Grand Rapids, Minnesota

President and Chief Executive Officer, Blandin Foundation

The Organization

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.

The Foundation is the largest rural-based and rural-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 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. Thousands of volunteers, social service professionals, business people, public officials, emerging leaders, families, educators, peers and others representing these communities are partnering to create a better rural Minnesota.

Blandin Foundation has proudly made its home in Itasca County (north central Minnesota) for more than 75 years. This region was the “wood basket” for the Grand Rapids-based Blandin Paper Company when it was owned by Foundation founder Charles K. Blandin in the early 20th Century. Today the Foundation partners with these communities as they design and claim vibrant futures. The Foundation invests at least 60 percent of its grant-making in the Itasca County area annually in addition to other programming. While no longer legally affiliated in any way with the paper company, the communities of, and bordering, Itasca County continue to be the primary focus of the Foundation’s resources. This includes several communities in the Leech Lake Ojibwe Nation.

The Foundation’s work in the home area is focused on building strong relationships for all Itasca communities to be vibrant, thriving and healthy. The Foundation supports a wide spectrum of partners and initiatives, with emphasis given to those based on collaboration and people facing inequities.

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 as a legally separate entity responsible for investing and growing the assets of the endowment in perpetuity. The Foundation is the sole beneficiary of the Residuary Trust.

Blandin Paper Company was sold by the Trust in 1977.  Today, Finland-based UPM owns the paper company. Blandin Foundation continues to be private and independent of the paper company.

The Foundation has distributed more than $400 million since it was founded in 1941. As of December 31, 2018 the total combined assets of the Trust and Foundation stood at $420 million. Grants in the local Grand Rapids/Itasca giving area currently average 74 percent with an average minimum of 60 percent to be directed to the Foundation’s giving area.

Detailed information about Blandin Foundation’s financials can be found here:

Blandin Foundation believes nothing truly worthwhile is ever easy. At Blandin Foundation, the core of all work is based on the belief that real communities are built on hard work, including the hard work of leadership, of genuine inclusion, of reaching across boundaries and building lasting connections. On commitments—families facing hardship together, individuals prepared to make a stand when it matters most. And on belonging—that indelible sense of place called home.

That’s what Blandin Foundation is all about. Minnesotans imagining, leading and growing healthy, inclusive, vibrant communities. The team at Blandin sees a world of possibilities in the state’s rural communities and is especially committed to the Itasca County area.

As stewards of the Blandin Foundation legacy, Blandin Foundation commits to a leadership role on these deeply held beliefs:

INCLUSION IS VITAL. Recognizing all people, voices and worldviews as essential to healthy communities. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER. Encouraging courageous dialogue, trust, and reciprocity among partners to create positive change. INTEGRITY IS CORE. Actions are guided by honesty, transparency and trustworthiness.

The team at Blandin Foundation has invested deeply in developing its intercultural competency and applying a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to its work over time. The staff believe in the power of inclusion and have made it central to who they are.

The Blandin Foundation team strives to address racial, socio-economic and other systemic barriers that have led to marginalization and works to act as an advocate and voice for social justice. The organization works to be a trusted partner and advocate to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, knowing that communities cannot be strong, healthy and vibrant unless they are working for, and safe for, every person. This spirit guides the Foundation’s vision, mission and values.

Since 2007, particularly, the Foundation board and staff have been working intentionally on bringing diverse perspectives into the organization, and developing internal intercultural competence.  This learning has fundamentally impacted the culture of the organization as well as the work the staff has done and will do over time. The Foundation is committed to continuing its own learning, working across all differences that make a difference, and helping rural communities and their leaders do the same. The Foundation is committed to helping rural communities address structural barriers that reduce opportunities for all residents to thrive.

To this end, Blandin Foundation staff members have used planful training, assessments (the industry-leading IDI) and courageous conversations to further this work. The organization has been intentional about recruiting diverse board members and staff and continues its journey toward diversity, equity and inclusion on a daily basis.

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 Minnesota communities. Please reference Blandin Foundation’s Theory of Philanthropy here:

The culture at Blandin Foundation is positive and collaborative.

Staff members describe the culture as:

• Supportive/relationships matter

• Family friendly/person-centered

• Casual/authentic

• Welcoming/fun

• Pride in work/view a vocation, not just a job

• Tolerant/learning environment

• Non-hierarchical/team-based

Blandin Foundation provides services and programs, that, in addition to grants, further the mission and vision of the organization.

Healthy community is a place to live where all people can meet their economic, social, physical, cultural and spiritual needs, work together for the common good, and participate in creating their future.

Since 1985, Blandin’s community leadership programs have trained more than 7,000 leaders who reside in approximately 600 rural Minnesota communities. The leadership program includes week long retreats, workshops, and ongoing support for participants.

The programs have engaged with partners across the state in working with rural communities and leaders from all sectors to not only carry out training, but evolve programs to reflect current rural developments and feedback from participants.


BRCLP is a thoughtfully crafted training opportunity that provides deeper learning about individual and community strengths, and techniques for building social capital and 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 the Foundation recruit a diverse applicant pool for the 34-person cohort. The selected group of participants then spends a year learning together at seven monthly training sessions.

Educational attainment is one of Blandin Foundation’s main areas of focus. When he established the Foundation, Charles K. Blandin, who himself did not earn a college degree, placed high value on putting educational opportunities within reach for students who had the determination, but not the means, to accomplish that goal.

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’s community meeting spaces host many diverse and engaged organizations encompassing Itasca County’s robust community engagement.

Blandin Foundation convenes people around issues critical to rural Minnesota’s vitality. The Foundation is engaged at the state level on issues that pave the way for advances emerging in rural Minnesota, such as early childhood, broadband, vital forests, etc. Through a variety of research projects, such as the Rural Pulse survey (see, the Foundation seeks and amplifies the voices of rural residents.

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-making occurs in the Itasca area. It supports work that helps meet the economic, social, physical, cultural and spiritual/wellness needs of Itasca-area residents. This includes supporting organizations that:

Prioritize collaboration: diverse people and organizations work together to achieve a common goal. Examples: Invest Early and Beacon Hill Supportive Housing

Engage those needed to create the intended change: leaders seek and include a variety of perspectives, especially those directly affected by the problem. Examples: KOOTASCA’s Circles of Support and Kiesler Wellness Center

Resourcefully build on existing community assets: community context is taken into consideration, has several sources of funding, and demonstrates community support. Examples: Itasca County YMCA’s Active Living Center and the Deer River Full Service Community School project.

Blandin Foundation offers grants to support community leaders as they think holistically and act collaboratively on systems-level issues they have identified as critical to the health and resiliency of their community. This includes supporting organizations that:

• Inform and connect community leaders to issues relevant among rural Minnesotans: leaders stay current on topics, trends and issues that impact their communities. Examples: What’s Left (an exhibit on mental illness and suicide) and MinnPost’s Immigrant Communities Reporting Project

• Support and sustain networks of rural leaders: leaders are equipped with skills and abilities to strengthen their communities and/or lead on diversity, equity and inclusion. Examples: Minnesota Network of Community Developers, Better OUTcomes for LGBTQI, and the American Indian Oyate Network

• Equip Blandin Leadership Program alumni to move forward a cohort-identified idea: leaders take courageous action to address 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 Garden


• 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

Position Overview


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.


• Organizational Leadership

• 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

Program Leadership

• 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.

Staff Leadership

• 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.

Strategic Leadership

• 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 governance/development

• 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

Strategic Leadership

• 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

The compensation package for the President & CEO is very competitive and includes the opportunity to participate in the Foundation’s benefit package.

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.

View the complete profile:

How To Apply

For additional information or to apply, please contact:

Marcia Ballinger, PhD


Holly Kelsey-Henry
Vice President

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