2015 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows Announced

December 16, 2014

Today MCF announced the 2015 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows. The Fellowship, launched as a partnership with the Bush Foundation in 2013, prepares high-potential individuals from underrepresented communities for careers in philanthropy.

Fellows are employed by MCF and placed at participating foundations for three years. This year’s Fellows will join the Bush Foundation, the Headwaters Foundation for Justice or The Minneapolis Foundation, where they will start on January 12, 2015.

“For foundations to remain credible partners, their staff must reflect the shifting diversity of communities,” says Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “These leaders bring strong community relationships that will help position their host sites for the future.”

2015Fellows2Meet the 2015 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows:

  • Allison Johnson (pictured, middle) is a community organizer with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, where she has worked across the Twin Cities to build support for affordable housing and stronger communities. She will join the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.
  • Aya Johnson (right) is currently a community representative in the United States Congress focusing on immigration, foreign affairs, unemployment and outreach to communities of color. She has also served as a domestic violence advocate in St. Cloud and Blaine. She will join the Community Innovation team at the Bush Foundation.
  • Adrian Mack (left) is presently the program and curriculum director of STATURE, a leadership program designed to guide Minneapolis youth toward academic and career success. He also participates in several initiatives to engage the broader African American community. He will join the Bush Foundation’s Community Innovation team.
  • Patrice Relerford (second from right) is now the institutional support coordinator and grantwriter at People Serving People, a family-oriented shelter that provides emergency housing and community services to help homeless families achieve stability and reconnect with the community. She began her career as an education reporter at the Star Tribune and will join the Community Impact team at The Minneapolis Foundation.
  • Avi Viswanathan (second from left) has served as the campaign director for HIRE Minnesota, a campaign working to achieve racial equity in employment. He lives with his family on the East Side of St. Paul where he is engaged in many community activities and has served on the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council. He will join the Leadership Programs team at the Bush Foundation.

“I’ve seen firsthand how poverty and inequality erode communities,” says Fellow Patrice Relerford. “Through this fellowship, I believe I can better understand disparities by asking the tough questions to find solutions. For example, why does our region continue to have such glaring academic achievement, employment and home ownership gaps between whites and people of color?”

About the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship
The Fellowship is dedicated to the late Ron McKinley, a longtime member of the philanthropic and nonprofit communities who embodied justice and equity and worked tirelessly throughout his career to ensure that those from underrepresented communities were afforded equal access, opportunity and the resources necessary to fully participate and be heard.

Applications for the 2016 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship will be open in fall 2015. Learn more at http://www.mcf.org/about/philanthropy-fellowship or contact Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, with any questions.

Photo credit: Anna Min, Min Enterprises


Funder Collaboratives Changing Philanthropy as Usual

November 17, 2014
Bill English of the Northside Job Creation Team

Bill English of the Northside Job Creation Team

MCF’s latest edition of Giving Forum is out now! This issue’s feature story focuses on the Northside Funders Group and the Start Early Funders Coalition for Children & Minnesota’s Future, two funder collaboratives sharing information and resources to make a bigger difference in their work.

Northside Funders Group

Tawanna Black of Northside Funders Group shares how the funders working in North Minneapolis embraced FSG’s collective impact model, the first place-based funder collaborative in the country to do so.

“In North Minneapolis in particular, we felt it was critical to have public sector dollars and strategies aligned with philanthropy to get the impact we want,” says Black.

Denise Mayotte and Frank Forsberg

Denise Mayotte and Frank Forsberg

Start Early Funders Coalition for Children & Minnesota’s Future

Frank Forsberg and Denise Mayotte, co-chairs of the Start Early coalition, then explain how the funders in this group decided to come together in 2011 to create a shared vision on moving early childhood efforts forward in Minnesota. Their efforts have resulted in the creation of MinneMinds,a statewide campaign to increase public funding for access to high-quality early care and education programs.

“This is so important because it’s the first meaningful new investment in early childhood education at the state level in 15 to 20 years,” says Forsberg. “And it was only possible because so many partners came together to make a unified ask of the legislature.”

Read On!

When you’ve finished that article, check out the rest of the new issue, with stories on MCF’s new member types, how we’re building philanthropy’s new living room, highlights from our recent Fast Forward interview, and much more!


Make Your Nominations for the 2015 Facing Race Ambassador Award

October 30, 2014

stpf1Do you know someone working tirelessly to end racism? Nominate that person for the Facing Race Ambassador Award!

The Ambassador Award is an annual award made by The Saint Paul Foundation that celebrates and honors the leadership of individuals working toward racial equity.

In 2015, the foundation will name:

  • One award recipient for work focused in the East Metro (Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties).
  • One award recipient for work focused anywhere in Minnesota.
  • Up to three honorable mentions for work focused anywhere in Minnesota.

Head to The Saint Paul Foundation’s website to access the Request for Nominations and online submission form. Nominations are due December 12.

The foundation is also hosting an informational webinar on November 18, where you can learn more about the nomination process. Register for that webinar online.


Learning and Teaching with Fire

October 21, 2014

AIHECYesterday we brought you a post from Kayla Yang-Best focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Today we have a post from Kyle Erickson of Blandin Foundation, who attended the same event and shares takeaways from the Tribal Colleges portion. Thank you Kyle!

Native Americans and African Americans have traveled a very different path through time and place in America. One area of shared experience for the two cultures is a history of governmental and societal policies and systems that have resulted in a largely inequitable educational experience for their young people.

Too often, these communities – and their aggregate educational outcomes – are viewed through the lens of an “achievement gap,” or some other well-intentioned but ultimately negative point of view. “Learning and Teaching with Fire: Lessons from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges (TCUs)” provided a fresh perspective, sharing lessons of significant successes and best practices developed at these minority-serving institutions that can inform and improve education for students from any background.

Tribal College Movement Growing

According to Carrie Billy, director of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the Tribal College movement has grown from one institution in 1968 to 37 colleges and universities today, comprising 75 campuses that cover 80% of Indian Country and serve nearly 90,000 learners through academic and extension courses. Half of enrolled Native Americans attending college today are at a TCU. With help from these institutions, the number of Native Americans who have earned a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree has increased almost 250% over the last 20 years.

The list of TCUs includes four in Minnesota, located on the Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth, and Fond du Lac reservations. Billy identified significant areas of achievement at TCUs in Minnesota and across the country including:

  • Place-based research that allows TCU students to learn while addressing local and regional problems ranging from diabetes treatment and prevention to aquifer management and alternative agriculture systems.
  • Degree programs that meet community needs, including nursing, teacher education, and indigenous language studies.
  • Creation of a comprehensive data reporting system (AIHEC AIMS) that ensures accountability to communities and funders, and provides a platform for continuous institutional improvement.

The best practices for student success outlined by Billy and other TCU panelists – proactive, “intrusive” academic advising; access to experiential learning and research opportunities with support from caring faculty; wraparound student support services; designation of a go-to staff or faculty person for each student – are a part of the comfortable, familial environment cultivated at TCUs to ease the transition to postsecondary academic and social life. This is especially crucial given the high percentage of tribal college students who are the first in their family to set foot on a college campus.

Overcoming the “High Risk” Label

Dr. Don Day, President of Leech Lake Tribal College, pointed out that these successes have been gained despite daunting challenges. Commonly identified barriers to postsecondary success include being a first-generation college student, coming from a low-income household, being part of a racial/ethnic minority group, receiving inadequate academic preparation in high school, and being a parent while attending college. Nearly all TCU students fall into one or more of the “high risk” categories, and it’s not uncommon for a student to fit all of them, yet these institutions and their students are finding a path to success.

The stories of growth and achievement despite long odds and inadequate funding caught the attention of many attendees including Sen. Patricia Torres-Ray, who called for a statewide conversation to learn more about how to better support the important role Minnesota’s tribal colleges play in our educational ecosystem. If Minnesota aims to take equity in education seriously, that conversation will be the starting point of a larger, deeper body of work that will benefit Native American and non-Native learners alike.

More material from the conference can be found on the Center for School Change website.


HBCUs Share Best Practices for Student Success

October 20, 2014

cscToday on the blog we welcome MCF member Kayla Yang-Best of Bush Foundation, who will share what she learned from a recent event about Tribal Colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Thank you, Kayla!

I had the great pleasure of attending a presentation and panel discussion on Historically Black Universities and Colleges this past week. The presentation was part a larger convening hosted by the Center for School Change on Learning and Teaching with Fire: Lessons from HBCUs and Tribal Colleges.” What an invigorating discussion – one well participated by community leaders and people from a wide range of organizations and sectors, including K12 and policymakers.

We heard many examples of students of color who are succeeding in postsecondary education. I’d like to focus on a couple examples from HBCUs that left an impression on me:

  • HBCUs retain and graduate low-income, academically under-prepared students at higher rates than non-HBCUs.
  • 40 percent of Black students with degrees in STEM graduated from an HBCU.

What accounts for this success? Dr. Brian Bridges of the United Negro College Fund, one of the speakers, attributed it to “a culture of experimentation” – where HBCUs are doing things differently and intentionally. He highlighted several practices, including:

  • High level of student/faculty engagement
  • Proactive advising
  • Promoting culture and a high level of self-identity and
  • Setting high expectations.

He concluded his talk by saying “these strategies can be adapted to all education levels and settings.”

At the core of these practices is connecting to culture, that in turn creates a high level of self-identity, belonging and relationship that the kids desperately need. A good illustration of that came from the audience, a young black man, who stood up and said that he has often been told his history starts with slavery. And that is a very negative foundation to identify with. In his words, “what about before slavery? There is more to me and who I am.”

I was really moved and energized coming out of that convening. Besides learning about the great results of the practices of HBCUs and Tribal Colleges, the convening presented a positive and asset-based narrative about kids of color and achievement, which we don’t hear enough about.

Thank you to the Center for School Change for the convening.


Fast Forward: Chris Cardona on Accessible Philanthropy

October 7, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.09.07 PMThe newest episode of MCF’s Fast Forward podcast featuring big thinkers in philanthropy is up!

In this episode, Alfonso Wenker sits down with Chris Cardona of TCC Group. They kick off their discussion with the three levels of accessible philanthropy Chris has seen grantmakers employ:

  1. Consult stakeholders about their decisions
  2. Integrate these communities into the decision-making process
  3. Get community involvement in the initial design process
Chris Cardona

Chris Cardona

The two go on to discuss the best entry point into this culture of accessibility, getting buy-in from leadership, and why equity and inclusion are such important concepts in discussions about diversity.

Listen to the podcast now! Then subscribe on iTunes or plug the RSS feed into the program of your choice.

Grantmakers, if you like what you hear, be sure to join us October 31 for Today’s Realities | Tomorrow’s Opportunities, MCF’s annual conference. Chris Cardona is one of the several prominent local and national speakers you’ll interact with throughout the day!


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