These funds not only constituted a vote of confidence in our work and mission, but offered practical support at a time we had little but the strength of our ideas to show for it. — Sahan Journal
As we await the selection and announcement of a new round of grantees for the 2021 – 2023 Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program (NIGP), we wanted to reflect on the importance of these funds in the nonprofit sector, what they make possible, and how we hope to build on the success of these grants going forward.
What is NIGP?
The Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program (NIGP) is aimed at supporting the missions of small, culturally led organizations by strengthening their infrastructure (aka, their Core Mission Support). We know that building the capacity of small organizations that focus on historically underserved cultural communities helps position them for greater impact in their community. Read Kate Barr’s blog post for more background on the Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program.
In 2019, after the first two-year grant round of NIGP funding was distributed to 21 nonprofits, Propel’s Strategic Services Director, Mario Hernandez shared his reflections and learnings in his blog post What Can Investing in Nonprofit Infrastructure Do? The lessons catalogued there: Nonprofits Know What They Need to Thrive; Investments in Internal Efficiencies and Systems Help Leverage Funds for Programs; Solid Infrastructure Helps Nonprofits Ride the Waves of Change; and Investments in Staff and Board Don’t Get Enough Attention; remain true for culturally specific nonprofits today.
After two rounds of NIGP funding – 32 grants totaling $1.5 million – we can see the state’s investment is working to build a pipeline of nonprofits serving cultural communities who can apply for state grants and contracts. For example, 85% of the grantees from both rounds reported they gained confidence in administering a publicly funded grant and feel better prepared to apply for other publicly funded grant opportunities. Almost all of the grantees said they are likely to apply for a state or other publicly funded grant in the next 3-12 months. This result is a big step forward for both the organizations and for state agencies hoping to work with nonprofits that are grounded in their communities.
Small nonprofits play an essential role in building strong and vibrant communities, and they connect ethnic minority populations, who are often isolated and marginalized, to culturally and linguistically needed services. They prepare people for the workforce. Like other nonprofits, their services provide a social safety net and drive employment, community, and economic development.
Access to funds through the NIGP made it possible for these organizations to be strategic as they grow. For example, the Sahan Journal, the only independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit digital newsroom fully dedicated to providing authentic news reporting for and with immigrants and communities of color in Minnesota, was able to invest in staff and accounting systems as they prepared to launch their web presence:
“Sahan Journal received this grant at a very early stage in its development. It gave us early operational support for basic needs as we approached the launch of a new web site providing news for Minnesotans of immigrant and refugee backgrounds. These funds not only constituted a vote of confidence in our work and mission, but offered practical support at a time we had little but the strength of our ideas to show for it. It was a truly significant investment for Sahan Journal. We now have a full news staff of 10, and are in a position to secure significant funding from major philanthropic organizations.” — Sahan Journal
Throughout 2020 and 2021, small, direct-service and/or community-led organizations have been called upon to be community leaders in so many ways: through a pandemic, a struggling economy, and a local and national reckoning with racial injustice. The Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) has negatively impacted many of these organizations’ financial health and the ability to implement programming, making infrastructure investments even more crucial.
Small nonprofits are essential to supporting communities through this crisis, and several grantees have shared how they shifted their work to meet pressing needs by sharing public health information and resources and defending communities against discrimination and misinformation.
Propel is excited to be in the selection phase for a third round of funding for nonprofits in Minnesota. Grant recipients from this round will be announced later this month.
These grant funds are appropriated by the state legislature through Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED.) We are grateful for the advocacy, support, and partnerships that make this grant program possible.