The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits are pleased to announce the 2013 Nonprofit Mission Award winners in the categories of Innovation, Advocacy, Anti-Racism Initiative and Responsive Philanthropy.
- Innovation Recipient: Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL)
- Advocacy Recipient: Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless
- Anti-Racism Recipient: Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG)
- Responsive Philanthropy Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation
Winning Mission Awards recipients will also receive:
- A video production capturing the organizations work for which it is receiving the award.
- A one-of-a-kind art glass award engraved with your organization’s name
- A feature profile of your organization in MCN’s Nonprofit News reaching 10,000 nonprofit managers
- A small cash award (except for the winner of the Responsive Philanthropy award)
Congratulations to this year’s winners!
Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) (Innovation)
Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is a nonprofit solar manufacturer striving to make solar energy accessible to communities of all income levels. Its flagship program, Solar Assistance, partners with low-income households on Energy Assistance, providing low-income families and individuals with solar heat to foster self-reliance and reduce dependence on public energy assistance.
RREAL’s Solar Assistance program is a nationally unique strategy that brings an innovative and sustainable solution to the pervasive societal challenge of fuel poverty. Fuel poverty exists when members of a household cannot afford to heat their home adequately and have to choose between heating and other basic necessities.
Chronic fuel poverty is currently addressed through Energy Assistance, a government funded program that helps pay home heating costs for households that have high energy costs and are at or below 50 percent of the state median income. While this is an important program in meeting the large need across our nation, it is not a sustainable solution to fuel poverty; an annual problem experienced by 585,000 Minnesotan households in 2012 alone.
RREAL’s Solar Assistance program addresses the community challenge of fuel poverty in a unique and viable way. Solar Assistance provides households struggling to meet their heat needs with a long term, domestic and carbon-neutral solution by installing a solar-powered furnace on homes of families and individuals grappling with fuel poverty.
With each passing year the impact of RREAL grows. Since 2011, Solar Assistance has resulted in: 217 Low-income households empowered with solar heat; 13,200 additional square feet of solar thermal collectors deployed; 10 full-time jobs maintained or created; annual clean energy production of 1.7 billion BTUs; at least 160 tons annual CO2 emission reductions; $43,000 annual savings on low-income heating bills statewide; nine weatherization agencies trained in solar air heat design/install; and an increase of regional energy security.
Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless (Advocacy)
The Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless works to generate policies, community support and local resources to end homelessness in Minnesota. Comprised of 150 member organizations, it represents a wide array of constituencies and interests with a belief that everyone deserves a safe, decent and affordable place to call home and that homelessness is preventable.
In 2013, the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless co-led the Homes for All campaign in an effort to bring an additional $50 million to proven programs that prevent homelessness and create affordable housing. The legislative session ended with a $33 million boost in the state budget for housing and homeless services.
The money will go to a number of programs, including rental assistance for families with children; assistance for people exiting prisons; homelessness prevention; and lower-cost housing development. As a result, homelessness will be prevented for 18,500 families; housing will be developed for 1,300 families; 8,700 households will receive homebuyer counseling; and 7,000 Minnesotans will be provided with homeless services.
In addition, improvements to the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), a welfare to work program constructed to help families move out of poverty, will be implemented incrementally. Desired impacts between 2014-2015 include raising assistance by $30 per month for 6,200 working families in poverty and increasing housing allowances by $110 per month for approximately 17,800 families.
In 2012, Homes for All secured a record $37.5 million in state bonds for affordable housing. With just a handful of staff, the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless knows that collaboration is invaluable to effective legislative advocacy. Homes for All is a statewide alliance of over 40 housing and homeless organization.
Through dedicated and diligent work, the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless’ campaign, Homes for All, succeeded in gaining critical funds that will be leveraged throughout the state to increase housing and services, and create 4,500 additional jobs to the workforce. With clear results from the Legislature, this broad-based campaign not only furthered the organization’s mission to end homelessness in Minnesota, but strengthened the efforts of its 150 member organizations with the same vision.
Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) (Anti-Racism Initiative)
Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) is a nonprofit law center that provides legal services to family farmers and their communities. In Minnesota, FLAG’s anti-racism work in agriculture has focused on the state’s community of Hmong American farmers, who despite their prominence in local markets continue to face discrimination and barriers that exclude them from economic opportunity. FLAG’s advocacy approach on behalf of Hmong American farmers combines FLAG’s legal skills, experience with community lawyering, and alternative dispute resolution that is healing, rather than divisive.
Its most recent success of this approach was last summer, when more than 30 immigrant and refugee farm families who had recently started growing vegetables on 110 leased acres in Washington County’s May Township faced a crisis. Their crops, set for sale at the region’s farmers’ markets, represented significant portions of their livelihoods. However, the Township Board had enacted an ordinance that imposed onerous restrictions and fees on vegetable farmers. The ordinance did not apply to neighboring farmers, who were decidedly not Asian, and Hmong American farmers were not contacted before the ordinance was passed.
With their growing season and incomes suddenly in jeopardy, the farmers called FLAG. Out in their fields, farmers were briefed on their rights and worked with FLAG to find a resolution to preserve their livelihoods. Speaking with members of the Township Board, FLAG arranged for additional pro bono counsel, initiated settlement discussions, and ultimately persuaded the Township Board not only to repeal the ordinance, but also to engage in a dialogue with the Hmong American farmers to increase the Township’s understanding of their lives and farm operations.
FLAG’s work over the last year in May Township preserved some $300,000 in income for the refugee and immigrant families, and secured the ability for the same families to farm that acreage again this year. With a mission to support healthy rural communities, protect the environment and promote a safe and stable food supply, FLAG has helped transform a silent and struggling farming community into important and productive community contributors.
Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation (Responsive Philanthropy)
Founded in 1957, the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation holds a mission to improve the quality of life in the Twin Cities metropolitan area through effective family grantmaking and investing in social change. Through its grantmaking, the Foundation strives to catalyze positive change by embracing the democratic ideals of fairness, justice and opportunity for all — serving underrepresented and marginalized communities in the Twin Cities.
In recent years, the Foundation recognized that Muslims have been targeted by broad, sweeping generalizations and deepening distrust. With the goal to decrease “Islamaphobia” in Minnesota, the Foundation is currently supporting the civic rights and advocacy work of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). With the Foundation’s support, CAIR-MN has developed “Countering Islamaphobia,” a pocket guide on how to challenge the bias, and “Community Safety,” a training that offers safety tips and precautions for mosques and other places of worship.
Within its evolving social justice program, the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation strives to respond to critical community needs through proactive grantmaking. First, it engages with a small group of focused nonprofit organizations to help determine its specific grant goals for the grantmaking cycle. Grant applications are then solicited and the Foundation conducts research in support of their process, which includes discussion with knowledgeable nonprofits as well as surveys of public reports and data. The Foundation then works with selected grant recipients to sharpen the focus and methods of the funded project, which results in interesting, informed and effective partnerships.
Through its timely and progressive partnership with CAIR-MN, the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation has supported the increase of religious tolerance and mutual understanding, empowered the American Muslim community to know its rights and responsibilities, and aided in countering negative perceptions and hateful acts against Muslim individuals.