“Finish Strong” Funders Coalition Supports Older Adults

February 21, 2014

Spending several days with my home-bound elderly mother this week has given me new perspectives on the “graying of America.”

Let’s just say that I’m not looking forward to losing my driver’s license, walking with a cane and having difficulty cutting an apple or reaching up to my kitchen cupboards.

Of course, thousands of baby boomers in Minnesota feel the same way, and many more will face far greater challenges. And that’s one reason the philanthropic community is paying attention to the great “age wave.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the number of Minnesotans ages 65 and up will nearly double between now and 2035, while other age groups will grow on average only six percent. (Learn more about our state’s changing demographics at Minnesota Compass.)

Funders for Aging Services
A statewide network of grantmakers affiliated with the Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) has just announced a new name for their group:  the Finish Strong Funders Coalition for Aging Services.  (Yes, they’re working at the other end of the age spectrum from the Start Early Funders Coalition.)

The network describes itself as “a wide array of public and private funders dedicated to funding services that support older adults in the community as important contributors, assets, and resources.”

Like several of MCF’s member networks, this group understands the importance of private and community foundations, corporate givers and government entities working together to face society’s challenges. And aging is a big challenge that’s closing in fast on all of us.

Resources on Aging
If you’re a grantmaker, a nonprofit aging services provider, elder or caregiver who wants to learn more about the impact of aging in our communities, here are just a few links to get you started:

And if you’re a grantmaker interested in learning more about Minnesota’s Finish Strong Funders Coalition, contact Tara Kumar, MCF member services manager, at tkumar@mcf.org.

By dedicating resources and coming together in formal and informal networks such as these, I have a growing confidence that we’ll transform our communities in ways in which we can live and age well. Then we’ll all have rides when we can no longer drive, as well as a helping hand in the kitchen.

– Wendy Wehr, MCF vice president of communications and information services

Blue Cross Aligns for Better Health

September 6, 2013
Here, Blue Cross employees volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, just one way they help in the community.

Blue Cross employees volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, just one way they help in the community.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has adopted a cohesive strategy that addresses individual and community health issues across a wide spectrum.

The organization’s foundation, community relations department and the Center for Prevention each play a unique role.  Together, they align to help Blue Cross “make a healthy difference in people’s lives.”

In MCF’s summer issue of Giving Forum on corporate philanthropy, read more about: how the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation focuses on social and economic determinants of health; how its Center for Prevention addresses root causes of disease; and how the company’s community relations department spearheads food drives, blood drives and much more.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Feeling Insecure? Where’s Your Next Meal Coming From?

September 5, 2013

fork_spoonNo one likes to feel insecure. Given a choice, most of us would pick confidence and certainty over apprehension and doubt. That’s true whether we’re fretting over having a bad hair day or anxious about…where our family’s next meal is coming from.

Yes, bad hair days are meaningless compared to worrying about feeding your kids.

Food Insecurity Over 10 Percent
Yesterday’s release by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of its latest food security report has created a flurry of discussion about hunger — the severity of the problem, the causes, and the solutions. Particularly contentious are the current debates about the federal food stamp program, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (For example, read yesterday’s New York Times article, see today’s blog from the Minnesota Budget Project, or check out this segment from Moyers & Company.)

According to the USDA, 10.6 percent of Minnesota households were food insecure in 2012. That means that they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.

Grantmaking to Alleviate Hunger
So what are Minnesota’s philanthropists doing to address food insecurity in our state? Here’s a quick snapshot:

Hunger Intertwined with Poverty
Of course, lack of adequate, nutritious food is just one of the innumerable burdens of poverty — a much more immense issue that a host of other MCF members are striving to alleviate.  (See MCF’s Giving Forum edition on the interconnected causes of poverty.)

Minnesotans worried about food are just as insecure about their next paycheck, their next doctor’s visit, their utility bills, their day care costs…the list goes on. So, the next time you’re worried about a bad hair day, think again.  Your neighbor may have a much more serious worry.

- Wendy Wehr, vice president of communications and information services.

Image CC Francis Bourgouin

Achieving Better Community Outcomes

September 3, 2013

Xcel Energy 2012 CRR OverviewXcel Energy Foundation undertook strategic planning in 2012, with a goal of  pushing themselves and their community partners, including Greater Twin Cities United Way, to achieve even better outcomes for the communities they serve and for the company.

One objective: Strengthen the tie between corporate giving and key business priorities.

Since then, Xcel Energy has focused its education  funding more narrowly on science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – disciplines. Most jobs at Xcel Energy require STEM training and because half of the company’s workforce is eligible for retirement in the next decade, it seeks to produce a more highly trained workforce that can better support a number of industries, including its own.

Xcel Energy also focuses on the environment. Water is an important natural resource for energy production, and Xcel continues to be part of the solution in sustainably managing this resource. It funds research and education projects that support issues related to water quantity and quality.

For more on Xcel Energy’s funding focuses, read “Xcel Focuses Community Support,” in the summer issue of Giving Forum on corporate philanthropy.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

The Future of Combined Giving

August 26, 2013

Nonprofits like United Way have a long history of combined-giving campaigns.

Although this year especially, it seems like summer just started, before you know it the kids will be headed back to school and fall combined-giving campaigns will be in full swing.

Combined-giving campaigns — such as United Way, Community Health Charities, Combined Federal Campaign and others — have a long history of nonprofit support. Traditionally, large employers have participated to encourage employee support of nonprofits. But today, with more small businesses and fewer people employed by large companies, campaign pitch meetings and payroll deductions don’t work at the old scale.

However, Steve Boland, financial specialist, Nonprofits Assistance Fund, says combined-giving campaigns aren’t going away anytime soon and believes that with a little creativity they will thrive well into the future.

In the summer issue of Giving Forum, Steve gives examples of where combined-giving has been and where it’s going. Read the full article here.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Businesses of All Sizes Support Minnesota Communities

August 16, 2013

gf_summer_trends_fig_cMCF’s Giving in Minnesota, 2012 Edition research showed 134 corporate foundations and formal giving programs in Minnesota in 2010 (the most recent year for which complete data are available).

Some of the names of giant retail or consumer goods companies – such as Target or General Mills – may be very familiar to you. But other large corporate grantmakers – such as business-to-business leader Pentair or agricultural stand-out CHS – may not be.

These and many other businesses of all sizes support our communities through charitable donations of money, products, services and volunteerism.

Don’t miss the data-rich article, Generous Corporate Support of Nonprofits, in the  the summer issue of Giving Forum on corporate philanthropy. There you’ll learn more about how and where local corporations give, what they support, and if their giving is up or down in recent years.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Corporate Volunteers = Community and Corporate Assets

August 13, 2013
HBFullerWillow Lake Bridging (16)

During H.B. Fuller’s “Make a Difference” campaign, employee volunteers assemble dressers at Bridging.

The recent recession seems to have strengthened — rather than dampened — corporate volunteerism. And today, companies report a new employee energy around volunteering, including:

  • more creative initiatives that respond to the basic needs of vulnerable people,
  • an increased interest in putting professional skills to work at nonprofits and
  • a greater focus on strategic volunteering to leverage other corporate contributions.

Proving the return on investment of a business’s community relations activities and showing the many benefits of employee volunteer programs is critical to the success and continuation of the initiatives.

Read “Corporate Volunteers: Community and Corporate Assets” in the summer issue of Giving Forum to learn more about the positive returns  for all involved when corporate volunteers get involved in our communities.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


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