Nominate Grantmakers Making an Impact

February 13, 2014

NCRP-logo-color-with-tagline-2014The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is on the lookout for grantmakers to honor with its 2014 NCRP Impact Awards, and wants to hear from you.

Which foundations do you think had the greatest impact and made positive, lasting change in 2013? NCRP is looking for grantmakers maximizing their philanthropy by:

  • Attacking the root causes of social problems
  • Empowering underserved communities
  • Helping improve the sector as a whole through public leadership

There will be one awardee in each of these four categories:

  • Large, Private Foundation (annual giving of $25 million or more)
  • Small/Mid-Sized Private Foundation (annual giving less than $25 million)
  • Corporate Foundation (any size)
  • Grantmaking Public Charity (any size)

Last year’s awardees included grantmakers from California, New York and Illinois. It’s time to get Minnesota on the map!

Nominations are due March 1. The awards reception will take place June 9 in Washington, D.C.

Nominate a worthy grantmaker today, and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter!


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


Leadership Institute Launches for Young Sector Leaders

January 22, 2014

Screen shot 2014-01-22 at 1.21.50 PMLooking to explore big career questions while doing serious skill-swapping and network-weaving with young philanthropic and nonprofit peers? Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy Minnesota (EPIP-MN) has partnered with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of the Twin Cities (YNPN-TC) to launch a new leadership institute that may be for you.

Who should apply?

Emerging leaders in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors looking for a “community of practice” to establish the habits, relationships, and support systems that will make our journeys sustainable. The groups seek a diverse mix of 20- and 30-somethings, ideally split evenly between nonprofits and foundations.

Applicants should be a member of either EPIP-MN or YNPN-TC to apply. See the websites of both groups for information on joining.

The program will include:

  • Monthly two-hour evening sessions
  • The option to attend exciting community events each month with other participants
  • Mentoring circles for small group connections and support
  • The opportunity to help design and facilitate a monthly session based on your interests
  • Selected readings, personal challenges, and reflective exercises between sessions

Benefits to participants:

  • Expand your network among local nonprofit and philanthropic professionals.
  • Practice useful habits of reflection to address questions about your life, leadership and career.
  • Build facilitation, presentation and collaboration skills by sharing around a topic of your choice.
  • Conduct a career refresh or re-charge in a supportive and accountable environment.

To apply:

Visit the institute website to learn more, apply, or nominate someone else. Application deadline January 31, with interviews conducted in February.

Check it out, and spread the word to your young peers and colleagues!


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!


The Top Ten Posts of 2013

December 31, 2013

fw2013 was quite the year for us at MCF, with big changes internally plus lots of important conversations and movement in diversity, public policy and more. As it comes to a close, here’s a chance to see our most popular posts of 2013. Take a trip down memory lane, or see what you missed!

1. MCF Names Trista Harris as New President

The biggest news at MCF in 2013, as new leadership signaled our way forward in the years to come.

2. Five Things I Learned About Philanthropy at MCF

Stephanie Jacobs, former director of member services, shares what she took from her time here. “Philanthropy is at its best when foundations not only embrace their role as grantmakers, but also step into the field as conveners, facilitators, provocateurs and risk takers.”

3. Wanted: Your Million Dollar Idea to Make Saint Paul Great

The launch of 2013’s Minnesota Idea Open, ultimately won by Urban Oasis.

4. Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Challenged by Minnesota House

The House’s proposed charitable giving changes were opposed by MCF and many others in the nonprofit community.

5. How Do Foundation Program Officers Gauge Grant Impact?

Including a video to let you hear firsthand from Medica Foundation, Northwest Area Foundation and The McKnight Foundation.

6. A Twin Cities Identity Crisis?

An essay commissioned by The McKnight Foundation, titled “Mary Tyler Moore Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” argued that Minneapolis and St. Paul have an image problem, in part from the moniker “Twin Cities.”

7. New Bush Foundation Programs Support Community Innovation

An announcement by the Bush Foundation kicked off these substantial new grant programs to reward those thinking differently on how to address community issues.

8. Techniques for Excellent Writing

Several great takeaways from an MCF program that are sure to improve your writing technique.

9. Minneapolis Develops New Index to Measure Creative Vitality of City

a new resource for policymakers, arts professionals, artists and community arts advocates designed to capture the impact of Minneapolis’s creative community.

10. Inventing and Innovating to Tackle Minnesota’s Racial Disparities

Minnesota Compass’s annual meeting in 2013 challenged attendees to think of new ways to address the large racial achievement gaps in Minnesota.

Join the conversation: What were your favorite Philanthropy Potluck posts of 2013?


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!



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