Inequities – Experienced by Some – Threaten All

April 23, 2014

FRSeveral days ago I received an email from Marketplace with the subject line: Forget the 1%. The 0.01% owns 12% of all wealth in America. When I clicked through, things got worse: Around 50 percent of the US population has zero net wealth. Their debts, effectively, equal their assets.

Despite some familiarity with income inequality and persistent poverty in the U.S., the reality of so much being owned by so few and of so many owning nothing at all hit hard.

Even with the Great Recession behind us, numbers that reinforce the harsh realities of racial and economic disparity are released daily. “The Urgency of Now: Foundations’ Role in Ending Racial Inequity” in the latest issue of The Foundation Review presents many of the issues and the depth of the challenge we find ourselves in. It surveys philanthropy’s evolution in addressing poverty and traces a long history of the racialization of institutions and systems.

But the article, by Gary Cunningham, Northwest Area Foundation; Marcia Avner, University of Minnesota — Duluth; and Romilda Justilien, BCT Partners also explores multiple approaches that foundations can use to advance racial equity and prosperity. And it offers specific approaches used by the Northwest Area Foundation, an MCF member, that others working for equity could also employ.

MCF and many of its members work in multiple ways to advance equity. By equity, we mean the conditions that will exist when factors such as racial, ethnic, economic and geographic differences are no longer predictors of life outcomes. We believe it’s important because inequities experienced by some threaten the future prosperity of all.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

President Obama Announces “My Brother’s Keeper” and Philanthropy Investment

February 28, 2014

obama9Boys and young men of color too often face disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success in our society.

Today in the U.S., if you are African-American, there’s a 50-50 chance that you’ll grow up without a father at home, and you’re more likely to be poor, to not read well, to be expelled from school and eventually to end up incarcerated.

And, as President Obama stressed yesterday, “The worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We pretend this is a normal part of American life instead of the outrage that it is. These statistics should break our hearts and compel us to act.”

Act is what the President did Thursday as he signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the “My Brother’s Keeper” Task Force, an interagency initiative to determine what public and private efforts are working for young men and boys of color and how to expand upon them.

The President has built a broad coalition of backers to help break down barriers, clear pathways to opportunity and reverse troubling trends that show too many boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks.

For yesterday’s announcement, he was joined by philanthropic leaders — including MCF President Trista Harris and David Nicholson, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice — and representatives from communities, business, government and faith groups.

Foundations have already made extensive investments in support of boys and young men of color. Building on that, yesterday 10 foundations (including MCF members The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation) announced additional commitments of at least $200 million over the next five years to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for positive impact in the lives of boys and young men of color.

Look for more next week on Trista Harris’ D.C. experience.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Tune in to American Public Media’s “A Lot to Give”

December 12, 2013

marketIf you listen to the radio, I hope you’ve heard “A Lot to Give: A Philanthropy Series” on American Public Media’s Marketplace this week.

APM summarizes the series this way: “an inside look at the rarefied air of big donors and philanthropy from the Wealth and Poverty Desk.” I’ve certainly found it to be more accessible and interesting than that description makes it sound!

By following the links (below), you can quickly read or listen to the completed pieces, which are 2 to 7 minutes in length.

Since Sunday, the series has covered the following topics. After each link, I’ve listed one thing I learned or had confirmed by the piece.

The roots – and some results – of the charitable tax deduction: To pay for WWI, in 1917 Congress was in the process of hiking the top income tax rate from 15 to 77%.

Hard truths
The realities – and pitfalls – of giving away money: Family foundations are only as healthy as the family is.

Why a foundation?
Charitable foundations aren’t just for the uber rich: 65% of all U.S. foundations are under a million dollars.


Beyond charity
Philanthropy’s edge: innovation and a long time horizon: Philanthropy is responsible for the painted lines that outline our roads.

Who Gives?
And, for fun, take the “Who Gives?” quiz about your giving and see if your causes are similar to Oprah, Bill Gates or Bono.

The series continues through the end of the week. To listen to new pieces, tune your radio to MPR news.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

#GivingTuesday — Giving, Not Shopping, is the Spirit of the Season

November 26, 2013

gtIn America, the next week has, by my count, five named days. Most of them born of our “need” to shop.

On Thanksgiving, we’ll spend time with family, watch some football, express gratitude for our plenty and eat too much. (We may or may not acknowledge that Native Americans see the day differently than non-natives.)

Then on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, we’ll spend millions — much of it to buy stuff we don’t need.

That’s why I find #GivingTuesday to be a refreshing change from the three days that proceed it. On #GivingTuesday, we’re asked to share some of our plenty with charitable organizations and nonprofits in our community and across the country. It is a new national fundraising day to remind us that giving — not shopping — is the true spirit of the holiday season.

I’ve just about finished up my 2013 charitable giving — doing much of it on Minnesota’s recent Give to the Max Day. But, that day had its technical difficulties, and maybe you didn’t get around to giving what you had planned. Or maybe you haven’t tried online giving at all. If that’s the case, I urge you to consider participating in #GivingTuesday.

Why #GivingTuesday?
Many Minnesota nonprofits with matching dollars left on the table from Give to the Max Day will make them available on #GivingTuesday. Matching gifts multiply the power of your contribution.

According to The Able Altruist, published by Software Advice, 22% of annual giving to nonprofits comes in on December 30 and 31, which makes nonprofit budgeting awfully difficult. This way you’ll get it done a few weeks before the end of the year.

It’s a well publicized national day of giving with $100,000 in prize grants to the top 50 participating nonprofits from across the country.

And, it’ll be fun — social media will be buzzing with the hashtag #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

The Latest on Foundation Pay and Staff Demographics

July 15, 2013

2012reportA new report from the national Council on Foundations offers a look at staffing and compensation for grantmakers around the country.

The headline news was that pay for foundation staff rose slowly last year, up 2.1 percent, keeping pace with inflation. Other findings in the report shed light on demographic challenges facing grantmakers now and in the future. Particularly of note:

  • The graying of foundation staff has accelerated significantly. Forty percent of full-time staff were age 50 or older, compared to only 25 percent in 2007. This is causing benefits pay such as health insurance to rise. It also presents a challenge, and an opportunity, for grantmakers to ensure that the next generation of staff will be ready to lead in the coming years.
  • There is still a large gender gap at the top of large foundations. While 82 percent of small foundations are led by women, that number drops to only 25 percent for those with more than $750 million in assets.
  • Twenty-nine percent of private foundations reported that they employ people of color, while only 19 percent of community foundations said the same. Note that this figure does not indicate what percentage of any foundation’s staff is made up of people of color or what position these employees hold.

Head over to this article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy to read more about this new report, and download the full report on the national Council on Foundations website ($149 for COF members, $199 for non-members).

A Quick Introduction to Philanthropy in Minnesota

May 9, 2013
MCF President Bill King on Comcast Newsmakers

MCF President Bill King on Comcast Newsmakers

If you work in philanthropy, you know it can be difficult to succinctly summarize the various foundation types, the range of corporate giving initiatives, how grantmakers determine which nonprofits to support, how individual contributions fit into the giving picture and what role MCF plays in any or all of it.

Recently, MCF’s president Bill King did this in a 4-minute Comcast Newsmakers segment.

If you know a foundation staff person who could use some information on how MCF can help them connect with other Minnesota grantmakers or someone who just wants an introduction to philanthropy in Minnesota, have them watch.

Watch the video on the Comcast Newsmakers website.

Newsmakers also airs at :24 and :54 minutes after the hour on CNN Headline News, middays Monday to Friday, and weekends during morning and early afternoon hours.

If you’re a Comcast digital cable customer, Newsmakers is also a regular feature of Comcast’s Twin Cities-based Local On Demand content. (From Comcast’s On Demand homepage, choose the Get Local tab, then the Newsmakers tab.)

Did you learn anything when you watched? Let us know what surprised you about giving in Minnesota!

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Celebrate National Philanthropy Day on Friday

November 12, 2012

This Friday, Nov. 16, AFP Minnesota, in partnership with GiveMN, will honor five local individuals and organizations as part of National Philanthropy Day. Tickets are still available for the awards luncheon, set for 11 a.m. Friday at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center.

In addition to four major awardees, GiveMN will announce the winner of two $10,000 Supersized Golden Tickets and announce the winner of a new fundraising award as part of Give to the Max Day 2012, which is Thursday, Nov. 15.

Each of these honorees has demonstrated exceptional leadership and generosity of time and resources to encourage and advance philanthropy in our community:

For more information, contact AFP Minnesota: 952.928.4645 or Or visit:

Cathy Wurzer, Minnesota Public Radio host, will emcee the awards luncheon. This year’s event is generously sponsored by Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Marriott Minneapolis City Center, Breck School, University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing, Hansen Henley Yoder & Lamb, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners and StoryTeller Media & Communications.

Minnesota’s Thriving Community Spirit

November 7, 2012

When you pick up the Star Tribune in print or visit it online today, don’t miss the special Giving Back feature. It includes an article by MCF’s Susan Stehling that focuses on the many contributions community foundations make to Minnesota’s quality of life.

Minnesota is home to 88 community and public foundations, all with different missions, but “their essence is fostering philanthropy to improve quality of life.” Among them:

  • The Minneapolis Foundation, highlighted in the article for its community impact strategy of transforming Minneapolis’s education landscape to close persistent achievement gaps.
  • The country’s first statewide women’s foundation, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, which provides resources for women and girls to break down local barriers to equality.
  • The six Minnesota Initiative Foundations, created by The McKnight Foundation in 1986 to strengthen communities and economies across Minnesota. In that time they’ve granted $120.4 million to community nonprofits and made $174.5 million in business loans.

As these and other community foundations remind us, philanthropy isn’t just for the very rich, it’s about neighbors helping neighbors and members of a community banding together for the greater good of all.

After you’re done reading about Minnesota’s philanthropic community spirit, have a look at the other Giving Back stories, including pieces on the surging popularity of online donations and profiles of four individuals making a difference in their own unique ways. And head over to MCF’s Giving in Minnesota page for our latest research on how community foundations and others are contributing to the state.


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