and organizations committed to making a significant difference in Minnesota.

The organization that we know today had two separate beginnings, dating back to 1940. The Saint Paul Association of Commerce founded The Saint Paul Foundation in 1940 and our first donor, Annie Paper, left a gift of $5,000 in 1944. The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation established The Minnesota Foundation soon after in 1949.

From the start, the two organizations had a common vision: to build a responsive and resilient nonprofit infrastructure to serve our community’s emerging needs.

Coincidentally, our 80th Anniversary marks the year that we have legally merged our two Foundations, becoming the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

This move is both symbolic and practical. We’ve been operating as one entity for some time, with a single shared staff, board of directors and grantmaking process. The merger allows us to be more streamlined and efficient, while fully embodying our long-lived unity.

80 Years of Impact

Our merger makes this an even more extraordinary time to reflect on eight decades of work with hundreds of partners throughout the state.

Very little in our community, particularly in the Twin Cities’ East Metro, has not been touched by the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

A small sample of the Foundation’s work includes involvement in the:

  • Creation of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, which sought to create a "corridor of opportunity" along Minneapolis and Saint Paul's Green Line Light Rail Transit, delivering extraordinary results.
  • Construction and eventual expansion of the Minnesota Children’s Museum in Saint Paul.
  • Opening of the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown Saint Paul along the riverfront.
  • Allocation of program related investment (PRI) dollars to organizations like CommonBond Communities. With PRI dollars from the Foundation, CommonBond is purchasing a property that will preserve an additional 136 units of low-income rental housing.
  • Ongoing partnership with Catholic Charities of St. Paul & Minneapolis; much of recent funding has gone to some of Catholic Charities’ biggest projects, including the development of Higher Ground, an overnight emergency shelter and supportive housing facility, and the remodeling of the Dorothy Day Center.
  • Launch of GiveMN, an online giving platform that provides Minnesota nonprofits access to individual contributions from donors.
  • Emergence of new and critical nonprofits like Ujamaa Place and The Sanneh Foundation, to name just a couple.
  • Establishment of the Community Sharing Fund, which offers small grants to people who are often facing a crisis, and is marking its 40th year.
  • Launch of the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library.
  • Creation of the Management Improvement Fund, which has, since 1985, provided over $5.2 million to more than 600 nonprofit organizations.
  • Creation of the Arts Partnership, which established an unprecedented partnership among Minnesota Opera, the Ordway, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Schubert Club.
  • Long-time partnership with Como Park Zoo and Conservatory and its extraordinary evolution into one of Minnesota’s top tourist destinations.
  • The launch of Great River Greening, which was founded to restore the downtown Saint Paul riverfront and now works throughout the entire Twin Cities metro area and beyond to mobilize community volunteers to restore our native landscapes.
  • Major timely philanthropic efforts of our state, including supporting the Minnesota Super Bowl Legacy Fund and the Minnesota Homeless Fund recently established by Governor Tim Waltz.

In addition to this work, we partner with hundreds of donors to support their charitable giving. Our 17 Community Affiliates across the state, in communities like Waseca and Hibbing, play a vital role in the health of our Minnesota communities.

We have much progress and generosity to celebrate.

Our end goal, though, is likely decades — if not generations — away. And yet because of the gifts of yesterday, we are better poised than ever to address new and emerging disparities, to grow the strengths of our community and to foster a Minnesota to be proud of — where all people and communities thrive.

This is why we are giving a nod to our past, and turning our energy toward the future. Our new strategic plan rallies us to carry out three specific calls to action:

These are the areas where we will spend our time as we work tirelessly to create the thriving Minnesota we know the future holds.

I want to thank all of our partners, especially our early donors, those who left a legacy for a future they could not see. Today, we too are working toward solutions that may not be realized in our lifetimes — but will not be realized without us.

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