Sustaining Environmental Systems Grant Committee Welcomes Community Members

Inspired by the hope, solidarity, and commitment of partnership with community, Mortenson Family Foundation has formally begun involving community on its grantmaking committees. The Foundation is pleased to announce that Rodrigo Cala, Cala Farms; Sachiko Graber, Climate Policy Specialist; Brett Ramey, Consultant; Darlene St. Clair, Saint Cloud State University; and Janiece Watts, Fresh Energy, have accepted the invitation to join Alice Mortenson, Chris Mortenson, Mark Mortenson, and Mathias Mortenson on the Sustaining Environmental Systems grantmaking committee. You may view committee bios here.

Over the past year, the Foundation concentrated intently on learning about, reaching out and listening to, and working with community members through focus groups and a workshop, as well as multiple one-on-one conversations. That process resulted in a wealth of thoughtful feedback and suggestions for bringing the Foundation’s grant guidelines into alignment with its racial equity commitments.

“This process introduced us to so many excellent people, some of whom we invited to serve on our grantmaking committee. We are still on our learning journey, but one thing is clear – the deeper we go, the more we understand the importance of working toward having community at the center of the Foundation’s work. Our expanded committee will help us move toward this goal,” explained Danyelle O’Hara, Mortenson Family Foundation Community Relationship Officer.

“I’m thrilled that we are moving this work forward. While we started without knowing where we would end, we all became committed to the process and excited about it. The committee was there for the workshop and the most important thing for us was to be honest and encourage all questions, which established a culture of challenge and skepticism. I learned that the first part is about listening, the second is about honesty, and the third is about stepping back,” replied Chris Mortenson, Chair, Mortenson Family Foundation Sustaining Environmental Systems Committee.

Mortenson Family Foundation welcomes sharing of information about inviting community members to join our grantmaking committees. For questions and further discussion, please contact us here.

Advancing Equity

In 2018, after our Board approved a mission that included advancing equity, we began our journey to understand how we, as individuals and an institution, perpetuate racism and inequality. We continue our journey to learn, reflect, and challenge our beliefs, actions, and systems. The senseless killing of George Floyd further accelerated our work to create more equitable systems and be more comprehensive and thoughtful about the needed changes.

We seek to build strong partnerships that are mutually accountable in service of the Foundation’s mission to strengthen community-driven approaches that advance equity, opportunity, and sustainable systems. We recognize the significant work that is needed to end racism and create equitable systems. The following eight commitments represent our first steps, which we recognize are just the beginning of many more that will be needed

The Mortenson Family Foundation has committed to taking these actions:

1. Commit an additional $3 million, staged over three years, to supporting recovery and community-building to thrive and prosper. In 2021, we distributed $600,000 in grants to cultural Community Development Financial Institutions to increase economic well-being within BIPOC communities. The remaining $2.4 million will be distributed over the next two years to provide grant support to entities that are led by and for community to create community participatory grantmaking and distribute grants within community.

2. Continue to increase the percentage and dollar allocation of our grantmaking that goes to organizations led by and for community and leaders of color.

3. Continue to increase the percentage and dollar allocation of our grantmaking that goes toward advocacy and change movements.

4. Include community members on grantmaking committees.

5. Increase the percentage of our investments managed by and for BIPOC communities.

6. Commit investment dollars to community rebuilding.

7. Continue to hire staff from BIPOC communities and engage vendors from BIPOC communities.

8. Our Foundation team will work to increase equity within philanthropy.

“There’s no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.”