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A season of giving and hope

SWIF building communities, ‘growing home’ in SW Minnesota


Vice President of Philanthropy Liz Cheney visits with Dave Kelly, Southwest Initiative Foundation donor and Darwin Community Legacy Foundation volunteer, at the dedication for the Darwin Veterans Memorial earlier this year. Contributed photo

It brings forward feelings of love, warmth and belonging. Memories of joy and optimism. Thoughts of friends and loved ones, community and even milestone events.

For 35 years, Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) has been “growing home” in southwest Minnesota. Born from the farm crisis in 1986, the foundation was created to keep the region strong and vibrant.

The foundation has an eye toward the future. It’s what Liz Cheney loved when she started working there over 17 years ago, and what she loves today in her role as vice president of philanthropy.

December is one of the busiest months of the year for Cheney and her team – and for nonprofits around the region.

“It truly is the season of giving, which includes year-end gifts to charity. We’re all familiar with the letters and calls asking us to consider giving to dozens of worthy missions as 2021 draws to a close. This is a time when your favorite local organizations are reaching out to make sure they can count on you as a partner to keep doing their good work,” Cheney said.

SWIF is an independent community foundation with a mission to connect people, invest in ideas and build communities. This means organizing and supporting community leaders, investing in businesses, supporting local nonprofits, helping organizations grow and improve, processing gifts and grants, sharing southwest Minnesota stories and promoting the region. Since its founding, SWIF has invested nearly $98 million in southwest Minnesota.

Southwest Initiative Foundation has added many new initiatives in the past 35 years, like gatherings across the region that help build belonging to support vibrant, welcoming communities our kids need to succeed. In Hutchinson, kids lined up to take a swing at piñatas at a Welcoming Week celebration this fall. Contributed photo

Bordering South Dakota and Iowa, the foundation’s region includes the counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Swift and Yellow Medicine as well as the Lower Sioux Indian Community and Upper Sioux Community.

The generous support from the people, businesses and organizations that care about southwest Minnesota is what makes the foundation’s work possible. Cheney leads all things resource development, along with the team at SWIF doing that work. This includes fundraising strategies to fuel SWIF’s big mission, restricted giving via local fund partnerships and helping people make future gifts through estate planning.

In her work, Cheney has experienced how much people truly care about their neighbors and their communities, and she helps people knit that “care” together through charitable giving that reflects their values. The best year-end giving plans not only make good happen in community, but they can also improve an individual’s financial or tax situation—often right away.

SWIF has a variety of tools to help people support its mission, a community foundation or any of its other funds. A current gift of cash may offer an income tax deduction, while a gift of appreciated stock eliminates capital gains tax. A Qualified Charitable Distribution from an IRA allows people to give tax free from an individual retirement account and reduces taxable income because the distribution counts toward their required minimum distribution.

SWIF also has options for leaving a legacy through estate planning as well as a unique farmland giving program that allows gifted land to stay in production by local farmers.

“Giving can be a powerful way to support the causes and places most important to you and at the same time wisely manage your own resources. It also makes the work of Southwest Initiative Foundation possible, allowing us to support families, businesses and communities who call southwest Minnesota ‘home,’” Cheney said.

In its last fiscal year, SWIF coordinated $2.7 million in gifts of all kinds and $7.4 million in grants for local causes. In response to the ongoing pandemic, the foundation has deployed more than $15 million to support nonprofits and small businesses in southwest Minnesota. Behind these numbers are stories, people, experiences, and life-changing impact.

“We’ve helped fund Senior Dining programs for older adults isolated at home, distributed money to child care providers caring for our kids while trying to keep their businesses open and supported local, women-owned businesses with access to capital and one-to-one business coaching,” Cheney said. “At Southwest Initiative Foundation, we see growing, thriving communities – where all our neighbors are valued and have opportunities to achieve economic success. We have hope in the future, and our supporters are part of creating that hope.”

Pandemic response and recovery efforts is one example of how SWIF’s work has changed over decades as the foundation flexes, innovates and becomes what communities and the region need it to be. Another is Grow Our Own, a 10-year commitment to closing the opportunity gap. Through this lens, the foundation supports stable families and parenting, high-quality early care and education, K-12 engagement in and out of schools, vibrant and welcoming communities and career on-ramps. These are the elements that ensure kids and families can access the resources they need to reach their full potential.

Southwest Initiative Foundation’s COVID-19 response funding included a grant to reimburse Meals On Wheels volunteers like Gayle Widman for traveling to pick up meals and deliver them to seniors in Round Lake, a rural community without a grocery store. Contributed photo

As part of Grow Our Own, this year the foundation introduced Minnesota’s first Employer Resource Network®, bringing an innovative approach to workforce development to local employers. The new Southwest Initiative Employer Resource Network® matches both short- and long-term economic development strategies for our communities, businesses, families and kids.

Recognizing opportunity and planning for the future isn’t new for SWIF.

“Today, we see the opportunity to bring together our history of looking forward, our experience working in community and our learning about differences of all kinds. The year-end gifts people make inspire, create and activate hope in the future of southwest Minnesota. Together, we can write the future of our communities,” Cheney said.

Tax-deductible gifts can be made online at to support Southwest Initiative Foundation’s mission or a community foundation partner. Gifts can also be mailed to 15 3rd Avenue NW, Hutchinson, MN 55350. In order to qualify for a 2021 charitable tax deduction, mailed gifts must be postmarked by Dec. 31, and online gifts must be submitted before midnight on Dec. 31.

Have questions or want to talk about the options? Liz Cheney can be reached at 320-484-9101 or

This is a paid business profile. If you would like to learn more about promoting your business in the Sr. Perspective with a business profile, call Jim at 320-334-3344.

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