Otto Bremer Trust

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Otto Bremer Trust
Obt logo color SMALL.png
Motto"Our mission reflects the intent of our founder, Otto Bremer. His vision and longstanding commitment to communities during and after the Great Depression endure today through the Otto Bremer Trust."
TypeCharitable trust
HeadquartersSaint Paul, MN, United States
Key people
  • Charlotte S. Johnson
  • S. Brian Lipschultz
  • Daniel C. Reardon
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016)$52,931,966[1]

The Otto Bremer Trust is a private charitable trust located in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was founded by Otto Bremer in 1944 and owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank. In 2016, the Trust made a record $47 million in grants and program-related investments.[2]

The trust makes grants and program-related investments in Minnesota, North Dakota, and western Wisconsin in communities where there are Bremer banks. The organization changed its name from Otto Bremer Foundation in 2015.


Portrait of Otto Bremer

Otto Bremer was a German-American immigrant who came to the United States in 1886. He worked in several jobs before becoming a bookkeeper at the German American National Bank, where over the next 36 years he rose to become chairman of the American National Bank. He was an investor in independent rural banks throughout the Upper Midwest and during the Great Depression used his own assets to help support many of these banks.[3]

He partnered with his brother Adolph in the ownership and management of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. He served as treasurer of the City of St. Paul for more than a decade and became an advisor to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.[4]

Bremer established the Trust to perpetuate Bremer banks and help support the communities in which they are located.


The Trust invests in people, places and opportunities in the Upper Midwest, recognizing not only the individuals and communities of the region where the Trust operates but also the increasingly diverse needs of dynamic organizations throughout the region which present unique and compelling opportunities for the Trust’s investment.[5]


The Trust accepts grant applications from organizations located in communities where there are Bremer banks. Highest priority is given to opportunities with the potential to move a community forward in meaningful, powerful and broad-based ways. This broadness of vision is intentional in order to encourage innovative responses to community opportunities and challenges.[6]

Since its founding, the Trust has made over $613 million in grants and program-related investments to organizations in the Upper Midwest.[7]


The Trust is managed by three full-time co-CEOs and trustees. In addition to oversight of the Trust’s grant making and program-related investments, the trustees also serve on the board of Bremer Financial Corporation, parent of Bremer banks, and help manage an investment portfolio which supports the Trust’s philanthropic efforts.[8]

Organizational Realignment[edit]

In 2014, the Trust embarked on a realignment that more effectively structured the organization for the future. As part of the changes, the Trust realigned its philanthropic leadership into seven regions spanning Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin, with a dedicated staff member serving as each region’s point of contact.[9]


In July 2014, the executive director of the trust was abruptly "pushed out in a restructuring of the organization."[10] The three trustees subsequently became co-CEOs, creating a title that allowed for their uncharacteristically large salaries; according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, "In 2013 alone, the trustees received more than $1.2 million from the foundation, compared to the $24,000 median trustee compensation among the country's largest foundations."[11] Furthermore, the trustees' total salaries grew rapidly over the course of a decade, increasing from $124,500 in 2004[12] to over $1.2 million in 2013 alone, a 1000 percent increase.


As of 2016 the Otto Bremer Trust had assets of $1,027,379,982[1]

Funding details[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Otto Bremer Trust" (PDF). Otto Bremer Trust. 31 December 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  2. ^ Prather, Shannon (January 28, 2017). "Otto Bremer Trust has record year of giving". Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  3. ^ Galt, Margot Fortunato (1994). "Otto Bremer: His Life and Legacy" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-02-24.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ "Otto Bremer Trust 2015 Annual Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  6. ^ "Otto Bremer Trust Grantmaking Overview". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  7. ^ Ibid. 3.
  8. ^ "Company Overview of Bremer Financial Corporation". Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  9. ^ "Otto Bremer Foundation 2014 Annual Report" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  10. ^ Sepic, Matt. "Bremer Foundation executive director pushed out amid restructuring". Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  11. ^ Moore, Yna. "IRS Should Investigate Otto Bremer | Press Releases". Retrieved 2016-05-01.
  12. ^ "Letter to Lori Swanson from Aaron Dorfman" (PDF).

External links[edit]