Good Lives Here ™
Those words capture the essence of the Otto Bremer Trust and the commitment to investing for impact that has been at the core of our work for more than 70 years.
Good Lives Here expresses our view of the region we serve: Minnesota, North Dakota, and western Wisconsin. This is the region that was home to the young German immigrant Otto Bremer and came to represent his land of opportunity. Throughout his life, he was well aware of the challenges faced by individuals and communities in the Upper Midwest as he himself had experienced many. But he believed that combining finance and philanthropy would provide invaluable resources to the region that was his new home.
As Trustees, we appreciate the extraordinary legacy put in place by Otto Bremer. It is our job to see that the Otto Bremer Trust continues investing for impact through our evolving efforts in the region.
Our updated mission statement — investing in people, places, and opportunities in the upper midwest — guides our work.
These investments and their returns take many forms. Through our grants to nonprofit organizations, we look for social returns. Our talented philanthropy team, now organized as dedicated regional resources, works closely with communities to identify needs and opportunities and guide these investments, most often in the form of grants.
Of course, to provide the resources to do this work on a large scale for the long-term we must also pursue investments with purely financial returns. We manage our assets prudently in light of our structure and have been able to grow significantly over time.
It is a third area of investing that gives us opportunities to leverage our impact; we call these hybrid investments. Through these investments we pursue a combination of financial and social returns. Most notably, the Otto Bremer Trust is a bank holding company that owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank, a nearly $12 billion financial institution with operations throughout the three-state region. Bremer Bank plays an important role in community health with committed local employees who provide superior banking services to businesses and individuals in their communities. Our strategic investment in Bremer Bank has resulted in returns that are both financial and social and contribute to a better way of life in the region. We further leverage this approach by making program-related investments in a variety of organizations. This is an expanding focus that is important to support hybrid returns.
While “impact investing” has become a popular term in philanthropy circles, the Otto Bremer Trust has been investing for impact throughout our history, being a responsive, mission-driven organization that has invested more than $600 million in grants and program-related investments to hundreds of organizations throughout the Upper Midwest. We will continue to invest in the region as we always have but now with an expanded commitment to new and dynamic opportunities.
More than 80 years ago during the Great Depression, Otto Bremer invested in small “countryside banks” and the communities where they were located, providing resources to keep them viable. He believed people and communities could survive and flourish if they had access to resources, both financial and social, at critical times. His commitment to helping people and places thrive is the cornerstone of the Otto Bremer Trust’s investment philosophy. Otto recognized then, as we do today, that Good Lives Here.