Opus Foundation® Addresses Racial Equity

Gerry Rauenhorst founded our organization over 60 years ago with a desire to do more than build exceptional buildings. He also wanted to give back to the communities around them, making philanthropy a cornerstone of the organization. Giving generously and supporting communities in need remains a top priority.

Recent tragic events have reinforced the urgent need to acknowledge racism and embrace diversity. At Opus, we aren't just deeply concerned; we're taking thoughtful, deliberate steps to respond and encourage greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our industry and communities. 

Maximizing Outcomes through Collective Impact

To more effectively achieve sustainable social change, we are approaching complex issues by collaborating with other organizations that share the same goals. Recently, we have joined two newly-formed networks – the Concerned Builders Group and Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity. 

The Concerned Builders Group is a coalition of Twin Cities general contractors addressing social justice awareness and the need to rebuild in Minneapolis. They plan to provide opportunities for people of color to take part in the work and expand the impact of nonprofits that serve disadvantaged people. Beth Duyvejonck, Regional Vice President, is a member of this group.

The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity engages more than 80 business and organizational leaders with critical influence, capabilities and funding to reduce systemic barriers to economic mobility and increase access to opportunity for Black Minnesotans. It is intentionally focused on four areas in which it can drive collective action: Workplace, Philanthropy, Allyship and Policy. Two of our leaders are engaged with these pillars: Vice President of Human Resources Kelli Justesen (Workplace) and Opus Foundation® Executive Director Kristin Ridley (Philanthropy).

Because of these relationships, the Opus Foundation learned about immediate funding needs for Better Futures Minnesota and the Digital Learning Fund.  

Better Futures Minnesota

A nonprofit partner to Concerned Builders Group, Better Futures Minnesota (BFM) increases the wealth and social mobility of formerly-incarcerated and mostly African American men. BFM helps them build a better future with a two-year, trauma-informed, integrated-care program. It includes on-the-job training, housing stability, health and wellness and life coaching. 

BFM isn't a typical nonprofit; it's a social enterprise. BFM generates money to cover about 40% of their operating costs through services rendered by men in the program. They provide property maintenance, janitorial services and deconstruction. An environmentally-friendly alternative to typical demolition, deconstruction involves carefully removing building materials and appliances for recycling or reuse. BFM has a ReUse Warehouse in south Minneapolis where they sell the items, generating revenue to sustain its programs.

“Business income is a valuable asset for us," said Steve Thomas, BFM Founder and Social Enterprise Development Officer. “It provides unrestricted cash for use toward our mission. But we have found that during challenging times like now with COVID-19, fundraising is imperative for sustaining our operations and allowing us to serve more men." 

In 2019, BFM served and employed 100 men. The nonprofit expects that number to grow to at least 125 men in 2021. Faced with budget limitations, Better Futures Minnesota had an immediate need for funding. 

The Opus Foundation® awarded BFM a $50,000 grant for capacity building and equipment purchases. BFM will build their human resources capacity to increase recruiting, assessing, hiring and training more men. They also purchased a used pickup to replenish their fleet.

“The Opus Foundation has a long history of supporting nonprofits that serve marginalized members of our communities," said Charlene Leach, President and CEO of BFM. “For 20 years, they have been doing this – something that only recently became important for many others. Opus isn't new to this – they are true to this." 

“The outpouring of support from Opus and the Concerned Builders Group has been wonderful," said Thomas. “At BFM, we intentionally invite the last group of people society seems to care about to live here, participate in our community and work with us. We believe in personal redemption and second chances. Our men take responsibility for their past and are motivated to create better lives for themselves, their families and their neighbors."

Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity's Digital Learning Fund

The Opus Foundation granted $50,000 to the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity's Digital Learning Fund.

More than 333,000 Minnesotans don't have internet at home, and one out of five households lack laptops, tablets or desktop computers. The Digital Learning Fund makes direct grants to nonprofits that provide innovative solutions to equitable education access for students who are Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). The money supports technology and internet access, safe spaces for learning, mental health support and transportation. The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation manages the fund with 80% of funds raised distributed in the Twin Cities and 20% to greater Minnesota. A diverse, community-based committee reviews all requests.

Opus Foundation Addresses Racial Equity

We're able to maximize our resources by working with the Coalition and Concerned Builders. This has allowed us to benefit nonprofit organizations serving BIPOC members of the community.

The Opus Foundation has long supported organizations addressing social, education and economic issues, but since the onset of the pandemic and civil unrest, we have taken a closer look at what more we can do to challenge racial injustices and influence systemic changes. Advancing racial equity is a journey, but we have started with the following steps:

  • listen and learn from partners, community leaders and other stakeholders
  • deepen our work within the focus areas with an equity lens, including increasing access, decreasing barriers and community building
  • grant more multi-year and longer-term funding to address systems change
  • recruit a more diverse board of directors
  • engage in collective impact opportunities (including the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity and the Concerned Builders Group)
  • support work with the Opus Diversity, Respect and Inclusion Action Team
The Opus Foundation has awarded $875,000 since June 2020 to address racial inequities and support systemic change. This work is just the beginning of our journey to better understanding and addressing disparities. 


The Opus Foundation® is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.