Movers & Shakers: Don Samuels, MicroGrants

ows_144080894162311A look at the people behind the numbers in area business:


Title: Chief operations officer

Age: 66

Don Samuels hopes to help award more than $500,000 in grants to low-income recipients by year’s end as chief operations officer of Minneapolis-based nonprofit MicroGrants.

MicroGrants gives $1,000 grants to support recipients who show potential in pursuing education, developing a small business or securing tools or transportation for work.

This year’s goal is to give grants to up to 530 people, up 100 from 2014, Samuels said.

“We’re dealing with people who have been trained and demonstrated industry, ambition and motivation,” Samuels said of MicroGrants’ work. “These must be transformational projects that change lives from poverty to independence.”

MicroGrants Chief Executive Joe Selvaggio founded the agency in 2006. Samuels, who is completing his first year with MicroGrants, said he is focusing on building relationships with donors and expanding the organization’s grant-making ability as he prepares to succeed Selvaggio as CEO next year.

Samuels, a Minneapolis school board member and former Minneapolis City Council member, said MicroGrants’ mission aligns with his philosophy of directly supporting the community. Samuels co-founded what is now known as the Northside Achievement Zone to educate low-income children in north Minneapolis, where he and his wife live.

MicroGrants awards its grants through partner agencies that screen and support recipients. Those agencies include WomenVenture, Habitat for Humanity, Twin Cities Rise, Project for Pride in Living, Jeremiah Program, Wilder Foundation, African Development Center and Midtown Global Market.

Q: Why did you want to join MicroGrants?

A: It’s the very kind of high-accountability, financially efficient, fiscally responsible and passionate kind of combination that we have found wanting and found to be most effective in creating transformation for the lives of people in our community.

Q: How can a $1,000 grant help someone?

A: People are sometimes surprised until you break it down for them and they understand that this [recipient] is making on average $7 an hour, that they have been clothed in a garment of dependency and have had no help or guidance to break through and finally through a combination of determination and support are finally making it through. Within days if not hours we can turn that need into an opportunity.

Q: What is your role at MicroGrants?

A: My job is primarily developing funders and the donor base and expanding it through my own Rolodex and relationships. It’s an opportunity to turn those relationships into friends of MicroGrants.

Todd Nelson

Source: Star Tribune