How should we define our community?
The Communities Thrive Program is intended to serve a focused geography. Non-geographic focused communities (e.g. specific populations of people, LGBTQ, refugees, mental health sufferers, abuse survivors) may be considered a layer of a certain geography as an issue area. The strongest proposals will show a coherent community identity as defined by community members. If working across geographic areas, the proposal must show a collaborative effort with a shared focus and commitment to carry out the project. Geographic-based communities may be defined as a city, school district, a workforce commuter pattern, or neighboring communities with a common barrier, and a shared interesting in improving conditions for community members.
What type of projects will be rated higher? What’s the scoring criteria?
Letters of interest must be submitted according to the timeline in the Communities Thrive project description. Once letters are received, projects will be assessed based on the community’s readiness to engage in collaborative work. A site visit will be more important in ranking the community proposal. This approach will give community stewards a chance to explain the issues they are looking to improve and how they plan to implement strategies. Further expectations of the site visit will be released by the end of September prior to site visits being scheduled. A strong application will have cross-sector partnerships, a readiness to engage in planning and implementation, and a commitment to long-term processes.
Is there a match requirement for the grants?
Grant funding will not be contingent on matching funds. Matching funds may be considered as part of an overall funding package to ensure long term sustainability of the proposed project.
What can the grants be used for? Who can receive grant funding?
Grants can only be made to public agencies (schools, counties, cities, tribes, and others) or 501c3 nonprofit organizations. Grants may fund new or existing programs, projects, studies, planning, collaborative work, capital projects, training, and similar work. Grants cannot fund political activities, religious propagation, discriminatory practices, past operating debts, or similar activities. Grants are meant to make a long term impact in the community. Proposals that identify a public need and the public benefit of grant funding will be considered as prioritized by the community, versus grants to benefit only a single organization. Collaborative efforts are encouraged.
What are the loan terms? What is eligible?
Rates and terms will vary depending on the type of loan and project. Loan funding is open to private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies.
What type of community fundraising is expected for this program?
We believe community projects are most successful when community members are invested using their time, unique talents, and treasure. Commitment of time in the planning and implementation of the local project relies on community members showing up over the long term. Each person involved might contribute their talents to advance efforts that improve quality of life options in their community. Fundraising and donations are a vital part of taking ownership of the long term functionality of a program or maintenance of a capital project. NMF staff are skilled in and will assist with establishing funds, tax-deductible donations, establishing policies around local grant making and fundraising, and guide community members in reaching fundraising goals. Projects will not be rated on a community’s ability to raise the most amount of funds or pledges, but rather their willingness to engage with the whole community in holding events and fundraising to further their overall mission. Local funds raised will be under the control of a local fund advisory committee to ensure all funds are directed to specific projects identified within the Communities Thrive Program.
Is any community too small?
No. We recognize some larger communities might have the ability to hire grant writers and gain a competitive advantage because of their size. Our approach is to consider the unique needs of each community, the fit with the program, and hearing folks in the community speaking with one voice. Some of the work might be developing local capacity (skills, knowledge, time, tools, funding, etc.) that might benefit smaller communities. Also consider that we are looking for multiple partners to engage in the program, so consider reaching out to neighboring, regional, or statewide organizations if needed. The goal is to level the playing field and ensure fair access to the program regardless of size.
What is the makeup of the review team?
The team reviewing letters and conducting site visits represents a cross section of Northwest Minnesota Foundation staff. Because the program relies on leveraging grants, loans, fundraising, and community leadership, we are engaging staff with specialties in these areas.
Is quality of life and brain gain just a trend?
It’s at least a long term trend if not an age old phenomenon. The idea of providing amenities and showcasing community assets to attract workers and raise families is not new. Skilled workers know have the ability to choose where they want to live, send their kids to school, open a business, and spend their resources. We want communities to showcase the many reasons why people should live, work, and play in northwest Minnesota.
Will this program be offered again? When is the next round of funding?
The next grant round will be contingent on available funding, but is expected to reopen to applications in May 2020. It is possible a selected community may achieve its intended targets ahead of schedule and could exit the program before the two to three year time frame. Then new communities could be brought in through another competitive process.