Op/Ed
January 23, 2020

At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), we are proud of our ability to adapt and address the needs in our region. We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution to economic development, early childhood and community vitality. But, responding to the needs of southern Minnesota depends on the longevity and financial stability of our organization.

Through our foundation’s endowment funds, which are a key part of our financial stability, we can address the emerging needs of our region. For example, we supported the creation of the Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) program, which focuses on finding and igniting existing entrepreneurs in small communities, through the Entrepreneur Fund, our newest endowed fund. The REV program was piloted in six communities over the last three years and has impacted hundreds of entrepreneurs.

Another example is our One Big Thing Grant of $100,000 which was created out of our General Endowment Fund to invest in exciting new ventures. One of our first One Big Thing grants lead to the creation of the FEAST! Local Foods Network. This network has impacted nearly 1,000 local foods entrepreneurs in the region. The One Big Thing Grant also helped provide quality child care trainings to over 1,300 early childhood professionals.

Most recently, another endowment fund, our Youth Trust Fund, supported the Child Care Start-up or Expansion Grant Program to address the critical need for thousands of additional child care slots throughout our region. In the last grant round, 548 new slots were created in southern Minnesota and we expect hundreds more will be created as a result of our next grant round.

As you can see, endowment funds provide significant resources for SMIF programming. When our donors channel charitable gifts into one of our endowment funds, we then have a stable income stream for years to come. In time, these funds grow, and your donations have an even greater impact in the region. For example, since the creation of our Youth Trust Fund in 1999, we have received over $2 million in donations to the fund. Thanks to investment earnings, the balance of the Youth Trust Fund today is $2.9 million. To date, we have granted out over $580,000 to early childhood projects and programs and this fund will be able to support the needs of our region for years to come!

In order to strengthen SMIF’s long-term impact, we launched our “Love Where You Live” campaign to raise $3.5 million to support our three endowment funds: Entrepreneur Fund, General Endowment and Youth Trust Fund. By growing our endowment funds, we will be able to ensure the future of our organization while also making an even greater impact right now.

Each year we spend a percentage of our earnings from these funds on our grantmaking, lending and programming. With $3.5 million additional dollars in our endowment funds, the amount we spend each year will increase. We will be able to support more entrepreneurs as they launch and grow their businesses, ensure more children have access to quality early childhood education, and invest in more communities to build a stronger region.  

So far, we have raised over $800,000 of our Love Where You Live campaign goal. We are confident that in the coming few years we will reach our goal through the generosity of donors who believe in our mission. We do this work because we love where we live, and we want to see southern Minnesota thrive. To support our Love Where You Live campaign, visit smifoundation.org/donate.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

Tim Penny

Tim Penny is the President & CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Tim represented Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 – 1994.