Voerding Named Initiative Foundation President
Web posted November 21, 2023
Rural wealth equity champion aspires to grow economic opportunities, inspire stronger communities and amplify generosity
The Initiative Foundation Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Brian Voerding has been named president of the Little Falls-based organization and will lead efforts to grow economic opportunities, inspire stronger communities and champion generosity in the region.
“We were presented with a deep pool of candidates, and at the end of a long and thorough process we were pleased to select Brian—an internal candidate and a passionate advocate for growing the promise and prosperity of Central Minnesota,” said Kim Ellingson, chair for the Initiative Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Voerding has served as the Initiative Foundation’s vice president for inclusive entrepreneurship since June 2021. He succeeds former Initiative Foundation President Matt Varilek, who stepped down in June to become commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
"I am thrilled to lead the Initiative Foundation and be a part of this team that has such an incredible impact in the communities we serve," said Voerding, who was raised in the Wright County community of Montrose. "I'm eager to build on the legacy of those who came before me to provide strategic funding and support for small businesses and nonprofit organizations, to cultivate the next generation of rural leaders, and to facilitate a spirit of generosity and inclusivity in Central Minnesota."
A Record of Regional Investments
Under his leadership, Voerding and his inclusive entrepreneurship team have grown the Foundation’s portfolio of business-building programs, including the Initiators Fellowship and Enterprise Academy, and have expanded lending and coaching services. Voerding also played a central role in two of the Initiative Foundation’s largest-ever grantmaking programs: He oversaw the 2021-2022 distribution of $8.8 million in COVID-era relief grants to 800 Central Minnesota small businesses, and he helped to secure and implement a multimillion dollar effort supported by the Otto Bremer Trust that drove $1.1 million in transformative funding to nonprofits and an additional $700,000-plus to rural small and minority-owned businesses.
While championing a host of high-impact projects, Voerding actively grew his network of state and nationwide connections and worked diligently to attract outside funding to the region, said David Monroy, vice chair for the Initiative Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
“Brian has a proven record of commitment and service to our region and has made it his business to understand the issues and focus areas of the Foundation,” said David Monroy, vice chair for the Initiative Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “He’s developed close relationships with key partners to advance rural wealth equity, and I’m confident he’ll lead with patience, clear vision and strategy for what lies ahead at a time when this healthy organization is emerging from three years of intense pandemic relief work.”
A Strong Voice for Communities
Prior to joining the Initiative Foundation, Voerding founded and served as executive director for Engage Winona, a social change nonprofit focused on creating equitable access and giving voice to community and economic development solutions for the Greater Winona area. Voerding also served as editor of the Winona Daily News from 2011 to 2017. He holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from St. Mary’s University and undergraduate degrees in behavioral psychology and music from Hamline University.
“My life’s work has been dedicated to improving lives and transforming communities in Minnesota, and I can’t wait to serve as a strong voice as we work to attract resources and inspire the generosity of others to invest in our region,” said Voerding, who lives in St. Cloud with his family. “Advocating for and delivering resources and creating equitable opportunities is my personal and professional wellspring.”
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