Initiative Foundation

Mission Statement

To empower people to build thriving communities and a vibrant region across Central Minnesota.

Impact and Programs

Accomplishments Strategic Priority 1: Resilient Businesses $2.55 million was provided for funding of new loans and investments during 2016, which leveraged $11.8 million from private sources. We estimate that this volume of loans contributed significantly to creation of 72 jobs and retention of 139 jobs (see attached list of 2016 Settled Loans and our December 31, 2016 Business Financing Report Card). During the five-year phase, we funded $10.9 million total in new loans and investments, which leveraged $61 million from private sources. We estimate that this volume of loans contributed significantly to creation of 435 new jobs and retention of 1,053 jobs (see RB Data tab of attached Work Plan & Budget). We provided technical assistance to business owners to increase their knowledge or skills to operate their business and to improve financial health and/or resiliency. Over the phase, 65 businesses benefited from technical assistance. We continued to provide support to ensure that our entire region has access to micro-lending programs through partners (i.e., Region 5 Development Commission, Southwest Initiative Foundation and St. Cloud State University). We maintain funding and referral relationships with the Small Business Development Centers located in our region. Jeff Wig joined our team in February as Vice President for Economic and Business Development. Jeff is leading our innovative new Initiators Fellowship Program, with the recent selection of our first four Fellows. He will also coordinate the assessment and design of a capacity building program for economic development organizations, and deepen our working relationships with community banks, city/county economic development staff and business groups in order to increase our loan deal flow. Strategic Priority 2: Thriving Communities Initiative (TCI), Early Childhood and Healthy Lakes & Rivers Partnership (HLRP) 25 young professionals participated in our first Paths to Civic Engagement training and now have additional preparedness to serve their community by running for or serving in civic leadership positions. We presented TCI programming in the “GoNorth” communities of Emily, Fifty Lakes and nearby townships (Crow Wing County), Staples (Todd and Wadena Counties), and Pequot Lakes (Crow Wing County). Our staff provided technical assistance to several dozen communities on issues ranging from workforce development, financing for community facilities, trails development and local foods. Foley (Benton County), Rush City (Chisago County), and Little Falls (Morrison County) remain active in the implementation phase of TCI. Staff began work on the Sherburne County Vision Project (SherVision) by supporting the writing of a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). $4.04 million in funding from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council supported innovative pilot projects to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species (as part of our HLRP program). Eleven of twelve funded projects remain active. Staff provided training to Early Childhood Initiative Coordinators in our region on fundraising ideas to support coalition goals, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) programming, VISTA opportunities, Scholastic Books purchasing opportunities and updates on the Early Childhood Dental Network. Our Early Childhood Dental Network (ECDN) Cavity Free Birth-5 program supported local projects that provide dental hygiene, cavity prevention and dental treatment for children in poverty in Mille Lacs County. Strategic Priority 3: Thriving Organization Partnership (TOP) and Volunteers in Services to America (VISTA) The fifth cohort of Financial Resiliency through Social Enterprise (FRSE) nonprofits completed the year-long training and assistance program. With guidance and support from Foundation staff, the Nonprofits Assistance Fund and business and marketing consultants, eight organizations created a comprehensive business plan to advance an earned-income social enterprise. FRSE 2.0 - an advanced social enterprise training program for FRSE graduates - launched in October with ten organizations participating. Four professionally-facilitated Leaders Circles® for nonprofit leaders were supported across the region (one in Brainerd, three in St. Cloud). This included 13 executive directors and four program-level staff members in peer-coaching circles that build leadership skills/abilities, help members identify constructive action steps for resolving work challenges and decrease professional isolation. Every Leader Circle member reported gaining new skills in the areas of problem-solving, listening, speaking and taking action. 100% of our eight AmeriCorps VISTA host sites reported increased organizational capacity and enhanced services as a result of hosting a year-long VISTA member. Initiative Foundation staff provided seven yearlong VISTA members with monthly leadership and professional development training to increase their workforce skills, abilities, and knowledge. VISTA members collectively raised over $18,000 in cash resources, leveraged over $27,000 in non-cash resources and recruited volunteers that served over 3,300 hours for their host sites. Sixteen VISTA Summer Associates, serving eight-week terms, helped their host sites assist nearly 600 households through summer meals and educational enrichment programming. Eight nonprofit organizations participated in Open Office Hours sessions with LegalCORPS at the Initiative Foundation office in Little Falls or the Central Minnesota United Way Office in St. Cloud. Of the eight participating, all reported gaining new information to increase the capacity of their nonprofit. Four quarterly Nonprofit Lunch-and-Learns, coordinated with other local partners, were held in St. Cloud and Brainerd. This was our first year of facilitating these sessions in Brainerd. Average attendance was 21 nonprofit professionals. Strategic Priority 4: Local Philanthropy and Endowment Campaign We exceeded our general endowment fundraising goal by 174% over the phase. 219% of our Turn Key fund campaign goal was achieved, also exceeding our five-year Phase VII goal for a total of 84 designated funds. $1.2 million in (non-McKnight) grants were awarded to the Foundation, and we have an extensive pipeline of pending requests and proposals in development. Carrie Tripp joined the Initiative Foundation in February as Vice President for External Relations. Carrie's role is to direct the Foundation's fundraising, donor relations and communications initiatives, linking community leaders to programs and services. We added a full time Donor Services officer in November, and this has helped us significantly accelerate development of donor relationships. Marketing and Communications Four editions of IQ Magazine were published during 2016, with circulation of more than 15,000 and an estimated “pass-along” readership of up to 80,000. IQ advertising sales are on an upward trend as a result of our renewed emphasis on publishing consistency and new business development. Grantmaking and Strategic Initiatives $2,099,634 in grant and scholarship funds were awarded (see enclosed Grant and Scholarship Report). We continue to co-facilitate the Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars process in partnership with the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, St. Cloud State University, Times Media (St. Cloud Times), Morgan Family Foundation, United Way of Central Minnesota and CentraCare Foundation. The initiative is now in its seventh year and has elevated issues such as developing pathways out of poverty, welcoming immigrants and refugees, supporting cradle to career workforce training and education, launching a regional aquatic center and recognizing the Mississippi River as a key ecological, recreational and cultural asset for the region. We continue to participate in the Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency, and Emergency Partnership (PPREP) collaboration between The Funders Network, Center for Disaster Philanthropy and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation to help build the capacity of community foundations to support communities in times of crisis. This year we worked with Staples and Milaca supporting their disaster preparedness planning efforts. In response to a major downtown fire in the city of Melrose this past autumn, we provided aid that helped 24 individuals, nine businesses and two property owners impacted by the fire. Budget and Operations We exceeded our deployment goals for both loans and grants in 2016 while staying within budget for personnel and operating costs. We funded $2.5 million in loans and investments and $2.1 million in grants. Our preliminary financial results are as follows: Assets grew from $61 million to $62.8 million. Sources of funds totaled nearly $8.9 million, while uses of funds were $9.4 million. The gap between sources and uses is related to planned increases in our lending activity. (See attached report of Financial Indicators.) The annual audit is underway with a final report anticipated by May 15, 2017. Board Governance Up to 15 Trustees served on the board in 2016 and were active in our strategic planning activities through meetings and work groups. We currently have 12 Trustees in addition to an Apprentice Trustee. An Emeritus Board was formed in 2016 that will serve in a non-voting advisory capacity. A search committee conducted a nationwide executive search process with consultant Ballinger Leafblad to identify the successor to our Founding President, Kathy Gaalswyk. As part of this process, I was selected as the Foundation’s new President in November 2016. I officially began in my new role on January 3, and my onboarding process has been very successful to date. It has included a series of five open houses in communities across our 14-county region. Three committees met as scheduled (Governance, Investment and Audit Committees and Business Finance). All Board policies were reviewed and updated. Strategic Planning and VII Evaluation Staff members across all program, lending and fund development teams have a strong understanding of our new evaluation tools, which are used to capture meaningful impact data. These tools and overall evaluation plan will be a template for our Phase VIII evaluation efforts. Preliminary 2016 evaluation results indicate that significant progress was made toward advancing our Mission Critical Outcomes. Throughout 2016, our staff and Board of Trustees engaged in developing additional strategies, which will be used as a foundation for developing Phase VIII implementation and evaluation plans.
Current Goals Strategic Priorities and 2017 Targets Support and grow existing for-profit and nonprofit businesses— so that Central Minnesota has an abundance of job-creating enterprises that contribute to economic growth and vitality. 300 living wage jobs created or retained $2 million in new loans issued $12 million in private leverage achieved 25 people advance from non-skilled to skilled work 300 people have increased workforce skills 125 nonprofit organizations have increased capacity to meet their missions Support new entrepreneurs and the start-up of businesses and social enterprises—that contribute to the economic growth and vitality of our region. 9 new businesses or social enterprises are created $500,000 in new loans issued $3 million in private leverage achieved 40 nonprofit leaders have increased entrepreneurial skills and knowledge 100 emerging leaders have increased skills and knowledge Improve the economic status of financially disadvantaged people—associated with added skills, better employment, or business ownership. 150 new Americans benefit from improved economic conditions 80 economically disadvantaged rural residents benefit from improved economic conditions. 3 low-income communities are more resilient and sustainable Enhance kindergarten readiness for children ages 0-5 living in poverty—families have the tools and support they need. 3,000 children living in impoverished areas are enriched through literacy activities 300 early childhood care givers, providers and educators have increased workforce skills Cultivate the next generation of leaders, ages 40 and under, working and living in our region — so that they will see Central Minnesota as a thriving region where they want to live, work and lead. • 61 next-gen individuals contribute community service in the region. 15 next-gen individuals serve in public office or on nonprofit boards for the first time. 115 next-gen individuals have increased leadership and workforce skills. Utilize technology to increase impact and income—for the next generation of talented individuals so that they will see Central Minnesota as a thriving region where they want to live, work and lead. 100 users have increased leadership and workforce skills 1,667 individuals engage through social media 170 donations are made through online giving platforms Increase contributions from individuals and businesses—to fund Initiative Foundation programs and services in a sustainable manner. 30 new individuals and 20 new businesses give to general endowment or core programs $358,000 in general endowment is secured $200,000 in endowed and $356,667 in non-endowed partner funds are secured 6 new partner funds are created and $165,000 growth in existing partner funds 1,800 volunteer hours are contributed across Foundation-supported efforts Enhance awareness of the organization’s impact among new audiences—the people of Central Minnesota give generously of their time, talent and resources. 4% increase in endowment contributions 2% increase in participation by people of color in Foundation programs and initiatives 2% increase in overall number of people participating in programs and initiatives 30 people are inspired to engage in local and regional initiatives
Community or Constituency Served Our constituents are citizens of the 14 county region throughout Central MN including community members, business leaders, non profit organizations, lake and rivers associations, donors and loan recipients from the counties of Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wright.
Geographic Area Served Counties throughout Central MN including Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright.

Reports & Finances

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Major Program Expenses
Thriving Communities/Early Childhood:
Organizational Development:
Volunteers in Service to America:
Partner Funds/Special Projects:
Initiators Fellowship:
Grants, Scholarships, Fellowships:
Lending & Investments:
3 Year Average Expenses
Program Services
Unrestricted Net Assets
End of Year:
Beginning of Year:

Notes from the Council

Organization Last Reviewed on 11/17/2017

This date is representative of when we completed our initial Accountability Wizard® nonprofit review, and provided the organization with their results. This review is good for three years from the date provided
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405 First Street SE
Little Falls, Minnesota 56345
Phone: 3206329255

General Information

Alternative Name: Central Minnesota Initiative Fund
EIN: 36-3451562
Principal Staff: Matt Varilek
Number of Full-Time Equivalents (FTE): 23
Number of Volunteers: 33
Number of Clients: The Foundation delivers a number of programs and serves a variety of clients. Initiators Fellowship was launched in 2016 and began programming for four fellows. Foundation staff offered training to coordinators in 14 Early Childhood coalitions on fundraising ideas to support goals. Early Childhood Dental Network efforts provided support for local projects addressing dental hygiene, cavity prevention and dental treatment for children in poverty in Mille Lacs County as well as working with two community colleges in our region to support recruitment, retention, graduation and placement of diverse students in dental hygiene careers. Thriving Communities Initiative programming was delivered to four communities, technical assistance to several dozen communities on issues ranging from workforce development, financing for community facilities, trails development and local foods. Delivered Paths to Civic Engagement workshop series to 25 young professionals. Eight organizations participated in a year-long Financial Resiliency through Social Enterprise training program and subsequently created a comprehensive business plan to advance an earned income social enterprise. Ten organizations began a year-long training for Financial Resiliency through Social Enterprise program in Fall of 2016. Thirteen Executive Directors and four program-level staff received peer coaching through our Leaders Circles program. The Foundation placed eight Americorps VISTA sites with year-long VISTAs. Foundation staff provided VISTA members with monthly leadership and professional development skills, abilities and knowledge. Eight nonprofit organizations participated in Foundation-sponsored legal sessions with LegalCorps. Four quarterly nonprofit lunch-n-learn sessions were facilitated. Supported eleven projects that are designed to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species through a grant from the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Awarded grants and scholarships to 266 organizations. Raised relief funds and provided aid to 24 individuals, 9 businesses and two property owners affected by the downtown Melrose fire through the Philanthropic Preparedness Resiliency and Emergency Partnership. The Foundation made loans to xx businesses for start-ups and expansions.
Ruling Year: 1986


Board Chair: Larry Korf
Number of Board Members: 13
Board Meetings with Quorum: 18
Average Member Attendance: 11.7

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