2011 Charitable Giving Guide

The Twin Cities has long been a leader in charitable giving and volunteerism. The region is home to a vibrant nonprofit community with organizations devoted to a wide range of charitable causes. Here’s a guide to area nonprofits worthy of consideration as you consider your strategy for holiday giving this season. For more tips on charitable giving, go to the Minneapolis Foundation’s site at Minneapolisfoundation.org or the online fundraiser GiveMn.org. Do you have a great charity you want to share with Journal readers? Tweet us @swjournal or email [email protected]

Contribute to the future of your city and state by donating to one of the many area organizations that work to improve the lives of youth through education.

Minnesota has one of the largest student achievement gaps in the nation, and many nonprofits and charitable organizations focus their efforts on the groups that too often fall behind: communities of color and low-income families. Other organizations work to inspire success in school and life through sports, community activities and the arts.

AchieveMpls // achievempls.org

Founded in 2002, AchieveMpls is the foundation partner of Minneapolis Public Schools. It manages several programs that directly benefit district students, including the college and career centers in high schools and STEP-UP, a summer jobs program that trains Minneapolis youth aged 14–21 and then places them with area employers for paid internships.

AchieveMpls also provides support, financial and otherwise, for a number of district programs, including AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, a college preparatory program. GEMS and GISE, two after-school programs that engage young learners in math, engineering and science, also get AchieveMpls support.

Admission Possible // admissionpossible.org

Admission Possible provides coaching and support to students from low-income families, with the goal of getting students into college and on a path out of poverty.

The nonprofit organization works with approximately 1,500 students in the Twin Cities. Ninety-one percent are students of color, and their families earn less than $25,000 per year, on average.

Through activities like ACT and SAT test preparation and college financial planning assistance, the program has a proven track record of boosting students’ chances of attending a four-year post-secondary institution.

Leonardo’s Basement // leonardosbasement.org

Founded in 1998 by families from Barton Open School, and organized a year later as a nonprofit, Leonardo’s Basement engages students and families through art, engineering and science.

Leonardo’s Basement offers year-round programming for students age 6–16 where students develop science projects, sew and work with textiles, build rockets and participate in other creative activities — often of their own design. The organization also designs creative projects for schools,
after-school programs and youth groups.

Minnesota Reading Corps // minnesotareadingcorps.org

An AmeriCorps program, Minnesota Reading Corps works in schools statewide to help students reach a critical learning goal: reading proficiency by the third grade.

Studies show students who don’t read as well as classmates by the third grade are at risk of falling further behind as reading becomes a more and more important part of their schoolwork. Trained corps members work with students age 3 to grade 3 in daily, one-on-one sessions.

Project SUCCESS // projectsuccess.org
More than 10,000 students in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools experience a Project SUCCESS program every year.

The nonprofit uses school-based goal-setting workshops and out-of-school theater experiences to inspire teens to set goals and make the academic progress necessary to achieve those goals. Project SUCCESS also organizes college tours and annual excursions into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Youth Performance Company // youthperformanceco.com

Youth Performance Company has provided a creative outlet for the Twin Cities’ young performing artists since 1989.

A nonprofit organization since 1993, the company has involved thousands of local young people in productions like “MEAN,” a play that examines bullying in schools. Youth Performance Company also offers performance classes and workshops throughout the year, as well as an overnight performing arts camp.

Children & Youth
It’s not difficult to make a case for investing in children. According to a study cited by the Minneapolis Foundation, for every $1 invested in mentorship programs, there is $2 in public cost savings and increased tax revenue. Another report referenced by the foundation suggests that children who take part in preschool programs later earn on average, 20,000 more than their peers who didn’t attend preschool activities. There are so many great organizations devoted to youth in the Twin Cities. Here are a handful of noteworthy ones to consider supporting.

Urban Arts Academy // Urbanartsacademy.org

The South Minneapolis nonprofit offers a range of arts educational opportunities for children. On the website, the organization says it believes “every child has the right to art.” The program primarily serves children living in the Bancroft, Bryant, Central and Powderhorn neighborhoods with preschool, after-school and summer arts programs. The academy encourages donations through givemn.org.

District 202 // Dist202.org

District 202 is dedicated to creating a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in the Twin Cities. Founded in 1992, the organization has inspired the creation of six other organizations serving LGBT youth. District 202 helps youth in a variety of ways — through programs on creative expression, social justice, social interaction and health and wellness and online social networking, among other things.

Bike Cops for Kids // Bikecopsforkids.blogspot.com
Bike Cops for Kids is a project of eight Minneapolis Police Officers on bike patrol working to improve the lives of youth in North Minneapolis. The officers have partnered with the Ciresi Foundation, PEACE Foundation, Penn Cycle and other community groups to donate bicycles and helmets to kids on the North Side. According to the program’s Facebook page, the main goal is to “make a special memory stick into the hard drive of a child as they grow up in challenging situations. Connect cops and kids in an unusual setting, their own yard, and use helmets, bike safety and bikes to do it. Safety is the added bonus.”

Youth Farm and Market Project // Youthfarm.net

The Youth Farm and Market Project works with youth in five Twin Cities neighborhoods, providing year-around programming for more than 500 young people. Children learn about urban agriculture and gardening. The organization has five main goals: build young leaders; promote healthy bodies and minds; contribute to the positive identity of children and youth; create neighborhood connectedness and opportunities for contribution; and develop and nurture healthy relationships.

Art Buddies // Artbuddies.org
Art Buddies matches low-income children with creative mentors who help them work on fun art projects. The workshops last from seven to 10 weeks. Since launching in 1994, the program has paired more than 1,800 children with mentors in creative fields. The idea is to help the children develop confidence and their creative potential through meaningful relationships with mentors.  

The Bridge for Youth // www.Bridgeforyouth.org
The Bridge for Youth has been helping youth and families in need since 1970. The organization has a variety of services for youth in crisis situations — a 24-hour hotline, 24-hour walk-in counseling, an emergency shelter and family counseling, among other programs.


Minnesota is home to more than 12,000 lakes and 92,000 miles of rivers. Its natural beauty has spawned thousands of parks in Minneapolis and across the state. In 2008, 8.3 million people visited state parks.

The state’s environment needs tender loving care, and dozens of organizations work to protect it.

Friends of the Mississippi River // fmr.org

This organization works to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities region.

Founded in 1992, Friends of the Mississippi River organizes over 2,5000 volunteers who work to improve the health of the river. The organization also works with landowners to prevent pollution of the river, bring attention to the river’s health and lobbies for the river’s public value to city and state leaders.

Minnesota Land Trust // mnland.org
Since its first project in 1993, the Minnesota Land Trust has protected over 38,000 acres of Minnesota land and 817,000 feet of shoreline on 200 lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.

Thanks to landowners who’ve given conservation easements to the Land Trust, the organization has protected over $100 million in property in places such as the North Shore of Lake Superior, trout streams in southeastern Minnesota, the Mississippi River headwaters area and green space in the Twin Cities.

Conservation Minnesota // conservationminnesota.org

It could be fighting for clean drinking water, preventing logging in state parks, helping pass the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment or advocating for wind and solar energy. Conservation Minnesota plays a big role in lobbying local and state officials to protect the state’s natural resources.

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness // friends-bwca.org

Last summer, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness made headlines when a fire burned 100,000 acres of land, but the Friends of the Boundary Waters has been protecting that area for 35 years. The organization works to protect the area from haze, noise, logging, mining development and loss of species.

Sierra Club, North Star Chapter // northstar.sierraclub.org
The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environmental group around, having been founded by John Muir in 1892. It has 1.4 million members.

The Sierra Club promotes the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources, educates people, and helps restore the quality of the environment.

The North Star Chapter volunteers lead on legislative issues, advocate for Minnesota’s natural places and hold outings to connect members to each other and the outdoors.

Audubon Minnesota // mn.audubon.org
Audubon Minnesota fights for birds, conserving and restoring their natural ecosystems. The group’s work includes restoring waters, engaging people, protecting habitat and reducing hazards to birds.

To date, Audubon Minnesota has found over 100 species of birds dead after flying into buildings in the Twin Cities, totaling over 1,500 birds.

Housing and Human Services
Even in good economic times there will be people struggling to find a place to sleep at night, and the problem has only gotten worse in the last few years. According to the Minneapolis Foundation, 20 percent of homeless people are employed, and over half of the children on the streets are under age 5. Fortunately, there are many great local charities working to end homelessness. Here are a few of the many worthy charitable organizations that help people struggling with homelessness and other housing issues.

Cabrini Partnership // cabrinipartnership.org

There are various shelters throughout the city, many designed to service a particular segment of the needy population. The Cabrini Partnership focuses on adults with mental illness and chemical dependencies. Both are leading causes of homelessness, and 82 percent of Cabrini residents are dually diagnosed with both conditions. The organization provides both transitional housing and permanent supportive housing for the persistently mentally ill. Cabrini’s services help those suffering from these conditions start down a path to a more healthy and productive life.

Sharing and Caring Hands // sharingandcaringhands.org

Since 1985, Sharing and Caring Hands has provided services for the poor with no government or United Way funding. Mary’s Place, the organization’s transitional shelter, houses 500 people each night, 10,000 showers a year to those with no other bathing facilities and distributes 375,000 pounds of food annually. Mary’s Place also features a medical clinic, two classrooms, a children’s play area and more, all of which is funded entirely by donations.

People Serving People // peopleservingpeople.org
The largest family-focused shelter in Minnesota, People Serving People’s mission is to help homeless children and their families find opportunities for a healthy and stable family life. From an early childhood education center to employment assistance for adults, People Serving People has programs for every member of a needy family. One program that benefits both the organization and its clients is the culinary arts training program — students in the program help serve up to 1,000 meals a day in People Serving People’s dining hall while learning the skills they need to find employment in the food service industry.

St. Stephen’s Human Services // ststephensmpls.org
One of St. Stephen’s best-known services is its Street Outreach team, which interacts directly with those experiencing homelessness. The team provides first contact between the homeless and the rest of the organization, which also provides food, clothing, shelter and employment services. The organization also operates several sober housing facilities and a free store, from which those in need can obtain clothing, toys and housewares.

YouthLink // youthlinkmn.org

Young people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable to exploitation, and challenges during these formative years can leave people unprepared for the challenges of adulthood. Youthlink focuses exclusively on giving homeless and at-risk youth what they need to succeed, including a safe place to stay, medical treatment, counseling services and education. Several partner organizations work out of Youthlink’s headquarters, making the center a one-stop destination for those in need of its services.

Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota // hfhmn.org
One of the best-known housing services, Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota builds or renovates houses for families in need of decent shelter. Beneficiaries must help with the construction project, as well as make mortgage payments on their new property, which in turn provides funding for future Habitat projects. The program builds roughly 125 homes for those in need every year.

It’s no secret that the Twin Cities features a thriving arts culture. Less well known is the fact that many of the cities’ finest theaters, museums, venues and publishing houses are nonprofits that rely in part on charitable giving to keep the doors open.

What follows is a list of six arts and culture nonprofits that could use your support this holiday season.

Minnesota Historical Society // mnhs.org

The Minnesota Historical Society operates St. Paul’s Minnesota History Center, which features both permanent and changing collections
illuminating Minnesota’s history in a gem of a building constructed more than a century ago.

Memberships provide free access to the center and discounts at history museums throughout the country. New members receive a $5 discount now through the end of the year.

Milkweed Editions // milkweed.org

Founded in 1980, Milkweed Editions publishes between 15 and 20 titles annually and is one of three founding tenants of Open Book, an 11-year-old center for book and literary arts an 1011 Washington Ave. S.

The non-profit does more than just publish. Through its Alliance for Reading program, it has worked for over a decade with Twin Cities school to promote reading and literary arts, particularly in schools where a majority of students receive subsidized breakfasts or lunches.

Science Museum of Minnesota // smm.org

In its early days the Science Museum of Minnesota was called the Merriam Mansion home and featured a few thousand artifacts. Now, it features scientific research facilities, teacher evaluation programs and the U.S.’s only convertible-dome Omnitheater in a 370,000 square-foot building in downtown St. Paul.

For $150 annually, members receive two free passes to ticketed exhibitions, free guest admissions and invitations to special events, among other perks. Higher membership levels feature perks ranging from free parking to hosting birthday parties at the museum.

The Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts // artsmia.org
Whittier’s Minneapolis Institute of Arts, one of the finest art museums in the region, is free everyday largely because of the generosity of its 23,000 members.

In 1883, 25 Minneapolitans founded the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts. The society founded the MIA, which now has a permanent collection of over 80,000 objects, broken up into more than a half-dozen curatorial areas.

Contributions from individuals and organizations make up a quarter of the MIA’s annual revenue. Memberships, beginning at $50 annually, provide access to ticketed exhibitions, museum-wide discounts, event invitations and more.

The Soap Factory // soapfactory.org
Located in the former National Purity Soap Company building, The Soap Factory (in the words of the non-profit’s website) “is a laboratory for artistic
experimentation and innovation, dedicated to supporting artists and engaging audiences through the production and presentation of contemporary art in a unique and historic environment.”

Although The Soap Factory is known primarily for its Haunted Basement Halloween production, the art venue offers much more. For instance, in 2008, the venue exhibited the work of over 130 artists and had over 40,000 visitors.

Grant funding has increased in recent years, but The Soap Factory still relies on charitable donations to funds its work.

Minnesota Orchestral Association // minnesotaorchestra.org

The Minnesota Orchestra, one of America’s top symphonic ensembles, relies on contributions for 43 percent of its income.

The vast majority of donated funds go toward artistic programming, which represented 88 percent of the orchestra’s expenses during the 2010 season.

Patron memberships, starting at $100 annually, provide invitations for two to the orchestra’s annual Guarantors’ Concert and meeting and reception. Additional perks are available at higher membership levels.