Shehla Mushtaq has helped lead the revival of an Eden Prairie group that promotes conversation and greater understanding of faiths, diversity, and other topics. She’s the president of Interfaith Circle, which has organized a number of events this past year, including the Interfaith Thanksgiving Gathering that drew 400 to 500 persons.
The group has been able to focus on its mission, and less so on bookkeeping and other infrastructure, by using the Eden Prairie Community Foundation as its fiscal sponsor.
It’s a common role for community foundations: Serve as 501(c)(3) sponsor to fledgling organizations and projects, providing the tax deductibility and small number of administrative services to help make good things happen.
The Eden Prairie Community Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor to ongoing organizations like Interfaith Circle, Eden Prairie Reads, Haven House, Friends of the Eden Prairie Players, and Eden Prairie-Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, to name a few. And it has served in a similar sponsorship role to short-term projects such as Eden Prairie Miracle Field, the Eden Prairie Veterans Memorial, and the Sydney Galleger Memorial Pool.
When Mushtaq and others were looking in 2016 to revive an interfaith group that had gone dormant for a few years, they looked to make it a more formal organization – with structure and bylaws – that wouldn’t be under the umbrella of a specific church. They did some research, and discovered that the Foundation could, for a small administrative fee, provide the services they needed.
“We thought, ‘Wow, how could this not be a good thing?’” she recalls. “We feel that was one of the best things that could happen for the organization.”
The Foundation provided some added visibility for the organization, tax deductibility for people making donations to Interfaith Circle, and bare-bones bookkeeping services. The Foundation handles Interfaith Circle’s contributions, pays its bills, and provides a quarterly statement to the organization.
All of which allows Mushtaq – a native of Pakistan who has been working and living in the Twin Cities the last 28 years – and others to concentrate on growing their organization. They hosted a Community Celebration – part entertainment and part table discussion – in December 2016. In July they asked a panel of faith leaders to stimulate a roomful of residents to discuss the topic, “Who is My Neighbor?”
“It’s going really well. Beyond my expectations,” said Mushtaq, who is COO of a company called Collectivity. “Our goal is to ensure that the conversations between people in the community continue. We want people to embrace their differences and say, ‘You know what? I want to have that conversation.’”
(If you are forming an organization or project that might qualify for the Foundation’s fiscal sponsorship, contact Executive Director Mark Weber at [email protected] or 952-949-8499. If you’d like to know more about Interfaith Circle, email Shehla Mushtaq at [email protected] or check out their Facebook page.)