Meet Our Team:
Sam Ndely joined our team in 2022. He came to the Minneapolis Foundation from the Center for Economic Inclusion and has also worked for Meda, where he supported entrepreneurs of color in growing their businesses. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and is a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota.
What’s the focus of your work?
SAM: As a Philanthropic Advisor, I work with donors to help them figure out ways to engage with not only the Foundation, but the community. I get to learn about their passions and the issues they want to help solve through their Donor Advised Fund or other means. I meet with people almost every day, and I get to learn about them and their families, and how they approach their charitable giving. As advisors, we’re here to help them along the way, and every situation is different with every family.
I’m also taking on other projects, such as sitting on the committee that guides our Fund for Safe Communities. I just helped with our latest round of Racial and Economic Justice grants, and I’m working with some other team members as we strive to increase the diversity of our donor community.
Can you share an inspiring project that you’ve helped a donor with recently?
SAM: Yes! One family I work with reached out to me after a loved one passed away last year. Chuck Reed was a higher education consultant and father of three who loved the outdoors. Initially, his family was thinking about starting a nonprofit in his honor. Instead, their attorney suggested they come to the Minneapolis Foundation and start a Donor Advised Fund. I’ve been working with them to set it up, and they’ve created a website honoring Chuck. They’ve already started taking donations in support of wellness, education, and the environment—three things he was passionate about.
At the Foundation, we strive to connect all our work to our guiding values. What does that mean to you?
SAM: One of the Foundation’s values is that equity is a responsibility. We have gone through a lot of tough times recently, in the world and especially in Minneapolis, and we’ve all had to take a deep look at how we want to show up moving forward to create a more equitable city, state, country.
We all have a responsibility to do that self-work, and to think about the resources we can contribute, whether it’s money, whether it’s showing up at an event or rally—everybody has a role to play. One reason I’m proud to work at the Foundation is that we offer a lot of opportunities for people to learn—our Learning Hub and our podcast are two examples—so that everyone in our community can find new ways to engage and help make that true change.
How does that value show up in your own life?
SAM: I just try to show up where I’m needed—it’s something I get from my parents. Outside of work, I’m very involved in the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Minnesota Business Coalition on Racial Equity, Forge North, and the Zeta Nu Sigma Alumni Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. I’m also part of the Class of 2023 Minnesota Young American Leaders Program cohort through the Itasca Project.
What unique perspective or experience do you bring to the team?
SAM: Growing up as a first-generation Cameroonian American in Minnesota was a unique experience, and it forced me to have a deeper understanding of not only what it means to be Black in America, but also of how my parents got to the U.S. and what they were doing in school. Then, as I went to college and learned more about my history, African American history, my identity, and how I wanted to show up in my own skin, it led me to be involved in efforts to make things better for Black people—and for everybody, to be honest.
After college, I worked for Apple for five years doing business-to-business sales, and one thing that taught me about was the importance of providing customers with an exceptional experience. I took that perspective into business consulting at Meda. Working with entrepreneurs there, I always tried to understand where they were coming from and have empathy—and also figure out how to help them solve problems. I left there and went to the Center for Economic Inclusion during the pandemic, right after murder of George Floyd. That was a very interesting time to be doing racial equity consulting, but I felt like it was a critical time to do that.
Now, after working for nonprofits that have to ask for funds to do the work, I’m on the other side of the table at the Foundation, giving out money and helping to leverage resources. It’s a blessing, but it’s also been a shift in mindset for me. I try to bring my past experiences into how I show up every day, so hopefully I can figure out how to use them to help the Foundation achieve our goals and live out our mission.
What’s your secret superpower?
SAM: I’m really good at remembering names and other things about people when I meet them, and I’m really good at making friends. My parents tell me that when I was two years old, I’d be in the grocery store saying hi to everybody, and if they didn’t say hi to me, I’d call them out.
What’s something you love to do outside of work?
SAM: I love spending time with my fiancée, Cierra, and our puppy, Marley—she’s about to turn one year old next week. We love traveling and trying new foods in new cities. I also love listening to music and watching sports and comic-book movies.