Four Minnesota Nonprofits Honored as 2023 Nonprofit Mission Award Recipients

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) is pleased to announce four Minnesota nonprofits that have made outstanding contributions to our state’s high quality of life as recipients of 2023 Minnesota Nonprofit Mission Awards. Presented each year since 1987, the Nonprofit Mission Awards recognize and honor the contributions of Minnesota nonprofits in the areas of Advocacy, Anti-Racism Initiative, Innovation, and Responsive Philanthropy. Organizations honored this year are Blandin Foundation, Foster Advocates, Native Governance Center, and Second Harvest North Central Food Bank.

MCN will present this year’s honorees before more than 650 nonprofit professionals on Thursday, September 21 as part of the virtual 2023 MCN Annual Conference in Duluth, MN. Recipients also receive recognition to over 14,000 readers in Nonprofit News, a professionally produced video featuring their work, a unique sculpture from Minnesota artists, and a cash award.

2023 Nonprofit Mission Award Recipients

Advocacy Award (see watch award video):
Foster Advocates  was founded in 2018 to address the lack of advocacy organizations working to improve the foster care space in Minnesota. As the only organization led by Fosters and for Fosters, the St. Paul-based nonprofit seeks to create a unique and outsized impact through relationships, research, and reform for the 14,000 current and uncounted former Fosters across Minnesota. Through the guidance of the Community Board, a leadership program for Fosters to lead policy efforts, the organization identified, prioritized, and passed four bills in three years, including a bill that established an Ombudsperson for Foster Youth and another, the Fostering Higher Education Act, that provides free college tuition to individuals that have been in the Minnesota foster care system.

Anti-Racism Initiative Award (watch award video): Native Governance Center (NGC) is a Native-led nonprofit dedicated to assisting 23 Native nations sharing geography with Mni Sota Makoce, North Dakota, and South Dakota in strengthening their governance systems and capacity to exercise sovereignty. NGC’s strategies for challenging prejudice and racism are unique. In 2022, the organization created a new short video series, Wings with Wayne, that bridges the gap between outdated learnings and real Indigenous narratives. The organization also hosts an online resource library, reaching 59,000 people in 2022. The library includes popular guides to land acknowledgment and beyond land acknowledgment, which have been cited and used by thousands of individuals around the world.

Innovation Award (watch award video): Second Harvest North Central Food Bank works in seven counties and three Tribal Nations of north-central Minnesota, from Mille Lacs County to Koochiching County – a span of over 11,000 square miles and 209,766 residents. Starting in the early, stay-at-home-order days of COVID, the organization challenged itself to meet its mission amidst the acute, ongoing health emergency. The nonprofit responded to this challenge by adding a mobile Pop-Up Pantry program, resulting in the availability of nutritious food to small, isolated communities, including several tribal communities, where no hunger relief services existed before because they aren’t large enough to support and sustain their own permanent food shelf.

Responsive Philanthropy (watch award video): Founded in 1941, Blandin Foundation supports rural communities throughout Minnesota, empowering them to address injustice, promote diversity, and embrace sustainability and equity. In April 2022, Blandin Foundation launched the Leadership Boost Grants (LBG) program to encourage Minnesotans living in rural and Native communities to be visionary and creative as they move their communities forward to meet the moment’s challenges and support local vision for growth. Funding reached 90 rural Minnesota communities, and for some, it’s likely LBG is the first-ever philanthropic funding the community has received. The LBG process also has spurred Blandin Foundation to test new grantmaking strategies, such as refreshed criteria and rubrics that help direct funding to Minnesota’s smallest communities.