The Northland Foundation was created to be an “on the ground” resource for Northeast Minnesota counties and Native nations within a shared geographic footprint.

Our History

In 1986, with key support from the McKnight Foundation and a team of state and regional leaders, the Northland Foundation was established. We were, and are now, one of six Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs, for short) which together cover all of Greater Minnesota.

We, along with our five MIF counterparts, are independent entities working to strengthen our rural regions with a distinct mix of grants, small business loans and entrepreneurship support, priorities, and initiatives. At times, we also collaborate to deliver resources and opportunities statewide. Today we are nationally recognized as a highly unique and successful model of rural philanthropy.

map showing the counties and Tribal nation lands within the northland foundation's service area

Area We Serve

The Northland Foundation works within seven Northeast Minnesota counties: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis, and all or parts of five Native nations: Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (District I), and Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe (District II).

This region is the traditional homelands of the Ojibwe, Dakota, Northern Cheyenne, and other Native nations. We humbly acknowledge that we are on traditional Indigenous land that holds a long history, one that continues to grow with the contemporary people who live here today. We invite you to learn more by reading the full land acknowledgement.

Since 1986


Number of Grants


Grant Dollars Awarded


Small Business Loans


Funds Raised for Our Region

To make this work possible, we raise funds from a wide range of partners, including government, foundations, businesses, service organizations, and individuals.

Moving Forward

Northland has grown from modest grantmaker to multi-faceted organization. The foundation is always evolving but stays grounded in the belief that, with the right resources, it is the people in communities who make positive, lasting change.

Grant funding, small business support, community-based programs, training, and convening are the tools we bring to the table.

In cooperation with many dedicated partners and guided by our Board of Trustees, the Northland Foundation continues to learn and grow. Together we are working toward a future where everyone feels they belong and can thrive.

From traditional, ancestral & contemporary lands of Ojibwe, Dakota, Northern Cheyenne & other Native people. See a more detailed acknowledgement of this land and its history.


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