What’s Your Verb?

July 15, 2014
Jennifer Ford Reedy addressing the YNPN National Conference

Jennifer Ford Reedy addressing the YNPN National Conference

A couple of weeks ago, the national conference of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network came to Minneapolis. As a board member of the local chapter, I was thrilled to see so many young leaders from around the country in town and for them to hear Jennifer Ford Reedy of the Bush Foundation during day two’s opening keynote.

One insight from Reedy’s keynote in particular has been sticking with me and others who attended. It came during her description of her career path and how she figured out what her dream job was. A lot of her career, she said, involved doing a good job and seeing what new opportunities emerged, but there was a pivotal moment — involving deep thinking and visualizing her dream job — that got her to where she is today.

That moment came with a question from a CEO she’d been working with. The question wasn’t, “What’s your dream job?” Instead the CEO asked, “Can we fund you to be you and keep doing what you’re doing in the community?” Reedy knew that wasn’t feasible and that she’d need to have a platform and a place to belong. But it did get her thinking, “What do I want to do? Not what job do I want, but what is the verb in my life?”

She thought about what she was good at, what she enjoyed doing and the impact she wanted to have. From there she considered organizations she could be a part of that would allow her to do that. That frame of mind allowed her to make conscious choices that led her to Bush Foundation.

Reedy’s story demonstrated that the familiar question about someone’s dream job might have it backwards. The most important thing to know is what you’ll be happy doing. The best place to do it flows from there, not vice versa. So what about it, what’s your verb?

Watch Reedy’s full keynote and Q&A session from the conference below:

- Chris Oien, MCF digital communications specialist


MCF Welcomes Jennifer Hall as Program Assistant

July 9, 2014

jhallThis week MCF welcomes Jennifer Hall as our new program assistant. Most recently she worked at the Minnesota State College Faculty and prior to that she was at Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia where she worked on revitalizing the Ojibwe language.

Jenn comes to MCF with experience in the nonprofit and legislative sectors. Over 7 years, she has developed a passion for public and customer service. Working for the state legislature helped her appreciate the importance of bringing a variety of perspectives together, while working for a nonprofit inspired her to learn more about the field of philanthropy, especially how to be a transparent, effective organization.

As a student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, she created her own degree in Heritage Language Stewardship, focusing on the Ojibwe language and anthropology. She was drawn to MCF because of its willingness to engage with all aspects of philanthropy to improve the field as a whole.

In her free time, Jenn enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and training in Muay Thai (Thai boxing).

Welcome Jenn!


Grantmaking for Community Impact

May 7, 2014

promise1Last month, MCF hosted Christine Reeves from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Reeves gave an overview of philanthropic giving in the U.S. and shared her thoughts on where the sector should go from here.

Go Beyond “Grantmaker”

Reeves advocated for the term “philanthropic practitioner” rather than grantmaker. While the latter can be limiting, the former includes funder, partner, supporter, evaluator, advocate and champion — embodying more of what philanthropy can do to be effective. And she thinks it would be great if philanthropic organizations were so effective that “we put ourselves out of business.”

Reeves also discussed power dynamics between philanthropic organizations and grantees. For example, she said philanthropic practitioners should act as though their endowments are contingent on a positive review by their grantees, in much the same way that a grant is contingent on the positive review of a grantmaker. Grantees are evaluated by philanthropists, and sometimes philanthropy is evaluated by grantees. But even when it is, the outcome is never tied to dollars.

Use Targeted Universalism

Reeves then explained the concept of targeted universalism as an effective grantmaking strategy. Targeted universalism says if you target money to address needs and reduce disparities for the most marginalized, overall well-being (by many metrics) improves for everyone. Conversely, if a philanthropic organization tries to help everyone equally, they may unintentionally exacerbate existing disparities.

Fund Social Justice and General Operating Support

Reeves said, “In Minnesota, only 13% of philanthropic dollars go to social justice initiatives, yet this is an effective approach to solving long-term problems.” She asked: Would Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King, Jr. receive a grant today? Are philanthropic practitioners championing incrementalism or funding true movement? How do we create fertile ground for the next Gandhi, Chavez or King? Today 2% of U.S. foundations fund social justice.

Reeves also stands firmly behind general operating support, which she said means “letting go and trusting grantees.” Seven percent of U.S. foundations provide general operating grants today.

In Minnesota, the largest share of grant dollars goes to programs, but general operating support represented 30% of grant dollars in 2011, the latest year for which data are available. See Giving in Minnesota, 2013 Summary Report, page 7, for specifics.

Philanthropy’s Promise Explained

NCRP started Philanthropy’s Promise to change U.S. funding priorities, and more than 177 grantmakers have signed on to date. Philanthropy’s Promise celebrates foundations that intentionally target the bulk of their grant dollars to benefit underserved communities and invest substantially in advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement to address the root causes of social problems and promote equity, opportunity and justice.

What does Philanthropy’s Promise look like in practice? Grantmaking organizations that sign on commit to give 50% of their dollars to underserved communities and 25% to social justice organizations or movements. Because by applying targeted universalism, we all do better.

- Jennifer Pennington, MCF member services fellow


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

Inspiration, Renewed Commitments at the Ambassador Awards

April 10, 2014
The Saint Paul Foundation's Carleen Rhodes with this year's Ambassador Awards honorees.

Minnesota Philanthropy Partners’ Carleen Rhodes with this year’s Ambassador Awards honorees.

On April 7, The Saint Paul Foundation held its annual Facing Race Ambassador Awards. The purpose of this event is to honor “…individuals working to build communities where everyone feels safe, valued and respected.”

This year, over 500 people came out to celebrate and honor this work. It was fantastic to see such a multi-generational crowd. Attendees included youth, elected officials, and those from the nonprofit, philanthropic, education, business, and government sectors.

Carleen Rhodes and Rowzat Shipchandler opened the event with an overview of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners’ renewed commitment to racial equity including the racial equity framework. This framework will promote racial equity through the various roles of the foundation: as community participants, economic entities, funders, employers, fundraisers, and leaders.

People were nominated from all across the state. This year, there were two Ambassador Award recipients, Jada Sherrie Mitchell and Justin Terrell, and three Honorable Mention recipients, Jennifer Godinez, Bukata Hayes and Dr. Cecilia Martinez. The Ambassador Award winners each received a $10,000 grant and the Honorable Mention winners each received a $1,000 grant that they may present to the nonprofit of their choice.

Award winning local photographer, Wing Young Huie, was the keynote speaker. He asked questions such as “How much does society shape ideas of who we are,” “Who gets to say who is a Minnesotan,” “When are we different and when are we the same,” and “Are we aware of our subconscious assumptions?” He demonstrated the power of the media across space and time, showing how some reactions to one photo were strongly influenced by images and assumptions from the Vietnam War many decades earlier.

It was a wonderful night of greeting old friends and meeting new ones, building the beloved community, and renewing personal commitments to advance this work.

- Jennifer Pennington, MCF member services fellow


Funders Seek Common Ground for Better Food for All

March 28, 2014

5547966268_4e1d1caf65_mToday on the blog we welcome, Kristine Igo, associate director for the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute at the University of Minnesota and a core group member of MCF’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network. She tells us about what the network is up to, and invites other funders to its upcoming gathering.

The conversation about local, regional, national and global food systems is growing, and taking place in small communities and urban centers, research and health institutions, big business and local markets.

Nowhere is this more evident than within the philanthropic community, where grantmakers across the country and here in Minnesota are coming together to create alliances and partnerships to support a fair and healthy food future. Philanthropy has long cared about issues of hunger. Today, with the increased commitment to having an impact, that caring has logically moved to broader and more systemic and strategic approaches that require cross-sector collaboration.

It’s amazing how many of the issues funders care about can be connected back to some aspect of the food system. Educational outcomes? Poor nutrition impacts learning ability and concentration. Renewable energy? Small and mid-size farmers are first adopters to renewable energy opportunities including wind and solar to offset farm costs and increase revenues. Community and economic development? Entrepreneurship and small business opportunities abound in urban and rural landscapes as new food businesses and infrastructure are developed to fill the gap between suppliers and consumers.

The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network has sought engagement with grantmaking partners from across the state to work together to improve the health of our environment and reduce economic and health disparities. Similarly, grantmaker networks in other regions have taken up the issue and are bringing food-related issues to a broader spotlight in the field.

The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers has started a wonderful series on their blog “THE ‘almost’ DAILY WRAG” called “What Funders Need to Know: The Food System”. They will be periodically highlighting various aspects of the food system and sharing examples of work being done and opportunities for funder investment. One wonderful resource they’ve produced so far is this issue brief that summarizes some of what’s been learned through the work of the Washington Regional Convergence Partnership, a project of WRAG.

It’s been exciting to work together with other funders to build a shared agenda around improving our food system, and gratifying to see large and small, private and corporate, state and local government, and other public agencies and institutions engage in critical conversations around developing innovative funding solutions to food system challenges. We have big plans and hope every interested funder will find some common ground with us. To explore what impact your funding organization could have, join us on April 7, 2014 from 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. for the MCF Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network Convening at Northwest Area Foundation.

P.S. Of course the food will be good food!

Photo cc justanotherhuman


Putting “My Brother’s Keeper” to Work in Minnesota

March 27, 2014
mbk

Attendees watched clips from President Obama’s speech and heard from those who were there.

On March 25, MCF convened a group of Minnesota foundations and elected officials to provide information on President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and identify next steps for how Minnesota can coordinate efforts.

My Brother’s Keeper is aimed at helping boys and young men of color by addressing the disproportionate ways they are at risk. Read more about it on this February 28 MCF blog post.

Trista Harris, president of MCF, David Nicholson, executive director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice, and Chris Coleman, mayor of St. Paul, were all guests of the White House when Obama formally announced My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, and they each provided a recap of the event and the urgency and importance of engaging in this work. Mayor Coleman said, “This is the most important work that any of us in this room will ever do.”

David Nicholson stressed that this should be a cross-sector, bottom-up movement. Community solutions that demonstrate positive outcomes should be valued, invested in, and scaled up.

Trista Harris spoke about coordinating efforts, identifying local programs that work and investing in them to scale up, and the importance of public policy to address comprehensive systems change.

Mayor Coleman gave examples of how cities can change their policies and procedures so that low-income neighborhoods are not adversely impacted. For example, St. Paul Public Works would change street light bulbs on a complaint basis. However, not everyone knows who to call to get a street light fixed, and sometimes street lights weren’t getting fixed for two years. The city changed its policy so that light bulbs are changed every two years, approximately the life of a street light bulb. There are numerous ways that government can review policies and procedures to ensure there is equity across government services.

Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitated World Cafe discussions about what next steps to take. Participants completed pledge forms on how to support efforts.

MCF will provide ongoing information on the federal effort and the opportunities to connect with it. As Trista Harris said, “We have a lot of great local programs that work, and if we coordinate efforts, we can make a big impact. We’re always so much smarter together.”

- Jennifer Pennington and Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF Fellows


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