MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have long worked to be an active catalyst of positive social change in the lives of young people across the Twin Cities, and in the last two years, team owner Jim Pohlad and his family issued a challenge to the Twins and their other companies to engage more strategically within the community and use their platforms in a focused long-term effort to drive the greatest impact.
The urgency and importance of such efforts were only accentuated by the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent public outcry amid the greater context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit the Upper Midwest particularly hard, all upending lives and disproportionately impacting traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities in the area as part of their wide-ranging human toll.
The Twins believe that their best avenue to drive positive impact and social equity in that context is by investing in local youth, with a particular focus on addressing the opportunity gaps prevalent among socioeconomic and racial lines in Minnesota. They took a significant and targeted step with their work on Wednesday, when they announced a new giving charter that will direct enduring community efforts toward youth development, starting with a $380,000 allocation of funds to 26 regional nonprofit partners.
"It really kept coming back to kids and helping them develop educationally and the whole self-development, it makes sense," said Nancy O'Brien, the Twins' vice president of community engagement. "It's a space that we've been in and where work is already being done, particularly with the Twins Community Fund, and so we really feel that is a space that we can drive the greatest impact."
The summary of the Twins' charter was announced as follows:
"The Minnesota Twins will advance social equity by leveraging our resources to ensure every child has the same opportunity for success. We believe equity in access to educational and developmental opportunities is essential in eliminating socioeconomic disparities. Building upon our longstanding community foundations, we will work to remove the barriers to access traditionally faced by underserved children, especially Black, indigenous and people of color, along with other wrongfully marginalized individuals or groups. We are committed to shaping a society for children in which racism or inequality has no place. Our work, along with our partners’, will focus on creating meaningful and inclusive changes that empower every child to reach their full potential."
This area is all the more significant to the Twins' organization in light of an October 2019 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, which concluded that Minnesota's academic achievement gaps remained among the largest in the nation, driven in large part by racial and socioeconomic factors.
The Twins, of course, understand that this is a complex and multifaceted issue with no simple, short-term answer that can be addressed solely within the education sphere. The initial work with the 26 local organizations, most of which are historic partners of the club, has revolved around identifying the breadth of those needs, O'Brien said. Work with those partners will initially focus on literacy and STEM education, along with a focus on overall youth development, extracurricular and athletic activities.
As the work continues, the Twins will continue their evaluation of how to integrate existing youth programs and develop further efforts from staff and players to support the efforts.
"Education isn't just about making sure that they have the books and the notebooks and pencils; there's other factors that go into it," O'Brien said. " Part of the opportunity gap, we've learned, is a gap in socioeconomic and racial disparity of resources. It's more than just a direct connection to education. It's other factors. Anything that might inhibit a child's ability to come in and just be able to focus on learning is a challenge.
"When you look at the list, you'll see some things that might not be specifically education-related, but it does play a role in a child's ability to learn."
The Twins' new giving charter is in alignment with the Pohlad Family Foundation's mission in its $25 million commitment to social justice efforts in the Twin Cities, as announced earlier this year. Though many other Pohlad companies are also engaged in this drive towards focused giving, the Twins also do have the emotional connection and visible history within their community via their brand that carries weight in such public efforts.
"We wanted to make sure that they understood strategic philanthropy and that they should find their best role, if you will, in community, and then focus on that," said Susan Bass Roberts, vice president and executive director of the Pohlad Family Foundation. "The Twins have been such an amazing partner to youth organizations in the Twin Cities for so long. I'm sure that they used that as a basis for their strategic planning and kind of deciding where they wanted to focus their efforts."
Though the announcement of the charter comes at a time of reckoning in Minneapolis, the conversations and challenge began long before the challenges of 2020. O'Brien and Twins president Dave St. Peter noted that these efforts have been a point of emphasis and pride for many of their employees throughout the process, with the hope from many that the club could take a more vocal role in the efforts for social justice as it became clear that the organization could continue to expand the reach of the messaging via its growing platform.
An effort that initially included prominent messaging in support of social justice around Target Field and increased efforts to diversify the pool of candidates applying for front-office jobs around baseball has now expanded to this financial commitment with the strength of a plan and community partnerships. They expect to continue playing a role in highlighting these issues to the public.
"The more games we win, and hopefully competing for a world championship over time, that stimulates community," St. Peter said. "But I also think that along with that comes an expectation and frankly, an obligation that the Twins are utilizing that brand and our resources to give back to the community that supports us in so many ways.
"Charitable giving is obviously a really important way, and we felt that there's an opportunity here for us to be a bit more focused in terms of trying to better address our giving around social equity with the hope that we can play a small role in ensuring that every kid around Twins Territory has access to the same opportunities."
The Twins' nonprofit partners are as follows: ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students), Achieve Minneapolis, BestPrep, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, Channel One Regional Food Bank, Every Meal, Generation Next, Genesys Works, Hunger Solutions Minnesota, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, MIGIZI, Neighborhood House, Northside Achievement Zone, Partnership for a ConnectedMN, Pillsbury United Communities, Playworks Minnesota, Project for Pride in Living, Project Success, Reading Partners Twin Cities, Roots for the Home Team, TeamSmile, Urban League Twin Cities, Urban Ventures, YouthLink, Youthprise and YWCA Minneapolis.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.