Awards Programs

Mission Awards Recipients

Since 1987, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) has been honored to recognize dozens of nonprofit organizations making incredible contributions to Minnesota’s high quality of life. The Minnesota Nonprofit Awards honor these contributions in the areas of Innovation, Nonprofit Advocacy, Anti-Racism Initiative, and Responsive Philanthropy.

MCN is pleased to announce the 2021 recipients of the awards, as voted on by MCN members.

2021 Nonprofit Mission Award Recipients

2021 Awards Logo

2021 Innovation Award Recipient - The Family Partnership

The Family Partnership

For 143 years, The Family Partnership (TFP) has worked to understand and address the needs of vulnerable families and children in the greater Minneapolis area. The organization believes that families, no matter what their form, are the foundation of strong communities.

TFP is at the forefront in implementing evidence-based practices and emerging brain science to close opportunity gaps for children and families. One such effort is Executive Functioning Across Generations, an effective and creative solution that TFP developed to address a challenge facing many young children, especially those living in poverty: the negative impact that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as child abuse and household dysfunction, have on executive functioning development. Harvard Center on the Developing Child has shown that the earliest impact of ACEs is on the development of healthy brain architecture. Harvard calls executive functioning skills “core capabilities for life” because this skill set is needed for school success, healthy relationships, workforce participation, and parenting. 

Executive Functioning Across Generation’s innovative approach demonstrates new and different strategies to boost children’s executive functioning, including:  

  • Two-Generation approach: the curriculum provides parents with the tools they need to build children’s healthy brain architecture every day at home.
  • Utilizing brain science: There is a 20 year lag between discoveries in research and practical translation into human services. This intervention provides the opportunity to incorporate not-yet-utilized brain science learnings into existing programs that serve families.
  • Focus on language: the intervention is unique in its focus on building language-based skills to boost executive functioning, grounded in research that shows that executive functioning development is language-based.
TFP developed the original curriculum for preschool classrooms and later designed and tested home visiting and parenting group adaptations of the curriculum in 2020-2021 with support from Harvard. The project demonstrated further innovation by adapting the home visiting and parenting group interventions to virtual delivery in light of COVID. TFP will begin a second statewide round of home visiting pilots this fall in partnership with MN Coalition for Targeted Home Visiting and the Medica Foundation.

Executive Functioning Across Generations has greatly benefitted children’s executive functioning and parents’ ability to support children’s healthy development. In TFP’s preschools, which serve children with high ACEs, children began below the age-adjusted national average on executive functioning. In post-intervention evaluations, they scored ABOVE the national average.

The families TFP serves have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the trauma of George Floyd’s murder, and increased violence the past 18 months. Innovative strategies that meet families where they’re at to boost executive functioning are more important now than ever to buffer children in Minneapolis communities from the impact of toxic stress on healthy development.   

Ultimately, this intervention is accelerating the incorporation of new brain-science-informed strategies within programs that work with children and parents/caregivers. By boosting executive functioning two generations at a time, TFP and their partners are addressing the persistent social issues of ACEs and intergenerational cycles of poverty, making a lasting difference in the lives of families.

2021 Anti-Racism Initiative Award Recipient - YWCA St. Paul

YWCA St. Paul
YWCA St. Paul's mission is to eliminate racism and empower women, and it has been a champion for racial and gender equity in the community since 1907. It supports individuals and families in overcoming barriers and building a better future through programs focused in areas of significant racial and gender disparity. In its supportive housing, employment, and youth development programs, it served more than 1,100 women, men, and youth last year, 94 percent of whom are low-income people of color, primarily African American. YWCA St. Paul’s long-term commitment to serving this population is advanced by a diverse leadership team, staff, and board of directors reflective of the community it serves. Culturally specific services, tailored to best support those served, strengthen the impact and effectiveness of its programs. YWCA St. Paul’s Racial Justice Initiatives reached 3,500 people, and its Health & Fitness Center supports positive wellness habits for an average of 3,250 members annually.

Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, YWCA St. Paul expanded its work to provide educational programs on the history, legacy, and ongoing impact of racism and inspire action to eliminate racism. Their work unites community members, builds understanding, and calls out the systems, laws, and policies that have helped perpetuate inequitable outcomes for communities of color.

To help the many individuals and organizations looking for ways to further their understanding of racism and equity and drive positive change, YWCA St. Paul launched the ‘21-Day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge’ in June 2020. This unique and thought-provoking email series provided participants with daily curated articles, podcasts, videos, and activities covering four topics – voting, education, criminal justice reform, and health. It also included suggestions on actions individuals can take to advance racial and social equity. A second 21-Day Challenge took place this year covering reparations, housing, environmental racism, and gender-based violence. More than 3,500 individuals participated in the two campaigns. YWCA St. Paul facilitated group discussions for several organizations that participated in the Challenge.

In summer 2020, YWCA St. Paul held a virtual town hall on “Tackling Racism,” featuring distinguished community leaders Judge Pamela Alexander, James Burroughs, Justin Terrell, and Dr. Yohuru Williams which has reached nearly 600 community members. The panel provided context for understanding what racism is, how it has infiltrated laws and policy, how it impacts the day-to-day life of African American people, and what each of us can do to confront it.

Additionally, to promote better understanding of the impact of racism, YWCA St. Paul launched a monthly series of Equity and Justice Community Conversations in 2020. Reaching 700 attendees, the compelling virtual discussions set the groundwork for open dialog and sharing, learning, activism, and reform in a unique community forum. Topics have included homelessness and housing, voting and voter suppression, education, domestic violence, health and well-being, economic inclusion, and the status of women in Minnesota.

YWCA St. Paul also works with organizations to build their understanding of the history and dynamics of race and racism, and to strengthen equity within their organizations. After years of internal work, they began assisting other organizations in creating safe space for learning, challenging dialogue, and building equity.

YWCA St. Paul’s racial justice initiatives promote increased understanding and equip community members to fight racism and advocate for social justice. Because of their efforts, thousands of Minnesotans have been challenged by thought-provoking content exploring the history, legacy, and ongoing impact of racism. Participants have also been equipped to change their behavior and attitudes and take action to help build greater racial equity in our communities.

2021 Advocacy Award Recipient - League of Women Voters of Minnesota

LWVMN - 2020 Voter Registration Sue Hnastchenko and Husband Mike IMG_7033 (1)

The League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWVMN) was founded in 1919 after the passage of the 19th Amendment, which expanded voting rights for women. The organization’s mission is to empower voters and defend democracy by encouraging informed and active participation in government, working to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influencing public policy through education and advocacy.

LWVMN has 35 Leagues throughout Minnesota, with more than 3,000 members and supporters who share the organization’s vision for a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate. Together, the state and local leagues reach thousands of people each year through voter registration and outreach, candidate forums and guides, civics education and public forums, and legislative and legal advocacy to ensure that all voices are heard and fairly represented within our democracy.

LWVMN launched their “Vote from Home” advocacy campaign during the 2020 elections, which were severely affected by the global pandemic, with two main goals — for voters to stay safe AND stay engaged. To achieve these goals, LWMVN used three strong advocacy strategies to support voters in 2020:  

  • Civic Engagement: Created a branded education and communications campaign that helped communities stay informed, through a dynamic website, strong social media, yard signs, Vote411 Candidate Guide, and strong partnerships with organizations serving communities of color to help register and support voters.
  • Legislation: Successfully advocated at the state Capitol to get the Help America Vote Act funding (approved at the federal level) approved by our State Legislature, so funds could be released to the Secretary of State to support changes necessary to expand absentee voting and ensure safe elections.
  • Litigation: Participated in two major lawsuits to support their goals:
  • Latimer Tanniehill v. Simon (co-plaintiff): fought for flexible witness signature requirements during COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations – MN (CAIR-MN) v. Atlas Aegis (co-plaintiff): fighting voter intimidation from privately hired militias.

As a result of the Vote from Home Campaign:

  • Local Leagues were able to easily move this campaign forward in their local communities, thanks to the advocacy tool-kit and support provided by the State League.  
  • The Vote From Home tool-kit, due to its nonpartisan nature and adaptable tools, was able to be shared by many other organizations who were trying to help their constituents with the challenges of voting during 2020, including those serving ex-felons living in the community and our newly naturalized citizens.
  • Vote served nearly 95,000 users and was able to provide information on 7,732 candidates in 4,390 competitive races across the state.
  • HAVA funding was approved and used to support election safety and integrity.  
  • The witness signature requirement on the absentee ballot was removed for the 2020 election, making it significantly easier for all Minnesotans to vote from home. 
  • The company recruiting militias to “guard” our elections was forced to stand-down through the 2022 elections.  
  • Minnesota was first in the nation for voter turnout, with nearly 80 percent of registered voters casting their vote.

By working at the grassroots level in communities throughout the State of Minnesota, LWVMN’s statewide network of members and community partners have helped our state’s voters to access their voting rights and to feel confident about the outcomes of our elections.