The Sauer Family Foundation invests in strengthening the well-being of children so they thrive in their families and communities in Minnesota. After the events at George Floyd Square unfolded not far from our office and home, we decided there was no better time to bring a larger influx of our resources to bear for children and families in our community.

Power sharing: We made the commitment to put $100M in the community over the next ten years, with an intentional focus on:

  1. Targeted racial disparities in child welfare.
  2. Diversifying the workforce in our areas of funding, where most of the professionals are white.

Twenty-five years ago, the foundation approached giving by having family members nominate nonprofits who were doing good work. When Colleen O’Keefe came onboard as executive director in 2005, she saw the nonprofits were doing good work. However, she suggested we could have more impact if we were more focused on specific issues. It took the foundation a while, but she got us there.

Finding Our Foundation’s Focus

The foundation began thinking about root causes for areas we were funding, like homeless youth. We asked ourselves: What’s happening? Why are these young people ending up here? Can we go further upstream to stop it from happening?  For homeless youth, the data showed us that over 50% had been in the child welfare system (child protection or foster care) at some time before becoming homeless. So, we started looking into child welfare.

In 2020, the board and staff engaged in strategic planning, helping create our current focus. We do our best work when we bring together our board members’ passion with the needs of the community. Roughly every couple of years, we reflect on what the foundation has learned so far, and how that might change the way we work going forward.

Addressing Systemic Racism

We’re not far from George Floyd square. After last summer’s racial reckoning, we went on a steep learning tour concerning systemic racism in Minnesota. It was an awakening for how we focus our work. We found that Native American children are 16.8 times as likely to experience foster care than white children, and Black children are 2.6 times as likely. We have focused our child welfare work on the disproportionality of negative outcomes for American Indian and African American children in our state.

Read the full article about power sharing by Pat Sauer at Exponent Philanthropy.