March 2015

Minnesota is a great place to live, work and play, and repeatedly ends up on top ten lists for quality of life. What has made the state so great? The 10,000 lakes? Sure. Serving as the lutefisk capital of the United States? Maybe.

One thing is certain. Minnesota’s greatness is due to its communities, and the people that serve them.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, in partnership with The McKnight Foundation, is pleased to announce its first annual Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards. The Unsung Hero Awards recognize individuals who have had a significant impact on the state of Minnesota and its communities, and yet have not been widely recognized in the past.

Two Minnesotans (one from the Twin Cities metro and one from greater Minnesota) will each receive $10,000 in recognition of the significant impact they have had on the state and will be publicly celebrated at MCN’s 2014 Annual Conference.

Nominations are currently being accepted with an application deadline of April 20, 2015. Nominate today » Eligibility and criteria details are also available online. For questions about the Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards, please contact 651-642-1904 or

We are going to post time-sensitive items between newsletter as time-sensitivity dictates…

ECRAC is offering 10 free early bird registrations, a $100 value each, to the Rural Arts and Cultural Summit on this year’s theme “From the Ground Up: Cultivating Creative People and Places” at the University of Minnesota, in Morris, from June 2-4. 

Early bird registration for this offer is open until April 10. These registrations will fill quickly so respond to this email now. You must live in Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, or Pine County to be eligible. Travel costs such as lodging and mileage will also be available for scholarship recipients. 

Here is what you need to do. Respond to this email,  by clicking here. Put “FREE ECRAC Registration” in the subject line and give us your name, email, phone number and address. If chosen you will be given further directions on how to register on the Rural Arts and Cultural Summit website.  

More information about the Rural Arts and Cultural Summit may be viewed by clicking here:


March 2015 – Volume XIII, Number 2

Compiled & edited by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy, and Jane Leonard



The Laura Jane Musser Fund is accepting applications for the Rural Arts and Environmental Initiative grant programs. The Fund’s Rural Arts program assists arts organizations in targeted states that offer artistic opportunities for adults and children in the areas of literary, visual, music, and performing arts. General operating grants of up to $10,000 and capacity building grants of up to $25,000 are provided to organizations in rural communities with a population of 20,000 or under throughout Colorado, Hawaii, and Wyoming, as well as rural communities in selected counties in Michigan and Minnesota. The goal is to promote public use of open space that improves a community’s quality of life and public health, while also ensuring the protection of healthy ecosystems. Organizations in Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wyoming are eligible to apply for grants of up to $35,000. Deadlines: applications for the Environmental Initiative must be submitted online by 3/13/2015; applications for the Rural Arts Program must be submitted by 3/20/2015.

–The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is offering grants to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and independent food systems. Community Food Projects involve the entire food system. Projects assess strengths and establish connections among existing food systems, resulting in improved food systems that support self-reliance. Grants are intended to help eligible, private, nonprofit entities in need of a one-time installment of federal assistance to establish and carry out multipurpose community food projects. Projects are funded from $10,000 to $300,000 and up to 36 months. Deadline: 3/17/2015. .

Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life Program Grants for training and services to address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, involving victims who are 50 years of age or older. Application deadline: March 18, 2015.

–William J. & Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation provides capacity building, special projects, and general operations support for family-centered endeavors in the areas of education, health and wellness, self-sufficiency, economic development, housing, arts and culture, and environmental sustainability. Deadline: Letter of Intent by 3/25/2015.

The Department of Health and Human Services is offering grants through the Native Asset Building Initiative to Native American organizations that support low-income Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Pacific Islander, and Guam Native individuals and families to acquire long-term assets and improve their economic status. Deadline: 3/25/2015.

The NFL Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) are offering grants to nonprofit community-based organizations for financial and technical assistance to improve the quality, safety, and accessibility of local football fields. The NFL Foundation Grassroots Program seeks to redress the shortage of clean, safe, and accessible football fields in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Deadline to apply: 3/30/2015.

— The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) announced a new one-time funding opportunity: the Rural Outreach Benefits Counseling Program. The three-year program seeks to expand health insurance outreach, education and enrollment efforts to eligible uninsured and newly insured individuals and families in rural communities. Applications due March 30.

The Social Security Administration is offering grants to nonprofit and public agencies to disseminate accurate information about work incentives programs and issues related to such programs to beneficiaries with disabilities (including transition-to-work aged youth). Deadline: 3/30/2015.

East Central Regional Arts Council reminds all local artists, art organizations, and schools within Region 7E (the Minnesota Counties of Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine) that the next deadline to apply for funding is Wednesday, April 1st for: Art in Our Schools, Small/Art Project Assistance, Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Organizations, Arts and Cultural Heritage Grants for Individuals, and McKnight Individual Artist Grants. Additional information regarding these funding opportunities and all application forms can be found and downloaded at the ECRAC website:, or by visiting the ECRAC office located at 112 Main Avenue South, Braham, MN. For more information, please call 320-396-2337, or visit the website at:

–Monsanto Fund: America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Initiative helps farmers positively impact their communities and support local school districts. The program gives farmers in selected counties in 40 states the opportunity to nominate a rural public school district to compete for grants to promote science and math education. Once nominated by a local farmer, school district administrators are eligible to submit an application for either a grant of up to $10,000 or a grant of up to $25,000 to support a science and/or math educational program. The more farmers that nominate a school district, the more such nominations demonstrate community support and strengthens the school district’s application. Deadlines: farmers must submit nominations by 4/1/2015, and the deadline for schools to apply is 4/15/2015.

–The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is offering grants to nonprofit and public agencies to provide an alternative for runaway and homeless youth who might otherwise end up in the law enforcement, child welfare, mental health, or juvenile justice systems. Deadline: 4/10/2015.

USDA is offering grants through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program to assist disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers in owning and operating farms and ranches. This program will assist eligible nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, and tribal entities in providing outreach and technical assistance to the targeted farmers and ranchers. Deadline: 4/13/2015.

The National Science Foundation is offering grants to nonprofits, LEAs, and IHEs to provide superior STEM teacher preparation, along with better course materials and teaching methods. Deadline: 4/14/2015. For application guidelines,

— The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is offering grants to nonprofits and public entities through the Assets for Independence program. The program supports innovative asset-building projects that enable low-income people to improve their economic status and become self-sufficient. Deadline: 4/20/2015. Click here to review funding guidelines.

–The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has issued “Healthy Communities: Health Equity in Action Request for Proposals (RFP)” which supports the efforts of nonprofit organizations working to improve the health of their communities throughout the state. The Foundation will fund community solutions that help create the following: equitable systems, stable lives, social connections, and vibrant communities. Grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 for one to two years will be provided. Deadline: 4/20/2015. Visit the Foundation’s website

Community Economic Development (CED) Healthy Food Financing Initiative Projects award funding to Community Development Corporations for projects designed to address food deserts and improve access to healthy, affordable foods. Bonus points will be given to projects that create jobs in a rural community. Application deadline: April 24, 2015.

Community Economic Development (CED) Projects offers funds to Community Development Corporations (CDCs) for projects designed to address the economic needs of low-income individuals and families through the creation of employment and business opportunities, including expansion or construction of clinics and health centers. Bonus points will be given to projects that create jobs in rural communities. Application deadline: April 24, 2015.

Newman’s Own Awards Program offers grants to volunteer and nonprofit organizations supporting military families. Eligible applicants must be comprised primarily of volunteers or be a nonprofit organization, and be working with the families of Active Duty, National Guard, or Reserve units and/or veterans. Deadline: 4/29/2015. Visit the program’s website

–National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), with generous support from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., invites applications from nonprofits for capacity-building grants to protect, improve, and support responsible use of public land and water sites in the United States. Deadline: 4/30/2015.

–The Foundation for Financial Planning will award grants to nonprofit organizations nationwide for pro bono activities that utilize financial planning practitioners in the delivery of services. Support is provided to organizations that provide services to specific target audiences that are underserved by the market, in need of financial guidance, or in a financial crisis. Online applications must be submitted by 4/30/2015. Grant guidelines and application information are available on the Foundation’s website

–The Lawrence Foundation is accepting proposals for program and operating grants from U.S. nonprofits working in the areas of the environmental, education, human services, disaster relief, and other issue areas. Deadline: 4/30/2015.

–The Department of Labor is offering grants to partnerships of private and public sector entities through the American Apprenticeship Initiative for innovative work-based learning and post-secondary earn-and-learn models. Deadline: 4/30/2015.

The Presbyterian Church is offering grants to nonprofit organizations addressing hunger and its causes in the United States. Grants ranging from $500 to $20,000 are provided in the following five categories: Development Assistance grants focus on creating a multi-faceted approach to the empowerment of poor people. Public Policy Advocacy grants encourage activities that advocate for political and economic policy changes that provide food for the poor. Lifestyle Integrity grants target programs that help the church to move toward sustainable lifestyles sensitive to the reality of the Earth’s limited resources. Education and Interpretation grants promote activities to educate the church and the public at large about the root causes of hunger. Direct Food Relief grants support programs that provide food to poor people in either acute or chronic conditions of hunger, with a focus on long-range solutions. Nonprofit organizations and Presbyterian congregations are eligible to apply. Deadline: letters of inquiry must be submitted by 4/30/2015. Visit the program’s website

Now is the Time Project AWARE – Community Grants Supports the implementation of the NITT-AWARE-C program, which will train teachers and a broad array of actors at the community level who interact with youth through their programs, including parents, law enforcement, faith-based leaders, and other adults, in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) or Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). Rural specific training modules are available. Application deadline: May 1, 2015.

Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

–The HOME DEPOT Foundation’s Veteran Housing Grants Program is offering grants to nonprofit organizations nationwide that address the development and repair of veterans housing. Grants are provided for single family or multifamily housing, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing projects. Grants ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 are awarded solely for the physical construction or repair of housing for veterans. Organizations that have previous experience developing, and either currently manage or own, veteran specific housing are eligible to apply. Deadline: 6/23/2015. Visit the Foundation’s website


On March 19th Ben Winchester will be conducting a webinar entitled “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” from Noon- 1PM. This is the first in a three part series. There is no charge. For more information and to register, please go to:

TECH CITIES will be held March 27th at the University of MN Carlson School of Management. For more information go to:

2015 Nonprofit Technology and 
Communications Conference will be held Thursday, April 9, 2015 from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis hosted by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. For information go to:

Rethinking Excellence in a Diverse Democracy: 2015 Minnesota Campus Compact Summit, Presidents’ Meeting, and Awards Ceremony will be held

April 16, 2015 at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. This annual convening focuses on key issues in our collaborative work and honors award recipients from across the state. A morning plenary will begin with powerful speakers, including Nekima Levy-Pounds, Professor of Law and Director of the Community Justice Project at the University of St. Thomas, and Andrew Seligsohn, the new president of national Campus Compact. Following the awards luncheon, afternoon breakout sessions will address:

  • Developing Cultural Agility in Ourselves, Our Students, Institutions, and Partnerships
  • Higher Education, Community Engagement, and the Changing World of Work
  • Skills for Conflict Resolution in Collaborative Work
  • Student Perspectives on Community Engagement and the College/University Experience
  • Supporting Low-Income Students’ Success: Transformative Systems Change

The full agenda and early-bird registration (deadline March 20, 2015) are available here. Member campuses are also welcome to sponsor a table (which includes eight tickets) for $500. With questions or to sign up as a sponsor, please contact Sinda.

Mark Your Calendars for the 2015 PedalMN Bicycle Conference The 2015 PedalMN Bicycle Conference will be May 4-5, 2015, in the third-most bicycle-friendly city in the nation, Minneapolis. Arts and Culture Summit – June 2-4, 2015, University of Minnesota Morris

–The 2015 Minnesota Rural Health Conference will be held June 29-30, 2015 in Duluth. Sign up Social Media to Promote Your Festivals and Events In this one-week online course from the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, students will learn about a variety of applications for social media usage before, during and after an event or festival.


The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) USDA Rural Development Partnership has announced the Rural Project Marketplace. The Marketplace will bring together rural communities and private sector investors to connect rural projects with financing and funding. CDFA will host two virtual marketplaces and one in-person marketplace annually. The online forum will be offered 3/23 and 3/24, 12:00-5:00 PM EDT. For more information, or to fill out an application form, click

–We are currently accepting applications for the Minnesota High Tech Association Foundation (MHTF) Scholarship. Deadline for application is April 1, 2015. The scholarships are for Minnesota undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

  • These awards include $2,500 and $5,000 awards and can include internship opportunities at MHTA member companies. MHTF supports diversity in this application and award process. Eligibility requirements:
  • Must be pursuing an undergraduate degree in a STEM field or in STEM teaching
  • Only students with sophomore through senior academic status in the current school year may apply. Sophomore status may include students who have achieved this status through advanced placement (AP) credit or post-secondary options (PSEO)s
  • Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited, Minnesota-based higher education institution.
  • In addition to traditional STEM fields, health science majors whose studies will NOT lead to participation in direct patient care are welcome to apply.For more information and to apply go to:

Scholarships Available for Students Interested in Pursuing Careers in Cooperatives. The Minnesota Cooperative Education Foundation is pleased to announce the Edward Slettom Cooperative Leadership scholarships are being offered for high school, college, graduate and law school students interested in pursuing careers in cooperatives.Please visit, call 651-209-8895, or e-mail for application documents and eligibility information. The application deadline is April 1, 2015.

Does your nonprofit use technology in innovative ways? Are you pioneering new approaches in communications? Is your organization’s website the envy of the sector? The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits invites you to nominate your organization for a 2015 Dot.Org Award. Presented at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology and Communications Conference on April 9, this year’s awards will recognize nonprofits that are using technology and communications in inspiring, effective and creative ways. Winning organizations receive two complimentary admissions to the conference, will be recognized during the conference plenary, in the program and on MCN’s website, and receive a complimentary exhibit booth at the conference where they can showcase their winning project.   

What is Rural – visit this newly updated topic guide to learn about some of the most commonly used federal definitions of rural, including why we need them and how they are used. The guide was developed by Kathleen Spencer, RAC information specialist, with assistance from Steve Hirsch, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy; John Cromartie, USDA Economic Research Service; and Mandi-Leigh Peterson, University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health.


For more information and to apply, visit the Dot.Org Awards page on MCN’s website. Winners announced April 1st.

The awards include $500 for high school students and $750 for college students attending a two or four-year institution, as well as $1,000 for students in graduate or law school. The awards are based on scholastic achievement, leadership, and an ability to contribute to co-ops in the future. Applicants must be residents of Minnesota but need not attend a Minnesota institution of higher education.

–COMPASS POINTS 2015. Just released — includes notable trends, key demographics, and a dashboard look at measures of progress for 13 topic areas.

Zooming in:  Equity, access, and local action. The 2015 Compass Annual Meeting, held February 5, highlighted three key drivers for Minnesota’s continued success. Check out key trends and data from the day’s research presentations.

Child poverty is more common in rural Minnesota. Poverty is more common among children than among adults in Minnesota, and child poverty is highest in rural counties. These data are displayed visually in our Mapping Minnesota project with Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and we highlight the findings in

Regardless of where they live, children can be significantly affected by poverty in various ways, from lower academic performance to diminished social development. Minnesota lawmakers can reduce child poverty by enacting policies that improve opportunities for families to reach economic security.  Two solutions that can help lift families out of poverty are: increased funding for Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance so parents can work while their children are well cared for; and expanding earned sick and safe time so workers don’t lose wages or their jobs if they take time to care for themselves or sick family members.

Net Neutrality Become a Reality. In February the FCC voted 3 to 2 to reclassify high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The result wasn’t unexpected but to understand the implications, it’s valuable to look at the pros, cons and basics of Net Neutrality.

The Carsey Institute has co-published “CDFIs Stepping Into the Breach: An Impact Evaluation Summary Report”, with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. The report analyzes the impact of financial assistance awards and profiles recipients of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Program. Click

–The Corporation for National and Community Service has released its 2014 report on “Volunteering and Civic Life in America”. According to the report, 62.6 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours last year. Based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour, the estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $173 billion. Download the report

–An article in The Atlantic, “Rural America’s Silent Housing Crisis” describes the need for safe and affordable housing in rural America and links housing to healthcare outcomes through the personal story of a Virginia woman. Read the article

–The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Urban Institute have published “Shared Measurement: Advancing Evaluation of Community Development Outcomes”. Maggie Grieve, vice president of Success Measures, has written an essay in the document that explores the benefits and challenges of using shared measures in community development. Get the document

The Federal Communications Commission has issued a report on broadband deployment in the United States, with information specific to broadband access in rural and tribal communities. The report highlights the role of broadband in healthcare, provides maps showing rural broadband deployment, and includes state and county-level broadband access data. Get a copy of the report

–USDA Rural Development has a new website that offers information by topics, such as Rural Opportunities and a Rural Development blog. Visit the new site

A Harvard Kennedy School paper, “The State and Fate of Community Banking”, reports that community banks play a major role in rural areas and in agriculture, small business, and residential mortgage lending. Get the report


Spread the Word: Health Equity Service Year. Deadline: April 3, 2015. Learn more here. Do you know a graduating senior or graduate who is passionate about health equity, wants experience in community health, and is seeking a meaningful gap year opportunity? Minnesota Campus Compact is accepting applications for the MNCC 2015-16 College Health Corps AmeriCorps VISTA program–plus one VISTA Leader position open exclusively to VISTA alums.  Find out how to apply here. Contact Sinda or call 612-436-2080 for more information.