What type of Foundation are you, and what is your asset base?
Northwest Area Foundation is a private foundation. Our asset base was $409.7 million for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the last year for which we have audited financials.
What is your mission?
The mission of Northwest Area Foundation is to support efforts by the people, organizations, and communities of our eight-state region to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. The Foundation’s eight state region consists of Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. The Great Northern Railway, which James J. Hill founded, served these states. Hill’s family established the Northwest Area Foundation in 1934.
How do you achieve your mission?
We apply assets in two ways. The major portion is distributed in grants to organizations working to reduce poverty and build sustainable prosperity within their communities. More specifically, we make grants that support work to increases the assets and wealth of low-income workers. We believe that is best achieved through living wage jobs and personal finance capabilities.
The Foundation also uses its resources to encourage collaborative thinking and action on specific issues. Examples include efforts by African American leaders to set and implement prosperity-creating agendas, and roundtable meetings to examine and reframe philanthropy in Indian Country.
Where is your staff located?
All staff is located in our offices in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Where are most of your resources focused?
Since 1998, the Foundation has focused its grant dollars on reducing poverty in rural, urban and American Indian reservation communities. In the last few years, we’ve made an additional effort to direct resources into Indian Country. Today, a minimum of 40 percent of grants go to Native American nonprofit organizations working to build local economy, create good jobs and help low-income people learn financial-management skills. We believe living wage jobs, savings accounts, and financial-know-how enable people to move out of poverty and build the futures they want for themselves and their families.
In addition to grantmaking, the Foundation has allocated up to 3 percent of its portfolio to program-related investments (PRIs) to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to help initiate new business opportunities. These CDFIs make financing available to start-up or early-stage businesses in underserved and low-income communities considered too high-risk for conventional lenders.
Mission-related investments (MRI) target middle-market growth and later-stage businesses in the Foundation’s eight-state region. This form of financing occurs through Invest Northwest, LP, a venture capital fund that makes private equity investments. This strategy moves into a more established arena of business and economic development, which has a lower risk profile than investments than the PRI portfolio. MRIs are expected to produce both market-rate returns as well as support the Foundation’s mission. The Foundation made a $10 million commitment (2 percent of its investment portfolio) to this strategy.
How are grants made?
The Foundation has the following basic approaches to grantmaking:
• Fund nonprofit organizations directly
• Fund regional/national organizations that have the expertise, geographic and population reach to act as an intermediary organization that redistributes resources to nonprofits within the Foundation’s eight-state region. Their resources they share may be in the form of grants, loans, education, or organizational assistance.
• Collaborate with peer funders as a way to link our resources to other philanthropic dollars in order to maximize the impact of grant dollars
Besides grantmaking, the Foundation utilizes additional tools to achieve its mission including partnerships, networks, forums, research and advocacy.
To whom can I talk about submitting a grant proposal to the foundation?
The Foundation accepts proposals “by invitation only.” The Foundation issues Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that advance specific strategies to reduce poverty and build prosperity. Examples include programs that would increase living wage jobs and increase financial capabilities. We look for proposals for innovative programs with the greatest potential impact on the Foundation’s eight-state region (Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon).
How do I get invited to submit a proposal?
The first step is to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d like to learn about your work and your ideas for the future.