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Initiative Quarterly

Nonprofit Organizational Development



The Initiative Foundation understands that effective nonprofit organizations are critical to thriving communities.

Successful nonprofit organizations work to remove barriers to employment, enhance local economic development, provide critical safety net services and increase civic participation. They respond to emerging needs and opportunities of children and their families--including returning veterans, seniors, new Americans, youth at risk and people with disabilities. They provide services and spaces that enhance the quality of life in Central Minnesota.

The Foundation's nonprofit organizational development programs and services strive to ...

  • Improve the fiscal health and management of nonprofit organizations particularly those that provide critical safety-net services and improve economic security for disadvantaged people.

  • Increase the quantity and improve the quality of nonprofit services, particularly those that offer the promise of greater prosperity to citizens of Central Minnesota facing hardship.

  • Strengthen board members’ abilities to lead and contribute to the organizations they serve.

We achieve results through our Financial Resiliency and Leaders Circles Programs, Nonprofit Lunch-and-Learns and other trainings and support services.

iFound Training

ifoundtraining_logo.pngNonprofit organizations fill an essential role in our hometowns. They address gaps in the public-private framework to care for people, environments and communities. The better managed they are, the more effective our nonprofit leaders can be in executing their missions and helping Central Minnesota thrive. To make nonprofit management training affordable, flexible and convenient, we’ve created this series of short, concise, on-demand online courses to cover a variety of essential nonprofit topics.

While nothing can take the place of the personal relationships we build with our nonprofit partners, these training videos offer an affordable and accessible way to train staff, board members and volunteers on critical organizational issues.  

We hope you find iFound Training interesting, educational, and that you gain new knowledge and skills to become even more effective in making a difference in your local nonprofits and communities. We are happy to offer iFound Training free of cost, but significant resources went into these trainings. Please consider supporting this valuable service here

The Initiative Foundation has created these videos to support nonprofit development in Central Minnesota. The information provided is broad and general by design and may not reflect the unique needs nor address the particular situation of every nonprofit, or answer the specific questions of every individual viewing the courses. This information is offered as general guidance and does not, in any way, constitute legal, tax or business advice, and should not be so relied on. We urge all users to follow up their viewing of these courses with consultation from and reliance on their own legal or tax and business professionals, as may be appropriate.

Starting a Nonprofit Organization


You feel called to help your community. You have an idea for a new nonprofit. You don’t have the first notion of how to start this process. This course will help you figure out where and how to start. You’ll also be directed to useful follow-up resources.

The course is free. You must register at the link below. 

Preview Course | Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

Nonprofit Board Basics


Been asked to serve on a local nonprofit board? First time serving? Think you know the ropes? Find out here! This course,
for beginners and experienced board members alike, presents a basic look at the legal and ethical duties and best practices of nonprofit boards.

The course is free. You must register at the link below. 

Preview Course | Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

 Nonprofit Leadership


As the large wave of Baby Boomers retire, who will fill the nonprofit and civic leadership roles? Join Ben Winchester, senior research fellow, University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality, as he looks at population trends and prospects for rural leadership.

The course is free. You must register at the link below. 

Preview Course | Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

Nonprofit Finance Basics


A key role for nonprofit board members is to ensure good stewardship of the organization's financial resources. It starts with understanding the current financial situation so you can plan for the future. Review this course (as many times as it takes) to get a handle on the story told by all those numbers.

The course is free. You must register at the link below. 

Preview Course | Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

Grant-Writing Essentials


Fundraising. It's the No. 1 need we hear from nonprofits. Take this robust course and eliminate the fear—and, hopefully, the pain—out of grant-writing. Get started on the road to effective grant research and writing.

The course is free. You must register at the link below. 

Preview Course | Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

Finding & Working With Volunteers


Many nonprofits rely heavily on local volunteers to help get the work done, solicit donations and provide key oversight and direction. Learn ways to recruit, train, manage, evaluate and celebrate so your volunteer program keeps your agency humming.

The course is free. You must register at the link below. 

Preview Course | Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

Social Media Basics


Do you have a firm grasp on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube? Keeping up with the pace of change in social media can be daunting. Learn the essentials here so you can create an effective social media base upon which you can build.

The course is free. You must register at the link below.  

Preview CourseWatch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service

8 Minutes to More Effective Meetings


Meetings are essential for sharing information and making decisions within our workplaces and communities. Learn how to prepare for a meeting, create an agenda, determine logistics, and record information from the meeting. This 8 minute course will help ensure that when a meeting convenes, it is time well spent. The course is free. You must register at the link below.

Watch Course (FREE!) | Support This Service


Accidental-Techie.jpgIdealware presented at a recent Accidental Techie training in Little Falls. 

The Initiative Foundation is proud to offer an array of programs that provide nonprofit professionals and volunteers with the training, resources and mentorship they need to help their respective organizations thrive. Check out our list of current programs below to see which offering could best benefit your organization! 

2019 Nonprofit Lunchtime Learning Sessions

To help local nonprofit professionals learn and connect, the Initiative Foundation, in partnership with the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Sourcewell (formerly the National Joint Powers Alliance) and CliftonLarsonAllen, conveniently offer quarterly training, networking and information sessions over the lunch hour.

Brainerd Lunchtime Learning

Sessions take place at the Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce CTC Room from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Bring your own lunch.

Tuesday, June 18—Owning Who We Are: Strategies for Assessing and Communicating Equity in Rural Organizations

Questions about diversity, equity and inclusion on grant applications can set us back on our heels. How do we answer if our communities are 2%, 5% or 15% people of color? Are we diverse enough to receive funding? Is it even worth applying? YES! Funders and grant-makers are looking for partners that are building intentional organizations that reflect their communities. Join us for a dynamic conversation focused on rethinking how nonprofits the Brainerd Lakes area communicate facets of diversity by answering: “Who are we?”, “Who is our community” and “How do we grow into ourselves?” In this session, we will share insight from grant-makers to help you submit stronger grant applications, build confidence in understanding and articulating existing organizational diversity and identify tools for setting goals that reflect the individuals and community you serve.

Register here.

Presenter: DeeDee Lemier, Charities Review Council
Charities Review Council is a 501(c)3 based in St. Paul, Minn., serving over 600 nonprofit partners and 8000+ donors across the region and country. Their mission is to transform philanthropy by building donor and nonprofit relationships for strong, vibrant and just communities.

Tuesday, September 17—How to Use Give-to-the-Max Day as a Key Part of Your Year-End Giving Strategy

For organizations who want their supporters to consume the all-important data that measures their impact in the community, getting a supporter to process the information can often be difficult. But with great design and storytelling, an organization can often give supporters all the data they need. Using examples of successful strategies from GiveMN and other organizations, this presentation will help organizations develop strategies to bring data and design together to tell an engaging story for supporters. Go beyond infographics to using compelling data across mediums and messages!

Register here.

Presenter: Jake Blumberg, Executive Director of GiveMN

Tuesday, December 11—TBD

St. Cloud Lunchtime Learning

Thursday, June 20—Disruption and Innovation – What does it mean for the Nonprofit Sector?

We will cover the following topics:

  • What does disruption look like today?
  • How does in influence innovation?
  • Disruption and Innovation – the impact or opportunity in the nonprofit sector.
  • What creates a healthy and encouraging space for innovation or social change?

Register here.

Presenter: Ryan Weber, Managing Partner at Great North Labs

Session will take place at Anna Marie's Place from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. 

Thursday, September 19—Building a Positive Culture 

Building and developing a positive culture in an organization takes time and effort. However, the first thing to recognize is that a culture already exists in every organization and there is little one person can do about it. Once you understand and accept that, you can make a difference!


  • Why should you care?
  • How can you make a difference?
  • What are practical steps you can take?
  • Is strategy or culture more important?

During our time, we will develop answers to these questions and you will have simple and straightforward ideas on how to influence the culture around you.

Register here.

Presenter: Jon Ruis, Director of Strategy and Business Development for Quinlivan & Hughes

Session will take place at the Kelly Inn from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. 

Thursday, December 12—TBD

 The Leaders Circles® Program

The Leaders Circles® program offered by the Initiative Foundation is a proven way to develop leadership strengths. Each group includes five to six nonprofit professionals who are committed to meeting real-life work challenges while learning and practicing new leadership skills. Groups are confidential, supportive and focused on learning and action. A trained facilitator helps members leverage the group to effectively problem solve and take action on the challenges and opportunities they face as nonprofit professionals.

Interested? Register for a Leaders Circle today or read our Leaders Circle information sheet to learn more.

Financial Resiliency Program 

Nonprofits make our communities better and stronger. They help make our region a great place to live, work, give and play. Nonprofits provide essential services to our region that would be difficult for the business sector or government to provide. 

Our region needs resilient nonprofits – those that have the capacity to adjust to difficulties or change – to help keep our communities healthy and vibrant.

In September of 2019 the Initiative Foundation will start a new round of Financial Resiliency programming for nonprofits located in and serving income-eligible communities in our region.

The Financial Resiliency program is designed to help nonprofit organizations in income-eligible communities achieve some, or all, of the following:

  • Increased effectiveness and efficiency in operations
  • Informed growth and/or expansion in service provision
  • Greater financial flexibility
  • Broader community support.

The program also is designed to give nonprofit staff and volunteers the tools they need to build organizational capacity in a healthy, ongoing way.

The program combines monthly half-day trainings with expert technical assistance to help participants set and achieve their organizational resiliency goals. It consists of two tracks: one focused on comprehensive nonprofit business planning, and one specifically focused on strengthening fund development efforts.

Check back for application materials and updates. We expect to open applications in early July 2019 with a deadline to apply of Aug. 8 and the first session on Sept. 26. 

USDA-eligible communities

Eligible communities as defined by USDA guidelines include: Askov, Backus, Belgrade, Bertha, Bowlus, Braham, Brainerd, Brook Park, Brooten, Browerville, Bruno, Burtrum, Cambridge, Cass Lake, Clarissa, Cold Spring, Crosby, Cushing, Deerwood, Eagle Bend, Emily, Federal Dam, Fifty Lakes, Finlayson, Garrison, Grey Eagle, Hackensack, Hewitt, Hinckley, Howard Lake, Ironton, Isle, Kerrick, Lastrup, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Longville, Melrose, Menahga, Milaca, Mora, Motley, Ogilvie, Onamia, Outing, Paynesville, Pequot Lakes, Pierz, Pillager, Pine City, Pine River, Princeton, Randall, Remer, Richmond, Royalton, Rush City, Sandstone, Sauk Centre, Sebeka, South Haven, Staples, Swanville, Upsala, Verndale, Wadena, Wahkon, Walker

Training and Resources

DSC02441.jpgIdealware presented at a recent Accidental Techie training in Little Falls. 

Check back for future trainings! 

Free Online Training


Here are some organizations that provide great resources on a wide variety of nonprofit topics and to which we often refer nonprofits for resources, information and training.

Click on the logos below to find resources, training and other guidance for your organization.


The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is the largest statewide association of nonprofits in the country. With over 2,100 member nonprofit organizations and 230 businesses as members throughout Minnesota, it is the premier place for nonprofit managers, volunteers and businesses serving nonprofits to come together under the umbrella of a statewide association of nonprofits. 


Dedicated to serving those who serve others, Sourcewell provides nonprofit organizations in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties with high-quality, affordable services that promote healthy and sustainable programming. Learn more. 


The Nonprofits Assitance Fund and MAP for Nonprofits recently merged to create Propel Nonprofits. Propel Nonprofits fuels the impact and effectiveness of nonprofits with guidance, expertise, and capital. 


Over 800 members strong, MAVA is the largest professional membership association for leaders of volunteers in the state of Minnesota. It is an alliance of individuals and networks dedicated to providing support and resources to those who lead volunteers. 


Blue Avocado is the bimonthly newsletter of American Nonprofits, a membership organization that provides practical financial information and support to U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, staff, stakeholders and volunteers. It is created by and for community-based nonprofits. 
BoardSource inspires and supports excellence in nonprofit governance and board and staff leadership.


LaPiana nonprofit consulting firm is inspired by the socially-driven work of nonprofits and foundations, and helps improve leadership and management practices throughout the sector for greater social impact.



The Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community is a private community of nonprofit thought leaders, leader practitioners, progressive funders, policy makers, and instigators who believe “performance matters.”

Their vision is to trigger a mindshift within a vital core of the social sector to accept that mission and performance are inextricably linked.

We share the focus and purpose to inspire, motivate, and support nonprofit and public sector leaders (and their stakeholders) to build great organizations for greater societal impact and to increase the expectation and adoption of high performance as the path to this end.  Their Performance Imperative is an interesting tool that provides a common definition of “high performance” and lays out in detail the seven organizational pillars that can help nonprofits achieve high performance. 

Need help applying for federal tax-exempt status?

The IRS directs applicants who need help with preparing their applications for tax-exempt status to call Exempt Organization Customer Account Services at 1-877-829-5500. Detailed information on qualifying for federal income tax-exemption, FAQs, online training, and links to the application forms can be found here. Both Forms 1023 (the application for 501(c)(3) exemption) and Form 1024 (application for most other 501(c) organizations) have comprehensive instructions. The 1023 also has an interactive form which includes helpful hints and links to help applicants submit a complete application.

Additional resources can be found in the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) Nonprofit Legal Handbook, available to MCN members.



Zach Tabatt
Nonprofit Development Specialist

(320) 631-2015

Amanda Whittemore

Amanda Whittemore
VISTA & Nonprofit Development Program Manager
(320) 631-2009

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