MCF Seeks Program Assistant

April 17, 2014

helpMCF is hiring again! Our Program Strategy team seeks a dynamic and motivated individual to fill a new position.

In this highly visible and fast-paced role, the Program Assistant:

  • Serves as the first point of contact for many of MCF’s committees, networks and task forces by preparing correspondence, arranging conference calls, scheduling meetings, creating and disseminating minutes.
  • Takes initiative in providing timely and effective administrative support to the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Director of Member Services and the Director of Public Policy and Government Relations.
  • Supports MCF’s program operations, including database and technological support.
  • Prioritizes and manage multiple projects simultaneously, and follows through on issues in a timely manner to ensure program directors achieve strategic goals.
  • Provides strategic insight during development of Council programs and activities to eliminate duplication of efforts and ensure quality program delivery.

Selection criteria for this position include:

  • Outstanding verbal and written skills on the phone, in email and in person.
  • Warm and welcoming presence; commitment to hospitality and customer service.
  • Strategic, critical thinker with an insatiable curiosity about finding creative solutions.
  • Attention to detail and accuracy.

And required experience includes:

  • High school diploma or GED equivalent and a minimum of five years of administrative assistant experience, including executive assistant level responsibilities, direct customer service support and reception or a two-year degree in administrative assistance and two years of experience.
  • Well-developed verbal and written communication skills.
  • Tech savvy with proficiency with current office technology
  • Experience managing event logistics.
  • Experience managing committees.
  • Previous nonprofit, philanthropic or membership association work experience.

See the full job description on our website, and help us spread the word! Applications are due May 9.

Photo cc Matt Wetzler

MCF Welcomes New Member Foundation for Essential Needs

April 2, 2014

ffenPublic charity Foundation for Essential Needs (FFEN) is the latest grantmaker to become a member of MCF!

FFEN was founded what a belief that it is a fundamental responsibility of our society to ensure that basic human needs are met for each and every person. FFEN has a unique approach to fulfillment of these human needs by providing financial and professional service support to the organizations that deliver basic human services on a daily basis.

Services provided by FFEN include:

  • Service grants
  • Project specific monetary grants
  • Grant writing consultation
  • Emergency assistance grants
  • Training and education

Information about FFEN’s 2014 grant cycle will be available in June. Visit its website to learn more and stay up to date.


MCF Seeks Executive Assistant

March 7, 2014

helpMCF is hiring! We’re looking to add an Executive Assistant to our team.

The Executive Assistant maintains a one-on-one working relationship and reports directly to the President. The Executive Assistant serves as the primary point of contact for internal and external constituencies on all matters pertaining to the Office of the President.

The Executive Assistant also serves as a liaison to the board of directors and senior management teams; organizes and coordinates executive outreach and external relations efforts and special projects.

Responsibilities of this position include:

  • Completes a broad variety of administrative tasks for the President.
  • Plans, coordinates and ensures the President’s schedule is followed and respected.
  • Communicates directly, and on behalf of the President, with the Board of Directors, Members and staff, and others.
  • Serves as the President’s administrative liaison to MCF’s board of directors.
  • Participates as an adjunct member of the Management Team including assisting in scheduling meetings and attending all meetings, maintaining records and tracking progress.

Qualifications include:

  • Strong organizational skills and interpersonal skills
  • Expert level written and verbal communication skills
  • Demonstrated proactive approaches to problem-solving with strong decision-making capability
  • Forward looking thinker, who actively seeks opportunities and proposes solutions
  • At least 5 years of experience providing executive support or equivalent

Applications will be accepted until March 21.

Have a look at the full job description, and help us spread the word!

Photo cc Matt Wetzler

The Path to Effective Philanthropy: Honest Conversations

February 27, 2014

It was a treat this week for MCF and our members to host a conversation with Phil Buchanan, president of the The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP).

Our exchange was energetic, provocative, fun and sometimes funny.  I was struck by how often we circled back to core concepts and philanthropic fundamentals.

The discussion aligned serendipitously with MCF’s Principles for Grantmakers.  Here are a few snippets that illustrate the challenges — and opportunities — of putting principles into practice.

Effective Governance
According to MCF’s Effective Governance Principle, grantmakers are expected to be good stewards of assets, to fulfill donor intent, to make sound decisions and to perform all fiduciary responsibilities.

Buchanan called for foundation boards to govern effectively by not rubber stamping staff members’ grant recommendations.  “If the board is approving every grant, they’re not taking time to see what it all adds up to and they’re not asking the hard questions.”

And he challenged foundation CEOs to practice “radical openness” with their boards – i.e., to say everything they’re thinking and to spark “messy conversations.”  Good governance doesn’t emerge from perfectly scripted board meetings at which “the most spontaneous thing that happens is when someone gets up to get a cup of coffee.”  (Yes, it’s okay to laugh at ourselves.)

Engaged Learning
The MCF Engaged Learning Principle calls for continuous learning and reflection by engaging board members, staff, grantees and donors in thoughtful dialogue and education.

Of course, learning and continuous improvement through performance assessment is at the heart of CEP’s mission.  (Buchanan readily acknowledged that he is not the expert in philanthropy . . . and he cautioned us to be wary of those who say they are.)

Because philanthropy is “wicked tough,” funding programs on theory alone is not enough.  It’s vital that grantmakers establish performance indicators and are data driven.

And they sometimes need to follow, not lead.  By replicating proven programs, foundations can learn from others and succeed.  (For more on shared goals, read Buchanan’s opinion piece in this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy.)

Through MCF’s Transparency Principle grantmakers strive to build healthy relationships with the public, applicants, grantees and donors by using clear, consistent and timely communications.

Being transparent includes sharing the so-called “failures.” (Our host Kate Wolford of The McKnight Foundation noted that we might be more apt to learn from our missteps by reframing them in more positive, multi-dimensional terms.)

Buchanan reported that it’s up to foundations to share the results of CEP assessments.  Some don’t share at all, some partially share with grantees (and sometimes add a positive spin!), and some share widely, warts and all.

He noted that foundations that are truly transparent are viewed as trustworthy and credible.  For example, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is fully committed to evaluation and transparency, making it all the stronger.

Cynics may say that foundations don’t need to be accountable to anybody.  But as Buchanan reminded everyone, if grantmakers aren’t honest and don’t cultivate positive relationships with their grantees, how can they obtain the candid information they need to improve philanthropy . . . and improve lives?

More to Come
Keep watching our Philanthropy Potluck Blog for future postings about philanthropic effectiveness, including video conversations with MCF President Trista Harris, Buchanan and other big thinkers.

Like our grantmaker members, MCF is committed to hosting robust conversations within and across sectors . . . because leadership for the 21st century requires honest, provocative discussion.

– Wendy Wehr, MCF vice president of communications and information services

“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

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

Minnesota Corporate Grantmaking Reaches Its Highest Level Yet

January 31, 2014

GiM_mediumLast October, MCF released its latest Giving in Minnesota, 2013 Edition,  the latest comprehensive analysis of the trends in giving by organized philanthropy in the Minnesota. This month, we’re taking a closer look at the report’s insights on corporate grantmaking.

Corporate community support can occur through several streams: corporate giving programs, endowed foundations, in-kind giving, volunteering, and any combination of these and other programs. For this research, we concentrate on actual cash giving through corporate giving programs and corporate foundations.


Corporate grantmakers are an important part of the philanthropic scene in Minnesota. In 2011, corporate grantmakers represented just 9 percent of all grantmakers but gave 43 percent of all grant dollars. This trend – relatively few corporate grantmakers contributing a relatively large share of overall giving – has been consistent since MCF began conducting Giving in Minnesota research in 1976.


2011 marked the highest level of corporate grantmaking yet, and recovery from declines in previous years from the Great Recession. The total 2011 corporate grantmaking of $713 million was a 9 percent increase from 2010. The previous giving peak was in 2008, a total of $695 million.

Minnesota’s top corporate grantmakers in 2011 were:

  • Target Foundation and Corporation
  • General Mills Foundation and Corporation
  • Cargill Foundation and Cargill, Inc.
  • UnitedHealth Group and United Health Foundation
  • Medtronic Foundation and Corporation


Corporate grantmaking in the sample broken out by subject area varied slightly from the whole sample of 100 of the top grantmakers in the state. Similar to the entire sample, corporate grantmakers gave the largest share of their grant dollars to Education, but the corporate share was larger, 39% compared to 28%.


In contrast, corporate grantmaking in the sample broken out by geographies served was quite different from the whole sample. Corporations based in Minnesota often divide their grantmaking between headquarters communities and other regions of the country or world where their facilities and customers are located. 30% of corporate grantmaking served Minnesota, compared to 47% from the whole sample. 27% of corporate grantmaking served national areas, compared to only 13% by the whole sample.

Look for future posts digging into more giving trends by subject area, with Arts up next.

- Anne Graham, MCF research associate

Minnesota: A Case Study In Large-Scale Data Collection and Impact

January 29, 2014

GiM_mediumThe blog Markets for Good, an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others to improve the generating, sharing, and acting on data in the social sector, just interviewed MCF President Trista Harris about our annual Giving in Minnesota report. We are reproducing the entire Q&A here; you can also read it on the Markets for Good website. Thanks to them for the opportunity!

What data collection techniques and technology does MCF use to produce its annual Giving in Minnesota report?

Producing Giving in Minnesota is a year-round process. Production of the 2013 Edition began in 2012, when Research Associate Anne Graham began identifying the top 100 grantmakers in the state and asking them to provide their grant lists for coding.

Our process succeeds because of the human element. Over the past eight years Anne has built strong relationships with Minnesota’s top grantmakers – including corporate grantmakers who are not required to file tax forms that make public specific details about their annual giving.

And we accommodate the grantmakers. They can submit their grants lists in whatever form is easiest for them – whether it’s an electronic file pulled from their grants management system or a hard copy of their annual grants list.

Of course, even with this high-touch, low-tech approach, we do need to rely on some public sources to complete our data collection. But here again, we have a close working relationship with individuals in the office of the Minnesota Attorney General, and they give us direct access to a database that allows us to update grantmakers’ financial data and identify new foundations in the state.

And our technology? Microsoft Access relational databases still serve us well for data management, annual reporting and long-term trend analysis.

What recommendations would MCF have for other organizations seeking to collect critical information directly from many sources?

MCF may be the only U.S. regional association of grantmakers that is collecting grantmaker data on this scale. To maintain our organizational commitment to this research work (since 1976), we have fully integrated it as a core member service.

Producing Giving in Minnesota goes hand in hand with our other research projects. We communicate closely with foundations and corporate grantmakers to publish our Minnesota Annual Grantmaker Rankings. Plus, we connect regularly with these same organizations to keep our Minnesota Grantmakers Online (MGO) database of grantmakers and grants current for nonprofit grantseekers.

And our lead data coder knows her stuff, too. Having worked for MCF for more than 10 years and in the state’s nonprofit sector longer than that, she knows minute details about Minnesota’s grantmaking and grantseeking scene.

While it would be hard to achieve that level of coding consistency and reliability from someone outside Minnesota, we are sticklers for maintaining national-level standards that enable comparisons between our data and others’ around the country. In coding, we use the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) system and the Foundation Center’s Grants Classification System (GCS).

What are the benefits of this research for grantmakers and others in the community? What are the limitations?

MCF members rank our research as one of the most valuable benefits of membership. Using this source of reliable data, MCF staff can credibly explain the value and scope of philanthropy in our state. We publicize our findings to nonprofit grantseekers, business leaders and representatives of the media. Plus, we overlay US. Congressional district information so we can use our data to reach government officials and support our public policy work.

Having a robust database and staff expertise in-house, MCF can quickly respond to custom requests from grantmakers. For example, Anne goes deep into the data to help members benchmark their giving against peers, understand geographic shifts in funding, and sift through dozens of subject area subcategories to answer cross-subject and cross-population funding questions – such as which pockets of human services and health giving benefit seniors.

Having local data, we were able to report on how grantmakers responded to the Great Recession by shifting dollars from education to human services. We can see what grants are benefitting the metro area around Minneapolis and St. Paul and what are directed toward rural areas.

And we’ve been able to document the full value of corporate giving in Minnesota (which has the second highest number of Fortune 500 companies per capita in the country). Our state’s corporate grantmakers, including multi-nationals such as Target and General Mills, account for less than 10 percent of grantmakers but give 43 percent of the annual grant dollars. But they also direct more giving beyond our state’s borders than do our private or community foundations.

Still, what we know from our research is sometimes dwarfed by what we don’t know. Just as others across the country struggle with collecting beneficiary data, so do we. Receiving incomplete grant descriptions, we significantly under-report support for specific population groups.

And we receive complaints about the lag time in reporting complete information (which is also something that plagues the sector as a whole). Our grantmaker members often ask for real-time information so they can learn about the strategic intent of their peers and identify collaborators. At the end of the day, though, we cannot collect and analyze data that the grantmakers themselves don’t track.

But let’s not lament the gaps in our data. Instead, let’s use our rich data repository to identify trends that enable us to see into the future and succeed as 21st century philanthropic leaders. In my recent Philanthropy Potluck Blog post about predictions for the future, I envision how MCF’s data, our members’ data from grantees, and data from other sources such as Minnesota Compass can be combined to create a positive force for change in our state.

Young or Old, Mentoring Matters

January 28, 2014

mentoringworks_logoSometimes a little moral support can make all the difference.

January is National Mentoring Month. And evidence shows that mentoring is definitely worth celebrating and promoting.

No matter your age or your goals, support from others can help you overcome barriers to success, navigate unfamiliar cultures, and reach new heights.

Many examples of mentoring’s power have popped up in my reading this month. They’ve run the gamut – from reduction in juvenile crime for at-risk youth in national mentoring programs, to greater interest and confidence among mentored girls and young women pursuing STEM studies and careers, to patients having greater success controlling their diabetes when paired with a peer mentor than when taking medication.

Career Growth in Philanthropy
Of course, social support is important at work, too. Local peer networks are popular resources for MCF members. And national networks and affinity groups are valuable repositories of information for professional development and job effectiveness.

MCF has even launched its own version of a mentoring program. Four inaugural MCF Philanthropy Fellows have joined the Bush Foundation to grow professionally and infuse new ideas and energy into the sector.  Read about the MCF Philanthropy Fellows in our Philanthropy Potluck Blog post, and while you’re at it, check out our announcement about EPIP’s new Leadership Institute.

Mentoring in Minnesota
While Minnesota grantmakers are building their own skills, they’re also providing financial support to local, national and global mentoring programs. Not surprisingly, 86 percent of our state’s grant dollars dedicated to mentoring benefit children and youth, according to MCF’s latest Giving in Minnesota research.

Leading Minnesota funders for youth development mentoring include: Federated Insurance Foundation; Greater Twin Cities United Way; Carlson Family Foundation; Cargill Foundation and Cargill, Inc.; and Otto Bremer Foundation. The McKnight Foundation has also been a major youth development grantmaker and was instrumental in founding Youthprise.

According to MCF research, leading nonprofit recipients of private, community/public and corporate grants include: Big Brothers/Big Sisters in St. Paul and throughout the state; Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota (MPM); Bolder Options and BestPrep.

Last year MPM honored the Carlson Family Foundation with the Bob Dayton Quality Mentoring Award as a leading investor and champion for high-quality youth mentoring – long-term, trusting relationships between children and caring adults.

According to MPM:

Mentoring is an active ingredient in helping young people perform better in school, develop aspirations to go to college and choose a career, make responsible decisions, model good behavior, and become more productive and engaged citizens – all key factors in building stronger communities.

Join the Conversation
Check out the National Mentoring Month resources and let us know what resonates with you. What positive outcomes have you experienced as a mentee or mentor? What mentoring programs do you know of that are achieving exceptional results for individuals of varying ages?

- Wendy Wehr, MCF v.p. of communications and information services


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