Open Your Heart Grant Guideline Changes

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless has made some changes in our grantmaking. Changes will be reflected in our Grant Guidelines and Application on our website by January 1, 2017.

Open Your Heart is entering our 31st year and has provided over $20,000,000 in grants to hunger and homeless organizations throughout Minnesota. Every few years we engage in strategic planning to assess the needs of our stakeholders, review current data on hunger and homelessness, and assess our effectiveness in carrying out our mission. We also consider the overall funding landscape affecting agencies and the availability of funding for crisis needs.

In our recent Strategic Planning efforts, we looked at some clear trends that have evolved in the past few years that impact our grantmaking effectiveness. Most significantly has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of applications for funding that seem to correspond to a decline in the numbers of key funders willing to support emergency/basic needs. Whereas for most of our history, the number and amount of requests more or less matched our available funds, that changed beginning in 2011. Today we receive at least three times as many requests as in the past, thus requiring us to consistently turn down excellent applications. As a result of this analysis, we have established Grant Guiding Principles and have made changes in our Funding Priorities and application process to ensure funds are directed where they can have the most impact.


  • Give where need is greatest.
  • Serve front end of the continuum focusing on people who are currently homeless or hungry.
  • Preference for projects that either increase the numbers of people served or improve the quality of service to participants.


  • OYH is focusing grant making on the front end of the continuum. For agencies serving homeless people, preference is given to services for people who are currently homeless – on the street or in shelters. Transitional housing has lower priority than shelter. Permanent supportive housing programs are unlikely to receive funding.
  • Hunger programs must be open and free to all in need. Geographic service boundaries are acceptable, but agencies requiring program participation, membership, purchase of food, attendance/participation in religious service, etc., as a requirement to receive food are unlikely to be funded.
  • Infrastructure or equipment for shelters or food shelves must benefit the areas where clients are served. Administrative areas, parking lots, etc., are unlikely to be funded.
  • Preference is given to projects that increase the numbers of people served or improve the quality of services provided.


  • Agencies are eligible to apply for one Hunger and Homeless grant per year. This is a change from previous years when agencies could be awarded one regular grant, but could apply as often as they like. As in the past, Education or Special Project grant applicants can also apply for and receive Hunger and Homeless Grants within the same calendar year.
  • Umbrella organizations with multiple program sites, but a single EIN or fiscal agency, can submit a total of two grant requests per year per agency. Requests must be for different sites.
  • There is no minimum or maximum award. Average grant is less than $7,000.

We recognize that on occasion, a natural disaster or other unforeseen events might result in a shutdown of services. We may be able to fund quickly in those circumstances. Please call our office at 612-338-5577 if that situation arises. Please note, emergency grants will only be available to agencies that have no other resources available and will require suspending services without immediate assistance.

Occasionally, OYH will issue RFP’s for Special Projects. Grant applications and/or awards will not affect the eligibility of agencies for Hunger and Homeless or Education Grants. These initiatives will be announced on our website, you can also sign up to receive grant announcements by email by clicking “Get Updates” on the upper right-hand side of our website ( or by emailing us ([email protected]). Sponsorship of Community Events is only for pre-selected charities.

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this change. Email us at [email protected] or call us at 612-338-5577.

October Grants have been awarded!

Thanks to OYH board members and generous donors we were able to award $60,000 in funds this month to Minnesota agencies in need!

  • Clearwater County Food Shelf for $1,498 to purchase two chest-type freezers to replace freezers with bad seals.
  • New Salem Missionary Baptist Church for $4,530 to purchase a refrigerator, freezer, shelving, bags and gloves for the food shelf to help keep food longer and give clients more time to pick up food.hope-4-youth-anoka-slide1-5-1500x630
  • People Incorporated for $9,920 to purchase survival gear and supplies for Street Outreach in Dakota, Hennepin, and Ramsey Counties.
  • HOPE 4 Youth for $10,000 to purchase the kitchen appliances for the 12 studio apartments at the new Transitional Living Program, HOPE Place.
  • Ruth’s House of Hope for $1,125 to purchase two security cameras for the emergency and transitional shelter.
  • Hubbard County Food Shelf for $5,000 to purchase a new and larger capacity walk-in freezer to replace the old one which does not work well and constantly needs repair.
  • St. Charles Resource Center for $5,616 to purchase a 51 cubic ft. glass front freezer for the food shelf, including freight, delivery and installation charges.
  • Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Shelf for $3,238 to purchase a reach-in refrigerator and a reach-in freezer.
  • Indian Neighborhood Club on Alcohol and Drugs for $10,000 to purchase refrigerators and other furnishings for the expansion.
  • Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul for $9,044 to purchase much needed mattresses, rollaway beds, portable cribs, and bedding for the homeless families served.

August Grants have been awarded!

Thanks to OYH board members and generous donors we were able to award $69,000 in funds this month to Minnesota agencies in need!

  • Asian Women United Of Minnesota, Inc. for $7,560 to purchase new bed frames and mattresses for battered women’s shelter to replace 15+ year old beds.
  • Barnesville Area Food Pantry for $2,230 to purchase a freezer with delivery to increase the frozen food capacity.
  • Chisholm Food Shelf for $4,350 to purchase a new commercial refrigerator and freezer and installation.
  • Our Saviour’s Housing for $5,075 to fund the air conditioning system replacement at the emergency shelter.
  • Pine Island Sharing Shelves for $4,450 to purchase a freezer, refrigerator, and adjustable shelving units.
  • Quad City Food Shelf for $1,782 to purchase a compressor for the freezer.
  • Safe Avenues for $10,000 to replace the fire/smoke alarm system at our domestic violence shelter.
  • The Salvation Army (Virginia) for $10,000 to purchase a walk-in freezer for The Salvation Army of Virginia’s food shelf.
  • Small Sums for $5,100 to purchase 120 rush hour monthly bus passes for the Twin Cities homeless clients who have just found jobs but need a reliable way to get to work in the first months back to work.
  • St. John’s Food Shelf for $1,000 to purchase a new refrigerator to assist in fresh produce offering for the food shelf patrons.
  • Stepping Stone Emergency Housing for $6,066 to purchase shelter bunk beds and wardrobes.
  • The Brainerd Baxter Youth Center for $6,042 to fund a commercial fridge unit repair and to purchase a commercial freezer and a stainless/metal shelving for food shelf donations.
  • White Earth Tribal Council for $5,500 to purchase beds, pots and pans, utensils, bath and hand towels, and washcloths for Native American families coming to the homeless shelter.

7th Annual Open Your Heart Summer Challenge began July 1st!

The Open Your Heart Summer Challenge began on July 1st.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless will give a proportional match for donations to participating food shelves during the month of July, up to $5,000. The more funds a food shelve raises in July, the larger the matching grant from Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless will be. Minnesota food shelves raised over $1.5 million last year with this grant and hope to outdo that this year!

Falls Hunger Coalition
Falls Hunger Coalition

Click here to see a list of participating food shelves.

Check out the buzz:

Food Shelf Challenge begins, International Falls Journal

“The need continues to grow,” she said. “So as we bring in more clientele, we need to plan for more food, as well. We really count on our grant funding and donations to help pull us through, because we just keep adding new people every week. This really is a lot of people.”

Minnesota food shelves raised nearly $1.6 million in 2015 according to Open Your Heart, which has targeted donations to help hungry and homeless Minnesotans since 1986.

Now’s the time to fill food shelves, SCTimes

“Until school starts in September, many families can struggle to have enough food at home.

That’s evident by July and August being the highest use months for area food shelves — and it’s why we write today to urge you to donate whatever you can to your local food shelf these next few months.”

Open Your Heart summer challenge helps Minnesota food shelves, Hastings Star Gazette

At Hastings Family Service, children make up 45 percent of the hungry who visit the food shelf.

Elks donate, Bemidji Pioneer

The Bemidji Elks No. 1052 recently took the Open Your Heart July Challenge, boosting its $500 donation to the Bemidji Community Food Shelf with a matching grant from the Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless Campaign.

The more money raised, higher matching dollars, Wahpeton and Breckenridge Daily News

Donations and receiving grants are especially necessary in the summer, Fenske continued, because youth are out of school and unable to benefit from such programs as the Food Backpack program.

“That’s why they have these grants available in the summer, to provide for our shelves, to help out,” she said.

Donations to PROP are matched in July, Chanhassen Villager

PROP Executive Director Janet Palmer said, “Our belief is that access to nutritious foods transforms lives and creates opportunities for people. Local community support this July will provide fresh produce, meat, dairy products and other non-perishable food items for our neighbors in need. This level of support would not be possible without the continued generous support of our community and partners.” said Janet Palmer, PROP Executive Director.


We are looking for a Marketing Intern!

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless is a 30 year old non-profit foundation that provides grants to food shelves, and to homeless and domestic violence shelters in Minnesota. With a budget of approximately $1,000,000 annually, we raise funds primarily from workplace giving campaigns at public and private sector employers throughout the Greater Twin Cities area. We are a small staff of three with a very active Board of Directors.

In a friendly, supportive environment, this is a great opportunity for an intern to develop and improve marketing and communication skills in the non-profit sector.

Application Closing Date: Aug 1, 2016
Dates: Aug 22nd, 2016 through Thanksgiving, flexible
Job Type: Intern Salary: $12 per hour
Hours: 15-20 per week, flexible (outside of events) daytime m-f


Marketing/Workplace giving support (60%): Open Your Heart works in 35 different workplaces, providing employees with materials and other information about our work supporting hunger and homeless organizations. This intern will table for and represent Open Your Heart at various employee giving events around the Greater Twin Cities Area where they will be expected to communicate the mission of Open Your Heart and answer a set of frequently asked questions about how we operate. They will also be expected to do a limited amount of public speaking about Open Your Heart and be able to answer basic questions about hunger and homeless in Minnesota. Hours on this task will vary, but are heaviest late September-November.

Communications (25%): Intern will work closely with the Open Your Heart Communications Manager to design ways to reach out to employees, including the development of engagement activities such as speed volunteering. They will also assist in the development of a social media plan and work on a bi-monthly newsletter.

Administration (15%): We may also need assistance in changing databases and other administrative tasks as assigned.


Intern should have interest and experience in marketing and communications, particularly in a non-profit environment. Must be a team player and be comfortable engaging in public speaking and events. Interest and/or understanding of hunger, homeless, and domestic violence issues is helpful. Reliable transportation and ability to lift 10 pounds is essential as intern will frequently travel to workplaces across the Greater Twin Cities area with marketing materials.

If interested in this position, please send resume and cover letter to: [email protected] Subject line: Intern

June Grants have been awarded!

Thanks to OYH board members and generous donors we were able to award almost $135,000 in funds this month to Minnesota agencies in need!

Education Grants2015 Simpson Housing Backpack

  • The Evergreen House for $4,000 to purchase school supplies, backpacks, gym shoes, activity costs and transportation.
  • Safe Haven Shelter For Battered Women for $4,000 to purchase backpacks, school supplies, clothing/shoes required by the school, program fees, and tutoring materials.
  • St. Paul Public Schools District #625 for $4,000 to purchase school supplies including backpacks, markers, pencils, notebooks, glue and uniforms.
  • YWCA of St. Paul for $4,000 to purchase urgently needed school supplies for school-age children (5-18) in YWCA Housing & Supportive Services Programs.
  • YWCA of Duluth for $4,000 to purchase clothing, supplies, tutoring, technology, etc. for The Young Mothers Housing Program that will promote academic achievement and sense of community for participants in transitional housing program.
  • Bridge for Youth for $4,000 to purchase school supplies, tutoring, transportation and educational expenses for youth residents in The Bridge’s emergency and supportive housing programs.
  • Emerge Community Development for $4,000 to purchase summer learning (tutoring and learning experiences) and school year support (supplies, clothing/uniforms and school fees) for youth in EMERGE Villages transitional housing.
  • Bluff Country Family Resources for $4,000 to purchase school supplies and activity fees.
  • Minneapolis Public Schools / Special School District #1 for $4,000 to purchase backpacks with school supplies and bus passes for homeless students in Minneapolis Public Schools.
  • Solid Ground for $4,000 to purchase after school tutoring program and provide school supplies for the children in the supportive housing programs.
  • The Salvation Army St. Cloud for $4,000 to purchase school supplies, transportation and activity assistance to children and youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Tubman for $4,000 to purchase school supplies, backpacks, uniforms, reading level books, school-related transportation, GED costs and other educational needs for homeless youth in grades K-12.
  • Simpson Housing Services for $4,000 to purchase school supplies, fees, curriculum and technology to support the academic success of homeless children.
  • Women of Nations for $4,000 to purchase school supplies for children who are residing in emergency shelter.
  • Life House for $4,000 to purchase GED preparation software and testing fees for homeless youth.
  • Alliance Housing for $3,072 to purchase backpacks filled with school supplies.
  • Cornerstone Advocacy Service for $2,810 to purchase school supplies, tutoring materials, bus cards, school-related fees and other educational necessities.
  • Perspectives Inc for $2,450 to purchase school supplies for the middle school students.
  • Ascension Place for $2,000 to purchase uniforms and athletic shoes, tutoring supplies, school photos, backpacks, field trip fees and school supplies.
  • Sojourner Project for $1,550 to purchase basic school supplies and clothing to children that arrive at the emergency shelter with virtually nothing.
  • YouthLink for $1,500 to purchase bus passes and tokens for GED program participant.
  • Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative for $1,488 to purchase gas cards, mileage and other transportation for students to participate in summer academic programs.
  • Dakota Woodlands for $875 to provide funding for materials, supplies, fees and other educational related expenses for homeless school age children K-12.

Hunger and Homeless Grants

  • Open Doors for Youth for $957 to purchase three chromebooks and three coiled cable security locks.
  • Care N Share Café for $4,000 to help purchase a new well.
  • Women of Nations for $8,512 to purchase a washer and dryer for the 44-bed domestic violence and sexual assault shelter.y.
  • Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities for $10,000 to purchase two commercial dryers as part of the Mission’s laundry room renovation project.
  • F.A.S.T. Jackson Food Shelf/Assembly of God Church for $9,000 to build a front entrance ramp for handicapped accessibility.
  • YWCA Cass Clay for $1,000 to purchase one new washer and dryer set to update the 13-year old Emergency Shelter resident laundry room.
  • Alexandra House for $10,000 to replace 20+ year old fire monitoring system that is no longer in working condition.
  • Prairie Five Community Action and Swift County Food shelf for $2,494 to purchase a new freezer to replace one that quit working for the Swift County Food Shelf.
  • Churches United for the Homeless for $9,386 to purchase and install durable flooring in the dormitory spaces in our shelter to meet health department regulations.

Community Event Sponsorship Grants

  • Homeless Community Network (HCN) for $1,920 to provide a meal for the approximate 300 participants at the January 27, 2017 Project Community Connect event.
  • United Way of Carlton County for $1,500 to fund the annual Operation Community Connect event to help people experiencing homelessness and other challenges of poverty get access to community resources.

April 2016 Letter From the Executive Director

Ed PhotoIn April 1986 some employees of the State of Minnesota had a simple, but extraordinary idea. That year, Minnesota and the nation were in the midst of escalating homelessness and hunger resulting from major shifts in the economy and the government safety net. Shelters and food shelf facilities were inadequate and could provide only the most basic of services. So State workers decided that they would direct their employee giving specifically to support hunger and homeless organizations. Soon, the idea spread to other public sector workplaces in various municipal government agencies and school districts. Eventually, many private sector workplaces joined in.

Over the next 30 years, more than $15,000,000 has been raised and distributed to hunger and homeless agencies across the state. Where food shelves once stocked only canned and boxed food, Open Your Heart’s investments in cooling, storage, transportation and essential equipment means that healthy produce, dairy, and meats are now widely available. Where homeless people once slept on thin mats on floors, now shelters can offer not only beds, but showers, hot food, and program space to help homeless people get back on their feet.

Click here for the personal account of Open Your Heart’s History by Mike Fratto, one of our most important founders. Thirty years ago it was his vision and hard work that helped Open Your Heart go on to support hundreds of Minnesota’s front line agencies dedicated to serving the poorest and most vulnerable among us. Thank you to Mike and all employees with their commitment to helping all of our neighbors.

Ed Murphy

Mike Fratto on the History of Open Your Heart

The Organization with a Slogan for its Name

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless is a pretty good campaign slogan.  It is a slogan so simple one has to ask its origins. The answer is also quite simple, originating during the depression.

In the fall of 1985 Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training Commissioner, Joe Samargia asked department offices around the state to hold a Thanksgiving food drive.  Food collected would be given to local food shelves.  In order to make sure this effort would be a success, he made this food drive a competition among the offices.

Mike Fratto
Mike Fratto

Of course, any good campaign needs a motivating slogan.  One of the staff from the department’s Public Information and Education office, Anna Marie Ray, suggested “Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless,” which was adopted.

Eventually organizing documents for a not for profit organization were developed.  As the required paperwork was being prepared the organization was going to be incorporated as “The Food and Shelter Fund.” However, due to a clerical error, at least that is what we were told, “Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless” was entered into name fields for the paperwork submitted to the Secretary of State and the Internal Revenue Service.

So the Food and Shelter Fund became Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless. Obviously, no one complained with the name.

Consideration for creating an organization

Once this statewide food drive was complete, Commissioner Samargia convened a committee of employees who worked on the food drive and a couple of others who were interested in the issues of homelessness and hunger for a review of the food drive and what, if anything, should be the next step.

Commissioner Samargia, remembering back to when he worked on the Iron Range,  suggested that while food drives during the holiday season are great and needed, there are so many during the holiday season but very few at any other time of the year. The biggest problem was during the summer when children were home from school and didn’t have a school lunch program. His challenge was to determine how could we tap into the generosity of employees year round?

After consulting with Mike Hatch, the Commissioner of the Department of Commerce it was learned that a department could hold an employee giving campaign using payroll deduction.  However, the idea was to hold a campaign in all state departments. Consulting with Nina Rothschild, Commissioner of the department of Personnel, it was determined that only a not for profit organization would be allowed to solicit all state employees.

This resulted in the formation of an incorporation committee consisting of the Statewide Presidents of the four largest employee bargaining units and a department of Jobs and Training employee.  The purpose was to develop the articles of Incorporation and By-laws for a not for profit organization that met Minnesota Statute requirements to solicit state employees in an annual giving campaign.

After a few meetings this incorporating board had completed its work.  It had approved Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws for an organization called the “Food and Shelter Fund”. These documents were turned over to department staff to be filed with the Minnesota Secretary of State for incorporation and the Internal Revenue Service for a ruling on the organization’s tax exempt status.

An organization to help all food and shelter programs

The incorporating board looked into how the various organizations that participated in employee campaigns distributed its funds.  In each case their funds were given only to member organizations.  However, most organizations that served the hungry and homeless were smaller non-profits and were not members of any charitable funding organizations.

The Board was interested in getting money to these small non-profits the easiest way possible. They wanted to make sure donations made an impact as soon as possible while ensuring the donor that their money would make the greatest impact. This meant the new organization had to be different.

With a small donor base, we knew we wouldn’t know how much money we would be able to raise each year.  Therefore, we couldn’t guarantee an organization ongoing operating funds.  So it didn’t make sense to have member organizations. The result was a decision to distribute money via a granting process and not membership criteria.

Since all of our income was realized when the employer transferred payroll deductions to us we decided to review Grant requests on a monthly basis and limit grants to the money available.

Since the need was continuing to grow and a new organization wouldn’t have a lot of money it was decided that money raised would be used generally for the purchase of the necessary food and hard goods each organization needed to be able to assist their clients.

As the organization aged we realized that we needed to require our grantees to report to us the accounting for the grant, including receipts for purchases and a requirement to return any money remaining.

Eventually adopted the Common app

We had the advantage of Jobs and Training program staff who worked in the department’s food and shelter programs serving on the early Boards of Directors. This allowed early Boards to shape our policies and procedures to better serve the needs of the poor through the organizations who received our grants.

A piece of input from these Board members was significant.  These professionals reported that shelters who served school aged children found that usually when a mom left a untenable situation at home, her children didn’t have time to gather school supplies and materials.  This added another stress on shelters. In order for children to keep up with their schoolwork they needed educational materials and school supplies to ensure the children in these shelters were able to keep up with their school work.  In addition, the increased use of technology in the classroom meant shelters needed to be able to provide similar technologies for their young clients. These facts resulted in establishing the Education Fund.

Commitment to low Administrative Staff

One of the original Board’s commitments was to ensure as much of the money raised would be used to invest in organizations serving the hungry and homeless and to keep the administrative costs to a minimum. The Board of Directors needed to be a working Board.  Members performed all the administrative work the first few years. As Open Your Heart added employee campaigns it was necessary to hire part time staff to coordinate our late fall campaigns.  Eventually, most of the work to manage the various campaigns, including completing applications and making work group presentations were handled by these part time Campaign Coordinators.

With the election of Arne Carlson and the changes in leadership in all state departments, the Board decided it didn’t want to jeopardize Open Your Heart’s reputation resulting from Board members doing organization work at their desks.  It was in the Board’s best interest to hire an Executive Director.  It hired one of these Campaign Coordinators, Arna Yetter, to be our first Executive Director.

Competing with the Big Boys and need to ensure our right to campaign

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless while organized by State employees was just another non-profit fundraiser that was trying to fund various non-profits the United Ways and others were not willing to support.  All of them were all seeking access to employee campaigns.  The state of Minnesota realized that as a public employer it needed to establish public policy that establishes the requirements for organizations who wanted access its employees for fund raising.

Since the law at that time defined a Registered Charitable Campaign Organization as having members, Minnesota Statutes had to be revised to include a section that included language that specifically included Open Your Heart, by definition, in the State of Minnesota’s annual Employee campaign. (This legislation also included the United Negro College Fund by definition.)

April Grants Have Been Awarded!

Thanks to OYH board members and generous donors we were able to award over $65,000 in funds this month to Minnesota agencies in need!

Hunger and Homeless Grants

  • Outreach Food Shelf of Douglas County for $10,000 to purchase a sprinkler and installation to bring building up to code.
  • The Village in Waterville for $10,000 to renovate 2 rooms for emergency shelter purposes, youth and toddler area.
  • Little Kitchen Food Shelf for $3,000 to purchase two commercial freezers to replace aging residential freezers in the Little Kitchen Food Shelf.
  • People Responding in Social Ministry/PRISM for $10,000 to purchase a cargo van to transport rescue food and produce to food shelf and to move furniture for newly housed homeless families.
  • Churches United in Ministry for $5,000 to purchase an air handler heating valve to upgrade the HVAC and funds to repair concrete floors.
  • Anna Marie’s Alliance for $5,000 to purchase an upgraded keyless entry system at Anna Marie’s Shelter.
  • The Salvation Army Minneapolis Temple Worship And Service Center for $10,000 to purchase a walk-in freezer for the soon to be opened client-choice food shelf benefiting the residents of North Minneapolis.
  • Division of Indian Works for $10,000 to purchase/install new dishwasher for Anpa Waste and soffitt repair/steel doors/replace floor board/paint entryway at Healing Spirit house.

Community Event Sponsorship Grant

  • Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless for $5,000 to support the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless 2016 Statewide Annual Conference on October 11 and 12 in Rochester Minnesota.