Our Community Impact Team

Chanda Smith Baker

Senior Vice President, Community Impact
(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.”

Catherine Gray

Director of Impact Strategy, Civic Engagement
(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.”

Suzanne Koepplinger

Director, Catalyst Initiative
(612) 672-3840

Suzanne Koepplinger is the director of the Catalyst Initiative at The Minneapolis Foundation. Catalyst’s purpose is to honor and foster culturally authentic self-care practices to advance health and well-being. Initiated by the George Family Foundation in 2014, Catalyst joined The Minneapolis Foundation in January 2018 to bring its innovative community-based work to scale. Previously, Suzanne served for ten years as the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, where she led the first research, community response, and program implementation in the country to address sex trafficking of American Indian women and girls. In that capacity, she has twice testified before Congress and is a certified trainer for the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center and the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center. Suzanne holds a master’s degree in the Art of Leadership from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and is one of 15 national leaders chosen for the NoVo Foundation’s first Move to End Violence cohort. She has extensive international experience as a trainer and public speaker. Her current community service includes board membership with ArtSpace and Frank Theatre.

Patrice Relerford

Director of Impact Strategy, Education
(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

Director of Special Projects, ConnextMSP
(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
(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.”