In 2016 the Foundation acknowledged that a large proportion of its grants budget was already committed to multi-year grants, and that a challenging investment environment was expected to continue. The result was a significant short-term reduction in dollars available for new grants.
This dynamic provided the impetus to experiment with a different kind of impact: deeper in an issue area, rather than broad across many facets of the nonprofit sector. For 2017 and 2018, the Foundation tried to increase its impact in St. Cloud through a more focused grant program, limiting new grant awards to the early childhood area. The Foundation did not conduct its usual open, competitive grant application process in 2017 and 2018.
Early childhood was selected because of promising community efforts already underway, the wisdom of early investment in preventing or mitigating problems later, and the interests of Foundation board members. The Foundation also hoped to be able to identify appropriate funding opportunities to make a tangible difference, given an estimated new grants budget of about $300,000 over two years.