The small family foundation run by four sisters found a natural affinity in supporting girlsBEST and the Women’s Foundation.


Q: What prompted your involvement with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota?
A: We were looking for a way to leverage our resources. We are a small family foundation without staff, intentionally limiting our grantmaking to the metro area. The Charlson Foundation has always been passionate about supporting women and girls, so girlsBEST (girls Building Economic Success Together) provided a wonderful opportunity to broaden our reach statewide. When we first got involved with the program, the plan was for the Women’s Foundation to fund it for five years as a public awareness initiative promoting economic security for Minnesota girls. Since then the foundation permanently endowed a fund for girls, and the program is stronger than ever after 15 years. Clearly, the Charlson Foundation invested wisely.

Q: How does the work of the Women’s Foundation connect to your personal values?
A: We feel comfortable supporting the Women’s Foundation because of our shared values and how they operate in the community. We respect how they are collaborative and inclusive; they study an issue, investing money in research, and they back up the initiatives with data. They are not afraid to take risks and to lead when no one else is available or capable. We appreciate how they have the capacity to provide technical assistance and convene grantees for information sharing, which can be invaluable for a small grantee. The Women’s Foundation organizational ethos is positive, optimistic and hopeful, celebrating women. Supporting women and girls extends to how they internally nurture and support their staff professionally.

Q: What outcomes from your girlsBEST funding resonate with you the most?
A: We are a family foundation of four sisters, so we naturally are drawn to programs that support girls and young women. We get it! The messaging in girlsBEST is so positive and empowering at a critical time in a girl’s life. The program provides the structure where their ideas and voices can be heard, to try new things in a safe atmosphere, and learn how to support and work together around their shared goal. Focusing on underserved girls — it provides a rare opportunity for just girls to start talking about the importance of becoming economically independent and envisioning what that means for their future. GirlsBEST grantees work together on something they believe in, and in turn, they learn to believe in themselves through skill building. The messaging is positive, that they can “ do it” through education and careers that will give them economic stability and independence.

Q: What do you want to see changed in our community through your philanthropy efforts?
A: The Charlson Foundation philosophy is that real change takes time. Our philanthropy reflects that by making long-term investments in the nonprofits we support, and accepting the reality that outcomes may sometimes be messy. If we could change anything in our community, we would welcome our philanthropic colleagues to adopt this brand of thinking! We prefer to allow leadership to focus on the mission of their organization rather than constantly fundraising or manipulating programming to satisfy short-term funding streams.

Share this: