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Blandin Foundation

President and Chief Executive Officer
of Blandin Foundation

Ballinger Leafblad is pleased to conduct the
search for President & Chief Executive Officer at
Blandin Foundation, the largest rural-based and
rural-focused private foundation in Minnesota.
FOCUSED PRIVATE FOUNDATION in Minnesota and one of only a
handful nationally. It provides approximately $12 million in grants
each year and has nationally recognized community leadership
development, broadband and other programs. The Foundation
also convenes rural community leaders around critical issues such
as student success, diversity, equity and inclusion, and economic
development. The Foundation works throughout rural Minnesota
and maintains a special relationship with its home area.

In establishing the Foundation, Charles K. Blandin emphasized
flexibility to ensure it could adapt to changing times with an
underlying philosophy that its work should lead to “the betterment
of mankind.” Blandin established the Foundation in 1941 to aid and
promote Grand Rapids and the surrounding area.
The Foundation’s management and Board of Trustees work diligently
to ensure that Charles K. Blandin’s legacy is served through wise
investment and community focused leadership programs, meaningful

600 7,000
public policy engagement, and grant-making.

The legacy of Charles K. Blandin’s endowment truly shines when

paired with the passion of individuals within these communities. Minnesota Local leaders trained
Thousands of volunteers, social service professionals, business communities impacted. by Blandin Foundation.
people, public officials, emerging leaders, families, educators, peers
and others representing these communities are partnering to
create a better rural Minnesota..
$12M+ $400M+
In grants provided Distributed since
annually. inception.

Blandin Foundation has proudly made its home in Itasca County as a legally separate entity responsible for investing and
(north central Minnesota) for more than 75 years. This region growing the assets of the endowment in perpetuity. The
was the “wood basket” for the Grand Rapids-based Blandin Paper Foundation is the sole beneficiary of the Residuary Trust.
Company when it was owned by Foundation founder Charles K.
Blandin in the early 20th Century. Today the Foundation partners Blandin Paper Company was sold by the Trust in 1977. Today,
with these communities as they design and claim vibrant futures. Finland-based UPM owns the paper company. Blandin
The Foundation invests at least 60 percent of its grant-making in the Foundation continues to be private and independent of the
Itasca County area annually in addition to other programming. paper company.

While no longer legally affiliated in any way with the paper company, The Foundation has distributed more than $400 million
the communities of, and bordering, Itasca County continue to be the since it was founded in 1941. As of December 31, 2018 the total
primary focus of the Foundation’s resources. This includes several combined assets of the Trust and Foundation stood at $420
communities in the Leech Lake Ojibwe Nation. million.

The Foundation’s work in the home area is focused on building strong Grants in the local Grand Rapids/Itasca giving rea currently
relationships for all Itasca communities to be vibrant, thriving and average 74 percent with an average minimum of 60 percent
healthy. The Foundation supports a wide spectrum of partners and to be directed to the Foundation’s giving area.
initiatives, with emphasis given to those based on collaboration and
people facing inequities. Detailed information about Blandin Foundation’s financials
can be found here.


Charles K. Blandin Foundation, the formal name of Blandin
Foundation, is a private foundation based in Grand Rapids,
Minnesota. It is guided by the terms of the will of founder Charles
K. Blandin, who passed away in 1958 following distinguished careers
in education, publishing and paper-making, including owning the
Blandin Paper Company in Grand Rapids. Upon his death, Mr. Blandin
directed that his assets be used to strengthen rural communities,
especially the Grand Rapids area.

To accomplish this vision, Mr. Blandin established the foundation in

1941. The Charles K. Blandin Residuary Trust was established in 1958

Inclusion is Vital Healthy, inclusive, rural communities. Be a trusted partner & advocate
Integrity is Core to strengthen rural Minnesota
Relationships Matter
communities, especially the Grand
Rapids area.


The team at Blandin Foundation has invested deeply in developing
Blandin Foundation believes nothing truly worthwhile is ever its intercultural competency and applying a diversity, equity and
easy. At Blandin Foundation, the core of all work is based on the inclusion lens to its work over time. The staff believe in the power
belief that real communities are built on hard work, including the of inclusion and have made it central to who they are.
hard work of leadership, of genuine inclusion, of reaching across
boundaries and building lasting connections. On commitments— The Blandin Foundation team strives to address racial,
families facing hardship together, individuals prepared to make socio-economic and other systemic barriers that have led to
a stand when it matters most. And on belonging—that indelible marginalization and works to act as an advocate and voice for
sense of place called home. social justice. The organization works to be a trusted partner and
advocate to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially
That’s what Blandin Foundation is all about. Minnesotans the Grand Rapids area, knowing that communities cannot be
imagining, leading and growing healthy, inclusive, vibrant strong, healthy and vibrant unless they are working for, and
communities. The team at Blandin sees a world of possibilities in safe for, every person. This spirit guides the Foundation’s vision,
the state’s rural communities and is especially committed to the mission and values.
Itasca County area.
Since 2007, particularly, the Foundation board and staff have been
VALUES working intentionally on bringing diverse perspectives into the
As stewards of the Blandin Foundation legacy, Blandin organization, and developing internal intercultural competence.
Foundation commits to a leadership role on these deeply This learning has fundamentally impacted the culture of the
held beliefs: organization as well as the work the staff has done and will do
over time. The Foundation is committed to continuing its own
INCLUSION IS VITAL. Recognizing all people, voices and learning, working across all differences that make a difference,
worldviews as essential to healthy communities. and helping rural communities and their leaders do the same. The
RELATIONSHIPS MATTER. Encouraging courageous dialogue, trust, Foundation is committed to helping rural communities address
and reciprocity among partners to create positive change. structural barriers that reduce opportunities for all residents to
INTEGRITY IS CORE. Actions are guided by honesty, transparency thrive.
and trustworthiness.

To this end, Blandin Foundation staff members have used planful Blandin Foundation provides services and programs, that,
training, assessments (the industry-leading IDI) and courageous in addition to grants, further the mission and vision of the
conversations to further this work. The organization has been organization.
intentional about recruiting diverse board members and staff and LEADERSHIP
continues its journey toward diversity, equity and inclusion on a
Healthy community is a place to live where all people can meet
daily basis.
their economic, social, physical, cultural and spiritual needs, work
together for the common good, and participate in creating their
Blandin Foundation is seeking a CEO who can continue to lead the
Foundation on its journey of learning and working to strengthen
inclusion and equity within the organization and in all rural
Since 1985, Blandin’s community leadership programs have trained
Minnesota communities.
more than 7,000 leaders who reside in approximately 600 rural
Minnesota communities. The leadership program includes week
Please link to Blandin Foundation’s Theory of Philanthropy here.
long retreats, workshops, and ongoing support for participants.
The programs have engaged with partners across the state in
The culture at Blandin Foundation is positive and collaborative. working with rural communities and leaders from all sectors to
Staff members describe the culture as: not only carry out training, but evolve programs to reflect current
» Supportive/relationships matter rural developments and feedback from participants.
» Family friendly/person-centered
» Welcoming/fun BRCLP is a thoughtfully crafted training opportunity that
» Pride in work/view a vocation, not just a job provides deeper learning about individual and community
» Tolerant/learning environment strengths, and techniques for building social capital and
» Non-hierarchical/team-based mobilizing resources and power within the framework of Native
American cultures, both Ojibwe and Dakota. It aims to leverage
leaders’ personal strengths and community assets they can rely on
and grow forward from.


Leadership in Ethnically Diverse Communities (LEDC) is a
program designed to increase the capacity of rural leaders to
develop and sustain healthy, inclusive communities and reduce
systemic racial and cultural barriers. All of the sessions take place
in the participating community and help community members
sharpen their skills around supporting a healthy, inclusive

community. A participating community first commits to helping Blandin’s community meeting spaces host many diverse and
the Foundation recruit a diverse applicant pool for the 34-person engaged organizations encompassing Itasca County’s robust
cohort. The selected group of participants then spends a year community engagement
learning together at seven monthly training sessions.
EDUCATION GRANTS Blandin Foundation convenes people around issues critical to
Educational attainment is one of Blandin Foundation’s main areas rural Minnesota’s vitality. The Foundation is engaged at the state
of focus. When he established the Foundation, Charles K. Blandin, level on issues that pave the way for advances emerging in rural
who himself did not earn a college degree, placed high value on Minnesota, such as early childhood, broadband, vital forests,
putting educational opportunities within reach for students who etc. Through a variety of research projects, such as the Rural
had the determination, but not the means, to accomplish that Pulse survey (see, the Foundation seeks and
goal. amplifies the voices of rural residents.

In 1956, the Foundation awarded its first education grants to two

area students. Today, Blandin Foundation continues that legacy
through its Education Grants program.

Each year, hundreds of students from Itasca County area schools

are awarded need-based grants to continue their education
at community college, college or university, trade schools and
certificate programs throughout the United States. More than
18,000 education grants totaling more than $26 million have been
awarded to thousands of area students since 1956.


Blandin’s meeting spaces are one way it puts two core values —
Inclusion is Vital, and Relationships Matter — into action.
The meeting rooms available for community use carry two names:
one in English, one in Ojibwemowin and Anishinaabe language.
This is an opportunity for the Foundation to share with all its
partners a small piece of the culture that prospered in the Itasca
area long before Charles Blandin, and continues to thrive.


Blandin Foundation is both a responsive and strategic grant-maker and

welcomes applications from current and potential grantees working to
strengthen rural Minnesota communities, with investment concentration
in three primary strategic areas of focus.

Blandin Foundation’s most substantial and broadest form of grant- Blandin Foundation offers grants to support community leaders
making occurs in the Itasca area. It supports work that helps meet as they think holistically and act collaboratively on systems-level
the economic, social, physical, cultural and spiritual/wellness needs issues they have identified as critical to the health and resiliency of
of Itasca-area residents. their community.

This includes supporting organizations that: This includes supporting organizations that:

» Prioritize collaboration: diverse people and organizations work

together to achieve a common goal. Examples: Invest Early and » Inform and connect community leaders to issues relevant among
Beacon Hill Supportive Housing rural Minnesotans: leaders stay current on topics, trends and issues
that impact their communities. Examples: What’s Left (an exhibit on
» Engage those needed to create the intended change: leaders seek mental illness and suicide) and MinnPost’s Immigrant Communities
and include a variety of perspectives, especially those directly Reporting Project
affected by the problem. Examples: KOOTASCA’s Circles of Support » Support and sustain networks of rural leaders: leaders are
and Kiesler Wellness Center equipped with skills and abilities to strengthen their communities
and/or lead on diversity, equity and inclusion. Examples: Minnesota
» Resourcefully build on existing community assets: community Network of Community Developers, Better OUTcomes for LGBTQI,
context is taken into consideration, has several sources of funding, and the American Indian Oyate Network
and demonstrates community support. Examples: Itasca County » Equip Blandin Leadership Program alumni to move forward a
YMCA’s Active Living Center and the Deer River Full Service cohort-identified idea: leaders take courageous action to address
Community School project barriers in their community, especially socio-economic, racial and
cultural barriers. Each community cohort is eligible for three $5,000
grants and are encouraged to use the program-specific guidelines
and applications.Examples: Chisholm Kids Plus and MNyou Youth


Engage broader sections of the current or potential workforce: create or

expand educational and employment opportunities, especially for youth
and people who have been persistently excluded. Examples: Women’s
Foundation girlsBEST program and Northern Opportunity Works
Use existing assets in creative ways: incorporate a community’s economic
strengths in new ways to innovate based on existing enterprises and
cultural, creative, or natural assets. Examples: Rural Entrepreneurial
Venture Program and Greater Bemidji’s LaunchPad.

Forge stronger relationships between education and employment

systems: two or more entities work together to improve educational and
employment outcomes for people living in rural Minnesota. Examples:
Minnesota innovation Institute and AEOA Adult Scholarship Program




The President and CEO of Blandin Foundation is responsible for providing leadership and management to the overall staff, program and
administrative activities of the organization. The President and CEO works closely with the Board to develop and implement the Foundation’s
vision, mission and strategies and is responsible for the effective use of financial, human and other assets of the Foundation. They will
represent the Foundation at local, statewide and national levels and will promote and foster general public awareness and understanding of the
Foundation, its mission, and its strategies. The President and CEO will work to maintain recognition of Blandin Foundation as an outstanding
model of philanthropy on a state, local, and national level.

The President and CEO reports directly to the Board of Trustees. The officers of Vice President, Director of Administrative Services and
Director of Finance report to the President and CEO. A total of 33 people work in the organization.

• Develop and maintain relationships within the local community.
• Develop and maintain collaborations and partnerships with other foundations, government and key organizations both within
Minnesota and nationally
• Provide leadership to the Senior Management Team in the completion of annual program planning, goal setting and budgeting.
• Present annual organizational work plan and budget to the Board and ensure that budgets are within the financial distribution
targets established by the Board.
• Ensure that grant requests presented to the Board fall within the mission, vision and strategy established by the Board and are
presented succinctly with a staff recommendation.
• Provide visionary and innovative leadership to the staff at Blandin Foundation.
• Maintain a leadership style focused on growth, development, goal setting and coaching.
• Ensure the Foundation has a sufficient staffing level of competent and well-trained personnel to effectively implement the vision
and goals established by the Board.
• Ensure that management systems and policies are in place to hire, develop, and retain team members with the necessary skills and
experience to accomplish organizational goals.
• Develop and maintain an inclusive working environment and positive, team-oriented, inclusive organizational culture.
• Ensure each staff member has an appropriate professional development plan.




Accountabilities, cont’d.
• Ensure that a long-term strategic plan exists informed by the Senior Leadership Team input and approved by the Board.
• Ensure that the Chair of the Board and Board committees receive requested information and administrative assistance to develop
meeting agendas and conduct productive and efficient meetings.
• Ensure that the Board is informed in a timely manner regarding significant issues, events, opportunities and challenges relating to
the Foundation and implementation of the mission.

Blandin Foundation seeks the following skills and experience in the fully-qualified candidate:
• Executive leadership experience at a complex organization
• Rural leadership experience
• Experience in organizational visioning and strategic planning
• Advocacy and community organizing
• Senior management and organizational leadership, preferably holding executive or senior management positions.
• Public speaking and community outreach
• Ambassadorship and relationship building with stakeholders at all levels
• Leadership of equity and inclusion efforts with a preference for experience with the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory)
• Community building/economic development
• Advocacy/partnerships with Tribal Governments and a commitment to nurturing those relationships
• Experience/expertise in leadership development, organizational development, staff professional development and board
• Program conceptualization, design, development, delivery, evaluation and assessment experience
• Budgeting, planning and identifying new revenue sources
• Developing relationships across socioeconomic lines and a commitment to engaging low income people in ongoing conversations
for the betterment of rural Minnesota
• Cultural competence and ability to nurture and build relationships with diverse communities
• Embrace systems change for equitable outcomes



Qualifications, cont’d.
• Willingness to serve as an active advocate among Indigenous communities
• Clear understanding of economic development issues
• Networking abilities with other nonprofits, organizations and leaders
• Be a good listener
• Possess a genuine sense of humility
• Be willing to leverage the skills of others and develop the Blandin Foundation team
• Demonstrate a passion for rural communities and their unique challenges/opportunities
• Be an enthusiastic, outward facing ambassador for the Foundation and build new relationships
• Serve as a “host” to the community and nurture a welcoming environment
• Serve as an advocate for social justice and equity
• Serve as an active leader in the community and help prepare the community to embrace change
• Be a coalition builder
• Be intentionally inclusive
• Be an innovative thought leader
• Possess lived experience in rural communities
• Be realistic and pragmatic, yet willing to be creative and have vision
Blandin Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and believes each individual is entitled to equal employment opportunities
without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, national origin, age, veteran status, religious
beliefs, or disability. The right of equal employment opportunity extends to recruiting, hiring selection, transfer, promotion, training
and all other conditions of employment.



recreational opportunities, pristine lakes, affordable housing and great schools
make Grand Rapids a community folks are proud to call home. Not to mention
short commute times and a cozy population of just over 10,000.

Located just three hours north of the Twin Cities and an hour and a half from
Duluth, Grand Rapids is the southern gateway to the Chippewa National
Forest and also serves as Itasca County’s county seat.

The four distinct seasons in Grand Rapids are not only beautiful, but full of
recreational choices. In the spring, summer and fall enjoy golf, hiking, biking,
swimming, hunting, or simply relax with a summer breeze on the shore of one
of the hundreds of regional lakes.

1,000+ 200+ 4,583

Miles of groomed Acres of city parks, Natural lakes and
ski trails. fields, and playgrounds. waterways.

When the snow falls, it’s time to grab your snowmobile and travel on the more
than 1,000 miles of groomed trails, hit one of many cross-country ski trails or
try your hand at the Great Minnesota Pastime - ice fishing.

It’s easy to see why Grand Rapids, situated on the Mississippi, is noted as one
of the“100 Best Small Towns in America.” It has an abundance of recreational
opportunities, shopping, dining, natural beauty and so much more. The City
of Grand Rapids is home to 200-plus acres of parks and nearly 50 miles of city
trails for recreational pleasure. Throughout the city, park facilities offer a wide
variety of uses including softball and baseball fields, soccer fields, playground
equipment, pavilions, picnic areas, basketball courts, horseshoe courts, tennis
courts, outdoor hockey and skating facilities, water access, fishing piers and
lighted ski trails.

The Mesabi Trail boasts more than 135 miles of the planned 155 miles of paved
trail done. When finished (it is currently 85 percent complete), the trail will
reach from Grand Rapids to Ely - the Mississippi to the Boundary Waters.
Take a closer look and you’ll find there’s a lot more to Grand Rapids than just a
popular vacation/outdoor destination. A strong and diversified economy drives
the region and the Grand Rapids area also takes pride in its cultural heritage,
community service and its vision for tomorrow.


When it comes to culture, there is none that runs deeper than that of the Leech
Lake Band of Ojibwe Indian Reservation. One of the highlights of indigenous
heritage is the Mii Gwitch Mahnomen Days Annual Traditional Pow Wow in
Deer River, where people come together to sing, dance, socialize and honor a
culture so deeply rooted in the region.

Each October Grand Rapids also hosts Indigenous People’s Day. Located
between Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, Bois Forte and Mille Lacs reservations, The Reif Performing Arts Center opens its doors to
the city hosts an event to acknowledge and celebrate the traditions of the a wide variety of art experiences from live music
Knowledge Keepers of the region and uphold their interminable relationship to to theatre and dance as well as an art gallery. Each
the land. year the center hosts more than 50 national and
international touring performances. The Reif is also
Itasca Community College Multicultural Student Affairs office supports home to the Reif Dance Program which is open to
activities to improve the retention of students of color and sustain a campus students of all ages.
environment that promotes racial tolerance. The ICC American Indian student
organization, O-Gitch-I-Dah Club and the ICC Minority Student Club offer The MacRostie Art Center offers art classes, displays
opportunities for the on-campus club participation and leadership skill and gift shop featuring regional artists’ works. The
development. In addition to sponsoring scholarships and other advisement center focuses its work the philosophy that Art
related duties, these clubs also have sponsored the following activities: encourages community growth. It gives courage,
breaks boundaries, and kindles empathy. It inspires
Activities that honor and recognize November as Native American Heritage creative thinking, revels in diversity, and shapes new
Month featuring nationally known speakers and performing artists connections. The center exists on the belief that public
American Indian Student Academic Awards Dinner, recognizing those students art and a culture of curiosity are hallmarks of a vibrant
who are making outstanding academic progress community, and that the artists who live and work in
Indian Fry Bread Taco Day Itasca County should be supported and valued.
Annual ICC pow-wow, featuring drummers and dancers from the Bug O Nay Ge And, of course, Grand Rapids is widely known as the
Shig “Silver Eagle” Drum and Dance group as well as members from the local birth place of Judy Garland and museum bearing her
community. name. The museum houses the world’s largest
Judy Garland and Wizard of Oz collection, the restored Historic House, the Deer River is home to many indigenous families, is one of
Children’s Discovery Museum, beautiful gardens and the Lincoln Carriage, the most diverse communities in northern Minnesota.
featured in “The Wizard of Oz” which was pulled by the “horse of a different Keewatin is on the far eastern edge of Itasca County. It
color.” is home to U.S. Steel’s Keetac taconite mining operation,
which is one of the largest employers in the county.
Historic Central School, located in downtown Grand Rapids, was built in 1895 in Keewatin businesses draw workforce from across Itasca
the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. The three-story building County and neighboring St. Louis County.
served as an elementary school from 1895 to 1972. A community effort restored
the building in 1984 after its listing on the National Register of Historic Places Nashwauk is a historic community located off Highway
in 1977. Central School has been managed by City of Grand Rapids since its 169 in eastern Itasca County. The town features a 20-acre
restoration, as a multi-tenant location for commerce, culture and community industrial park and is home to Nashwauk-Keewatin High
events. Central School is situated on a full block in the center of the downtown School. It sits next to one of the richest untapped taconite
business district. deposits on the Iron Range.

The Forest History Center, a 1900 Logging Camp where costumed guides
recreate life in the woods at the turn of the century is a draw for visitors
and residents alike. On the first full weekend in August, Tall Timber Days
takes place. This is an open air festival, complete with sawing contests,
demonstrations and booths featuring crafts and ethnic foods.
During the last weekend in July, vintage cars are shown and traded at the Car
Show and Swap Meet. The Itasca County Fair takes place each year in mid-

Grand Rapids and surround communities offer much in the way of quality of
life, in a safe community with so much to offer.

Cohasset is Itasca County’s second-largest town and nestles along the banks
the Mississippi River between the Chippewa National Forest and Grand Rapids.
It combines river and lakefront living with major business assets such as the
Cohasset Industrial Park and Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center. This
growing community offers the best of all worlds.

Bigfork in an edge of the wilderness community and Itasca County’s northern

hub. This small town is home to a world-class hospital and a focal point for
the county’s forestry industry. Countless acres of state and national forest
surround the community, and Scenic State Park is just a few miles away.

Marcia Ballinger, PhD Holly Kelsey-Henry

Co-Founder/Principal Vice President
651-341-4840 715-372-4826