How To Measure Social Impact?

November 12, 2015

17123254699_c2f412c9ee_mToday on the blog we welcome Karen A. Florez, C.F.A. and manager of investments at The Minneapolis Foundation. Karen reports on the Mission Investing Network Forum held at the Northwest Area Foundation on October 20. The forum addressed “How to Measure Social Impact.”

Northwest Area Foundation hosted a full house of diverse attendees representing a wide range of area nonprofit leadership, staff, board members, consulting firms and financial institutions.

Amy Jensen, investment director at Northwest Area Foundation, kicked off the event by sharing the decision-making process, experiences and lessons–learned as her organization evolved their Impact Investing model. There was plenty of audience participation with good discussion, questions, sharing of resources and wading through industry acronyms. Most of the organizations represented in the room are rapidly expanding the time and resources they put toward mission-investment endeavors. We are clearly growing a valuable network in this community!

Amy then led a panel presentation and discussion with Tom Woelfel, PCV Insight, and  Tim Bubnack and Hope Mago, HCAP Partners. A wide range of insights, ideas and suggestions flowed from this dialogue.

Discussion Takeaways:

  • This is a collaborative effort and we are all learning as we go along. Leverage the capabilities and resources available as you build your program.
  • Be flexible with the partners you choose to work with. Talk with partners about values and culture early on, and really take time to get to know the people. Carefully evaluate if they are a good fit for your organization and mission.
  • Get samples of reports that potential partners are creating, ask how their strategy came to be, how long they have been doing it, what impact measurements they document and what they ultimately do with that data.
  • Establish the social metrics you wish to measure in advance of initiating a program. Content around the numbers is increasingly important.
  • Start measurement early on and try to set expectations of what you consider to be good quality data. The first steps are the most challenging and the most significant effort is in getting started with staffing, strategy, priorities and documentation. It may not feel perfect, but just do it!

The program ended with another round of great discussion and plenty of casual conversation after we adjourned.

Enormous thanks to Amy Jensen for planning and executing a very strong, relevant and thought-provoking event!

Photo: Flickr CC

MCF Welcomes Katina Mortensen as Program Manager

October 26, 2015

katinaWe are excited to announce Katina Mortensen has joined MCF as our new program manager — networks.

Katina comes to us from Grassroots Solutions, an engagement strategy firm based in Minneapolis. At Grassroots Solutions, she had the opportunity to work with a number of local and national foundations, partnering with them on community engagement efforts, grantmaking initiatives, project planning and implementation, policy change efforts, training and facilitation, and assessment and evaluation. She received her Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey School in 2011.

Katina will take the lead in managing MCF’s member networks and annual webinar series, along with other member-oriented programming and initiatives. She started her work here earlier this month.

Welcome, Katina!

Go Far to See Close

October 19, 2015

MCF’s Early Childhood Delegation to Sweden

I think we sometimes have two conflicting ideas of travel. One is personal travel, the romantic idea of going to an exotic location and exposing yourself to new flavors, sights and ways of thinking. Travel as a pause button on our often hectic lives, so we can refresh and re-enter the fray with a new sense of purpose.

The other is business travel, which for those of us in the social sector means cramped airline seats, quick trips to conferences held in look-alike hotel ballrooms and plenty of rubber chicken dinners. There are sparks of great ideas, but they are easily extinguished as you try to focus on both the session at hand and the unrelenting emails that drag you back to the office.

When I proposed to my staff that MCF lead an early childhood delegation of funders, practitioners, researchers and civic leaders to Sweden, I think many of them envisioned the business trip described above on steroids. What we got instead were the sparks of brilliance that business travel can bring enriched with the relationship building and wonder more often associated with personal travel.

What does it mean for kids in Minnesota?
In September 2015, 20 delegates – including funders, elected officials, professors, representatives from early childhood programs, members of MCF’s staff and others – traveled with me to Sweden. We spent five days meeting government officials to begin to understand the infrastructure and funding tied to Sweden’s world-renowned education system.

We also met university professors dedicated to educating the next generation of early childhood teachers, and we toured three types of pre-school programs to better understand the classroom experiences of Swedish children. The visits were thoughtfully curated by our tour guide in Sweden, and they gave us time to really dig in and ask questions to help us answer our most pressing question: What does this mean for kids in Minnesota?

While the official visits were critical, I think the moments that felt more like personal travel will endure. Walking through Old Town Stockholm to help a fellow delegate find just the right souvenir for her new grandchild while conversing about what outdoor preschool education looks like in Duluth. Standing together on a city bus and being asked politely but loudly to move from the baby carriage section, and realizing that society is very different when children and families are at the center. Sitting in a restaurant built in the 1300s on the grounds of Uppsala Cathedral and watching delegates with very different ideas of what early childhood should look like discover how much they actually had in common.

All of these experiences are what one delegate member, originally from Denmark, called hygge – the warm feeling of connection and hospitality that opens you up to new ways of being with each other. This space of hygge creates the conditions where trust, respect and mutual joy become the foundation for doing something very different in our local communities.

I believe experiential travel has an important place in our work. By leaving our little corner of the world and exploring what can be learned from a very different corner of the world, we grow and our communities are better off because of it. We get sparks of brilliance enriched with wonder and relationship. Säker resa!

Trista Harris, president, Minnesota Council on Foundations

MCF Welcomes Levi Weinhagen as Communications & Media Specialist

September 2, 2015

leviHelp us give a warm hello to our newest hire, Levi Weinhagen!

As a St. Paul native, Levi is incredibly proud to be a part of Minnesota’s unmatched philanthropic community. In his position as communications and media specialist, Levi will help MCF members better understand and tell the stories of the work they do and the communities they serve. Levi also works with writers, photographers, and other artists to tell the stories of how philanthropy impacts the state, the region and the country.

Prior to joining MCF, Levi spent over 15 years working in the nonprofit sector with the Minnesota Historical Society, Twin Cities Public Television and the Science Museum of Minnesota in service of education, community engagement and communication. He was also the Knight Foundation’s primary St. Paul arts writer in 2014 and 2015.

Additionally, Levi has been collaborating with artists and creative types for all of his adult life as a theater maker, comedy writer, and performer. He’s the co-founder of the all-ages theater company Comedy Suitcase and the host of Pratfalls of Parenting, a weekly podcast about the relationship between being a maker of cool stuff and being a parent. Levi was Artist in Residence at the Walker Art Center in the Winter of 2014/2015.

Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship Applications Open for 2016

August 5, 2015

Ron-McKinley-Philanthropy_FINAL_outlines_RGB-(2)MCF is excited to launch the third selection round for the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship – an opportunity which aims to increase the number of people from under-represented communities holding leadership positions in Minnesota philanthropy.

We’re looking for high-potential leaders who will push themselves and Minnesota foundations to think bigger and think differently about what is possible in the communities they serve.

In 2016, new fellows will be joining the seven already actively working at Minnesota foundations. These fellows will be employed by MCF and placed in full-time positions at the following five host foundations:

  • Blandin Foundation
  • Bush Foundation
  • F.R. Bigelow Foundation
  • Medtronic Foundation
  • The Minneapolis Foundation

The 2016 fellows will be selected through an application process that opened today and closes at noon on September 9th. For more information on this opportunity and the application, visit our website.

MCF is also hosting an informational webinar about this opportunity on August 26. Registration is open now.

Have a look and help us spread the word about this exciting opportunity!

MCF Seeks Our Next Program Manager

July 30, 2015

help Are you or someone you know MCF’s next Program Manager? This highly-visible and member-facing role is perfect for someone with a passion for connecting groups of people to opportunity, link participants to resources and energy to grow and expand a well established set of program activities.

The Program Manager will manage the day-to-activities of the Council’s 20+ active member networks and growing web-based learning programs. This role will collaborate closely with other department program directors on the development of interactive and informative programmatic content relevant to MCF’s 176+ grantmaker members.

Core responsibilities include a leadership role in:

  • Member networks
  • E-learning / webinars
  • Briefings and programmatic opportunities
  • Program design and delivery

See the full job description on our website, and help us spread the word! Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis with the hope of a candidate joining the team late in August.

Photo cc Matt Wetzler

A Fond Farewell to Tara Kumar

July 21, 2015

TaraOur program manager, Tara Kumar, will be leaving her role with MCF as of July 30. She has decided to seek part-time work, so she can focus more of her time on her family.

In her two years at MCF, Tara has made a big impact on shaping and strengthening our member networks, as well as being a joy to work with. Here’s what our members and staff have to say:

“Tara has been invaluable to our work with member networks. Any question you’ve got about a network or member, she’s got the answer! She will be greatly missed.” –Alfonso Wenker, MCF director of program strategy and racial equity

“Tara cares deeply about her work. She took the time to understand the complexities behind planning programs and was eager to learn about issues that our members were addressing. Tara is kind, considerate and fun…the kind of person we all want as a co-worker.” –Maria Salas, MCF director of member relations

“There is no question that Tara has been a huge asset for the networks in which I participate and for other MCF activities in which she has played a part.” –Rob Scarlett, trustee, Sundance Family Foundation

“I’ll miss Tara’s ability to connect with members and find the most obscure philanthropy resources.” –Trista Harris, MCF president

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Tara. She has a great range of experience and so many contacts in the nonprofit sector. I’ll miss her!” –Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Tara’s closing note to members: “I feel incredibly fortunate to have engaged with so many members in my two years at MCF. I have learned so much from you all about the field of philanthropy and truly appreciate your efforts in making our networks and programming so successful.”

Thank you and good luck, Tara!




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