Our grant making activity is focused on innovative early-stage collaborative programs and initiatives that align with our newly refined 21st century mission:

To make strategic and catalytic investments in innovative visionaries or organizations to support bold ideas with high-potential for transformative social impact on life-long learning; with particular focus on collaborative initiatives targeting youth education in the arts, technology, science, entrepreneurship, and peace studies.


Six colleges founded by Norwegian-American immigrants in the 19th century now collaborate on an annual summer Peace Scholars program in Norway, designed to deepen students’ understanding of the central issues and theories regarding conflict, war and peace. Through an application and interview process, students from Augsburg, Augustana (Sioux Falls), Concordia (Moorhead), Luther, Pacific Lutheran, and St. Olaf College are selected as Peace Scholars and awarded a seven-week academic experience held at The Nansen Dialogue Network in Lillehammer and The University of Oslo.

The Peace Scholars program is an outgrowth of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum (NPPF) an annual event held in Minneapolis that inspires students and other citizens to become active participants in peacemaking efforts around the world. Begun in 1988 by a five-college consortium Augsburg, Augustana (Sioux Falls), Concordia (Moorhead), Luther, and St. Olaf, the NPPF is the Norwegian Nobel Institute’s only such program or academic affiliation outside of Norway.

In 2008, the Smaby family established two endowed scholarships each for undergraduate students at Concordia College and St. Olaf College, as well as the graduate-level Philip C. Smaby Peace Fellowship at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.


In 2012, we conducted a novel grant-making experiment designed to catalyze collaboration among selected non-profits around a common theme that resonates with our mission. Inspired by an article in the Minneapolis StarTribune about the STEAM initiative in Robbinsdale school systems, we began to seek out grassroots Minnesota-based non-profits organizations that resonated with the STEAM movement which evolved from the thought-leading Art of Science Learning project sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

We share NSF’s enthusiasm for the integration of Arts into the now-mature STEM concept.

Our first major grants in support of the ‘STEAM theme’ were made to Northern Lights.MN in support of their inaugural dawn-to-dusk Northern Spark Festival in 2011. Our initial grant was made to encouraged the NL.MN Board to invest to turn NS into an annual signature event. In that spirit, SFF made a series of Catalyst and Challenge Innovation grants to the several organizations to create collaborative, venue-based installation art programming, around the STEAM-inspired theme, for the 2012 NS Festival . The participating community-oriented organizations included:

  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts

  • Minneapolis College of Art and Design

  • Walker Art Center

  • Guthrie Theater

  • Science Museum of Minnesota

University of Minnesota entities:

  • Weisman Art Museum

  • The Center for Spirituality and Healing (Academic Health Center)

  • Bell Museum's Exploradome program

  • Technological Leadership Institute

Our first experiment in collaborative innovation proved to be an unqualified success. We continue to seek out innovative early-stage projects that exhibit high-potential to further advance the STEAM theme.