As we began our 76th year of existence in 2020, little did we know that it would become one of the most critical years in our history. Our grantmaking and emergency fund investments in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin represented the extraordinary philanthropic legacy of our founder Otto Bremer, who took similarly decisive action to support communities at the time of another unimaginable humanitarian crisis—the Great Depression.
As the COVID-19 pandemic was first making its impact felt in our region, we were able to assert our financial resiliency and be among the first charitable institutions in the nation to act boldly, quickly establishing a $50 million emergency fund through our subsidiary, Community Benefit Financial Company (CBFC). This platform was structured to provide desperately needed assistance to organizations as they worked to support those whose lives were suddenly buffeted by unprecedented health, economic, and racial justice challenges.
Over the ensuing months, CBFC emerged as a trusted partner to a network of frontline agencies working in collaboration with other organizations to provide financial support and emergency services throughout the region, including community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and community development corporations (CDCs).
Between our responsive grantmaking and emergency fund distributions, in 2020 OBT invested more than $71 million in 900+ organizations across the region.
Examples of the impact of these philanthropic investments are as varied as the communities we serve. Timely grants helped secure affordable housing for 25 refugee families in St. Cloud, supported contact-free delivery of prepackaged groceries in suburban Minneapolis, provided 4,500 safe bed nights for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Menomonie, allowed 162 seniors and disabled people to stay in their homes due to a block nurse program in Granite Falls, and financed revolving credit to an organization fighting child hunger through community and school partnerships in the Twin Cities.
Even in a year when our staff had to work remotely, we were able to operationalize our previously announced expansion into Montana and all of Wisconsin. This was accelerated by the needs of the pandemic as well as an investment in our systems that could accommodate this growth. Without our talented and dedicated colleagues, this would not have been possible.
Otto Bremer would have been proud of how the trust that bears his name responded to these myriad challenges of 2020. As we have done through our entire history, we will continue to keep a close eye on the issues our communities face and will be there to provide the support they need.