Philanthropy’s Role in Disaster Relief

June 9, 2014
Damage from the 2009 Minneapolis tornado.

Damage from the 2009 Minneapolis tornado.

In December 2013, MCF’s board adopted the following policy statement:

Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery: MCF will promote disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and long-term recovery policies and procedures that involve marginalized communities, respond to their needs and define a realistic and effective role for philanthropy.

In May 2014, MCF’s Government Relations and Public Policy committee invited Holly Sampson, president of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, and Erik Torch, grant program manager of the Northland Foundation, to share their experiences and lessons-learned since extensive flooding in 2012.

Presentation Highlights

  • One hundred-year weather events now happen every few years. Vulnerable populations — including seniors, those living in poverty, the mentally ill and those already living on the edge — endure the greatest and longest lasting challenges.
  • There is an immediate need for a common data system to track those affected, their needs and how they have been met. Because this doesn’t currently exist, disaster victims must “shop for aid.” This is unacceptable.
  • Recovery will take longer than expected. Disaster declarations, insurance pay offs and buy-out programs may take months or years. During this time, people can’t live in their old homes, but they must continue to pay those expenses along with expenses associated with new housing. This is a financial disaster for families.
  • Low-income and rental housing was hit hard. Landlords may leave it up to renters, without financial resources, to respond. There are not programs to replace renters’ possessions.
  • In Duluth, $2.7 million in private giving is being used to fix what insurance and the private sector could not. More and more, private giving is relied upon in these situations.
  • Disaster relief efforts require regional, institutional and cross-sector response teams. No one sector can do it alone. Grantmakers need to strategize preparation and recovery efforts to effectively serve families and stabilize communities.

Upcoming MCF Bus Tour

On August 11, 2014, MCF will sponsor a bus tour and workshop, “Responding to Minnesota’s New Reality of Disaster Relief,” to explore grantmaking and public policy responses to disaster preparedness, relief and recovery in Minnesota. Watch our events calendar for a listing — coming soon — or contact Tara Kumar to ensure you’re included.

How Funders in Other Hard-hit States are Responding:

Jesse Ball duPont Fund

After a deadly 2011 tornado hit Alabama, Jessie Ball duPont Fund published Creating Order from Chaos to help foundations identify their roles and points of entry in response to disaster planning and recovery. Its framework names three fundamental stages of disaster response and recovery.

  1. Planning and Preparation: community members, grantmakers and local officials create a system to support the community in case of disaster.
  2. First Response: occurs directly after a disaster occurs. Critical moment where federal and community agencies provide immediate resources and support to communities and families.
  3. Recovery and Rebuilding: federal and local leaders work toward rebuilding community and families to state of health.

Long after disasters hit and federal resources are spent, communities will still need help. Philanthropy can play a role by providing long-term sustainable engagement before and after a natural disaster.

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation takes an innovative approach, working with communities to build resilience when hit by disaster and other stressors. It defines resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, business and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

It has identified five core characteristics of resilient communities:

  1. Constant Learning: The ability to internalize past experiences linked with robust feedback loops that sense, provide foresight and allow new solutions.
  2. Rapid Rebound: The capacity to re-establish function, re-organize and avoid long-term disruption.
  3. Limited or “Safe” Failure: Prevents failures from rippling across systems.
  4. Flexibility: The ability to change, evolve and adapt to alternative strategies in the face of disaster.
  5. Spare Capacity: Ensure there is a back up or alternative available when a vital component of a system fails.

Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF government relations and public policy fellow

Photo cc mollyapolis


Fast Forward with Philanthropy’s Big Thinkers

April 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.09.07 PMMCF is pleased to announce the launch of our new Fast Forward series!

Through these monthly videos and periodic podcasts of interviews by MCF President Trista Harris, Fast Forward will feature conversations with big thinkers in the field of philanthropy.

You’ll learn about the latest trends in Minnesota grantmaking, gain insights on strategies behind important philanthropic efforts and come away inspired with ideas and approaches you can take back to your organization.

We’re launching with an interview with Margaret A. Cargill Foundation’s Mark Lindberg, director of the Relief and Resilience program. Here, Mark tells Trista about the foundation’s work in the area of disaster relief and resiliency building, its focus on lower-attention events that don’t typically receive much philanthropic support and its interest in engaging local community members as key partners:

The full transcript of this interview is available on our website, which is also where you’ll also find new Fast Forward episodes as we produce them. Interview highlights are also featured in the spring issue of Giving Forum, in your mailbox soon.

Let us know what you think! And look for a conversation with Phil Buchanan of the Center for Effective Philanthropy to come in May.



Seven Predictions for the Future of Philanthropy in Minnesota

January 7, 2014

Road 2014Helping members understand trends that will impact the field is an important role of any membership association. In that spirit, I have developed a list of seven predictions for Minnesota’s philanthropic sector.

I admit that some of these predictions are based on current trends and others are wishful thinking, but I believe the true purpose of futurism isn’t to predict the future but to help shape it by presenting ideas that unstick us from our current realities.

Let me know which ideas you agree with, which you disagree with and what else you would add to the list.

many small light bulbs equal big oneShift to Collective Impact
As foundations become increasingly frustrated by the lack of movement on our communities’ most pressing problems, we will see them working across sectors to achieve large-scale social change. While this will mean many individual foundations putting their theories of change on the back burner for a more collective approach, the results will create a new incentive to be flexible.

Rise of the Funder Collaborative 
As foundations take a more proactive approach to accomplishing their objectives, they increasingly rely on networks to spur the substantial human and financial resources required to move the needle on complex community issues. This encourages innovation, sharing of best practices and a more targeted approach to creating change.

Mission-related Investments Grow
More foundations start intentional conversations about the “other 95%,” the 95 percent of foundation assets not used for grantmaking and typically invested in the stock market. Questions about how to better leverage those dollars lead to foundations putting a growing portion of their assets into mission-related investments that seek to achieve specific social or environmental goals while targeting market-rate returns.

An effort to recognize foundations that incorporate a specific percentage of mission investments into their portfolios is developed and popularized.

givemnGiveMN Gets an Upgrade
After 2013’s Give to the Max Day, which broke state records for online giving despite being fraught with technical glitches, GiveMN works with its website vendor Razoo to ensure site stability and reliability. In 2014, GiveMN reaffirms itself as the go-to place for online giving in Minnesota, and Give to the Max Day 2014 again breaks national fundraising records.

Solving Big Problems with Big Data
Realizing that the disjointed nature of foundation funding gives us only a small picture of what is happening in the nonprofit sector, more foundations pool their data and expertise to analyze nonprofit sector trends. Efforts such as Minnesota Compass and Generation Next are supercharged by foundations sharing proprietary information from grantee reports.

Minnesota Launches a Coalition of Communities of Color
Inspired by a summer 2013 meeting with leaders of a similar effort in Portland, Oregon, Minnesota’s minority-led nonprofits launch a united effort here. The coalition forms to address institutional racism and socioeconomic disparities, but the group gains momentum with their work addressing Minnesota’s persistent education disparities.

disasterPlanning for Disasters Before They Strike
As 100-year weather events and man-made disasters happen more frequently and become increasingly destructive, the current philanthropic strategy of convening funders to develop a plan after disaster hits becomes unworkable. Minnesota foundations team up with elected officials, first responders, the Red Cross, individual donors and nonprofits with deep roots in the community to develop a philanthropic response template that can be adjusted for each disaster.

- Trista Harris, MCF president


Philanthropy Responds to Typhoon Haiyan

November 13, 2013

typhoon1The Philippines has been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, with thousands of people dead or missing and millions of lives impacted since it made landfall on Friday.

Minnesota grantmakers have responded quickly to the urgent needs faced by those affected, with many are mobilizing to donate money, supplies, staff time and other resources to assist in the relief efforts. These include:

  • Medtronic Philanthropy giving $100,000 to the Red Cross and matching all employee donations dollar for dollar, up to $50,000 per employee. It will also offer up to 5 days paid time off for employees to volunteer in relief efforts.
  • Ecolab Foundation donating bleach, sanitizers and other needed cleaning supplies.
  • The General Mills Foundation committing $150,000 in disaster relief support to communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

MCF is collecting all efforts by Minnesota grantmakers in support of this cause. See our website for the full list and for suggested resources you can use when considering your own response. Individual donors may be especially interested in this list of ways to help from the Star Tribune, and these tips from the Charities Review Council on how to give wisely and confidently.

Are you and your organization helping those affected by Typhoon Haiyan? Let us know in the comments.

Image cc mansunides

Corporate Giving Up Since 2007

July 25, 2013
The Polaris Foundation donated ATVs for use in relief and clean-up efforts after the May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornado.

The Polaris Foundation donated ATVs for relief and clean-up efforts after a May 2013 tornado in OK.

The latest news from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) says a majority of companies nationally have increased cash and noncash giving since 2007, boosting their support of community despite an uncertain economy.

In Minnesota, often recognized for the generosity of its business community, corporate support is crucial to community betterment. Corporations represent less than 10% of our state’s grantmakers, but they give nearly half of all dollars granted in the state. In 2010, their giving exceeded $636 million!

In the summer issue of Giving Forum, read more about how companies around the country and here at home have changed their giving to increase returns on their community investments by:

  • strengthening links between business goals and giving priorities,
  • intensifing collaborative efforts that promise real impact on tough social problems, and
  • augmenting cash grants with noncash donations of product, employee time and talent.

Local examples from Aveda, General Mills, Target, UnitedHealth Group and others are included in the issue’s lead article.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


Grantmakers Respond to Duluth Area Flooding

July 2, 2012

An example of Duluth flood damage

We’ve all either experienced it first-hand or read the stories and seen the photos of the recent flooding in northeast Minnesota. Estimates come in at over $100 million for the the damage done to area homes, businesses and infrastructure.

Grantmakers in the region and around the state have mobilized to support the clean-up and rebuilding efforts. Among the activity we’re tracking at MCF:

  • Northland Foundation, AgStar Financial Services, Blandin Foundation, and Great River Energy have established the Business Flood Recovery Fund. Businesses impacted by the flooding may apply for grants of up to $5,000 to replace or repair inventory, equipment, supplies and buildings. The Northland Foundation has set an initial goal of $300,000 for the fund and continues to fundraise.
  • Northland Foundation has also made a $15,000 grant to support the relief efforts of the American Red Cross.
  • The Deluxe Corporation Foundation has donated $25,000 to the Red Cross to help victims of flooding in the Duluth area, and it’s coordinating a drive to collect donations of bottled water and cash.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has donated $10,000 to the Duluth-area Red Cross and $5,000 to the Cannon Valley Trail.
  • Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota has donated $25,000 to Salvation Army Duluth.
  • Catholic United Financial Foundation is pairing with Nechama Jewish Response to provide volunteer support to area homeowners.
  • Minnesota Power Foundation, RBC Foundation, Delta Dental of Minnesota, U.S. Bancorp Foundation and others are sponsoring the United Way of Greater Duluth’s Twin Ports Region Long Term Flood Recovery Fund, to help the unmet needs of residents when insurance, government or personal funds are insufficient to cover rebuilding or rehabilitation of homes.

For updates as MCF receives them, keep checking back on the Disaster Giving section of mcf.org. As the Star Tribune reminded us on Sunday, the Duluth area is still in need of donations and volunteers, and we can all play a part in supporting the recovery.

Photo cc BringMeTheNews


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