The Arc Southeastern Minnesota

Partnership Helps the Mission Continue

Nonprofit work can be daunting. There is always a mission statement focusing on a community need, but the money and resources to meet that need are not always available. Budgets get tight. Services get cut. Unfortunately, the people affected are the ones who need help the most. Through a partnership with the Rochester Area Foundation, The Arc Southeastern Minnesota (The Arc SE MN) is helping those in need and planning for the future by investing donations to aid in yearly programming and carrying out its mission and vision.

A non-profit, volunteer-based membership organization, The Arc SE MN began informally in the late 1940s, incorporating in 1955. “Our mission is to build inclusive communities by protecting human rights through advocacy, support, and education for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families,” says Tena Green, development coordinator for The Arc. “The Arc is the gateway through which persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families pass as they search for support from others who have shared their same experience.”

Today, The Arc SE MN helps people in eight counties of southeastern Minnesota—Olmsted, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Rice, Houston, Wabasha, and Winona. Membership is made up of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, family members, and legal representatives, service providers, and other interested community members. With a staff of 10, consisting of one full-time and nine part-time employees, its capacity as an organization has been a balancing act ever since the beginning. The organization works to identify gaps in the service system and lead collaborative efforts with other agencies to close them. Primary services are individual and family advocacy, public policy advocacy, self-advocacy, housing access services, education, and outreach to persons with disabilities, family members, providers, and the community.

As a voice for members of the community with disabilities, The Arc SE MN aids them in leading normal, everyday lives. Recognizing continued demand but realizing limited staff resources for the organization’s wide-range of services, The Arc SE MN’s board of directors sought a partnership with the Rochester Area Foundation in 1993, establishing a fund with the foundation thanks to a donor’s small bequest.

“At the time we started the fund, we were only serving Olmsted County. Other independent chapters were serving the other seven counties,” says Green. “Because we were quite a small non-profit without a traditional funding stream, our board was looking at ways to ensure our longevity as an organization, with the knowledge that we didn’t necessarily have all the needed expertise or resources to start or maintain our own investment program. We also felt a relationship with the Rochester Area Foundation would benefit The Arc through public relations in the community.”

During the past 20 years, The Arc has maintained the fund with the idea of growing it so it might one day become a significant financial support to the organization. In 2010 and 2011, difficult financial years, The Arc SE MN tapped into the fund earnings. “This allowed us not to make deeper program or staff cuts and to continue to provide mission-specific services,” Green says. “Many 

organizations that serve persons with disabilities have Medical Assistance as a primary funding source. Because of the types of services we provide (advocacy and support), that is not true for The Arc. We need to raise funds for the vast majority of our budget. We saw the Foundation fund as a potential tool to offer financial stability in future years.”Growing the fund significantly is still the goal. Doing so could lead to new and expanded services. 

Arne Fockler, former president of The Arc SE MN, says state funding has been frozen, and organizations such as The Arc have continued to innovate their business model. “The words everyone wants to hear are efficient and effective, and The Arc and other organizations are striving to show they are good stewards of taxpayer money,” says Fockler. “When our citizens with disabilities are properly cared for, it not only enhances their lives, but it enhances everyone that comes into contact with them. With funding frozen, it is more critical than ever to explore new ways to secure the resources necessary for the care of our family members, friends, and neighbors. The partnership with the Rochester Area Foundation is one of those ways, and it is a safe and stable option.”

Thanks to this collaboration, The Arc SE MN’s mission continues. The good work they do is critical to an inclusive community and the Rochester Area Foundation is honored by the trust The Arc has placed in it.  Nonprofits in our area that do not have the capacity to oversee their investments stand to benefit greatly from a relationship with the Foundation and its nonprofit expertise.