Donors offer challenge grant to support North Market

The Bazinet and Brandenborg families seized a chance to improve lives in a neighborhood that has long been a food desert.

High-impact community projects aren’t always high-profile. A common challenge faced by charitable individuals and families is that they don’t always hear about innovative work that nonprofits are doing in their own backyards.

At The Minneapolis Foundation, one of the key services we provide to donors is making them aware of opportunities to make a difference on the issues that matter to them. One example is the connection we recently made between two donor families and North Market, a full-service grocery store and wellness resource that Pillsbury United Communities is bringing to North Minneapolis.

When their Philanthropic Advisor at the Foundation, Bill Sternberg, heard about the fundraising campaign to open North Market, he was intrigued: Pillsbury is a highly regarded and successful nonprofit organization, and North Minneapolis has long been a food desert. The project had already secured considerable support from corporate foundations and a recent appropriation from the State of Minnesota, but still needed about $1.3 million to reach its goal of $6.3 million.

As a capital campaign, the project wasn’t a good fit for The Minneapolis Foundation’s competitive grantmaking program, but Sternberg and his colleagues immediately thought of two Minneapolis Foundation donor families who they knew would want to hear about North Market. They did some more research and, convinced of the project’s worth, took it to the Edward R. Bazinet Charitable Foundation and the Douglass Brandenborg Family Foundation.

Both families discussed the opportunity and agreed to contribute to North Market – but they had an additional idea of their own. Since most of North Market’s fundraising to date had focused on corporate and government sources, they wanted to explore ways to encourage other donors like them to jump onboard. So, with help from Sternberg, they came up with a plan: To help North Market reach its goal, both families approved $1 for $1 matching grants up to $100,000 each. This would be a way to turn $200,000 into $400,000 for North Market.

“This is a unique project addressing a very real need in the community,” said Maureen Bazinet Beck, an advisor to the Edward R. Bazinet Charitable Foundation. Currently, North Minneapolis has 67,000 residents served by just 36 corner convenience stores and a single supermarket that is located more than three miles from North Market, which will be at Humboldt Avenue North and 44th Avenue North. And North Market won’t just be a grocery store; it will also serve as a home base for community health, offering health care services and community wellness events in addition to nutritious food. “We knew right away that we wanted to support North Market,” Bazinet Beck said, “but we also wanted to leverage our charitable dollars to help spread the word about this giving opportunity.”

North Market Overhead View

North Market Overhead View

When the challenge grant was ready to launch, The Minneapolis Foundation put the word out to other donors. So far, 30 have responded, committing $140,000 within a month. Pillsbury United Communities is also promoting the match to their network.

North Market was a great fit for John Case, one of the Minneapolis Foundation donors who have taken advantage of the challenge grant. Case is a donor advisor to the Kellogg Commission Company Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation, which was started by a company that marketed grain on behalf of rural grain elevators to major food companies. Case himself now works for Lakewinds Food Co-op, a cooperative natural food grocery store. Given his experience, Case could see that the project would be worthwhile on multiple levels. “I have been on both ends of the food business,” he explained. “North Market will provide more affordable food to an underserved area. Convenience and healthier diets are just two additional benefits. Equally important is the added sense of community it will bring to its customers and the neighborhood.”

The challenge grant continues through September or when the maximum amount is matched, whichever comes first. If you’re interested in contributing, you can learn more about North Market and the challenge grant here.

If you already have a fund at The Minneapolis Foundation, you can support North Market by recommending a grant to Pillsbury United Communities on DonorView (make sure the grant purpose says “North Market”) or by contacting your Philanthropic Advisor. If you’re not a donor, you can take advantage of the match by making a donation to Pillsbury United Communities on their website (choose “North Market” in the Designation drop-down menu after entering payment details).