Advocacy Finalists

This Mission Award for Advocacy recognizes advocacy as one of the most effective and unique roles of nonprofit organizations. Nominated organizations should:

  • Implement an effective advocacy strategy;
  • Demonstrate success in its advocacy efforts; and
  • Have a significant impact on the organization's constituency.
Voting has closed for the 2023 Mission Awards. Thank you!

2023 Advocacy Logo
Foster Advocates

Foster Advocates was founded in 2018 to address the lack of advocacy organizations working to improve the foster care space in Minnesota. Seeking to create a unique and outsized impact through relationships, research, and reform, the organization serves the 14,000 current and uncounted former Fosters across Minnesota, recognizing the disproportionate impacts on BIPOC and queer youth and centering the leadership of young people, primarily those aged 18-26, with lived experience across the intersections of foster care.

At Foster Advocates, they empower young people by lifting them up and creating space for them to share their stories as they collectively work together towards meaningful change. With the growth of their Foster network, in fall 2021 the organization launched its Community Board, a leadership program for Fosters to lead policy efforts and serve as the moral compass in all that they do on behalf of the larger Minnesota Foster community.

Through the guidance of the Community Board, Foster Advocates identified, prioritized, and passed five bills in five years. Last legislative session, they helped pass a bill that established an Ombudsperson for Foster Youth. Previously, children in out-of-home care had no choice but to rely on the state to ensure their basic needs were being met. The reality is that many Fosters are facing further harm while in foster care. With the creation of the Office of the Ombudsman, Foster Advocates hopes to provide critical support and oversight in this role that is currently being implemented.  

Additionally, the organization passed the Fostering Higher Education Act that provides free college tuition (both two-year technical and four-year traditional) to individuals that have been in the Minnesota foster care system. Fostering Independence Grants (FIG), which allow Fosters to access this opportunity, were made available Fall of 2022 and throughout this academic year 489 Fosters in Minnesota have taken advantage of pursuing their dreams of an education.   

Most recently, during the 2023 legislative session, Foster Advocates championed the Survivor Benefits bill that would stop the current practice of counties seizing social security and retirement benefits from Fosters who have lost a parent. The proposed legislation would not only immediately work to halt this issue, but would create a trust for the funds to be accessed by Fosters upon their 18th birthday and repay the funds that were stolen from Fosters.

Foster Advocates’ research has shown that an estimated 1,400 children in foster care are eligible for federal Supplemental Social Security Income, largely due to receiving Survivor Benefits because of the death of a parent. However, under current law, child welfare agencies take this money and make children pay for their own foster care. Ending this practice and returning this significant investment back to Fosters can provide crucial economic stability for a population that faces multiple barriers, especially when the data in Minnesota shows us that 40% of Fosters transition into homelessness once they age out of care.

Foster Advocates is pushing to end this practice of theft and provide Fosters with the financial resources they are owed. This is not only a legal and moral issue, but this is also an equity issue. Fosters are OUR children. It is our responsibility to do right by them.

Gender Justice photo

Gender Justice advocates at the Minnesota State Capitol

Gender Justice works to advance gender equity through the law. We envision a world where everyone can thrive regardless of their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Step by step, Gender Justice is creating that world by dismantling legal, structural, and cultural barriers that contribute to gender inequity.

The organization works across the state of Minnesota on behalf of women, girls, transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary people, LGBQ people, and anyone who faces gender injustice. Gender Justice prioritizes efforts that expand justice for those with the least access to it, including low-income, immigrant, and rural workers; transgender people; and people of color experiencing compounded discrimination at the intersection of racism and sexism/misogyny.

Our country is facing the most significant attacks on bodily autonomy, abortion access, and transgender rights – targeting transgender children – ever. Gender Justice has stepped up to meet this moment, building a track record of innovative work to advance gender equity. Since the organization was founded in 2010, Gender Justice has built a powerful model that combines impact litigation, policy advocacy, public education, movement building, grassroots organizing, and narrative change. This model has led to sweeping changes for gender equity in Minnesota. In recent years, Gender Justice has won historic victories for trans rights and abortion access and is poised to win a critical case to protect access to emergency contraception.

Gender Justice brings cases that make a point and is not afraid to rock the boat when necessary. In NH v. Anoka Hennepin School District, Gender Justice persuaded the Minnesota Court of Appeals to create a clear legal precedent for every school: If you discriminate against transgender students by barring them from using the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity, you are violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Minnesota Constitution. This year, Gender Justice announced a huge victory for transgender rights in sports, winning a case in District Court against USA Powerlifting for banning trans women. Gender Justice is also currently representing a transgender woman who was discriminated against by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

In 2022, a District Court ruled in Gender Justice's favor in Doe v. MN, a case filed in 2019. This historic ruling expanded the right to abortion care in Minnesota just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The court held that the Minnesota Constitution protects not just a fundamental right to choose abortion, but also a fundamental right to access abortion care and blocked enforcement of several laws restricting abortion access.

Gender Justice also provides tools to ensure transgender students and their families can advocate for their rights in school and engages in policy advocacy on a range of important issues. Gender Justice is a leading member of UnRestrict Minnesota, the only multi-racial, cross-sector coalition working to protect, expand, and destigmatize access to abortion care and reproductive healthcare in Minnesota. This year, Gender Justice was instrumental in passing critical legislation that overturned Minnesota’s abortion restrictions and dismantled 50 years of anti-abortion policies. Gender Justice also helped pass legislation to protect patients and providers of abortion access and gender affirming care from out of state attacks.

Gender Justice is leading the fight to ensure that people of all genders have a meaningful right to bodily autonomy, safety, health, and opportunity.


Phumulani is a resources-based nonprofit dedicated to providing culturally specific services for women that are survivors of domestic violence and abuse in the African diaspora. The organization’s mission is to bring independence and sustainable resources to the women they serve so they can live high-quality lives, helping to eliminate disparities and bridge barriers in historically traumatized immigrant communities.

Founded in 2017, by an African Immigrant survivor of domestic violence, Phumulani Minnesota African Women against Violence is the first culturally specific nonprofit established by a survivor of African heritage to address the missing gaps in the service provision of violence prevention. Their wide-ranging services include providing Crisis Advocacy, Safety Plans, Individual and Group Counseling; liaising with law enforcement, employers, and educational institutions; criminal justice and legal advocacy; immigration assistance; medical care support and advocacy; housing and food assistance; and so much more. 

In 2019, Phumulani received funds from the Bush Foundation’s first Bush Community Innovation Fund, which allowed the organization to reach out to over 2,250 community members at the peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Phumulani’s Healing Circle project in 2019 recognized domestic violence activists who work with African Immigrant communities, including Somalia, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mali, Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, and East and Central as well as West African countries.  We successfully recruited and trained facilitators with key characteristics above all others, compassion, empathy, compelling, communication skills, and experience working with domestic violence survivors.

Phumulani’s Healing Circles’ program saw a remarkable 89% graduation rate with all participants, while also spurring a call from community members for more Healing Circles that are expanded both men and women, as well as youth. The organization also had some participants who reported de-escalation of suicide ideation and substance use, due to the feeling of community, and to date, they have over a dozen core women’s groups that have continued to gather due to this initial project.

This past year, Phulumani made funding available to women and young girls for approximately 151 individual women ($1,800 a month per woman) and 75 women and children ($1,900 a month). The organization also provided access to a full range of social services for women and families transitioning into stable housing before, during, and after the transition. Phumulani has successfully advocated for Domestic Violence Housing First. We continue to advocate on behalf of those who due to the endemic nature of structural racism, have challenges accessing housing.

Phumulani believes in the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go further, go as a community”, and we value our working collaborative partnerships to leverage the highest level of impact. Community Partners, include: the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS); the Minnesota African Women Association (MAWA); the African Minnesota Women Awareness Group (AMWAG); Voice of East African Women; Minnesota Humanities Center; Cultural Wellness Center; Standpoint; Youth link Minnesota: From Homeless to Hopeful; Sexual Violence Center; WISE; and Oromo Community Center. They are also a member program of national and local Domestic Violence prevention coalition (Violence Free Minnesota, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault).