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Nominations Open for 2024 Virginia McKnight Binger Heart of Community Honor

Celebrating people who are the pulse of Minnesota’s caring and connected communities.

McKnight is delighted to announce our newly revamped awards program: the Virginia McKnight Binger Heart of Community Honor (formerly the Virginia Binger McKnight Unsung Hero Awards), which is now open for nominations. In partnership with the Minnesota Council of Foundations, this awards program celebrates seven everyday champions from across the state whose compassion and contributions serve as the heartbeat of our communities, and who inspire others to join in creating a more caringand connected state. Each honoree receives $10,000 in recognition of the significant impact they have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities.

Nominations will be accepted through June 5, 2024.

For nearly four decades, McKnight has honored everyday individuals doing life-changing work in communities across Minnesota. This year, in addition to the new name, we have expanded the awards program in several ways. 

First, we increased the annual awards from four to seven, enabling us to grow and deepen our partnerships across Greater Minnesota.

We will honor one individual from each distinct region across the state, in alignment with our Minnesota Initiative Foundations partners.

We will honor one individual from each distinct region across the state, in alignment with our Minnesota Initiative Foundations partners. Second, we’ve expanded the eligibility criteria to recognize people at the center of systems change—those creating a more inclusive Minnesota where everyone belongs and has an opportunity to thrive.  

About the Awards

Originally called the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service and later the Unsung Hero Awards, the honor has recognized 319 people since it was first presented in 1985. The honor is named for Virginia McKnight Binger, the Foundation’s first board chair and the only daughter of McKnight’s founders. Mrs. Binger passed away in 2002, and this award helps us remember and celebrate her enduring legacy of compassion, humility, and generosity.  Learn more about the awards and past recipients here.

Do you know an inspiring individual who makes their community a much better place to be?

Award Criteria

Eligible nominees have had a considerable impact in their community or across the state and have not been widely recognized or awarded for their efforts in the past. Nominees should demonstrate one or more of the following criteria: 

  • Contributes significantly to creating a more just, creative, and abundant future for their community or other communities in Minnesota through their work or service.   
  • Builds a more inclusive and equitable Minnesota where everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, the zip code of their birth, or who they love, belongs and has the opportunity to thrive.   
  • Bridges across divides to foster understanding and strengthen meaningful community connections and benefits.  
  • Nominations must be made by individuals other than the nominee. 
  • Only current residents of Minnesota are eligible.

May 2024

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