We listened, we learned, now we ACT!

The Northside Funders Group (NFG) strives to create a culture of learning to both enhance our effectiveness as grantmakers and ensure that we stay relevant and accountable to the Northside community. Our most recent event, on June 24th, explored the neighborhood’s dynamic real estate development landscape. We would like to take the opportunity to reflect back some of the key themes and take-aways from these events.

From Lake Street on the Southside to West Broadway on the Northside, there is increased attention, conversation and care relating to what and how we build back in a different way—in a way that builds local wealth rather than extracts it; in a way that seeks to repair the harms of generational systemic racism; in a way that centers those who have historically been most marginalized; and of course, in a way that supports healthy and successful small businesses. The central question was, how might philanthropy go about supporting this kind of commercial ecosystem? For NFG, it starts with listening. 

At NFG’s June event, funders had the opportunity to hear city staff, neighborhood leaders, developers and lenders provide insights on the status of commercial real estate development in North Minneapolis. Our speakers also wasted no time bringing to life the complexity of the real estate field and were not shy about naming specific strategies and mindset shifts that would support wealth building for Black developers. 

  1. Grounding in Abundance

There are plenty of resources to go around. We should ground ourselves in a framework of abundance, release either/or thinking and invest generously and boldly in Northside projects that translate to building wealth for Black people. 

2. Equity

Not racial equity (although…OF COURSE), but equity as in cash! Philanthropy is uniquely positioned to step in and fill the role of “the rich uncle.” Black and IPOC developers are simply less likely to personally have substantial, liquid resources to put towards projects, nor do they have the networks with readily accessible cash. We can’t claim to be in this work without addressing the racialized wealth gap. What this means for philanthropy is that we need to get comfortable giving to FOR-PROFIT entities. Take a deep breath. We can do it! AND, we need to make grants at all stages of development, from pre-development to activation.

3. Pre-Development

Pre-development encompasses feasibility studies, market studies, environmental scans, architectural renderings and SO. MUCH. MORE. Getting access to other funds or capacity building programs requires that these pieces are in place, but Black and IPOC developers often can’t (and really shouldn’t have to) pay out of pocket for these expenses.  Maddeningly, there are only meagre resources set aside for pre-development costs. And, what  is available is most frequently structured as debt (Nooooo!). Now, as a funder I might say…”well, giving a grant so early when we don’t even know if the project is going to happen seems like poor use of resources, it’s just too risky”… which brings me to the next point!

4. Redefine Risk

What we’ve been taught to consider risky (or perhaps more to the point, WHO we’ve been taught to consider risky) holds the racialized wealth gap in place. We either need to recalibrate our risk tolerance or better yet conceive a new understanding of risk. Why aren’t we asking ourselves what the risks are if we keep doing the same thing over and over again? Why don’t we ask what we risk by NOT making that investment?  

5. Want to mitigate risk? Be a guarantor. 

Program Related Investments (PRIs) are a way many activists in philanthropy are trying to activate assets for social impact. We should keep doing that. AND, if we go back to point #2, we need less loans (debt) and more grants! Another way to activate those assets is to make them available as guarantees. This could transform the experience of BIPOC developers and open doors to more (much needed) financing. 

6. Invest in the long-haul and get rid of arbitrary timelines

Funders often have grandiose vision statements about closing the wealth gap, achieving economic justice…but how is that going to happen in a 12 month grant term? In philanthropy, we have the benefit of knowing our resources are there today and they’ll be there tomorrow, and 30 years from now. Why not deepen our commitment by shifting from 1-2 years to 5-7 years of support? After all, these realities took generations to build and they’ll take generations to undo. 

Hopefully our panelists’ points are giving you some food for thought. We encourage you to envision yourself as part of the solution.  NFG is committed to creating spaces for funders to hear honest feedback from our grantee partners, as well as spaces where we hold each other accountable to act on what we’ve heard.  If that aligns with your philanthropic values, we would love to have you at the table.

Next Northside Funders Group Meeting:

August 13, 8:30am-10am via Zoom—email [email protected] for the call in information. 

Finally, we’d like to thank our panelist: Jim Terrell, Felicia Perry, Aarica Coleman, Domonique Jones, Chaz Sandifer, Jamil Ford and Kate Speed. We appreciate your passion and commitment to seeing the Northside thrive!

Our Members who are Committed to a Thriving North Minneapolis


Northside Funders Group

Funding the Northside


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Northside Funders Group

Funding the Northside