Grant shows confidence in foundation

Published 8:55 am Thursday, March 1, 2012

Column: Tim Penny, Guest Column

Earlier this month, we celebrated a significant event for Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Our board of trustees and staff hosted a celebration to announce that our founding partner, the McKnight Foundation, had recently given SMIF a five-year $6 million grant. It’s a big chunk of change no matter how you look at it and constitutes the largest single funder for the work that we do here in this part of the state.

This latest grant of $6 million is the result of our new five-year plan outlining our intent to focus on two significant areas — entrepreneur and early childhood development. We believe that by investing in only these two areas, our efforts will yield greater and more sustainable results.

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It’s also a testament to our 25-year relationship with the organization that gave SMIF its start back in 1986.

Since the initial $3 million grant, the McKnight Foundation has played a key role in our success by granting over $44 million to SMIF. With each grant award, McKnight has affirmed that we are fulfilling our mission of helping to build economic and community vitality within our 20-county region. They believe that we have developed strong and successful relationships, and the result of our efforts continue to be evident.

I believe it’s important to not only celebrate this new grant, but to acknowledge the significance of what SMIF has done over the past 25-plus years. We have financially supported over 450 businesses by investing $24 million dollars, while leveraging an additional $144 million dollars of financial support to these businesses. We know that entrepreneurs are the key to our region’s economy, and we invest in entrepreneurial efforts to strengthen and grow local businesses.

SMIF has also provided more than 3,105 grants totaling nearly $24 million. Many of these dollars have gone into early childhood development programs to help children be more ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. We believe that investing in our youngest citizens is a long-term bet on our future workforce.

The communities and the people are the ones who ultimately benefit from the work that’s being done by our foundation. This new infusion of capital will enable us to continue providing resources to build a prosperous and growing southern Minnesota region.

We hope this renewed vote of confidence by McKnight also reinvigorates you as our Foundation partners. We hope you agree that our efforts are significant and that we are making a difference in southern Minnesota.

If you would like more information on how SMIF’s resources you can contact me at or 507-455-3215 or visit to our website at


Tim Penny is the president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.