A Twin Cities watershed organization has a quarter million dollars of grant money to divvy up over the next few months, and they’re hoping groups that have traditionally not applied for funding will show up for an information meeting on Monday, September 8.
“Look at the demographics of our watershed,” explains Jenny Winkelman, Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), which covers portions of the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Lauderdale, and St. Anthony. “We have a huge audience we’re trying to reach, many of them fairly recent immigrant communities, such as the Hmong and Somali communities. Most traditional watershed materials are produced for a literate, English-speaking audience and may miss important populations.”
The grants program, called the Stewardship Fund, is aimed at improving water quality and natural resources, and building community understanding and action related to water. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, neighborhood groups, schools, local government, and business and professional associations. In the past grant funding has supported the development of such projects as rain gardens, “green” roofs, and native vegetation plantings.
But after the last round of grants, in 2006, the MWMO put the program on hold for a year to assess how well it was advancing the organization’s mission. “A lot of the same partners were putting in for the grant money year after year,” says Winkelman. MWMO board and staff were concerned that they were missing something in their duty to reach out to all watershed communities. “We took a step back, and held a series of conversations with partners, groups that had applied and not gotten money, and some groups that seemed like they would apply but hadn’t.”
Winkelman says they decided to focus first on the Hmong community, which is one of the most well-established new immigrant communities, and has a strong tradition of interest in natural resources. They conducted extensive focus groups with Hmong community leaders.
What resulted was a revised and streamlined grants program. Three types of grants are available: for planning (up to $10,000), action (up to $50,000), and a new category of ‘mini grants’ (up to $2,000).
“The beauty of the mini grant is that there’s minimal effort for our partners, some of whom may not be familiar with applying for grants—just a detailed letter of interest, not a full grant proposal,” says Winkelman. Mini grants are funded quarterly, with $20,000 available for mini grants each season of the year.
In addition to the mini grants, $210,000 will be available for action and planning grants. The MWMO Stewardship Fund grants are funded by taxes on properties within the organization’s boundaries.
The MWMO is a unit of local government, governed by a board whose members are appointed by member cities, as well as the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Its purpose is to work with the people who live and work in the watershed to sustain its water and other natural resources. The watershed covers about 35 square miles whose water flows to a common point near the Ford Dam between Minneapolis and St. Paul. 94% of the MWMO lies in the City of Minneapolis.
The MWMO will hold a grants information session from noon to 1 p.m. on Monday, September 8 at the MWMO office, 2520 Larpenteur Avenue West, Lauderdale (southwest corner of Larpenteur and 280). Deadline for letters of interest is September 22. For more information on the MWMO grants program or directions to the meeting, visit www.mwmo.org, or contact Nancy Dilts, Grant Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org , (651) 287-0948
Paul Purman lives and writes from St. Paul’s Mounds Park neighborhood. Reach him at email@example.com