Our Community Impact Team

Chanda Smith Baker

Senior Vice President, Community Impact
cbaker@mplsfoundation.org
(612) 672-3829

Chanda Smith Baker, who joined The Minneapolis Foundation in 2017, is a results-driven leader with 25 years of nonprofit and community experience. She oversees the Foundation’s Community Impact team and its competitive grantmaking program, which distributes $5 million to $7 million every year to transform education, foster economic vitality, and promote civic engagement in greater Minneapolis-St. Paul. In addition, she provides strategic direction and leadership to the Foundation’s community initiatives and partners with its donors, as well as organizations and leaders across the city and state, to increase their alignment and collective impact. Before joining the Foundation, Chanda spent 17 years at Pillsbury United Communities, where she served in a variety of positions before assuming the role of President and CEO in 2011.

“The driving passion of my career has been to strengthen this incredible community that we call home, and I’m honored to build on that work at The Minneapolis Foundation.”

Deanna Cortney

Administrative Associate, Community Impact
dcortney@mplsfoundation.org
(612) 672-3875

Deanna “Dea” Cortney is a seasoned administrative professional with experience in varied fields. Prior to joining The Minneapolis Foundation in 2013, Dea completed a public policy internship at the Minnesota Women’s Consortium, where she did policy research and legislative tracking, focusing on social justice issues such as civil rights, gender equity, racism, poverty, and education. She also worked for nearly ten years in the property management industry, managing commercial and residential common interest communities and serving on a number of legislative committees working on community association issues. Dea earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Philosophy with a minor in Psychology and went on to complete a Master’s of Public and Nonprofit Administration in 2015. Her master’s thesis studied the ways that systemic barriers to racial equity contribute to food injustice. She recently began pursuing a law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Dea’s current role in the Community Impact Department at The Minneapolis Foundation is heavily research and writing based and is focused on competitive grantmaking in the areas of civic engagement, economic vitality, and education, relying on a social, economic, and racial equity lens to promote inclusion, equity, and sustainability in Minneapolis.

Catherine Gray

Director of Impact Strategy, Civic Engagement
cgray@mplsfoundation.org
(612) 672-3876

Catherine Gray joined the Foundation in 2013 as Director of Impact Strategy, Civic Engagement. She leads strategic grantmaking, advocacy, and partnerships to advance equity through civic participation. An expert in leadership development, she is known internationally for her previous work at The White House Project, an organization aimed at increasing the number of women in civic leadership. Catherine’s work is informed by her varied life experience as an entrepreneur and an innovator, an athlete and a filmmaker. Her lifelong service as an advisor or board member began as a teenager and has included organizations that advance women and girls, as well as LGBTQ causes. Catherine attended Scripps College and Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

“At its core, civic engagement is about power — empowering individuals, growing power as a community, and leveraging positional power on behalf of one’s community. It’s a beautiful and messy thing that can lead to decisions and policies working better for all.”

Patrice Relerford

Director of Impact Strategy, Education
prelerford@mplsfoundation.org
(612) 672-3853

Patrice Relerford joined The Minneapolis Foundation as a Policy Associate and 2015 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow and was promoted to her current role in June 2015. Patrice began her career as an education journalist at the Star Tribune. Recognizing her desire to help close opportunity gaps, Patrice left journalism against the advice of her father – an avid newspaper reader – to earn a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management at the University of Illinois‐Chicago. Prior to joining the Foundation, Patrice was the Institutional Support Coordinator on the development team at People Serving People, a homeless shelter in Minneapolis.

Patrice guides the Foundation’s competitive grantmaking and strategy in education, which focuses on closing opportunity gaps across pre-K to 12th grade to advance social, economic, and racial equity in Minneapolis. Patrice is a first-generation college graduate who credits her parents, brother, mentors, and public high school for her accomplishments.

“I have no patience for inertia and attempts to justify inequitable systems. My goal as a funder is to lift up people, projects, and organizations that are innovative, effective, and responsive to the well-being of students and families from diverse communities.”

Jesse Ross

Policy Associate, Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow
jross@mplsfoundation.org
(612) 672-3862

Jesse’s heart is centered on community development, with 12 years of experience in nonprofit and community-based organizations throughout North and South Minneapolis. Jesse works on both program development and direct community engagement, with the goal of empowering people to effectively impact their own communities. Jesse previously worked for Young Life, a global nonprofit organization, and TreeHouse, a local faith-based nonprofit, where his areas of focus included policy and program development, organizational leadership, diversity and culture, youth and family development, fundraising, outreach, and a host of other initiatives.

“As a Fellow, I’m excited to continue my work in fostering relationships across diverse communities and working toward equity, improved opportunities, and diverse representation across local sectors. I hope to connect people to resources, create lasting community relationships, and improve organizational development. I love Minneapolis and hope to leave a lasting imprint for future generations.”

Jo-Anne Stately

Director of Impact Strategy, Economic Vitality
jstately@mplsfoundation.org
(612) 672-3831

Jo-Anne E. Stately joined the Foundation in 2009 and has over twenty years of experience in philanthropy. Prior to joining The Minneapolis Foundation, she served as Vice President of Development at the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and was a Senior Program Officer at The Saint Paul Foundation. In Jo-Anne’s current role as Director of Strategic Impact for Economic Vitality, she manages a portfolio of investments to develop the Twin Cities’ workforce, nurture minority-owned businesses, and build community wealth. An enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and a citizen of the White Earth Nation, Jo-Anne serves on the boards of, nationally, Native Americans in Philanthropy and, locally, the Native American Community Clinic. Co-chair of the Northside Funders Group, Jo-Anne also serves on the Minneapolis St. Paul Workforce Innovation Network and Heading Home Minnesota funder collaboratives. She holds a B.A. in sociology from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

“I appreciate the Foundation’s commitment to advancing economic, social, and racial equity in Minneapolis. We are uniquely positioned to leverage resources and invest in neighborhood partnerships led by those who believe that removing institutional barriers creates opportunities for individual and collective success.”