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!

The Future Started Yesterday

December 6, 2013

MCF President Trista Harris at the 2013 Philanthropy Convening

Earlier this week, we showed you the TED talk “Abundance is Our Future” that we watched at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening.

MCF President Trista Harris used this as a springboard into her closing talk, saying she sees small groups of people doing extraordinary things in the nonprofit sector all the time. But, she lamented, “The social sector uses old data, which makes it tough to see the future.” One example: U.S. census data, which is currently nine years old.

Her mission, she said, is to turn the boat around, so we can all see the future. “Many great ideas are right on the horizon, but we won’t see them if we don’t know what we’re looking for.”

Here are three positive trends Harris is seeing now.

Better, Cheaper, Faster Technology

“Technology is getting better, cheaper and faster on a very predictable schedule,” Harris said. “This allows us to do things today that we couldn’t think of doing 10 years ago.”

Diversity of Youth

Our youngest residents are much more diverse than our oldest, and we must use this diversity as an asset and not let it tear our state apart.

“We can’t forget that Minnesota is successful when we rely on each other. And ‘each other’ looks different than it used to,” said Harris.


“Nonprofiteers” are young people in our community who are exposed to nonprofit and philanthropy work early in their lives and see it as a career path.

She cited 2013’s We Day as a great example. On We Day, 18,000 students from 400 schools across Minnesota were entertained and engaged in the greater good. Attendees earned entry by committing to take action on at least one local and one global initiative during the next year.

“We may not see the next generation doing good,” said Harris. “Because it looks different than how we do good.”

21st Century Foundation Leadership

Harris shared a glimpse of where MCF is headed, saying the work will revolve around 21st century foundation leadership and getting people ready to learn together.

Areas that will be important include: diversity, equity and inclusion; the leadership pipeline; public policy; cross-sector partnerships; effective grantmaking practice and principles; and anticipating future trends.

Join the conversation: What are other important trends you see in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors?

The Future is Abundant

December 2, 2013

Grantmakers listening in at the MCF Philanthropy Convening

MCF President Trista Harris has long wanted to use the tools of futurists right now in the social sector. With that in mind, she presented “The Future Started Yesterday: So Now What?” at MCF’s 2013 Philanthropy Convening.

She opened with a viewing of a 2012 TED talk by Peter Diamandis, M.D., chairman and CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation. California-based XPRIZE Foundation’s mission is: Bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity, and it offers large cash incentive prizes to inventors who can solve grand challenges

Diamandis’ talk, “Abundance is Our Future,” was based on his book, “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” co-written with Steven Kotler. His TED talk opened with a barrage of news clips, and he explained that in our 24/7 world, we are bombarded with way too much information. Unable to absorb it all, and being human with a goal of survival, we are wired to sort the information and raise the bad news to the top.

“The media feeds us negative stories because that’s what we pay attention to,” he said. “It’s no wonder people are pessimistic and think the world is getting worse.”

“But perhaps the world isn’t getting worse,” Diamandis continued. “Perhaps in the next few decades, we have the capacity to create abundance.”

He defined abundance as creating a life of possibility, rather than a life of luxury. “It’s about taking that which was scarce and making it abundant,” he clarified. “Scarcity is contextual and technology is a resource-liberating force.”

Watch the full TED talk below, and stay tuned for a future blog post to read what Trista Harris thinks it means for the future of philanthropy!


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