Guest Column: We are in the annual season of giving

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

Guest Column by Tim Penny

‘Tis the season of giving, which I find to be one of the most inspirational times of year. I am always overwhelmed by the generous contributions that donors make or to SMIF’s 30 Community Foundations. To me, this sends a clear message that keeping dollars local can help communities flourish.

Tim Penny

As we do each November, Minnesotans rallied together once again to give to the causes they care about most on Give to the Max Day. This year’s “Giving Holiday” raised a record $34 million, a clear testament to why Minnesota ranks in the top three most generous states in the nation. I am also proud to share that SMIF’s 30 Community Foundations had their most successful Give to the Max Day yet, raising more than $85,000 which makes a direct impact on our communities.

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As a donor myself, I know that a gift to SMIF is an investment in southern Minnesota’s future. I am so grateful to have grown up here and to have built a career — first as a member of Congress representing this region, and now as the president and CEO of SMIF — which allows me to remain rooted in this place I love. Some of my favorite memories from the past 14 years at SMIF are of the countless times I have spent touring the region and seeing firsthand the impact of our work in early childhood, economic development and community vitality. Every time, I come away with renewed energy and passion about what we do.

Our board chair, John Peterson, is a great example of a donor who is invested in his community and the region. John is the owner of Ferndale Market, a third-generation turkey farm in Cannon Falls. He is also a vendor at the upcoming FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace on Dec. 11, an event that SMIF has co-hosted since 2014. This is an opportunity to directly support local farmers and food makers this holiday shopping season.

Even in the midst of his busiest time of year, John generously shared some thoughts with me about why he gives to SMIF: “I’m proud to contribute to SMIF and view it as a reinvestment in the success of the region I call home. Like so many others, my own community and business have benefited from the foundation’s work, and I’m proud to support the vitality of southern Minnesota and our vibrant local food scene. As a SMIF board member, I have a front row seat to see the impact the foundation has across our region, as well as the strong stewardship of our resources. I know each dollar I give is put to good use right here in our southern Minnesota communities.”

Remember that anyone can be a philanthropist — no matter the size of your gift. What matters is that you support the causes and places most important to you. You can contribute to SMIF at or to one of our affiliate funds, which includes our 30 community foundations, at

If you are a donor or thinking of becoming one, thank you. Donors make our region thrive — we simply cannot do our work without you. It is the people like you who give back to your communities every day that make me proud to call southern Minnesota my home.

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

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