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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 that provide critical safety-net services.

  • Increase the quantity and improve the quality of nonprofit services, particularly those that reduce barriers to employment.

  • Strengthen board members’ abilities to govern the organizations they serve.

We achieve results through social enterprise training, Leaders Circles, AmeriCorps VISTA and other nonprofit 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

AmeriCorps VISTA

The Initiative Foundation oversees the recruitment, placement and supervision of Central Minnesota AmeriCorps VISTA members.

Since 2002, the Initiative Foundation has been an AmeriCorps VISTA sponsoring organization that oversees the recruitment, placement, training and supervision of VISTA members serving at host sites across Central Minnesota.

AmeriCorps VISTA, founded as Volunteers in Service to America, is a national service program whose members work full-time for a year to create and strengthen services and programs that help alleviate and eliminate poverty. Host sites interview and select their own VISTA candidates from a pool of local and national applicants.

Organizations that host VISTA members support the program through a graduated cost-sharing contribution each year of their VISTA project.

Initiative Foundation AmeriCorps VISTA members receive benefits of a value totaling more than $30,000 including: 

  • Living Allowance: $990/mo.; annualized at $11,880.
  • Healthcare Allowance: Up to $6,850 to reimburse out-of-pocket healthcare expenses such as annual deductibles, coinsurance, co-payments and other qualified medical expenses.
  • Upon successful completion of year of service, members can choose between a Segal Education award of $5,775 or $1,500 end-of-service cash award.
  • Training: Monthly leadership and professional development trainings facilitated by the sponsoring organization. Trainers include sector leaders, consultants and others.
  • Mentorship: Through one-to-one relationships with Initiative Foundation professionals, members gain individual support for their host site projects, career planning and other areas aligned with their individual goals.
  • Social and networking opportunities: Connect with peers and grow professional network across many sectors in Central Minnesota and beyond.
  • Memorable service experience: Develop new skills, advance your network, gain valuable experience and make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. 
  • Relocation Assistance: Members that relocate more than 50 miles from their home of record to their host site are eligible for Relocation Travel Allowance including mileage and shipping and a Settling-in Allowance of $550.  

Initiative Foundation VISTA members since 2002 have contributed in a variety of ways, including: 

  • Raising more than $2.5 million in cash resources.
  • Securing more than $1.4 million in in-kind resources.
  • Helping host sites manage more than 40,000 volunteers who provided in excess of 350,000 hours of community service.

For more information on being a VISTA host site or projects currently seeking members and to apply, visit ifoundvista.org.

For questions, contact Amanda Whittemore, AmeriCorps VISTA program specialist, at awhittemore@ifound.org or by calling (320) 631-2009.


FRSE.gifParticipants listen during a recent round of Financial Resiliency through Social Enterprise training.

The Initiative Foundation is proud to offer an array of programs that provide nonprofit professionals and volunteers with the training, resources and mentorship needed to help their respective organizations thrive. Check out our list of current programs below to see which offering could best benefit your organization! Contact Chris Fastner, senior program manager for organizational development, for more information.

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.

Nonprofit Lunch-and-Learns

To help local nonprofit professionals learn and connect, the Initiative Foundation, along with other area partners (including the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and CliftonLarsonAllen among others), offers quarterly training and information sessions over lunch.

Brainerd Lunch-and Learns take place at the Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce or the Northland Arboretum from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. All sessions are BYOL--bring your own lunch!

St. Cloud Lunch-and Learns take place at the Kelly Inn from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.  Lunch can be ordered in advance or you can bring your own.

2017 Brainerd sessions:

Dec. 7 – Presenter: Karl Samp, Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation. Topic: Fund development and year-end fundraising. Location: Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, CTC Room. Register by Friday, Dec. 1. 

Karl will share some of his tips and strategies for fund development, including: grant writing, tips from a grant-reviewer, and year-end fund development strategies.  There will be ample time for questions! 

2017 St. Cloud sessions:

Sessions take place from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at the Kelly Inn in St. Cloud. Lunch is available for purchase ($15) when you register in advance. Registration links and detailed descriptions will be added as available.

Thursday, Nov. 30 – Susan Lorenz, Central Minnesota Community Foundation, will explain how to use their access to the Foundation Center to research and identify potential grant funders. Registration will open in early November. 


Complimentary Legal Advice for Nonprofits

Partnering with LegalCORPS, the Initiative Foundation hosts and supports volunteer lawyers who provide quarterly Open Office Hours in Little Falls office or St. Cloud. Interested staff or board members can schedule a 45-minute session by contacting Laura at llarson@ifound.org to discuss your nonprofit legal questions and concerns.

The Initaitive Foundation's Organizational Development programs are available to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations serving the 14 counties of Central Minnesota.

Future session: 

  • Nov. 28 (St. Cloud) 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Financial Resiliency Through Social Enterprise

(Program currently under way; not accepting applications at this time)

Financial Resiliency through Social Enterprise (FRSE) 1.0 is a social enterprise training program designed for well-established nonprofit organizations.

The Initiative Foundation typically offers one program round per year through which participating organizations receive a combination of training, technical assistance, professional consultation and first-year planning grants of up to $10,000. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofits Assistance Fund and other professional partners, the Foundation's FRSE program supports Central Minnesota nonprofits in exploring how social enterprise opportunities might help them better meet mission outcomes and diversify revenue sources.

For more information, read our FRSE Fact Sheet.

For graduates of FRSE 1.0 and nonprofits with well-established social enterprise ventures, the Foundation in October 2016 began offering FRSE 2.0. This advanced social enterprise training is designed to help nonprofits take their social enterprise ventures to a higher level by offering advanced training, more sophisticated business planning, modest grant funding and the support of expert business consultants. This training is intended for FRSE 1.0 graduates and does not have an open application process. If you’re interested in learning more, contact Chris Fastner, senior program manager for Organizational Development.


Nonprofit Board Boot Camp presented by Propel Nonprofits

This training will take place Wednesday, Nov. 8  at the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls and Thursday, Nov. 9 in Braham. Both sessions are 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. 

  • Learn typical board responsibilities.
  • Identify the nuances of board authority and relationships.
  • Discuss how you would respond to specific board scenarios.
  • Take home the comprehensive Board Boot Camp Participant Guide and Fiduciary Duties of Directors of Charitable Organizations.
Attendees will leave this training with greater confidence, clarity and knowledge enabling all—board and staff alike—to contribute more to the growth of their organizations and the achievement of their missions. Because space is limited, organizations are restricted to four or fewer participants.

Fee (dinner included)

Early Bird Rate—$35 (Prior to 10/23/17)
Regular Rate—$45 (On or after 10/23/17)

Register now!


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. 


NPAF.jpg          MAP.jpg

These recently merged organizations fuel 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.


Chris Fastner

Chris Fastner
Senior Program Manager for Organizational Development
(320) 631-2019

Amanda Whittemore

Amanda Whittemore
VISTA Program Specialist
(320) 631-2009