Each year, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) awards approximately $1 million in grants to schools, communities, and nonprofits in order to strengthen early childhood programming and economic development efforts throughout southern Minnesota.
Twice a year, we accept applications for incentive grants. The current grant application deadline is Sept. 2. This grant program is designed to support new asset-based collaborative approaches that demonstrate measurable results related to SMIF's two key program areas: early childhood and economic development.
The projects we fund are impactful as they maximize the strengths, talents, and resources of the local community. Our grantees often work with other organizations in unique and effective ways that develop new partnerships and collaboration to address an identified need or opportunity. We also encourage our grant recipients to leverage additional funding and in-kind resources to maximize SMIF's investment and impact on our region.
To provide some sense of how this grant program has benefited community projects, it might be helpful for me to provide a few examples. In the economic development arena, in recent years we have funded three different business incubators in Northfield, Red Wing and St. James. While all unique projects, these projects have leveraged additional community resources. For example, St. James accessed an underutilized commercial kitchen in a local school where local food producers now have access to a USDA approved commercial kitchen. Incentive grants helped create incubators in Red Wing and Northfield. These communities are now providing valuable co-working space for small business owners who don't want or can't afford their own commercial space.
We've also awarded a large number of incentive grants that focus on collaborative efforts related to early childhood. These grants assist communities in supporting their overall efforts to improve services for the children, parents, and providers. We have funded efforts in both Brown and Watonwan counties to help early childhood providers access the resources they need — like curriculum, trainings, and professional development tools. We know that effective tools for preschool teachers and child care providers go a long way in preparing children for the big step into kindergarten.
What can SMIF do for the children and entrepreneurs in your community? If you have a project in mind, visit our website at www.smifoundation.org and click on Applications to review the full guidelines and apply online.
Tim Penny is president/CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.
He welcomes your questions and comments. You can reach him at timp@smifoundation.org.