What’s Your Verb?

July 15, 2014
Jennifer Ford Reedy addressing the YNPN National Conference

Jennifer Ford Reedy addressing the YNPN National Conference

A couple of weeks ago, the national conference of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network came to Minneapolis. As a board member of the local chapter, I was thrilled to see so many young leaders from around the country in town and for them to hear Jennifer Ford Reedy of the Bush Foundation during day two’s opening keynote.

One insight from Reedy’s keynote in particular has been sticking with me and others who attended. It came during her description of her career path and how she figured out what her dream job was. A lot of her career, she said, involved doing a good job and seeing what new opportunities emerged, but there was a pivotal moment — involving deep thinking and visualizing her dream job — that got her to where she is today.

That moment came with a question from a CEO she’d been working with. The question wasn’t, “What’s your dream job?” Instead the CEO asked, “Can we fund you to be you and keep doing what you’re doing in the community?” Reedy knew that wasn’t feasible and that she’d need to have a platform and a place to belong. But it did get her thinking, “What do I want to do? Not what job do I want, but what is the verb in my life?”

She thought about what she was good at, what she enjoyed doing and the impact she wanted to have. From there she considered organizations she could be a part of that would allow her to do that. That frame of mind allowed her to make conscious choices that led her to Bush Foundation.

Reedy’s story demonstrated that the familiar question about someone’s dream job might have it backwards. The most important thing to know is what you’ll be happy doing. The best place to do it flows from there, not vice versa. So what about it, what’s your verb?

Watch Reedy’s full keynote and Q&A session from the conference below:

- Chris Oien, MCF digital communications specialist


Applications Open for the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship

July 8, 2014

Ron-McKinley-Philanthropy_FINAL_outlines_RGB-(2)MCF is pleased to open applications for the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship (formerly the MCF Philanthropy Fellowship).

The fellowship is dedicated to Ron McKinley, a longtime member of the philanthropic and nonprofit communities. He was a mentor to many and an advocate who embodied justice and equity. He worked tirelessly throughout his career to ensure that all those underrepresented in these communities were afforded equal access, opportunity and the resources necessary to fully participate and be heard.

Ron McKinley

Ron McKinley

The fellowship, which was launched as a partnership with MCF and the Bush Foundation in 2013, will prepare individuals from underrepresented communities for careers in philanthropy. But the fellowship is about more than changing the face of leadership in philanthropy; it’s about infusing new ideas and viewpoints into the field.

Fellows will be employed by MCF and placed in full-time positions at host foundations for three-year appointments.

If you know high-potential leaders who will push themselves and their host foundations to think bigger and think differently, encourage them to apply!

We’re also on the lookout for foundations interested in hosting additional Fellows. Information about that can be also be found on our website.


Fast Forward: Gary Cunningham

June 24, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.09.07 PMThe third episode of Fast Forward, MCF’s series of conversations with philanthropy’s big thinkers, is out now!

This time, MCF President Trista Harris sits down with Gary Cunningham, vice president of programs for Northwest Area Foundation.

Gary discusses his recent article The Urgency of Now: Foundations’ Role in Ending Racial Inequity and what other grantmakers can take from it. Watch the video below:

In the extended video captured in our transcript, Gary also talks about his role in the African American Leadership Forum and the importance of communities organizing and speaking on their own behalf with a unified voice. Read the transcript on our website.

Catch the whole series on the Fast Forward homepage, and stay tuned for next month, featuring Trish Tchume of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network!


Fast Forward: Phil Buchanan on Effective Practice in Philanthropy

May 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.09.07 PMThe newest edition of MCF’s Fast Forward series is out!

In this episode, our president Trista Harris speaks with Phil Buchanan, president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). CEP is a nonprofit that helps foundations assess and improve their effectiveness and performance. Phil identifies the four components to effective practice as:

  • Clear goals
  • Coherent strategies
  • Disciplined implementation
  • Relevant performance indicators

Phil and Trista discuss the challenges foundations face in receiving honest feedback, tools CEP has developed to address those challenges, and his advice to foundations interested in becoming more effective organizations:

Read the transcript of the interview on our website, then stop by the Fast Forward main page to catch last month’s interview with Margaret A. Cargill Foundation’s Mark Lindberg if you missed it!

 

 


Nexus Community Partners Opens BCLI Applications

May 14, 2014
BCLI '14 alumni

BCLI ’14 alumni

This week, MCF member Nexus Community Partners announced it has opened applications for its Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI), a seven month leadership program that supports, trains and places people of color and other underrepresented community members on publicly appointed boards and commissions that influence and impact equity in the Twin Cities.

Benefits to BCLI fellows include:

  • Joining a network of racial equity and social justice advocates influencing policy decisions on local and regional commissions.
  • Gaining integrated perspectives on key local and regional racial equity and social justice issues: economic development, health equity, affordable housing, transit, and workforce development.
  • Participating in a facilitated learning community of trainers, advocate commissioners and elected officials who share best practices, lessons learned, and key concepts.
  • Learning commission skills like Parliamentary Procedure, media messaging, and municipal budgeting.

Nominations are due July 18. Several information sessions about the program are available May 29 through June 19. More information and the nomination packet are available on the Nexus Community Partners website.

Good luck to those being nominated!


Grantmaking for Community Impact

May 7, 2014

promise1Last month, MCF hosted Christine Reeves from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Reeves gave an overview of philanthropic giving in the U.S. and shared her thoughts on where the sector should go from here.

Go Beyond “Grantmaker”

Reeves advocated for the term “philanthropic practitioner” rather than grantmaker. While the latter can be limiting, the former includes funder, partner, supporter, evaluator, advocate and champion — embodying more of what philanthropy can do to be effective. And she thinks it would be great if philanthropic organizations were so effective that “we put ourselves out of business.”

Reeves also discussed power dynamics between philanthropic organizations and grantees. For example, she said philanthropic practitioners should act as though their endowments are contingent on a positive review by their grantees, in much the same way that a grant is contingent on the positive review of a grantmaker. Grantees are evaluated by philanthropists, and sometimes philanthropy is evaluated by grantees. But even when it is, the outcome is never tied to dollars.

Use Targeted Universalism

Reeves then explained the concept of targeted universalism as an effective grantmaking strategy. Targeted universalism says if you target money to address needs and reduce disparities for the most marginalized, overall well-being (by many metrics) improves for everyone. Conversely, if a philanthropic organization tries to help everyone equally, they may unintentionally exacerbate existing disparities.

Fund Social Justice and General Operating Support

Reeves said, “In Minnesota, only 13% of philanthropic dollars go to social justice initiatives, yet this is an effective approach to solving long-term problems.” She asked: Would Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King, Jr. receive a grant today? Are philanthropic practitioners championing incrementalism or funding true movement? How do we create fertile ground for the next Gandhi, Chavez or King? Today 2% of U.S. foundations fund social justice.

Reeves also stands firmly behind general operating support, which she said means “letting go and trusting grantees.” Seven percent of U.S. foundations provide general operating grants today.

In Minnesota, the largest share of grant dollars goes to programs, but general operating support represented 30% of grant dollars in 2011, the latest year for which data are available. See Giving in Minnesota, 2013 Summary Report, page 7, for specifics.

Philanthropy’s Promise Explained

NCRP started Philanthropy’s Promise to change U.S. funding priorities, and more than 177 grantmakers have signed on to date. Philanthropy’s Promise celebrates foundations that intentionally target the bulk of their grant dollars to benefit underserved communities and invest substantially in advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement to address the root causes of social problems and promote equity, opportunity and justice.

What does Philanthropy’s Promise look like in practice? Grantmaking organizations that sign on commit to give 50% of their dollars to underserved communities and 25% to social justice organizations or movements. Because by applying targeted universalism, we all do better.

- Jennifer Pennington, MCF member services fellow


The “Secret Sauce” Behind McKnight’s Impact Investing Decision

May 1, 2014

Wolford_Kate_13Today on the blog we welcome Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation. McKnight’s board recently voted unanimously to develop an impact investing program. Here Kate explains the process behind the foundation’s decision to mobilize the “other 95%.” 

This March, McKnight announced its commitment to invest an initial $200 million, roughly 10% of current endowment assets, across four strands of impact investing. On the heels of a relatively quiet year of board and staff learning and program design, we have plunged into the vortex of an incredibly dynamic field of activity. I’ve been inundated with inquiries from prospective fund managers, invitations to a dozen seminars, and lots of related research.

Although the field is growing, impact investing is still finding its footing among foundations nationally. In a spirit of shared learning, I offer a few thoughts on how McKnight got to this point.

McKnight’s History
McKnight isn’t new to this arena. The Foundation made its first Program-Related Investments in the 1980s. Different from a grant, a PRI functions as a low-cost loan, provided at below-market rates to strengthen the recipient’s mission-focused work.

About five years ago, McKnight rebooted our PRI program — which by then had fallen somewhat dormant — and we’ve now invested about $21 million in PRIs aligned with goals in our Region & Communities and Mississippi River programs. (That’s in addition to grants totaling about $28 million last year across those programs.) Also, McKnight employs eight investment firms, representing over $1.3 billion of our portfolio, who are signatories of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

It’s Path to Today
A combination of factors led McKnight’s board of directors to embark on a systematic learning and program design agenda around impact investing in 2013, including:

  • A family foundation to the core, McKnight’s very active board still includes direct descendants of the founders. Fourth-generation family members are keen to align more endowment dollars with program goals, mobilizing our “other 95%” beyond grant dollars. (Federal tax laws require private foundations to distribute just 5% of net investment assets annually for charitable and administrative purposes.)
  • In 2012, McKnight adopted a Strategic Framework focused on strengthening our adaptive leadership and credible influence, and signaling impact investing as an emerging interest.
  • Among McKnight’s staff and some grantees, interest has been growing to explore more direct market-oriented levers for change, alongside our longstanding policy work.
  • Given the Foundation’s major program commitment to accelerate the Midwest’s transition to a low-carbon economy, as well as growing global efforts to shift incentives and investments away from fossil fuels, timing seemed right for us to explore related tools and opportunities.

Foundation-wide Engagement
Recognizing value in foundation-wide engagement, the board established a work group comprising our board chair, two directors who serve on McKnight’s Investment Committee, one director who does not serve on the Investment Committee, and several staffers representing key administrative, program and finance functions. During a year of intensive exploration, we learned about opportunities and challenges across asset classes, about the current field of impact investing, and about field enhancements philanthropy might be able to help incent or create. We explored a variety of ways to structure and staff a program.

And we sought out the informed wisdom of philanthropic colleagues; for example, former W.K. Kellogg Foundation president Sterling Speirn spoke with our full board about Kellogg’s experience in mission-driven investing.

Although the work group was most actively involved, its members updated our board at each quarterly meeting, and the board focused its annual retreat around the topic. One huge retreat outcome was unanimous board approval to develop an impact investing program composed of four stands with initial allocations of $50 million each — Mission-Related Investments (Public Markets), Mission-Related Investments (Private Markets), Mission-Driven Investments, and Program-Related Investments.

Conversations, Vigorous Debate, Thoughtful Implementation
These decisions were a long time coming and the result of deep learning and exhaustive conversations among our board and staff. Ultimately, I believe those conversations will emerge as our “secret sauce” — vigorous debate, and an inherent commitment to thoughtful implementation.

Although our process may at times feel like a constant churn of learning and refinement, we’ll do well to embrace this disruptive push and pull as precisely what it feels like to be adaptive leaders in emergent space.

Visit McKnight’s blog for a more detailed look at its process.


Bush Foundation Launches Leadership Network Grants

April 24, 2014

Bush-AltLogo-ColorFor decades, the Bush Foundation has worked on leadership development in Minnesota and the surrounding region. Earlier this week, it announced a new grant program with that focus.

The new Leadership Network Grant program supports organizations working to inspire, equip and connect leaders to effectively lead change. Grants of up to $200,000 will support efforts that:

  • Inspire and equip people to successfully lead in their communities
  • Connect people of different backgrounds and perspectives across geographies, sectors, ideological divides or cultural communities

Bush Foundation is particularly interested in proposals that build the cultural agility of leaders or expand leadership development opportunities for communities underrepresented in leadership positions in our region.

It is accepting applications now through June 12, 2014. Access the application and learn more about the grants on the foundation’s website.


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