Twins, MLB Open All-Star Grant Initiative

April 16, 2014

480_fans_chooseWith the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game coming to the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Twins and MLB announced they are creating the first “All-Star Fans Choose” grant initiative, which will award $500,000 to a nonprofit in the Upper Midwest for a capital project to benefit its community.

Nonprofits in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin may apply now through May 23.

Five finalists will be determined by a panel of judges consisting of representatives from MLB before the fans can vote for their favorite project from June 10 to July 10. The judges will determine the final five 501(c)(3) nonprofit projects based on these criteria:

  • Impact on community
  • Scope
  • Timeline,
  • Environmental improvement and sustainable design
  • Quality of application

The program is the first of its kind, and will be one of several community outreach projects leading up to the All-Star Game on July 15. In recent years, the Midsummer Classic has annually brought roughly $5 million to local charities.

“The All-Star Fans Choose grant initiative is one of the most unique community efforts that Major League Baseball has ever put in place for the Midsummer Classic,” Commissioner Bud Selig said. “This program will be an important element of our All-Star summer efforts and will help us leave a lasting legacy in the communities of the Twin Cities.”

Read more and access the application at the All-Star Fans Choose Grant Program webpage, and stay tuned for other projects to be announced in the coming months.

Good luck to those applying!




Resource-full Nonprofit Revenue Generation

February 3, 2014

resourcefullnesshomebannerToday on the blog we welcome Beth Bird and Kim Hunwardsen of Eide Bailly, to tell us about their organization’s Resourcefullness Award, and the ideas that sprang from it.

What do you get when you offer a $10,000 award for sustainable and creative revenue generation in the nonprofit industry? A flood of inspiring submissions!

Last year, Eide Bailly’s nonprofit services group did something different to encourage conversation and ingenuity around revenue generation – something our clients think about daily. We ended up with 99 submissions for the Eide Bailly Resourcefullness Award, three fantastic winners (video), and a host of creative and sustainable ideas to spark discussion. (Read this article on submission trends.)

Beyond celebrating the winning efforts, we wanted to use the Eide Bailly Resourcefullness Award as a springboard for sharing and collaboration.

The following highlights are from a January seminar that we held in Minneapolis to discuss the best ideas.

Future Trends
Susan Cornell-Wilkes and Brad Brown were judges for the Resourcefullness Award. In January, we asked about the nonprofit revenue generation trends they see gathering strength in the next five years.

- Crowd funding
- Nonprofits creating for-profit entities
- A focus on intergenerational wealth transfer

  • Organizations will be and should be looking for opportunities to involve multiple generations of one family in its endeavors. This will go a long way to creating present buy-in donor stability in the future.

- Moving beyond “Corporate” involvement in campaigns

  • Getting employees involved in the organization, rather than just accepting a corporate donation, will be the key to sustainability in funding from that organization and in growth of individual donors.

- Helping donors “experience” the difference their donations are making

  • Donors, especially younger donors, are looking to “purchase an experience.” They do not just want to hear from nonprofits in letters and email, but rather experience the effects of an organization work.

Our Take-Aways
The Resourcefullness Awards and our January speakers reminded us of two very important things:

  1. Organizations are getting more creative in their approach to revenue generation, but this does not mean an approach must be complex. Sometimes the simplest ideas create the best results.
  2. Well-placed and well-planned partnerships are some of the easiest and most fruitful ventures.

Give To The Max Day Strategies
We also heard from two organizations that employed creative Give to the Max strategies.

Erich Mische, executive director of Spare Key, described its media-grabbing, world-record setting 2012 strategy Pedal to the Max, which had volunteers on a pedal pub for 24 hours. The campaign helped Spare Key reach goals around having fun and grabbing attention while engaging donors, volunteers and partners. Mische said media coverage and social media played a huge role in broadening the reach of the organization’s message. And, Spare Key raised five times its original fundraising goal.

Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery’s development and communications director, Joel Bergstrom, shared its 2013 Give to the Max campaign, which used video and social media to draw attention and generate support. A donation of video production helped the organization create a powerful video that then led to media coverage. The organization used a Facebook contest to draw in visitors and donors, and advocates lobbied hard on social media for donations to Crisis Nursery. As a result, followers of the organization have increased and their messages receive greater exposure.


“Are You Even Reading This?”

January 27, 2014

lutheranToday on the blog we welcome MCF member Jenny Kramm, grants associate at the Lutheran Community Foundation. She shares with us steps that her foundation has taken to streamline the grant process, making much better use of the time of both the foundation and its grantees.

“I’ll admit,” a nonprofit leader sheepishly volunteered at a Minnesota Council on Foundations meeting, “In a funder’s grant report, I wrote, ‘Are you even reading this?’” Her question is one that the Lutheran Community Foundation (LCF) is working to address by employing Project Streamline principles to “right-size” grant due diligence, agreements and reporting. Our goal is to continuously improve our grant process, balancing the need for thoroughness with efficiency.

Beginning with due diligence, the LCF cross-checks every charitable grant recipient with the IRS’s Business Master Files and Publication 78. For grants of significant size, the LCF requests and analyzes the charity’s leadership and financials. Charities can submit their most recent audited financials, annual report, 990, or a detailed annual budget as they are, rather than using an LCF grant application. If something is unclear, we provide feedback that may help the charity with future proposals.

The LCF has also streamlined our grant agreement process. Rather than request charities to sign grant agreements, we accept the charity’s endorsement on the grant check as their consent to the terms of the grant.

Finally, we request that charities complete an LCF report on how they used the grant only if: 1) The information is needed to analyze the LCF’s performance; or 2) the information is needed to make a funding decision. The LCF retains the documentation from the due diligence process and requests an update only if there are material changes to the information already provided.

Project Streamline has given the LCF one more reason to celebrate its most significant grant-making year since its inception 18 years ago. In 2013, the LCF distributed more than 3,000 grants totaling nearly $12 million to charities throughout our local, national and global communities. Our efforts to improve our grantmaking processes have provided our charity partners a little extra time to do what they do best: spread joy and change lives.


Phillips Sectoral Employment Initiative: Overview and Lessons Learned

January 14, 2014

jrpIn 2010, as a response to the ongoing unemployment crisis, The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota explored options to enhance its overarching goal of helping people in poverty attain economic stability. This post is based on a webinar presented by the foundation in late 2013, reflecting on its first two years of work.

The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota initiated focus groups and one-on-one conversations with established Twin Cities-based nonprofits that provide industry-focused job training and placement services. Through this period of discovery, foundation staff learned that the organizations lacked the flexible funding needed to measurably improve operations or pilot workforce training in new sectors.

Grants, Training and Capacity Building

From the efforts, grew the Phillips Sectoral Employment Initiative (PSEI), an ongoing, capacity-building effort that uses multiple tactics to help community-based job training programs improve. In the initiative’s first two years, PSEI worked with five organizations. Each received direct grants of $830,000 and was offered a range of learning opportunities.

Additionally, the foundation collaborated with the Corporation for National Service to provide a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA staff person to each grantee organization. The VISTAs gave grantees greater resources to pursue capacity-building activities. They created marketing and outreach materials, developed online tools, analyzed data to improve programs, expanded employer outreach and supported a coalition for systems change.

PSEI grantees identified capacity-building goals in four areas:

  1. reach more people;
  2. achieve better outcomes by improving training completion rates and decreasing time from completion to placement;
  3. improve supports and outcomes for participants with high barriers;
  4. and create systems-change by stepping-up advocacy on policy issues.

Initial Results Are In

The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota also worked with grantees to carefully track participant outcomes and collected data on more than 1,600 individuals served. An independent organization compiled the data and issued a report showing advances and continuing challenges. The report is available online.

Signs of progress include:

  • Programs improved performance on almost all key indicators, including program completion and job placement.
  • Use of multiple methods and tools was an effective way to grow program capacity.
  • AmeriCorps VISTA staff built program capacity and enabled programs to achieve mission in new ways.

Remaining challenges:

  • Employment disparities persist in the Twin Cities, especially for young black men.
  • Program completion and job placement rates improved, but they remain below targets.
  • Wages improved, but generally not enough to lift individuals out of poverty.
  • Women, many of whom are training for direct care positions, are more likely than men to complete training, but they continue to earn less. Direct care positions offer low wages, part-time hours and few opportunities for advancement.

The report also included recommendations for employment programs, offered suggestions on how to improve data collection and analysis, and advised funders on how they can more effectively support this work.

Learn more and find resources on the foundation’s website.

- Megan Sullivan, MCF operations and publications coordinator


New Year’s Resolution: Unburden Your Grantees

January 3, 2014

resolveIs being more productive near the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions?  And do you want to make your resolution stick all year long?

If so, take the advice of our friends at Project Streamline, and you’ll soon be saving precious time and money  – for you and your grant applicants.  Here are three easy changes to make today so you all can focus more energy and resources on your missions:

  • Shift to using a Letter of Inquiry (LOI).  Why make potential grantees prepare a full grant proposal (and why take time to read it?) when they may not be a fit with your guidelines?  Let them pick up the phone or send an email to verify your interest.
  • Pull information you need from existing sources.  Why ask grantees to reformat and send financial information that’s already available from public sources?  For instance, use the wealth of data in their IRS 990s on Guidestar.
  • Ask only for information you’ll read and use.  And while you’re at it, accept the information in a common grant or common report form.

More Easy-to-Implement Changes
These are just a few of many excellent and doable suggestions from Project Streamline, the collaborative initiative of the Grants Managers Network and other effectiveness-minded organizations in the philanthropic and nonprofit spheres.

For an overview of Project Streamline’s latest Practices that Matter report (pdf), read my colleague Susan Stehling’s Philanthropy Potluck blog post from last summer.

Then check out all the excellent resources on the Project Streamline website, including the four core principles and practices,  the grantmaker assessment tool, and the Ask Dr. Streamline blog.

Your Resolution is a Yearlong Gift
Why do we make New Year’s resolutions?  Because we want to align our values and our actions.  (For MCF members, that means putting our Principles for Grantmakers into practice.)

There’s no better way to fulfill your New Year’s resolution than to adopt Project Streamline’s good grantmaking guidelines.

You’ll lighten the load on yourself and your grant applicants, demonstrate your respect for our hard-working nonprofits, boost your productivity and efficiency, and free up more money for mission throughout 2014 and beyond.

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

Photo cc BazaarBizarreSF


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?


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