Minnesota Grantmakers at the White House

March 13, 2014

obama2In February, President Obama announced My Brother’s Keeper, 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. Foundations nationally will direct at least $200 million toward the effort over the next five years in addition to $150 million already pledged or awarded.

Minnesota’s philanthropic community was well represented at the announcement. Here, Trista Harris, MCF president, and David Nicholson, executive director, Headwaters Foundation for Justice, reflect on their attendance at the historic announcement with Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Have you seen philanthropy and government come together like this before? What’s important about this moment?
I have seen foundations and government come together on a local level. I work with the Northside Funders Group where the state, city and county are working alongside foundations to identify common needs and opportunities for collective impact. But, most examples I can think of focus on a specific “it” – a policy or a solution – rather than on the whole.

TH: I think this could be a transformational moment for our country. It allows foundations to lift up best practices and scale up programs that support a consistently underserved population, while the government takes a systemic look – across all federal agencies – to ensure we are effectively serving men and boys of color.

What are the potential impacts for communities of color?
DN: This is an opportunity to focus on what works and finally move some of the persistent disparity numbers in health, wealth, education and opportunity for members of all communities.

TH: When we bring out the best in the most marginalized communities, we bring out the best in America as a whole.

What are the potential impacts for the community as a whole?
DN: We all have a vested interest in the success of everyone in our community. If one group, in this case boys and men of color, are many rungs behind on the opportunity ladder, it is prudent and strategic to focus on them.

TH: As a country, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind. We need the full participation of every American. By focusing on men and boys of color, we are strengthening communities for everyone.

What was it like being in a briefing with the President?
DN: For me personally, it was powerful to see the grandeur and size of the White House. It was very exciting to be in a room with so many people who have such a long commitment to this work.

TH: It was humbling and awe inspiring to be in the White House with a group of amazing people who have been working for decades to improve the lives of men and boys of color, to be joined by the President, who is personally committed to the effort, and to hear from a group of young men who will be impacted directly. It was the single most important experience in my professional career.

What opportunities are there for Minnesota to leverage this momentum?
DN: Minnesota momentum is critical. We have a long history of philanthropic leadership and thoughtful bipartisan initiatives, yet we have not been able to use that to address our dramatic and desperate outcomes for communities of color.

TH: There is great work happening in Minnesota, and this is an opportunity to connect it to national momentum. The African American Leadership Forum, Summit Academy, Brotherhood Inc., Harvest Prep School and Hiawatha Academy are all doing excellent work, so I look forward to Minnesota foundations and government leaders coming to the table and to Minnesota being one of the first states to scale its efforts.

Minnesota grantmakers are invited to continue the conversation at “My Brother’s Keeper: What’s Next for Minnesota?” a facilitated dialogue on Tuesday, March 25.

How Do Foundation Program Officers Gauge Grant Impact?

April 1, 2013

measuring-impactIf you work for a nonprofit, perhaps you’ve wondered what happens to a status or final report you’ve written and submitted to a foundation, reporting on a grant. Well, wonder no more.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations hosted a conversation with five program officers from its member foundations about evaluating grants and grantees. The complete conversation will run in the spring issue of Giving Forum –MCF’s publication covering philanthropy news by and for grantmakers, givers and nonprofits.

Participating program officers were:

  • Joanna Ramirez Barrett, program operations and evaluation director, Northwest Area Foundation
  • Monica Bryand, senior program officer, Headwaters Foundation for Justice
  • Nate Dorr, program officer – grants, Northwest Minnesota Foundation
  • Susan Voigt, program manager, Medica Foundation
  • Laura Zimmermann, arts program officer and director of artist fellowships, The McKnight Foundation

Program officers answered questions about what types of follow-up reports they request from grantees and how they use and share the data contained within. They were candid about changes they’ve made to processes at their foundations based on grantee feedback, and they told us how they measure their own success as grantmakers. Find out if they believe their success is dependent on the accomplishments of their grantees.

Sneak Peek Video Online Now
Here’s a glimpse into the Giving Forum feature where three program officers (Barrett, Voigt and Zimmermann) give advice on providing measurement data to funders, explain why they believe it is important to do so and recommend resources nonprofit staff can use to learn more about successful evaluation strategies.

To read the complete conversation, look for Giving Forum, in your mailboxes and online by mid-April. If you don’t already receive the free quarterly 16-page print publication, subscribe by creating an account on mcf.org, so you don’t miss the spring issue “Progress Through Evaluation” and future 2013 issues focused on “Corporate Philanthropy” and on “Giving – and Working – Across Generations.”

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Our special thanks to Pollen for running this as the feature article in today’s issue!

Lead in Social Justice with Headwaters Foundation

June 6, 2012

Are you interested in making a difference in your community while learning about social injustice with a diverse group of peers? The Social Justice Leadership Institute from MCF member Headwaters Foundation for Justice might be for you!

The Social Justice Leadership Institute is a participatory model of fundraising and grantmaking for social change and building community. This immersion in grassroots philanthropy takes place over four months with a cohort of 25 applicants selected by Headwaters. Activities that this group will undertake include:

  • Instruction in social justice history, strategy, and community grantmaking
  • Site visits to local social justice nonprofits
  • Group discussions framed to better understand various roles in addressing social justice
  • A group fundraising and grantmaking process
  • And much more!

If this sounds like it might be for you, you’ll want to attend one of Headwaters’ information sessions on June 19 or June 28. Applications are due July 15. To learn more and apply, visit the Headwaters website.

Headwaters Foundation for Justice Honored for Responsive Philanthropy

September 8, 2011

Headwaters Foundation for JusticeHeadwaters Foundation for Justice has received the 2011 Responsive Philanthropy Award. Given by MAP for Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, this annual award honors philanthropic organizations that effectively partner with grantees to mobilize resources for the public benefit.

Recipients of this award must be:

  • Responsive to citizen initiatives;
  • Recognize public policy issues and long-term strategies to fight problems; and
  • Commit substantial resources to disadvantaged people and Minnesota communities through a process of dialogue and partnership.

For nearly 30 years the Headwaters Foundation for Justice has been devoted to funding those who fight social, racial, economic and environmental injustice within communities. The work of Headwaters falls into four program areas: grant making, capacity building, donor advisory and educational programs.

Headwaters has directed close to $9 million in grants to Minnesota organizations serving low-income communities, communities of color, GLBTQ people, people with disabilities, immigrants and other historically excluded constituencies.

The foundation will receive their award in a recognition ceremony at Minnesota Council of Nonprofits 25th Annual Conference in October. You can learn more about the foundation and its activities at headwatersfoundation.org. Headwaters is one of six nonprofits to be honored. To learn about the other award recipients, visit minnesotanonprofits.org.

Philanthropy’s Promise

June 13, 2011

More than 60 leading grantmakers from across the country have signed on to a new National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy initiative called “Philanthropy’s Promise.”

These grantmakers have voluntarily committed to:

  • allocate at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to address the unique needs of the poor, elderly, disabled and other underserved populations,
  • and at least 25 percent towards supporting advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement to address the root causes of social problems.

Seven Minnesota Grantmakers, all MCF members, have signed on:

  • General Mills Foundation
  • Headwaters Foundation for Justice
  • The McKnight Foundation
  • The Minneapolis Foundation
  • Northwest Area Foundation
  • The Saint Paul Foundation
  • Women’s Foundation of Minnesota

Kate Wolford, president, The McKnight Foundation, explains their participation this way,

“With limited resources, McKnight’s programs seek to provide support where we believe we can have the greatest impact. In many cases, this requires that we attend to underserved communities. … Additionally, McKnight’s board has long recognized the power of pursuing lasting, systemic change through advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement.”

To learn more about the background and goals of “Philanthropy’s Promise,” watch this three-minute video.


- Susan Stehling, MCF

What Does It Take to Lead in Diversity and Inclusivity?

May 11, 2011

Who leads? How do they lead? These were among the questions we here at MCF asked ourselves and our members as we embarked on information gathering for our Working Towards Diversity IV research project.

As we learned more about the diversity and inclusion efforts of Minnesota grantmakers, Headwaters Foundation for Justice’s name kept rising to the top. Headwaters strives to be a catalyst for social, racial, economic and environmental justice and supports, through grantmaking and organizational assistance, grassroots groups addressing the root causes of injustice. One of the foundation’s longest-standing leadership initiatives is its community-led grantmaking process in which volunteers from the communities it seeks to support lead all aspects of the foundation’s grantmaking – they review proposals, go on site visits and make funding recommendations to the board.

“What does it take to lead in diversity and inclusivity?” we asked Headwaters program director David Nicholson. Read his full Voices article in our latest issue of Giving Forum, which focuses on “Diversity in Philanthropy: A Portrait of Minnesota.”

Here are some excerpts:

Q: Does leading in diversity and inclusivity require certain competencies?

Being humble is a core competency for any leader. Leaders must also recognize their own power and privilege and understand how to use these in respectful ways. This is critical. We all have privilege; how much changes depending on who’s in the room. The reality is, as foundation staff, we often walk into a room bringing a lot of privilege and thus a lot of power. At Headwaters, we emphasize using our power and privilege “with” rather than “to.” For example, we can convene – facilitating communities and individuals coming together for the common good.

Another competency is working with the “other.” While it is human nature to hang out with people who look and think like us and have similar backgrounds, we must push ourselves to have relationships with many communities. At Headwaters, we believe that difference is an asset that needs to be cultivated. We seek to be intentional about getting to know people and organizations, so we can identify strengths and resources from all communities.

Leading also means bringing people together to find common ground. Leaders also must be interested in advancing systems thinking, to understand how things work in our society.

Q: Is being a person of color a prerequisite for being a leader in diversity and inclusivity?

No. People are people, and anyone regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or sexual identity can have a closed and narrow mind. Your question implies that it is about “race,” when in fact, it is about values. More to the point, it is about ensuring that foundation practices reflect core values.

For example, I believe that gathering diverse viewpoints, people and ideas is critical to developing solutions that will work for more than just a few. The next step is intentionally creating processes that include all differences as equally valuable; that is the process of creating inclusivity. Philanthropy is the research and development labs of our society. When foundations are at their best, they can test assumptions and develop new insights and solutions to the most vexing social ills. To do that effectively, foundations and staff need to lead in diversity (bringing together different and varied parts) and inclusivity (integrating those differences into something stronger, better).

To flip your question is to ask, “How can people from a majority value include minority perspectives?” My recipe for that is rather simple; but it’s hard work. First, develop self-awareness, a deep understanding of your core values, assumptions and beliefs. Then, surround yourself with people who have very different values and beliefs; empower them to challenge you and how you see the world. If you have done your work well, you will truly see and understand “the other”; now you can choose to value it or not. If you choose to value the difference as your own, then the next step – seeking out difference (diversity) and integrating difference (inclusivity) – is easy. If you value the “other,” you will value their perspectives.

 - Chris Murakami Noonan, MCF communications associate


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