Another Funder Looks Upstream to Change Health Outcomes, This Time in Minnesota

Without question, the hottest trend in grantmaking for public health right now is looking upstream to shape the social and economic factors that affect health outcomes. We've written a lot about the national funders in this space, particularly Robert Wood Johnson and Kresge. But we've also spotlighted what state and local players, like the Colorado Health Foundation and the California Endowment, are doing along these same lines.

Well, here's another state funder that's thinking about the larger factors that affect health: the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to make a healthy difference in communities by advancing health equity and improving conditions where people live, learn, work and play.

That broad outlook was evident in the foundation's recent round of grants, totalling $1.5 million for 24 projects across the state. The projects aim to improve community health by focusing on the social and economic factors that influence health outcomes. Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000, and many are renewable for a second year in 2016 based on progress in 2015.

“We took a new approach with these grants,” said foundation Executive Director Carolyn Link. “Instead of prescribing strict guidelines in specific focus areas, we asked organizations to suggest to us what solutions would advance health equity in their communities. The selected grantees will address some of the most pressing health issues in communities, from family homelessness to creative medical-legal partnerships to innovative approaches to achieving financial stability and more.”

The following organizations received grants:


  • Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, Minneapolis, $75,000
  • Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, St. Paul, $100,000
  • Casa de Esperanza, St. Paul, $75,000
  • Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, $75,000
  • Churches United in Ministry, Duluth, $82,000
  • Hope Community, Minneapolis, $75,000
  • Immigrant Development Center, Moorhead, $50,000
  • Itasca County Habitat for Humanity, Grand Rapids, $25,000
  • Jeremiah Program, Minneapolis, $45,000
  • Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, Moorhead, $90,000
  • Minnesota Alliance with Youth, St. Paul, $80,000
  • Northfield Healthy Community Initiative, Northfield, $59,500 for Growing Up Healthy, a program to help more community members reach their full health potential in five low-income neighborhoods in Rice County.
  • Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, Minneapolis, $40,000
  • Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Bemidji, $60,000
  • Old School Lives, Cotton, $30,230
  • People Serving People, Minneapolis, $50,000
  • Prepare + Prosper, St. Paul, $82,695
  • Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, St. Paul, $90,000
  • Trust for Public Land, St. Paul, $33,425
  • United Family Medicine, St. Paul, $50,000
  • United Way of Steele County, Owatonna, $50,000
  • Voices for Racial Justice, Minneapolis, $80,000
  • WINDOW Victim Services, Hinckley, $70,000


The projects receiving grants focus on income, employment, education, social support and community safety. The grantmaking targets low income communities.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has made $41.5 million in grants since it was established in 1986.