Home / News / Bakken News / Former NDSU Alumni donates $2,500,000 to establish “The Empowerment Project”
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Former NDSU Alumni donates $2,500,000 to establish “The Empowerment Project”

Innovative new organization designed to use “market based” concepts to address homelessness, childcare, transportation, mental health and other challenges.

(Fargo, ND) Daniel Erickson, a Slayton, Minnesota native who attended North Dakota State University has donated $2,500,000 to establish The Empowerment Project. Erickson is a long time entrepreneur who started his business career in Fargo almost 20 years ago and now currently resides in Phoenix AZ.

The Empowerment Project is a not-for-profit private operating foundation founded by Mike Marcil in 2013 with the mission of assisting those facing a unique, transitory crisis. Participants must have a strong motivation to overcome situational challenges and better their lives through hard work. The foundation will invest in housing, childcare, education and transportation opportunities, which are all leading barriers to housing stability in our communities. Participants who qualify to receive assistance must complete community service requirements that not only build character, but introduce an added value of civic engagement to the foundation and its impact.

The Empowerment Project has already committed over $50,000 of funding for various projects in 2014 including $10,000 to help establish a “Risk Mitigation Fund” which is currently being developed by various entities and organizations in Fargo.

“I am humbled that Dan has given such a significant financial gift that will help so many people. As an entrepreneur Dan achieved great success by solving problems innovatively which is the core focus of The Empowerment Project,” said Marcil. Marcil is the founder of The Empowerment Project and CEO of Bakken Financial Inc., a Fargo based investment company whose website can be found at www.bakkenfinancial.com.

The vision for the project is based on the simple premise of a “hand up” not a “hand out”. The innovation comes from the foundation investing along with for-profit businesses who then agree to partner with nonprofit organizations to create value and solve problems. “Not all solutions require government or nonprofit funding, but rather creativity, flexibility and advocacy.  By actually investing with private business, the foundation has a unique set of assets that can be leveraged to creative profitable solutions for the foundation, private businesses and the clients who participate in the program,” said Jon Rustvang, Board Chairman of The Empowerment Project.

“I am thrilled this vision has come to fruition and I think it just the start of something that can be expanded to any community,” said Michael Carbone, Executive Director of the North Dakota Coalition for the Homeless People and a founding board member of The Empowerment Project. “Mike and I started working on this concept over seven years ago when Mike started to use his private apartments to creatively assist families and individuals who were struggling. We both recognized many clients could be assisted profitability by using creativity and flexibility that was low risk to the landlords. It is my hope this new foundation can start to bridge the gap between the for-profit, nonprofit and government players who are all needed to solve these challenges.”

The concept has already received statewide attention and will be presented on the national stage in April at a national affordable housing conference in Washington, DC when Carbone and Marcil present opportunities for private solutions to address issues of homelessness.

The Empowerment Project is based in Fargo, North Dakota, but is not limited by geography in its mission. The initial staff will include an Executive Director and a nine member board of directors that represents a diverse cross section of experience from both private industry and nonprofit backgrounds.

For more information on The Empowerment Project, visit their website at www.empowernd.org.

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