From the desk of David Nelson: Our updated grantmaking priorities

We are beginning a new era at the Carlson Family Foundation as we work alongside the community to create opportunity, hope and a sense of belonging for every young person.

But first, I’d like to take a moment to thank our many partners who have been a part of this journey with us. It is because of their leadership, actions and advocacy that we are able to take our work to a new level –– together.

I also want to recognize these partners for inspiring us to move forward with positivity, hope and a vision of what is possible. The boldness of their actions makes our community a better place. Regardless of the challenges they face, our partners persist and act, and it is from their example that we’re inspired to act boldly, too.

Our approach to philanthropy – how we do what we do

In this moment, I continue to come back to the “how” –– how we approach the work, how we listen and learn, how we collaborate with our partners, how we live our values –– as the core of the Carlson Family Foundation.

How did we get to this moment? As part of our strategic planning process, we asked our community partners how they see us, and how we could be different. Then we listened. We sought out youth voices to discover where they needed more support. Then we listened. We asked how we could lift up the work of our partners in the community. And we continue to listen.

How do we find solutions? They live within the community. Throughout our entire strategic planning process, we’ve understood that our responsibility is to recognize and support community solutions in whatever way we can.

How do we ensure outcomes for youth are equitable, and not defined by race or a zip code? We are at the beginning of our journey as a Foundation – and as people – to better understand our role in changing systems and practices to ensure all young people have what they need to realize their dreams and full potential. And we are committed to continuous learning on issues of equity.

Our priorities – as guided by the community

As a result of what we heard from our partners and youth and community voices, we refined our grantmaking priorities and, in the case of Constellation, created something new. For Sex Trafficking Prevention and Vibrant Communities, we refined our goals and approach and look forward to welcoming new partners in the days ahead.

For Constellation, we created this new priority area in direct response to insights shared by the community. Constellation was created with the knowledge that young people need a constellation of caring adults in their lives to help them realize their dreams. On the most basic level, we all know that an active and engaged adult can make a world of difference for a young person. We can all remember the teachers, coaches and caregivers that believed in us and helped us realize that anything was possible.

When our longtime partner Search Institute shared their work on developmental relationships at their 60th anniversary event, they worked with Frameworks Institute to survey people on the street to gauge their thoughts on the importance of these relationships. Across the board, everyone agreed that young people need adults who care for them. When they were asked the next question, “What are some ways to make sure kids have good relationships?”, most people went blank. Some simply didn’t know. Most answers went no deeper than spending time together. For me, this moment solidified the need to equip adults with tools and resources so they can better support youth.

We believe this is incredibly important work, and we’re just getting started. In the coming months and years, we fully expect our strategies to continue to evolve based on our commitment to continuous learning. And as always, the voices of the community and youth themselves will guide us.

We hope that you feel equally inspired by our partners and energized by our collective vision for the future.

Carlson Family Foundation

Executive Director

David Nelson

C. David Nelson
Executive Director
Carlson Family Foundation

P.S. We recently hosted a Q&A session to answer questions about our funding priorities, the new LOI process and more. You can watch the full broadcast online.

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