Photo: Mark Sampson
Photo: Mark Sampson

Our Goal

We seek to protect, conserve and restore biodiversity and habitat in Minnesota's watersheds in order to improve water quality in a changing climate.

In addition to our 11,842 lakes, Minnesota’s water flows to diverse drainages including the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and Hudson Bay. Water plays a critical role in Minnesota’s identity and economic framework, as well as supporting habitat that encompasses the diversity of wildlife in our state.

Our Beliefs

To achieve this goal, we believe:

  • Terrestrial and aquatic habitat and biodiversity are intricately connected to water quality.
  • The greatest positive environmental impact on our water will occur by addressing the complex needs of land and water systems through a variety of strategies at a watershed scale.
  • Climate adaptation is also important to improving or maintaining future water quality and quantity.
  • Groundwater can be an important part of freshwater systems.
  • It is incumbent upon all of society--including individuals, private sector and public sector--to orient their habits, behaviors, and actions in a comprehensive way toward the health and sustainability of our watersheds.
  • Because effective sustainable solutions are connected to society's relationship to natural systems, we will most effectively protect our fresh water systems when all segments of society have - and take - the opportunity to form intimate relationships with nature and water.

Our Partners

We are most interested in partnering with nonprofit 501(c) (3) organizations that exhibit a majority of these characteristics:

  • Focus on sustainability by considering the ecosystem’s ability to provide ecosystem goods and ecosystem services in perpetuity.
  • Deliver multiple environmental outcomes and benefits at the scale of an entire watershed,  including, but not limited to, protecting and conserving habitats, storing carbon, and protecting at-risk species. Although not as high priority, organizations that focus on a specific watershed attribute for a single outcome will be considered.
  • Provide either direct service (i.e. land conservation, water quality improvements, agricultural interventions, etc) or builds capacity to affect positive change for a watershed through environmental education, research or policy.
  • Provide access to the benefit of their work.
  • Work in partnership with private and public sectors, including across the political spectrum.
  • Ability to sustain programs and impact without continued funding from the Foundation.

Although they may complement the overall Foundation goal, the following strategies fall outside of our desired focus:

  • Research without a focus on watersheds.
  • Conferences, festivals, and events.
  • Strategies that focus on watersheds outside of Minnesota. The Foundation understands ecosystems are not defined by governmental boundaries and that projects outside the state may impact watersheds in Minnesota. For example, if a project on the St. Croix River was focused only on benefitting a Wisconsin watershed, the project would fall outside of our desired focus.

For more details on the Sustaining Environmental Systems Letter of Intent (LOI) process, please review our Explore Partnership webpage here.

The Mortenson Family Foundation may make multi-year grants as an additional way to support partner organizations with two- or three-year grant commitments that are capped at 33% of the following year’s projected grantmaking budget. The Foundation will use its discretion in considering an organization for a multi-year grant.

For a list of the Mortenson Family Foundation awarded grants, please click here or to read a story about one of our Partners & Past Work, click here