While there was national attention on Minnesota during the past electoral season, it wasn’t just the Republican National Convention hubbub or the post-Senate race vote counting that caught our attention. The more we heard from grantees and colleagues, the clearer we were that there was something big going on in the upper Midwest. The rapid growth of people of color, especially immigrants, is creating shifts in the demographic and political make-up of Minnesota, a relatively prosperous state. Racial disparities continue to underscore many challenges to Minnesotans but have sparked considerable energy and creativity from the organizing community as organizers forge new alliances across more than racial boundaries. The work called to us and we wanted to know more.
Interfaith Funders (IF) is a network of faith-based and secular funders working to advance the field of congregation-based community organizing with the aim of strengthening democracy and justice. In 2007, after a strategic planning process, we decided we could add value to the field by focusing on some targeted regional initiatives. We look for regions where at least two Interfaith Funders members make a case that there is an appetite to do something “bigger,” something that will build ties between organizing groups, networks, other community-based partners, advocacy and research organizations, and funders. As funders, we look at how our sector can participate in the journey to move issues along and strengthen groups so that they will have significant impact, and we commit to working for a critical mass of support among funders.
Three IF members made the initial case about Minnesota – the McKnight Foundation, the Domestic Hunger Program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), and the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. McKnight is locally based in Minneapolis and works to promote connected and comprehensive responses to place-
based community issues in Minnesota. Program Officer Eric Muschler says, “We believe that there is some special work going on in the Twin Cities worth looking at, reflecting on, and sharing more broadly.” The UU Veatch Program and ELCA are national funders well invested in Minnesota, bringing their national perspective and learning to the mix.
This report was published by Interfaith Funders in 2008. Though the network is no longer in operation, Interfaith Funders transferred several of its reports and articles, including this report, to the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture to preserve and push forward the insights gained through its work.