Helping the Arts Learn, Grow and Thrive

June 25, 2014

artsWith contributions from The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, and lead supporter the Bush Foundation, Arts Midwest’s ArtsLab program has launched Capacity Building and Resilience, a case study report that investigates how small and mid-sized arts organizations learn, adapt, and grow.

Examining the experiences of eight organizations participating in this leadership and strategy development program, this report identifies four capacities that have helped organizations in Minnesota and North Dakota thrive in the face of operational challenges, staffing and leadership changes, and shifts in funding. Key takeaways offer insights for similar organizations seeking to build their resiliency and for grantmakers supporting the arts and culture sector. The report also outlines key insights for grantmakers supporting the arts and culture sector.

ArtsLab is a training, mentorship, and support program that offers in-depth learning opportunities for community-based arts organizations. Designed to catalyze new ideas and craft tangible paths to strategic change, the program offers highly-participatory retreats, monthly webinars, and access to mentors and financial support. Since its inception in 1999, the program has helped artists, cultural leaders, and their organizations strengthen operations, build cross-sector relationships, develop leadership skills, and deepen their connections to their communities.

“This report helps ensure that the impact of Arts Midwest’s ArtsLab program will reverberate beyond the organizations and individuals it served over the last 15 years. We are proud to support ArtsLab because it is truly a testament to the power of leveraging art to think bigger and think differently about what is possible in our communities,” says Allison Barmann, strategy and learning vice president at Bush Foundation.

Learn more about ArtsLab and its new report to help build capacity in the arts on the Arts Midwest website.

 

 


Giving USA Comes Bearing Good News!

June 19, 2014

gusaI attended the St. Paul stop on Giving USA’s 2014 road show this morning. There, Adam Wilhelm of Campbell & Company updated us on 2013 national giving trends, which can be summarized as good news.

According to Wilhelm and Giving USA 2014, total charitable giving in the U.S. rose 3% (adjusted for inflation) between 2012 and 2013 to $335.17 billion. This is an increase of 12% since the start of the Great Recession, and Wilhelm predicts the U.S. will pass the pre-recession high of $350 billion in charitable giving in a year or two.

Wilhelm says, “Wealthy individuals are feeling good about their accumulated wealth, so it is a good time to talk to them about their giving.”

According to Giving USA, wealthy donors are giving to their favorite charities — including universities, hospitals and arts institutions — so overall giving in those areas is up. Meanwhile, giving to social service and church groups — more dependent on the financially squeezed middle-class — is flat.

In 2013:

  • Giving by individuals — the largest slice of the pie at 72% — totaled $240.60 billion, up 2.7% over 2012.
  • Giving by foundations — now 15% of total giving — was up 4.2% to $48.96 billion. This increase was driven in part by a 10.5% increase in giving by community foundations.
  • Giving by bequest through a will or estate plan — 8% of the total — was up 7.2% to $27.73 billion.
  • Only corporate giving — 5% of the total — was down 3.2% to $17.88 billion, the result of a slow rate of growth in pre-tax corporate profits last year. Corporate trends of increased in-kind and global giving continue.

What Organizations are Benefiting?

  1. Religion was the top recipient of gifts, but total giving to religion continues to slide. It went down slightly in 2013 to 31% of the total or $105.5 billion, which represents the lowest percent given to religion in 40 years.
  2. Overall giving to Education increased by 7.4% (2013’s largest increase) to $52.07 billion.
  3. Giving to Human Services was fairly flat, increasing by .7% to $41.51 billion.
  4. Giving to Health was up by 4.5% to $31.86 billion.
  5. Giving to Public Affairs/Society Benefit (which includes giving to donor-advised funds) was up 7% to $23.89 billion.
  6. Giving to Arts, Culture and Humanities was up by 6.3% to $16.66 billion.
  7. Giving to International Affairs fell to $14.93 billion (due to fewer disasters worldwide in 2013).
  8. Giving to Animal Welfare and Environment increased to $9.72 billion (due to larger investments in climate change and anti-fracking initiatives).

Takeaways from event panelists included the following: 

  • Individual giving is a growth market. Giving by other sectors is not growing as quickly.
  • More and more often, individual donors are researching charities and want to see the impact of their gifts.
  • If your organization is not doing planned giving, it should at least be doing bequests. “It’s easy!”

Visit Giving USA for much more information or to purchase Giving USA 2014.

For more information on Minnesota giving, visit mcf.org/research

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

 


Illuminating Pathways to Gender Equality

June 3, 2014

wmfndnMCF member Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women & Public Policy, released new research today on the status of Minnesota’s women and girls in four key areas: economics, safety, health and leadership.

The report, Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota, shows that while inequalities exist for all women and girls in Minnesota, even greater disparities exist for women and girls of color, rural women and girls, and older women.

“Gender inequality continues to render women the nation’s poorest, reinforce systemic violence, produce substandard health outcomes, and deny women leadership opportunities across all sectors,” said Women’s Foundation of Minnesota president and CEO Lee Roper-Batker. “When women thrive, so do their families and communities. Minnesota can and must do better. The data help us get there.”

Findings from the research include:

  • White, Asian American, African American, American Indian and Latina women earn $0.80, $0.74, $0.62, $0.62 and $0.57 on the dollar, respectively, compared to white men.
  • Women in elected office at the Minnesota Legislature are stuck at one-third, slightly below historic highs. Almost one-third of the state’s three-seat legislative districts include no women and two-thirds of those are in rural areas of the state.
  • One-third to one-half of overweight girls report harassment or bullying based on their appearance, and 42% of Somali girls report the same based on ethnicity and national origin.
  • Teen birth rates for Minnesota’s African American and white girls are lower than the national average, and for Latina girls, on par. For Minnesota’s American Indian and Asian American teens, the birth rate is double the national average.

Download the report on the foundation’s website, and join the conversation on its 2014 Road to Equality Tour. The tour will visit seven Minnesota destinations through the state, June 3-24.


Fast Forward: Phil Buchanan on Effective Practice in Philanthropy

May 27, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 12.09.07 PMThe newest edition of MCF’s Fast Forward series is out!

In this episode, our president Trista Harris speaks with Phil Buchanan, president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). CEP is a nonprofit that helps foundations assess and improve their effectiveness and performance. Phil identifies the four components to effective practice as:

  • Clear goals
  • Coherent strategies
  • Disciplined implementation
  • Relevant performance indicators

Phil and Trista discuss the challenges foundations face in receiving honest feedback, tools CEP has developed to address those challenges, and his advice to foundations interested in becoming more effective organizations:

Read the transcript of the interview on our website, then stop by the Fast Forward main page to catch last month’s interview with Margaret A. Cargill Foundation’s Mark Lindberg if you missed it!

 

 


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.)

Transparency
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 tkumar@mcf.org.

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



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