Propel Shares Successes of NIGP at the Capitol

Propel Nonprofits

Earlier this legislative session, Propel Nonprofits was invited to the House Workforce Development Committee meeting to share the positive impacts our Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program is having on nonprofits and the sector. As we have highlighted here before, our Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program is working. Our visit to the capitol was to report back to legislators on the great work they are supporting, and the impact being felt in the strengthening of community-rooted nonprofits.

Garrett Backes, Propel Director of Advancement, Naima Farah, Propel Capacity Building Director, and Niila Hebert, Board Treasurer, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie an NIGP grantee shared program data and their experiences with the committee.

Propel staff, Garrett Backes and Naima Farah shared program updates and data, and Niila Herbert, Board Treasurer of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, an NIGP grantee, shared her experience with the program. Portions of their testimony are below.

NIGP and How It Is Working

Propel received appropriations from the State in 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2023 to create and sustain a grant program to build the capacity of small, culturally specific nonprofits. Small nonprofits face barriers in accessing and managing grants with State agencies and need technical assistance to gain knowledge and build the needed systems and policies. This program is a path to that readiness. Propel is committed to accountability for responsibly stewarding state dollars and holding organizations to high standards for fiscal management, reporting, and policies. The organizations in the program — currently 56 grantees across the state — consistently meet these standards.

A bit about where we’re at in the current NIGP program: After grantees were informed of their awards, the Capacity Build Team at Propel developed a comprehensive fiscal guide, training workshops, and 1:1 technical assistance with each grantee to build their fiscal programs. Propel’s team will continue to monitor and support them throughout the grant, as is our responsibility as administrator of this program. We have staff dedicated to providing this intensive technical assistance for grantee nonprofits to develop their fiscal policy.

Propel’s Director of Capacity Building Initiatives, Naima Farah, shares information about the Nonprofit Infrastructure Grant Program

Propel’s team did an immense amount of outreach to ensure nonprofits had the opportunity to access this infrastructure-building support. There are 56 grantee organizations, of which 23% serve Greater MN. The most common fields of service include Human Services, Community Development, and Education.

Download an impact sheet to learn more about NIGP

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie and NIGP

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie was awarded an NIGP grant in 2021 and 2023. In her testimony, Niila Hebert, Board Treasurer, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, said that Propel’s partnership had been essential to the organization’s success.

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie is a Black-led arts and culture organization that activates the power of connection for racial healing and change.

“We do this through the arts, community-building events and conversations about race, and through the Black cultural food tradition of the sweet potato pie,” Hebert said.

“What has been unique for us about Propel is that they have ‘gotten us’ from day one. They understand that funding local, cultural, creative organizations, even if they are just starting out, is imperative in these difficult times and in a state that is still contending with a lot of trauma. They understand that putting the power to heal and uplift into the hands of these community organizations is the way forward.”

-Niila Hebert, Board Treasurer, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie

Hebert cites Propel’s trainings, tools, expertise, and cohort-learning style programming for helping them strengthen their organization and become sustainable for the long term. For the organization, that means building out earned income service offerings, implementing financial systems in line with best practices, and improving their fundraising function.

Herbet offered the following anecdote to illustrate the impact of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie:

I will tell just one story, because we don’t just produce pies… last summer we produced a traveling play about Juneteenth called Kumbayah the Juneteenth story. We performed this play in Rochester, Minneapolis, St. Peter and St. Cloud. We got a note after the St. Cloud performance from an African American woman who wanted us to know that while sitting in the audience of that play she experienced a sense of belonging she had never felt before in St. Cloud. Her words were “this was the first time I felt at home in my new home town.” For her, knowing that the city was hosting this play meant everything, and we realized we had provided a way for the city to extend a welcome, to affirm a commitment to inclusion, to tell people their stories and history matters.

Propel is proud to partner with Sweet Potato Comfort Pie and all the NIGP organizations who are building better things for our communities all the time.

Thank You

Thank you to Chair Xiong and members of the committee to invite us to share the story of NIGP. We have deep appreciation for the opportunity. And our thanks to Representative Samantha Sencer-Mura, for being our lead author on bill 1080 to support NIGP in the 2023 session.

You can watch the full testimony here.

What’s Next for Propel at the Capitol

Propel has been engaged at the state capitol this session talking with legislators and testifying at committee hearings about the work of Propel in support of nonprofits, as well as seeking an appropriation to support nonprofits embarking on community facility projects. Learn more about our request of $497,000 for capital and technical assistance to support nonprofits with active facilities projects in our post Propel Requests State Direct Appropriation to Support Nonprofits with Capital Projects.

To talk more about our legislative work, reach out to Garrett Backes, Chief Advancement Officer.

Staff Author

Propel Nonprofits