Cargill Foundation Helping North Minneapolis’ Harvest Schools Scale Up

February 6, 2014
Eric Mahmoud, founder and president of the Harvest Network of Schools

Eric Mahmoud, founder and president of the Harvest Network of Schools

On Wednesday, the Cargill Foundation announced a $1.5 million, three-year grant to the Harvest Network of Schools to help close the achievement gap for low-income students and students of color in North Minneapolis.

The schools have a long history in North Minneapolis. Started by Ella Mahmoud in her home in 1985 for 10 children, today the schools educate 1,200 children in six programs and are led by Ella’s husband, Eric Mahmoud, president and CEO, Harvest Network of Schools.

Harvest Schools to Scale Up
The grant from the Cargill Foundation will help the Harvest network of charter schools scale up to meet its goal of having 3,500 students in Harvest classrooms by 2021. The number is significant. North Minneapolis has a total of 6,800 students in grades K-8, so the Harvest Network will be educating 51% of North Minneapolis’ students when it hits 3,500 students.

Scott Portnoy, Cargill corporate vice president and president of the Cargill Foundation

Scott Portnoy, Cargill corporate vice president and president of the Cargill Foundation

Scott Portnoy, president of the Cargill Foundation, explained that Cargill is a major and long-time funder of education in the metro area. He continued, “These schools have been very successful at closing the achievement gap. They are in the top 10 of the State of Minnesota’s ‘Beating the Odds‘ schools, and they are leaders in educating boys of color.”

Minneapolis Public Schools Partners with Harvest Schools
Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools, doesn’t disagree. At Wednesday’s event she supported the Harvest Network of Schools, saying, “I want great schools for Minneapolis, irrespective if they are district or charter schools.” And she added that it wasn’t a particularly tough decision. “It was easier for me to decide to partner with Harvest Prep than to close the Minneapolis Public Schools for the recent cold weather.”

This is likely because the Harvest Schools set and enforce high standards. The schools’ website stresses rigorous academics and says, “No Gaps Here!”

Best of the Best
Eric Mahmoud reiterated that, saying, “We don’t want to be the best of the worst. We want to be among the best of the best.”

The schools are succeeding. He shared a slide that showed the math gap between white and black students in St. Paul Schools at 44% and in Wayzata Schools at 41%. The same chart showed African American boys at the Harvest Schools achieving at the same levels as white students in Edina and other high-performing school systems.

Darryl Cobb from the Charter School Growth Fund (CSGF), a nonprofit that invests philanthropic capital in the nation’s highest performing charter schools, also spoke at the event. He explained that the Harvest Network is currently undergoing the CSGF’s rigorous application process with hopes of being considered for CSGF investment.

Philanthropists who want to learn more about the Harvest schools should contact Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, chief officer of strategic alliances, Harvest Network of Schools, or watch the Minnesota Futures Award Video on the school’s home page.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


What Are Real Barriers to 21st Century Grantmaking?

January 24, 2014

While listening to some research highlights about Native American philanthropy yesterday, I got to wondering: Why have grantmaking methods changed so little since the 20th century? What are the invisible roadblocks that are preventing us from adopting 21st-century grantmaking practices?

In the Native Voices Rising report are 17 recommendations to increase grantmaking effectiveness and impact. Although written from a Native perspective, these suggested changes could be adapted for nearly any cultural or issue-based group:

  1. Provide increased funding for Native organizing.
  2. Provide more general operating and capacity-building support.
  3. Make long-term multi-year funding commitments.
  4. Fund grassroots Native organizations directly.
  5. Invest in leadership development.
  6. Support Native intermediaries that are solidly grounded in Native movements.
  7. Support income-generating activities such as social enterprises.
  8. Support development of the telecommunications/media infrastructure.
  9. Provide on-going operating support to voter engagement organizations beyond national election cycles in order to sustain progress and momentum.
  10. Incorporate interdisciplinary grant approaches that draw funds from multiple foundation program categories to support organizations and projects conducting work at the intersection of those programs, e.g., culture and environment.
  11. Listen and learn about Native communities, including issues, needs, and aspirations.
  12. Be more responsive than directive; find common interests.
  13. Communicate information about grant programs more broadly in the Native world.
  14. Conduct research on needs in the field in partnership with Native organizations.
  15. Look beyond the small population numbers as compared to other racial/ethnic groups.
  16. Bring Natives into the foundation as staff, board members and resource people, involving them in shaping and implementing foundation programs.
  17. Pool funds from small grant funders to streamline the grants application process and reporting requirements.

If you are a grantmaker, or if you work anywhere in the independent sector, I expect you’ve seen versions of these recommendations many times before. So what is hindering our adoption of these 21st-century grantmaking practices? I confess I don’t have the answers, but I bet you do.

Join the Conversation
Grantmakers, which of these recommendations have you already incorporated in your work? Which new practices would make the greatest difference to your grantees’ success? And which would dramatically improve your grantmaking effectiveness?

Please share your experiences. Together we can identify and break down the barriers to change.

– Wendy Wehr, v.p. of communications and information services


Collaborative Approaches to Improve the Health of Native Children in Minnesota

January 23, 2014
NB3

The Notah Begay III Foundation, focused on improving Native American health, was one of the conveners of this convening.

On January 17, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, Clearway Minnesota and Notah Begay III Foundation convened a group of funders to explore collaborative approaches to attaining health equity for Native children in Minnesota.

Representatives from the American Indian Cancer Foundation, the Minnesota Department of Health, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and Native Americans in Philanthropy also joined in this effort to identify current services, trends and gaps impacting the health of Native American children in Minnesota and brainstorm ways existing efforts could be woven together to strengthen the health outcomes for tribal communities.

Promising Strategies

While the discussions highlighted the health challenges facing Minnesota’s Native American communities including disproportionately high rates of obesity, diabetes, and cancer, promising strategies for eliminating these disparities were also brought forth, such as:

Also noteworthy is the National Initiative for Native Children, led by the Notah Begay III Foundation with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Through this initiative, the Notah Begay III Foundation will be making investments in Native American communities, including in Minnesota and Wisconsin, to expand efforts to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes in children.

Effective Collaboration

After reviewing the landscape of health equity efforts in Minnesota’s tribal communities, the funders agreed upon the following strategies for moving this work forward collaboratively:

  • Increasing access to culturally grounded systems of care
  • Coordinating resources for efficiency and impact
  • Trailblazing innovative funding of health equity work
  • Authentically engaging nations toward tribally driven solutions
  • Identifying and celebrating the assets of Native communities

For more information about this funder roundtable discussion or the National Initiative for Native Children, contact Olivia Roanhorse at the Notah Begay III Foundation (olivia@nb3f.org or 505.867.0775).

- Tara Kumar, MCF member services manager




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


MCF Hires Alfonso Wenker as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

January 6, 2014

alfonsoMCF is excited to announce that Alfonso Wenker will be joining us as our new director of diversity, equity and inclusion, starting January 21.

Alfonso has a range of experience in the philanthropic sector spanning program design, training and facilitation, fundraising, and event planning. Most recently, Alfonso developed a philanthropic fellowship program at the Bush Foundation that will be housed at MCF.

Prior to his time at Bush Foundation, Alfonso held various staff roles at PFund Foundation, including as the foundation’s first full-time program staff person, integrating racial equity frameworks across the organization, increasing volunteer participation and engaging new institutional funding partners.

His responsibilities at MCF will include leading the MCF Philanthropy Fellows program and managing MCF’s internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion work.

Welcome, Alfonso!


Engaging “New” Philanthropists

January 2, 2014
panel

Presenters (clockwise from top left) Kelly Drummer, Noelle Ito, Nareman Taha, Bo Thao-Urabe

Members of communities of color must look to their own communities to find new models of giving that will work there.

That was the overriding message at the “Everyone’s a Philanthropist” session at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening, featuring presenters:

Each is a member of a community with a long tradition of giving coupled with growing assets – defined as skills, community knowledge and finances. Community members also have an increasing awareness of the lack of philanthropic investment in their communities and want to be part of solutions that create greater good. Here’s how they answered a few questions.

Tell us about your “cultures of giving.”

Bo Thao-Urabe: In Asian communities, your personal well-being is judged by the well-being of your family.

Noelle Ito: Don’t assume that donors from our communities are all young and financially strapped; it’s not true. For many of our donors, it’s about more than writing a check. People want to get their hands dirty and learn about issues in their communities. And, just because I’m Asian American, don’t assume I know about all Asian American issues.

Nareman Taha: It’s very much about one-on-one relationships. I recommend that people go into a community, learn about how its members look at donating and see if they can build on that tradition.

We started by doing focus groups in a number of communities and found that Arab Americans were charitable, but they gave as individuals. Many didn’t understand organized philanthropy. Now, as a community foundation, our giving is more visible. We say, “Look we’re an Arab-American organization that is supporting the community.”

Kelly Drummer: Reciprocity is very important in the Native American culture. The structure of the Tiwahe Foundation – giving from individuals to individuals – grew out of that culture.

We want to be around for a long time, so we knew we had to build our endowment. We are now asking for donations of $1,000 –and spread over five years, that’s just $17 a month.

What’s the best way to engage with new communities and populations?

Thao-Urabe: It’s about relationships. Get to know a community and how they support each other. Work with the community to determine what kind of investment it needs to build its future. Get community members to see themselves as donors. Many of them already give, but they do it without recognition.

Determine how community members can combine their traditional values with the tools of American philanthropy.

Taha: Build relationships with existing religious and social service organizations that are already working in the community. Associating your work with theirs can increase your credibility.

Drummer: It’s about getting people to realize that giving in small amounts matters. You don’t need to have a lot of money to give. I say, “If you think you can’t give $120, how about if you give $10 each month for a year?”

How do your organizations work with foundations?

Ito: Foundations serve as fiscal agents for our giving circles, so they process our checks. Many of our giving circles also have a 50 percent foundation match.

Taha: W.K. Kellogg Foundation and others have lent us their expertise, their research and their support. They have been extremely helpful.

Drummer: The Minneapolis Foundation has provided a home for our endowment. We partner with Blandin Foundation and Bush Foundation on leadership development programs.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


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