Apply Now for the 2014 Bush Prize

April 9, 2014

Bush-AltLogo-ColorYesterday, the Bush Foundation announced it has opened applications for its 2014 Bush Prize for Community Innovation. This prize honors and supports innovative organizations with a track record of making great ideas happen. The Bush Prize provides creative capital for the organizations to use however they choose.

Open to public charities and government entities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and 23 Native nations that share the same geography, selection criteria for the Bush Prize include:

  • Does the organization have a pattern of innovative solutions?
  • Does the organization have a pattern of using inclusive, collaborative and resourceful processes?
  • Does the organizational leadership foster a culture of innovation?
  • Is the organization stable and strong in terms of governance and finance?

Applications are due June 5. Finalists will be chosen in July, with site visits in August and September. Winners will be selected in November, with funds dispersed in December.

Prize winners receive a package of recognition, along with a flexible grant of 25% of the organization’s last fiscal year budget, up to $500,000. See the stories of the nine winners from 2013.

Visit the Bush Foundation’s website for all the details and to access the online application. Best of luck to those applying!


Mission Investing Gaining Minnesota Momentum

February 12, 2014

mieEvery seat was filled at Northwest Area Foundation on Tuesday at a grantmaker “think tank” on mission investing.

What is mission investing? According to Mission Investors Exchange:

Mission investments cover two distinct categories: market-rate mission-related investments (MRIs) that have a positive social impact while contributing to the foundation’s long-term financial stability and growth; and program-related investments (PRIs) that are designed to achieve specific program objectives while earning a below-market rate return.

In other words, it’s about  using the so-called “other 95%” (beyond the 5% annual grants payout) to achieve mission.

According to MCF’s latest Giving in Minnesota report, Minnesota grantmakers grant approximately $1.7 billion annually and hold almost $18 billion in foundation assets. Through mission investing strategies they can leverage a portion of that $18 billion for social good. (For more on mission investing, also check out NCRP’s Winter 2013-2014 edition of Responsive Philanthropy.)

The Minnesota Experience
Prior to Tuesday’s event, some Minnesota grantmakers completed an informal survey about their experiences related to mission investing. Highlights of the responses included:

  • Program-related investments (PRIs) as loans are a commonly used tool and are often directed to economic development for low-income neighborhoods and job creation.
  • Growth of mission investing is hampered by lack of staff expertise and capacity, as well as a dearth of effective and experienced investment and legal advisors who understand and embrace the concept.
  • Finding investments with a strong financial and social return and measuring results can be challenging.
  • Despite challenges, foundations are intentionally pursuing mission investing and even setting targets for percentage of invested assets.
  • Community foundations have a growing interest  in mission investing among donor advisors.

Also discussed during the “think tank” were increased opportunities to engage in mission investing outside of the nonprofit sphere, such as with social enterprises and for-profit businesses.

For instance, philanthropy could seed investments in green technology or otherwise put dollars behind ideas that will influence the marketplace for good.

Learn More
Several intermediaries and other organizations are already working in the mission-investing space in Minnesota, including Nonprofits Assistance Fund, Community Reinvestment Fund, MEDA, WomenVenture and others.

At the meeting, Peter Berliner and his colleagues from Seattle-based Mission Investors Exchange also offered their knowledge, expertise and connections. To meet local and national peers, grantmakers can sign up for the Mission Investors Exchange 2014 National Conference to be held in Minneapolis from May 13 to 15. (Early bird registration ends February 28!)

To connect with other Minnesota grantmakers who are pursuing mission-investing strategies, contact MCF at

As event organizers Brad Brown, former head of Social Venture Partners Minnesota, and Susan Hammel, executive director of the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, noted, mission investing is a lot less risky than perceived.  And a planned approach with full board engagement can really pay off – in social impact and financial rewards.

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

A Good Food Future: The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network

January 8, 2014

healthyfoodToday on the blog we feature Pam Bishop, entrepreneur senior program officer, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. She presented at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening about one of MCF’s member networks, the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network. She tells us more about it here.

At the November 2013 MCF Philanthropy convening, representatives from the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities (HFHC) Funders Network introduced the network during an interactive breakout session. Here is some of what was covered:

Who We Are
The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network is a group of Minnesota-based funders who make informed, coordinated and strategic investments to improve key facets of our food system. Our shared commitment to the vitality and prosperity of our state’s communities and resilience of our landscapes inspire us to work together.

What We Do
This diverse group of funders:

  • Shares information about promising programs, organizations, issues and research.
  • Coordinates funding among members to ensure resources are well-distributed across organizations and initiatives focused on food systems.
  • Increases overall funding available for food systems-related work.
  • Convenes meetings for Minnesota’s funding community on relevant issues of interest around food systems and philanthropy.

Our joint agenda for learning and investment is based on the concept of collective impact. It emphasizes three strategic priorities:

  1. Facilitate Local Entrepreneurship across the food supply chain.
  2. Improve Access to Healthy Food to enhance wellness and health equity for all Minnesotans.
  3. Strengthen and sustain Farmland Access throughout the state.

For the next three years, these priorities will inform the content of HFHC-sponsored meetings for the broader funding community. They will also influence strategies to align and increase funding.

Each priority has a working group that meets regularly to plan network-wide learning opportunities and execute a successful strategy to coordinate and increase funding.

Get Involved
If you are a funder interested in these issues, here are some ways for you to get involved with the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network:

  • Join the HFHC listserv by contacting Tara Kumar, member services manager at MCF.
  • Attend the HFHC public meeting in early 2014. Watch for details — coming soon.
  • Join one of the HFHC working groups to collaborate with other funders on strategic alignment of funding on an issue you care about. Contact Tara if interested.

HFHC Funders Network has members from agencies, organizations and institutions that fund efforts to address social, environmental, economic and human health dimensions of food and agriculture in Minnesota.

For example: family, community and corporate foundations; state agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Health; academic institutions, such as the University of Minnesota; health organizations, such as UCare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; and hunger relief groups such as United Way.

Photo cc NatalieMaynor

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!

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,878 other followers