Grants aimed at helping low-income people build assets
ST. PAUL, Minn.  (February 25, 2010) – The Northwest Area Foundation has awarded six grants designed to attract additional funding for an ambitious goal: helping people build the assets and wealth needed to get out – and stay out – of poverty. 

“The recent recession has hit communities hard all across the Northwest area, but its impact has been especially harsh for those who were already struggling to make ends meet,” said Kevin Walker, president and CEO of the Foundation.  “This set of grants is designed to support vital asset-building work in urban and rural places, and to leverage support from other sources. Even in these tough times, I believe we can have an impact if funders are willing to combine resources behind organizations with track records of success or emerging initiatives with real promise.”

A total of $665,000 was awarded to six organizations that have demonstrated their ability to leverage investments made in their work. Attracting such outside investments increases opportunities for impact as the grantees work to create jobs, encourage savings and increase access to credit: key to moving families from poverty to prosperity.

City of St. Paul, Minn. – $75,000 was awarded for a nine-month pilot program, Employment Opportunities in Energy Conservation and Deconstruction.  This workforce development program is designed to train low income bilingual and bicultural workers for green industry job opportunities in energy conservation and deconstruction – which is recycling rather than demolishing building materials.  The jobs will offer training, mentoring and starting wages of up to $17 per hour.  The pilot program’s success is projected to trigger up to $2.5 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and federal housing block grants to train additional unemployed or underemployed workers for jobs in the green energy field.  This initiative is a collaborative effort between the city of St. Paul, Neighborhood Energy Connection, Better Futures Enterprises and the Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation. 

Iowa Credit Union Foundation, Inc. (ICUF), Des Moines, Iowa – $165,000 was awarded for ICUF’s Credit Union Family Partnership Individual Development Accounts Program.  This award will expand the number of Iowa credit unions offering financial education and savings accounts for families with low incomes, including credit unions that serve Latino communities.  This grant has the potential to spur additional federal and state funding to match family savings that can be used for education, to buy a home or start a business. 

Rural Dynamics, Inc., Great Falls, Mont. – $150,000 was awarded for the Assets for Montana project.   Grant dollars will help families in poverty by promoting family savings accounts, the use of tax credits for people with low incomes, financial education, expanding a website that identifies benefits for families working their way toward prosperity and by developing a network of nonprofit organizations focused on the work of asset and wealth building.  The award will trigger additional state and federal funding that can be used to match savings for families trying to pay for education, buy a home or start a business.

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Washington, D.C. – $100,000 was awarded for the Rural LISC Initiative.  Through the national LISC organization, rural community development corporations (CDCs) within the Foundation’s region will be able to tap into LISC’s national network of training, best practices, and funding in order to better address workforce development, financial services for the rural poor and the creation of healthy/green housing and economic development.  The affiliation with LISC has the potential to leverage additional state and federal dollars for poverty reduction and prosperity building.

Latino Economic Development Center, Minneapolis, Minn. – $100,000 was awarded for the Building Latino Financial Capacity initiative.  Grant funding will strengthen bilingual training and business support services and increase access to capital for low income Latinos and immigrants in Minnesota.  The award will support additional capital for start-up businesses, increase financial education classes and attract outside investments to potentially expand the Latino Small Business Loan Fund.

Partners for Prosperity New Beginnings for Eastern Idaho, fiscal sponsor for Latino Economic and Development (LEAD) Center, Blackfoot, Idaho – $75,000 for the LEAD Organizational and Capacity Development initiative.

This 15-month program will strengthen the LEAD’s ability to provide financial education to low income Latino and immigrant families, provide training and assistance to start-up businesses, improve access to credit, expand partnerships that will increase micro loans to Latino small businesses and develop networking opportunities.

In addition to building assets and wealth, Northwest Area Foundation grants support efforts to build capacity and leadership and improve public policy solutions to help people with low-incomes attain thriving, self-sustaining lives.

The Foundation is currently accepting grant proposals by invitation only.  For more information about the Foundation’s grantmaking approach and the work of grantees across its eight-state region, please visit   

The Northwest Area Foundation is dedicated to supporting efforts by the people, organizations and communities in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. These states were served by the Great Northern Railway, founded by James J. Hill. In 1934, Hill’s son Louis W. Hill established the Foundation.