Northland Foundation Receives $500,000 to Expand and Support Social Enterprise

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Northland Foundation has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) to support social enterprise efforts within the seven-county Arrowhead Region. Northland is one of just three organizations within an eight-state region to be awarded a Social Enterprise System Support Grant. Northland will work in partnership with NWAF to create a better funding, coaching, and peer learning network that allows social enterprise to thrive. Northland’s “Social Enterprise Initiative – supporting entrepreneurial strategies to reduce poverty” will provide outreach and awareness about social enterprise, offer financial and technical assistance to nonprofits starting or operating a social enterprise, and help develop a regional resource network prepared to help meet the specific needs of nonprofits’ social enterprise ventures. Social enterprise is a revenue-generating activity undertaken by a nonprofit with the intent to support its mission-driven work. Some nonprofits operate as social enterprises in and of themselves. Others undertake new activities that align with their mission and provide additional revenue streams to further their work.

“We are grateful, on behalf of rural northeastern Minnesota, to the Northwest Area Foundation for committing these much-needed resources,” said Tony Sertich, President of the Northland Foundation, “especially now, with parts of the Arrowhead Region challenged by great economic uncertainty.”

The Northland Foundation has a long history of nonprofit capacity-building work and specifically of supporting social enterprise, from organizing a 2001 conference in Duluth to special grant-funded initiatives. Since 1986, Northland has granted nearly $700,000 and lent more than $2.4 million to social enterprises. This new program will build on past experience as well as bring new partners along.

“This grant is a tremendous opportunity not only to deepen our work with nonprofit organizations and social enterprise, but also to partner with other funding and technical assistance providers,” stated Erik Torch, Northland Foundation’s Director of Grantmaking, who will lead the initiative.

“We have some partners already committed to working with us to strengthen the region’s resource network, providing technical expertise to advise nonprofits on the ins-and-outs of launching and managing a social enterprise,” Torch added. Among these partners is the UMD Center for Economic Development and MAP for Nonprofits.

The Northland Foundation will host the following free informational sessions in the region for nonprofit organizations who may want to apply to be part of the initiative. Northland requests RSVPs to or by calling (218) 723-4040.

Duluth: May 25th, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Holiday Inn Duluth - Lake Michigan Room

Grand Rapids: June 1st, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Blandin Foundation - Stender Room

Eveleth: June 3rd, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
IRRRB - Conference Room

Applications to participate in the technical and financial assistance portion of the initiative will be due in late June 2016. Those organizations chosen to participate will receive targeted technical assistance, peer learning opportunities, and the option to apply for a financial award up to $50,000 each to further their social enterprise efforts. Find more information at