Four Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood organizations may soon merge into one to save money and boost services.
Beltrami, Northeast Park, Logan Park and St. Anthony East neighborhood associations have spent the past year studying joining forces. So far, Northeast Park and Beltrami have voted to move forward and continue discussions of the merger. Logan Park could vote on Wednesday.
The move is a reaction to the city of Minneapolis setting base funding for the city's 83 neighborhoods at $10,000 a year — it was previously $20,000. That money can be quickly swallowed up by administrative fees and operating costs, said Pat Vogel, chair of the Logan Park Neighborhood Association.
"Ten thousand dollars goes really quickly," she said.
Through the merger, instead of four groups with $10,000 each, there would be one group with $40,000. Cutting redundancies in administrative and operating costs frees up money to provide services, Vogel said.
If approved, the merger would be a first in Minneapolis. Existing organizations representing multiple neighborhoods, like the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association and the Longfellow Community Council, were formed that way.
"This is uncharted territory for the city and its various neighborhoods," said Mike Ferrin, the executive director of Beltrami Neighborhood Council. "We are trying to get as much feedback as we can."
How the city splits its money
Minneapolis has various methods for funding neighborhoods and neighborhood associations, said Steve Gallagher, the city's neighborhood programs manager. Those are:
- Neighborhood Network Fund provides the base $10,000 for each neighborhood.
- Equitable Engagement Fund amounts vary based on housing insecurity, poverty concentration and gentrification in the neighborhood.
- Collaboration and Shared Resources Fund has provided a total of $100,000 in grants to neighborhood organizations annually from 2021-2023 that want to consolidate or share resources.
- Partnership Engagement Fund is available for partnerships between a neighborhood organization and a community organization with $1 million available.
Neighborhoods also may have funding left over from the pioneering Neighborhood Revitalization Program, a multimillion dollar "civic experiment" established more than 30 years ago to bolster neighborhood-level planning around the city.
How the merger would work
The four Northeast neighborhoods used a $20,000 grant from the Collaboration fund to explore merger options. Known as the Four Corners Collaboration, it hired a facilitator to explore the pros and cons of a merger.
The pros include:
- Eliminating redundancies and pooling resources improves financial stability.
- Creates a larger base of volunteers and program participants.
- Builds capacity for more programming.
The cons include:
- Loss of identity for some neighborhoods.
- Potential loss of resident representation in a larger organization.
For Vogel, the pooled funding would allow the associations to hire more full-time staff and bring greater opportunities for efficient outreach and fundraising. A larger neighborhood organization could also attract funding and sponsors, she said.
Instead of four boards with nine to 10 members each, a proposed plan for the new board would consist of 12 board members with three representatives from each neighborhood.
What the survey said
A survey conducted by the Four Corners Collaboration last November indicated that more than half of residents supported the merger.
"It's a big step to go from everything you're used to having in your own neighborhood, all the normal things, and now we have to, in a sense, share it," Vogel said. "It basically comes down to money."
What is next
Logan Park could vote Wednesday evening on whether to move forward with the merger, and St. Anthony East will vote Feb. 28.
If only three of the neighborhoods decide to come together, the smaller merger could still move forward, Vogel said.
The Four Corners Collaboration will reconvene in March to discuss specifics, including proposed budgets and governance structure.