ST. PAUL — The Otto Bremer Trust, a 75-year-old philanthropic organization based in St. Paul, announced Tuesday, Sept. 17, it will expand its charitable giving and “mission-related investing” to all of Wisconsin and Montana by the middle of next year.

The trust currently serves Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin. It has granted more than $700 million since its founding by banker and philanthropist Otto Bremer in 1944.

While the trust is a 92% owner of Bremer Bank, trust officials on Tuesday said banking services are not part of the planned expansion.

The private foundation, which made a record $50 million in grants, loans and strategic investments last year, listed $1.2 billion in assets at the end of 2018. About half — or $24.5 million — of the grants and investments were in the Twin Cities metro.

“We finally have that level of size where we can serve the four-state area,” said Brian Lipschultz, co-CEO and one of three trustees of the trust.

In a written statement, officials said the change in geographic area reflects “the growth of Otto Bremer Trust beyond traditional grant making to making innovative investments and providing creative financial tools for the region." Those tools include medium-term loans, investments in patient-capital funds, revolving lines of credit, real estate acquisition funds and health services investments.

Officials said details will be released in the coming months.



In the past year, a $200,000 grant and $2 million in program-related investments have helped the Metropolitan Economic Development Association expand its Minneapolis-based support for entrepreneurs of color into St. Paul. MEDA held its “Shark Tank”-style $1 million challenge in the capital city last fall.

The trust also issued $55,000 to 360 Communities of Burnsville to help low-income residents with basic needs and $250,000 to the Sheridan Story of Roseville for its child hunger efforts.

The revolving line of credit to Sheridan Story will be repaid through fundraising and fees provided by some of the schools they serve.

Beyond the east metro, the trust granted $250,000 for the Minneapolis-based Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, $100,000 for runaway and homeless youth initiatives of the Mountain Plains Youth Services in Bismarck and $60,000 to fund Ka Joog’s Somali 4-H Club in Moorhead, Minn.

During the Great Depression, Bremer, a German immigrant, liquidated some of his many assets to help keep small banks afloat throughout the Midwest, and later put some $2 million into establishing the permanent trust. The private foundation is based in Wells Fargo Place in downtown St. Paul.