Minnesota Grantmakers at the White House

March 13, 2014

obama2In February, President Obama announced My Brother’s Keeper, an interagency initiative to determine what public and private efforts are working for young men and boys of color and how to expand upon them. Foundations nationally will direct at least $200 million toward the effort over the next five years in addition to $150 million already pledged or awarded.

Minnesota’s philanthropic community was well represented at the announcement. Here, Trista Harris, MCF president, and David Nicholson, executive director, Headwaters Foundation for Justice, reflect on their attendance at the historic announcement with Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Have you seen philanthropy and government come together like this before? What’s important about this moment?
DN:
I have seen foundations and government come together on a local level. I work with the Northside Funders Group where the state, city and county are working alongside foundations to identify common needs and opportunities for collective impact. But, most examples I can think of focus on a specific “it” – a policy or a solution – rather than on the whole.

TH: I think this could be a transformational moment for our country. It allows foundations to lift up best practices and scale up programs that support a consistently underserved population, while the government takes a systemic look – across all federal agencies – to ensure we are effectively serving men and boys of color.

What are the potential impacts for communities of color?
DN: This is an opportunity to focus on what works and finally move some of the persistent disparity numbers in health, wealth, education and opportunity for members of all communities.

TH: When we bring out the best in the most marginalized communities, we bring out the best in America as a whole.

What are the potential impacts for the community as a whole?
DN: We all have a vested interest in the success of everyone in our community. If one group, in this case boys and men of color, are many rungs behind on the opportunity ladder, it is prudent and strategic to focus on them.

TH: As a country, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind. We need the full participation of every American. By focusing on men and boys of color, we are strengthening communities for everyone.

What was it like being in a briefing with the President?
DN: For me personally, it was powerful to see the grandeur and size of the White House. It was very exciting to be in a room with so many people who have such a long commitment to this work.

TH: It was humbling and awe inspiring to be in the White House with a group of amazing people who have been working for decades to improve the lives of men and boys of color, to be joined by the President, who is personally committed to the effort, and to hear from a group of young men who will be impacted directly. It was the single most important experience in my professional career.

What opportunities are there for Minnesota to leverage this momentum?
DN: Minnesota momentum is critical. We have a long history of philanthropic leadership and thoughtful bipartisan initiatives, yet we have not been able to use that to address our dramatic and desperate outcomes for communities of color.

TH: There is great work happening in Minnesota, and this is an opportunity to connect it to national momentum. The African American Leadership Forum, Summit Academy, Brotherhood Inc., Harvest Prep School and Hiawatha Academy are all doing excellent work, so I look forward to Minnesota foundations and government leaders coming to the table and to Minnesota being one of the first states to scale its efforts.

Minnesota grantmakers are invited to continue the conversation at “My Brother’s Keeper: What’s Next for Minnesota?” a facilitated dialogue on Tuesday, March 25.



President Obama Announces “My Brother’s Keeper” and Philanthropy Investment

February 28, 2014

obama9Boys and young men of color too often face disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success in our society.

Today in the U.S., if you are African-American, there’s a 50-50 chance that you’ll grow up without a father at home, and you’re more likely to be poor, to not read well, to be expelled from school and eventually to end up incarcerated.

And, as President Obama stressed yesterday, “The worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We pretend this is a normal part of American life instead of the outrage that it is. These statistics should break our hearts and compel us to act.”

Act is what the President did Thursday as he signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the “My Brother’s Keeper” Task Force, an interagency initiative to determine what public and private efforts are working for young men and boys of color and how to expand upon them.

The President has built a broad coalition of backers to help break down barriers, clear pathways to opportunity and reverse troubling trends that show too many boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks.

For yesterday’s announcement, he was joined by philanthropic leaders — including MCF President Trista Harris and David Nicholson, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice — and representatives from communities, business, government and faith groups.

Foundations have already made extensive investments in support of boys and young men of color. Building on that, yesterday 10 foundations (including MCF members The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation) announced additional commitments of at least $200 million over the next five years to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for positive impact in the lives of boys and young men of color.

Look for more next week on Trista Harris’ D.C. experience.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


“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



A Good Food Future: The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network

January 8, 2014

healthyfoodToday on the blog we feature Pam Bishop, entrepreneur senior program officer, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. She presented at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening about one of MCF’s member networks, the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network. She tells us more about it here.

At the November 2013 MCF Philanthropy convening, representatives from the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities (HFHC) Funders Network introduced the network during an interactive breakout session. Here is some of what was covered:

Who We Are
The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network is a group of Minnesota-based funders who make informed, coordinated and strategic investments to improve key facets of our food system. Our shared commitment to the vitality and prosperity of our state’s communities and resilience of our landscapes inspire us to work together.

What We Do
This diverse group of funders:

  • Shares information about promising programs, organizations, issues and research.
  • Coordinates funding among members to ensure resources are well-distributed across organizations and initiatives focused on food systems.
  • Increases overall funding available for food systems-related work.
  • Convenes meetings for Minnesota’s funding community on relevant issues of interest around food systems and philanthropy.

Priorities
Our joint agenda for learning and investment is based on the concept of collective impact. It emphasizes three strategic priorities:

  1. Facilitate Local Entrepreneurship across the food supply chain.
  2. Improve Access to Healthy Food to enhance wellness and health equity for all Minnesotans.
  3. Strengthen and sustain Farmland Access throughout the state.

For the next three years, these priorities will inform the content of HFHC-sponsored meetings for the broader funding community. They will also influence strategies to align and increase funding.

Each priority has a working group that meets regularly to plan network-wide learning opportunities and execute a successful strategy to coordinate and increase funding.

Get Involved
If you are a funder interested in these issues, here are some ways for you to get involved with the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network:

  • Join the HFHC listserv by contacting Tara Kumar, member services manager at MCF.
  • Attend the HFHC public meeting in early 2014. Watch for details — coming soon.
  • Join one of the HFHC working groups to collaborate with other funders on strategic alignment of funding on an issue you care about. Contact Tara if interested.

Members
HFHC Funders Network has members from agencies, organizations and institutions that fund efforts to address social, environmental, economic and human health dimensions of food and agriculture in Minnesota.

For example: family, community and corporate foundations; state agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Health; academic institutions, such as the University of Minnesota; health organizations, such as UCare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; and hunger relief groups such as United Way.

Photo cc NatalieMaynor

Five Elected Officials Selected as Bush Fellows

December 18, 2013

Bush-AltLogo-ColorThe Bush Foundation has selected its final Bush Fellows for 2013 from an applicant pool open exclusively to elected and government officials in policymaking positions. These include:

  • Minneapolis City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who will work through a race-conscious lens to offer local elected leaders the skills, tools and competencies they need to tackle racism.
  • Representative Rena Moran of St. Paul, to implement a single early childhood education experience for all Minnesota children from pre-Kindergarten to third grade.
  • County Commissioner Jeanne Ennen of Donnelly, to create an organized mentor program that links trained community volunteers who’ve overcome struggles with families and children with common interests.
  • Senator Roger Reinert of Duluth, who will build a toolkit of core civic skills to use in engaging citizens who are now disconnected from their civic rights and responsibilities.
  • Senator Philip Murphy of Portland, ND, to encourage communities in his area to implement and continually improve their pre-Kindergarten education programs.

See all 31 Fellows selected this year and the plans they are working toward fulfilling.

Next year the announcement of Bush Fellows will look a bit different, with a single cohort announced in March 2014. Applications for the 2015 cohort will open in the summer. Visit the Bush Foundation’s website to learn more.

Congratulations to all of 2013′s cohort!


Back to Budgeting and Tax Reform

November 4, 2013

budgetThe budget conference committee in Congress has a self-imposed deadline of December 15 to create a recommended 2014 fiscal year budget. The committee is considering dramatically different House and Senate budget resolutions – which were adopted last March while grantmakers were in Washington, D.C. for Foundations on the Hill.

Expectations are low for a so-called “grand bargain” designed to address structural federal budget challenges. But the committee may strike a timely, modest deal, if only to counter public concerns about paralyzing government gridlock after the recent shutdown. Modest tax reforms are being considered as part of the committee’s deliberations.

Protect Giving Day
The Charitable Giving Coalition, a group of more than 60 nonprofits, foundations and other charitable organizations, is concerned that changes to the charitable tax deduction could be among the tax reforms taken up by the committee.

The Coalition has declared November 20 as Protect Giving Day, with nonprofit and philanthropic leaders around the country contacting lawmakers to protect the charitable tax deduction. This will be similar to the effort last December during the “fiscal cliff” crisis when advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. to block then-proposed changes to the charitable tax deduction.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) has been clear about the benefits of the deduction. We’ve covered the benefits on this blog before: in short, the public receives three dollars of benefit for every dollar a donor gets in tax relief, and limiting it could do substantial harm to many nonprofits around the country.

Excise Tax Simplification
We also communicated with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation as the shutdown crisis ended, cautioning against changing the charitable tax deduction and recommending that the budget negotiations are an opportunity to enact a budget-neutral simplification of the private foundation excise tax.

As MCF continues to communicate with members of Congress as a build up to Protect Giving Day, we encourage you to let your representatives know of the importance of the charitable deduction. If you who have traveled with MCF for Foundations on the Hill or attended one of the Coffees with Congress we’ve hosted with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Minnesota United Ways, you can draw on your personal experience and legislative relationships to help make your case.

As the letter the Charitable Giving Coalition wrote to all members of Congress puts it: “While there is a sense of relief throughout America that a bipartisan agreement ended the federal government shutdown, the fallout placed hardships on too many families and communities. On this day of action, we will share our perspectives, including powerful examples about the strength and stability of the nonprofit sector, which was on full display during this time – and continues to be throughout the year.”

We hope all of you in Minnesota will join us in doing the same.

- Bob Tracy, MCF Director of Government Relations and Public Policy

Photo cc chbrenchley

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