Take the First Step Toward Impact Investing

May 5, 2014

11697209523_14b9817f14_nThe Sundance Family Foundation (an MCF member) is on a journey toward impact investing. Since 2009, the small foundation has worked to incorporate socially responsible investments — investments that consider financial returns and social good — into their investment program. They’ve done so in stages and have learned a lot along the way.

MCF hopes other foundations considering similar investment strategies will learn from Sundance’s work. Outlined below is a very basic summary of the steps the foundation has taken since 2009.

Check Giving Forum (online and in your mailbox now) for a more complete article and follow online links to an even more detailed case study of the Sundance Family Foundation’s journey.

Step 1: Purchase a low risk program-related investment focused on community redevelopment after Hurricane Katrina

Step 2: Purchase a certificate of deposit from Sunrise Banks, a community development financial institution and an MCF member

Step 3: Find an investment firm willing to help establish socially responsible investment objectives

Step 4: Work with the firm to systematically identify and clarify investment goals and preferences

Step 5: Meet with the firm regularly to discuss opportunities, ensure shared understanding and increase investment in multiple types of socially responsible investment vehicles

Will you follow Sundance’s Lead?
Socially responsible investing is becoming more main stream and practical. Foundations like the Sundance Family Foundation are leading the way with its investments. Will your organization follow suit?

Learn more at the Mission Investor’s Exchange National Conference in the Twin Cities, May 13-15.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Photo cc LendingMemo



What Can You Learn from PFund’s Community-led Grantmaking?

April 29, 2014

pfund1aWith a belief that community members can best determine where funding will have the greatest positive impact, PFund Foundation (an MCF member) has long been committed to community-led grantmaking. In its last round of grantmaking and guided by a strategic direction of increased regional participation, PFund involved community more than ever. A summary of changes PFund made follows.

And, for a more detailed look at how you can incorporate PFund’s learning into your next grants round, check the spring issue of Giving Forum (online and in your mailbox now).

5 Changes:

  1. Expand the table. Historically PFund has engaged community leaders based in the Twin Cities. In its last grants round, it added leaders from Greater Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin, and it plans to recruit from Iowa and South Dakota.
  2. Connect community leaders. In addition to reviewing written grant proposals, during its last grant round, community leaders held 24 site visits – in person and virtual. This connected leaders in new ways.
  3. Build shared knowledge. To enrich everyone’s understanding of LGBT communities in the Upper Midwest, PFund is convening community leaders.
  4. Foster mutual commitment. PFund is moving from recruiting volunteers annually to inviting community members to serve 3-year terms on its grant committee.
  5. Create a playbook. The foundation’s guidelines, approaches, policies and more are now documented in a resource that will be used and updated by the grants committee annually.

Did PFund do something that your organization could build on to increase your level of interaction with and commitment to the communities you serve?

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

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.

“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


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