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Guest Column: Trainings for personal, professional growth

Guest Column by Tim Penny


In this new virtual world we find ourselves in, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of online events, gatherings and trainings that are being offered on a seemingly daily basis. However, connecting virtually has its benefits and can open doors to exploring new ways of learning and building relationships. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, offering continuing education opportunities in our 20-county region has been an important way to support people during this difficult time.

At SMIF, we have offered high-quality trainings in our region at low or no cost for many years to early childhood professionals, entrepreneurs and our affiliate fund members. This can be a critical opportunity for people who have limited budgets and time, preventing them from traveling far to conferences that have high registration and overnight costs. This year we expanded on the number of trainings we typically offer and focused a large portion of the sessions on adapting to the current environment. In all these sessions we are honored to partner with trainers who are experts in their field.

Tim Penny

This summer we offered more than 20 training sessions for early childhood education professionals, family child care business owners and child care center leadership. These session topics ranged from tips for running a successful child care business to techniques for self-care. Additional sessions focused on how early childhood education professionals can collaborate with parents, teachers and outside agencies to enhance their programming. Our last training of this month, on Sept. 29, focused on the importance of building positive child-teacher relationships through respect and quality interactions.

Another series of trainings we recently held was for our affiliate fund members. SMIF supports 84 affiliate funds, including community foundations and designated funds. In addition to providing the administrative and 501(c)(3) infrastructure needed to support philanthropy in our region for these funds, we also provide trainings each year to support their organizational and philanthropic goals. The board members who attended these sessions learned about endowment fundraising, how to be conscious of different perspectives in their community and techniques for recruiting qualified and energized board members.

SMIF’s trainings for entrepreneurs have included topics like marketing, business plan development, branding and financial forecasting. This summer we held a session on marketing tips for businesses that are seeking a competitive advantage in this time of change and uncertainty. Additionally, we held a support session for entrepreneurs who used the Paycheck Protection Program loan funds from the Small Business Administration and needed help navigating the forgiveness portion of the loan.

In addition to the business trainings that we have held this year, we had the sixth annual Entrepreneurial Bridge event on Sept. 29. This year’s virtual event was focused on how entrepreneurs have been able to adapt to the current working environment and grow their businesses in an uncertain economy. We also had business pitches from southern Minnesota undergraduate students as part of our annual student business competition.

While this year looks different, and we are all getting used to seeing each other online more than in person, we are honored to be able to provide quality trainings for our partners during this time. We know that continuing education is critical for growth — both professionally and personally — and that we can play an important role in supporting southern Minnesota professionals as we navigate this new territory.

If you would like to receive notifications about upcoming trainings, email inquiry@smifoundation.org, or visit our website at smifoundation.org for details.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.

Tim Penny is the president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. He represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994.