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 for the 2022 Minnesota Nonprofit Mission Awards has closed. 

Advocacy Award

2022 Advocacy Finalists:

EdAllies  |  Foster Advocates  |  Greater Twin Cities United Way
EdAllies Picture

As a locally led, non-partisan statewide education advocacy nonprofit, EdAllies takes its name seriously by striving to be strong champions for students and supporting the adults who are working for students’ success. Partnerships are essential to everything EdAllies does. Transforming Minnesota’s education system can and must happen with communities. EdAllies is BIPOC-led and mission focused, working in coalition with a diverse range of over 100 partners annually —students, parents, educators, school leaders, other education and advocacy organizations, and other education stakeholders. Partners help to identify what needs to change for Minnesota students and, with community, EdAllies makes change happen.

While EdAllies has successfully advanced numerous student-centered policies over time, perhaps the best example of their successful advocacy work has been overhauling Minnesota’s teacher licensure system, which the Pioneer Press called “one of the biggest reforms to state education policy in recent history” and Minnesota’s teacher licensing agency’s Executive Director said is having an “effect on improving teacher diversity” in Minnesota.

After identifying licensure as a barrier for schools and teachers across the state, EdAllies spent years digging into the specifics of how state policy — and its implementation — was driving low recruitment and retention of teachers of color. For years, Minnesota’s broken teacher licensure system was a barrier for experienced, high-quality, and diverse educators contributing to a teaching corps that is 96 percent white. In response, EdAllies organized educators and advocates to transform the licensure system, designed policy, and worked with policymakers and researchers to eventually uproot Minnesota’s old licensure system and replace it with a simplified and more equitable one. In the next phase of this work, EdAllies will advocate for a strong educator pipeline in service of student success by more deeply interrogating how we recruit, prepare, and retain great and diverse teachers all while protecting the licensure pathways that have been successful at recruiting and retaining the teachers our students need.

This systemic shifting policy advocacy effort was years in the making, and students are already benefiting from the results.  Today, through advocacy including teacher licensure reform and beyond, the diversity of Minnesota’s teacher workforce has increased significantly – a 50 percent increase over the last 5 years. The most important benefit of the work of EdAllies and the organizational partners, students, educators, and advocates that they engaged with along the way, is the long- and short-term impact this successful advocacy effort will have on the students of Minnesota.

EdAllies is working to transform and reimagine Minnesota’s education system by putting students first, especially our historically underserved students. From local communities to the Capitol, EdAllies is relentless and fearless in its fight for kids, even when the wants of adults and institutions might conflict. Through spearheading policy campaigns, changing the public narrative about what’s needed and what’s possible in education, playing an active role in policy implementation, and ensuring good ideas become best practices, EdAllies drives the change to ensure Minnesota’s education system lives up to its promise. Kids deserve an education that allows them to thrive as adults - not only for the future and strength of our communities but also as a moral responsibility to our youngest Minnesotans.

Foster Advocates Collage

Foster Advocates was founded in 2018 to address the lack of advocacy organizations working to improve the foster care space in Minnesota and centering the lived experiences and voices of Fosters. The nonprofit creates a unique and outsized impact through relationships, research, and reform. Their work 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.

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

Knowing there are many issues affecting Fosters, and thanks to the guidance from their community board, Foster Advocates was charged with taking on three critical issues this year including: 

  • Establishing an Ombudsperson for Foster Youth (HF3845/SF4209): Children in out-of-home care have no choice but to rely on the state to ensure their basic needs are being met. The reality is that many Fosters are facing further harm while in foster care.
  • Social Security Survivor Benefits (HF3211/SF3955): When children enter foster care due to the death of a parent, they inherit SSI benefits to help them navigate the world alone. Under current law, child welfare agencies are allowed to take this money from foster youth to pay for their own care.
  • Maya’s Law (HF3971/SF4435): Maya’s Law will grant all children the right to be interviewed separately from the alleged offender when reporting abuse. As well as extend Fosters the right to always speak with their social worker without the presence of a caregiver.

As of May 11, the MN House and Senate officially passed the organizatin’s bill to Establish an Ombudsperson for Foster Youth and we join five other states in having a Foster-specific Ombudsperson. For the first time, Fosters will have a resource when they are not being appropriately served. At the time of this nomination, the organization’s other two bills are currently included in the Health & Human Services Omnibus bill.

Foster Advocates stands in solidarity with Fosters’ expertise at the forefront of our work, while also recognizing data as a critical piece to move systems. Unfortunately, Foster's outcomes and needs are not adequately measured. There are currently 14,000 Fosters in Minnesota. The data is staggering, especially when you look at the outcomes.  

  • 40 percent of Fosters experience homelessness within a year of aging out of the system.
  • Only 30 percent of Midwest Fosters enroll in post-secondary education by age 21.
  • Only two percent of Midwest Fosters were able to complete a two-year degree by the age of 21, while 60 percent of their peers have a four-year degree.

Foster Advocates’ legislative work this past session is just one small piece of the puzzle as we work towards addressing these disparities and outcomes. It takes a village. Without community, they could not have passed this bill to Establish an Ombudsperson for Foster Youth successfully in its first legislative attempt.  

GTCUW photo

Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW) unites changemakers, advocates for social good and develops solutions to address the challenges no one can solve alone — to create a region where all people thrive, regardless of income, race or place.

United Way fuels lasting community change through our 211 resource helpline, Suicide Prevention Lifeline, innovation initiatives, nonprofit partnerships, advocacy work with legislators, and business and individual donor partnerships. By intentionally investing in solutions that address household stability, educational success and economic opportunity, United Way is making a lasting and transformative impact throughout the Greater Twin Cities.   

Each year, GTCUW develops a Policy and Advocacy Agenda to guide our legislative priorities for session. To develop our 2022 agenda, in fall 2021, we solicited input from our 95 nonprofit partners. Their lead priorities reflect our top three agenda issues, which are preventing homelessness, advancing career pathways that support family sustaining wages, and addressing the benefits cliff — which occurs when a public benefit program quickly tapers off, or phases out completely, resulting from a small increase in household earnings. Addressing the benefits cliff was raised as a new, high-priority issue by our nonprofit partners.   

GTCUW also shows up as advocates with our  coalition partners. For example, working alongside more than 240 statewide organizations as part of the Homes for All coalition, United Way advocates for policies that support housing stability for all, including building momentum for affordable housing through bonding this session. Every spring, we co-host Advocacy Day for Children with the Start Early Funders Coalition, where hundreds of young children, parents and educators from across the state come together to ask legislators to prioritize Minnesota’s youngest children.

In 2021, GTCUW urged legislators to act quickly on issues important to our community, and our leadership resulted in several critical wins.

United Way strongly advocated for emergency rental assistance for Minnesotans experiencing financial hardships during the pandemic, as well as a reasonable off-ramp to the eviction moratorium. Lawmakers agreed on a new program, RentHelpMN, and over 200,000 callers contacted our 211 resource helpline to learn more and apply. Additionally, a 15-week phaseout of the eviction moratorium was adopted, requiring a 15-day pre-eviction notice and the provision that any tenant eligible for assistance with a pending RentHelpMN application cannot be evicted through June 1, 2022.   

The organization was highly vocal on behalf of our littlest Minnesotans, advocating to expand access to quality early childhood care and learning opportunities for families across the state and to support child care providers. With our parnters, we achieved a long-sought increase in funding for Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program, primarily for its reimbursements to child care providers for low-income households. This increase will allow more families to access the program, which already serves roughly 30,000 children each month, while providing much-needed stabilization for providers.   

COVID-19 has dramatically increased the need for local services from Minnesota’s nonprofits, yet organizations have struggled to stay afloat. GTCUW advocated for $50 million in federal emergency relief funds to support Minnesota’s nonprofit sector, so they can continue to address current needs and improve outcomes for communities. In April 2021, the organization’s president and CEO John Wilgers co-authored the MinnPost op-ed, “A smart investment in Minnesota: A nonprofit resiliency and recovery fund,” to raise awareness to this issue. In 2022, United Way increased this ask to $200 million, a measure that had bipartisan support but did not pass. We continue advocating for relief funding for our state’s nonprofit sector.