Following the direction of its new strategic plan, LEADERSHIP FOR THE FUTURE | 2012-2014, last week MCF hosted the first of three 2012 programs focused around diversity, inclusion and equity.
“Bold Steps Toward Funding Equity” featured three MCF-member foundations sharing behind-the-scenes looks at their decisions to focus resources on equity issues confronting girls, seniors and youth, and the LGBT community.
In this post, I’ll cover how the John Larsen Foundation, a small non-staffed family foundation, decided to increase funding around equity and inclusion by increasing funding to LGBT issues — especially the fight against Minnesota’s marriage amendment, on the ballot this November.
John E. Larsen, foundation president, sits on the board with three other trustees — his father, mother and sister. So, as he put it, “There’s no diversity there.” However, the foundation had previously looked for ways to engage diversity.
Several years ago, the foundation developed a Certificate of Non-Discrimination that now must be completed by all entities that receive money from the foundation, from vendors to grantees to associations.
Minnesota’s Marriage Amendment
Larsen is engaged in the fight for LGBT rights and is a founder of Project 515 and MN United for All Families. He says, “LGBT rights is also something my family values, but it may not be their top priority.”
So, before the board met to make its annual grants — typically 30 grants of $10,000 each — he knew he had to educate his family and “set the stage” for increased funding to the area he felt so passionate about. He met with his mom, dad and sister individually, expressing his desire to increase funding for LGBT rights and why he believed it was important.
Then at the board meeting, John started the discussion more broadly, with talk of how to best react to major community happenings. They discussed how they had altered past funding choices in light of community needs, including the housing crisis and credit crunch.
And then they asked what made sense now in light of the upcoming marriage amendment vote. They settled on a four-pronged approach to ensure more money for LGBT rights this year:
- They would take a percentage off all grants made.
- They would completely remove some nonprofits from their list.
- They would increase personal giving to issues important to each of them.
- They would increase multi-year giving to some organizations.
Although Larsen doesn’t believe funding issues like LGBT rights is the “third rail of funding,” he does acknowledge, “It’s a tricky dance. Especially with current grantees whose grants may be getting smaller or ending.”
Larsen says, “Each time something happens in the community, the foundation’s board gets more flexible about using more of its resources to address current issues.”
- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate