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Minnesota Initiative Foundations

Program Background


In 1986, Minnesota faced widespread financial hardships, high unemployment, and shifting rural economies. Similarities to today's economic challenges are striking, but with one critical difference — in 1986, the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations, or "MIFs," did not exist. Since their creation over 25 years ago, this network of partners has worked tirelessly to stabilize and fortify the regions outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Established by The McKnight Foundation and statewide leaders, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations are independent, regionally focused entities reaching throughout Greater Minnesota. In a quarter century, each has found its own path, creating unique programs and operational structures. Working for today and for the future, they provide business loans, grants, and direct services for the greatest positive impact statewide.

The vision behind these powerhouses owes much to a key philosophy of McKnight’s own founder, business leader William L. McKnight: “Give people the room they need.” McKnight believed that life’s best solutions could be achieved by providing the right people with appropriate resources to do what’s needed. Proof positive, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations are enduring models of independent rural philanthropy, self-determination, and deeply rooted regional partnerships. With the ongoing support of government agencies, foundations, businesses, and individuals, they transform financial investments every day into innovative social services, prosperous industries, and stronger, more vibrant communities.

To date, McKnight has invested over $237 million in these foundations. McKnight didn't necessarily intend to remain in partnership for more than two decades. But year after year the MIFs have increased their impact, addressing emergent issues and seizing new opportunities to "make Minnesota greater."