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.


Women’s Foundation Honored for Responsive Philanthropy

September 7, 2012

MCF member Women’s Foundation of Minnesota will take home the award for Responsive Philanthropy at the 2012 Minnesota Nonprofit Awards on November 2.

Award sponsors Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits will recognize the foundation for its MN Girls Are Not for Sale campaign, a 5-year, $5 million effort to end the prostitution of girls.

From the award announcement:

Working closely with leaders of the community that have expertise on the sex trafficking of girls, the foundation has established a collaborative model in partnership with dedicated stakeholders from across the state — advocates, donors, elected officials, state agencies, corporations, law enforcement, judges, faith communities and many others — to create and enact a strategic plan and action with a clear message that Minnesota girls are not for sale.

Congratulations to Women’s Foundation for its innovative work! Other award winners will include:

  • Innovation: Avenues for Homeless Youth
  • Advocacy: OutFront Minnesota
  • Anti-Racism: Youth Performance Company
  • Excellence Award, Large Organization: Graywolf Press
  • Excellence Award, Small Organization: Project FINE

Read more about all the winners on the Minnesota Nonprofit Awards website.

And register now for the MCF/MCN Joint Annual Conference, November 1 and 2 in St. Paul, where the winners will be honored at a special awards luncheon.


Ending the Prostitution of Minnesota Girls

July 20, 2012

Following the direction of its new strategic plan, LEADERSHIP FOR THE FUTURE | 2012-2014, yesterday MCF hosted the first of three 2012 programs focused around issues of diversity, inclusion and equity.

“Bold Steps Toward Funding Equity,” featured three MCF-member foundations sharing behind-the-scenes looks at their decisions to focus resources on equity issues confronting girls, seniors and youth, and the LGBT community.

In this post, I’ll cover the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and its MN Girls Are Not For Sale campaign, an effort to stop the prostitution of girls and part of the foundation’s overarching mission of equality for women and girls.

Kim Borton, director of programs, discussed the campaign, which began with a 2010 call from a judge to the foundation president. The judge expressed concern, saying, “Girls coming before our bench on charges of prostitution are getting younger and younger. This is clearly a women’s issue. What are you going to do about it?”

After initial research, the foundation reframed the issue as trafficking, rather than prostitution, and convened a group of 85 stakeholders from many sectors, including donors, elected officials, state agencies, philanthropies, advocates, corporations, law enforcement, judges, faith communities and others.

Three goals were articulated, and  the campaign is now one of four strategic goals in a five-year strategic plan at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The foundation has committed to raising $5m over a five-year period.

The campaign was different for the Women’s Foundation — a community foundation — in several ways.

  • Instead of funding broadly across many issues, the foundation saw this as an opportunity to go deep on one issue.
  • Initial disbelief on the part of board members was quickly replaced by fervent action.
  • For the first time, the foundation is funding the public sector, making grants to police departments and the criminal justice system.

The foundation didn’t want to be the voice for the issue. Instead they wanted to support those who were already leaders in the area and get other funders and appropriate government agencies involved where they could make a difference.

And, as is typical when tackling large social problems, each of the many partners is working on its piece of the issue in addition to working collaboratively.

After the first eighteen months of work, there have been wins.

  • The foundation contributed to the passage of Safe Harbor Legislation in the state, recognizing girls under age 16 as victims of crime, not criminals.
  • Grants are ensuring that advocates can create and sustain housing and treatment for victims. Currently, the entire state has only four shelter beds for girls trafficked for sex.
  • Partners in the effort are training hotel workers in the state to recognize signs of prostitution.
  • Groundbreaking research is being done at the University of Minnesota to measure the scope of the issue.

Stay tuned for future posts on the day’s other presentations: Northland Foundation and their AGE to age collaboration, and the John Larsen Foundation’s decision to fund issues around GLBT equity.

Minnesota grantmakers won’t want to miss the next two programs in the 2012 series: Funding in Immigrant and Refugee Populations on September 19 and Funding Through a Racial Equity Lens on November 7.

- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate


New Research Shows Minnesota Women & Girls Stalled on the Road to Equality

March 5, 2012

MCF member Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, in partnership with the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women & Public Policy, has released new research on the status of women and girls in the state. It finds that disparities exist for all women in Minnesota, but especially for women of color, rural women and older women.

Among the important findings:

  • For every dollar white men make, white women make 80 cents, African American women make 64 cents, and Latina women make 56 cents. The higher the education level a woman attains, the bigger the pay gap she is likely to experience.
  • Eighty percent of women with children work, and 51% of Minnesota’s working mothers are the primary breadwinners for their family. Eighty percent of Native American and African American working women with children in Minnesota earn the majority of their family’s income, up from 60% in 2008.
  • Sixty-eight percent of women-led households living in rental housing and 45% of those who own their home are paying costs that exceed 30% of their income, the marker for affordability.
  • One third of Minnesota women experience a rape crime by mid-life, and the same number become victims of intimate partner violence.
  • Only 11% of 12th grade girls are physically active daily, compared to 26% of 12th grade boys.
  • Women are underrepresented in leadership. More than 50% of Minnesota’s county commissions do not include a woman, and only 37% of the state’s school board members have been female since 2004. Female representation in the state Legislature has dropped below 40% in recent years.

“Since women gained the right to vote in 1920, we’ve changed laws, practices and attitudes to promote fairness and opportunity,” says Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. “Despite current laws that guarantee equal opportunity for all women and men, our research paints a different picture: Minnesota women and girls are stalled on the road to equality.”

To learn more about this new research, visit the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota website.


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.

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- Susan Stehling, MCF


Stakeholder Engagement: A Guide for Grantmakers

August 27, 2010

Do Nothing About Me Without Me, a guide for grantmakers on increasing stakeholder engagement, begins with a simple but inspirational African proverb about the importance of working together:

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) partnered with the Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) on this report because there is a disconnect between grantmakers’ sentiments around stakeholder engagement and their perceptions of how inclusive they are in decision-making. 

And this perception is not without merit: while a slim majority of the surveyed grantmakers believe that it’s very important to solicit outside advice and collaborate with external groups, only 36 percent of respondents said they seek advice from grantee advisory committees or solicit feedback from grantees through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.

Why don’t more grantmakers involve external stakeholders in decision-making?  According to the survey, many grantmakers are comfortable with the status quo, prefer to get their information from experts rather than community members, or think it takes too much time and effort to involve outside constituents.  Valid or not, these excuses prevent many grantmakers from letting more diverse voices influence their work.

Yet, the benefits of stakeholder engagement are evident; inviting external constituencies to the table results in:

  • Deeper understanding of problems;
  • Truer sense of grantee needs and challenges;
  • Improved strategy;
  • Greater effectiveness;
  • More accountability and transparency; and
  • Increased buy in.

So how do grantmakers involve stakeholders in decision-making?  Do Nothing About Me Without Me provides several case studies of organizations that do this work successfully.  The report also offers a range of activities for grantmakers, depending on their current level of stakeholder engagement. 

Minnesota also has its own examples of foundations involving communities in their organizations:

  • Getting started: If your foundation is just beginning this work, surveying grantees for feedback and input is a great first step.  Some foundations also commission Grantee Perception Reports from the Center for Effective Philanthropy.  The McKnight Foundation published its report online for greater transparency and accountability.
  • Gathering input: Other grantmakers involve grantees and community members in focus groups, listening sessions, and community convenings around public problems.  For instance, the Central Minnesota Community Foundation has convened community meetings around important local issues, such as ways to promote collaborative planning with St. Cloud, Sartell, and Sauk Rapids.
  • Sharing decision making: For grantmakers that are able and willing to share decision-making authority with a group of constituents, they may consider either adding nonprofit and community representatives to their board, or appointing a panel of nonprofit staff and community members to decide on grants. Family foundations can expand their boards to include non-family members.  The Sundance Family Foundation has benefited from assembling a small, talented board of directors made up of several people from the community. At the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the Social Change Fund and girlsBEST Fund each has its own committee that is charged with making funding recommendations to the board of trustees. Committee members include staff, board members, and community volunteers that participate in reading proposals, conducting site visits, and evaluating applications. The process incorporates perspectives of many different decision makers.

Join the conversation: How does your foundation involve stakeholders?  If you are with a nonprofit, how have funders engaged your organization in their work?

-Stephanie Jacobs, MCF director of member services


Women’s Status: Less Money, Poorer Health, Other Inequities

June 17, 2010

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota released today its 2010 research report on the status of women and girls in Minnesota.  The news is not uplifting.

According to the report, women are shortchanged in four critical areas — economics, safety, health and leadership.  And, while all women and girls in Minnesota suffer inequalities, even greater disparities exist for women of color, rural women and older women in Minnesota.

Here are just a few of the findings:

  • Economics: Because of the gender wage gap, a Minnesota woman (and her family)  earns an average of $11,000 less per year, or $1 million less over a lifetime. White, African American and Latina women earn 76, 61, and 56 cents on the dollar, respectively, compared to white men.
  • Safety: By mid-life, one-third of Minnesota women have experienced a rape crime.  Violence at home is the second leading cause of homelessness among Minnesota women.
  • Health: Native American women in Minnesota are 10% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than their white counterparts, but 58% more likely to die from it.  While African-American women are 8% less likely than white women to get cancer, they are 15% more likely to die from the disease.
  • Leadership: Only 34% of Minnesota state legislators are women, and the number of women candidates is declining.  No women lead any of the Fortune 500 companies in the state.

What Can You Do?
The full report, “Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota,” contains much more detail, including “What You Can Do In 30 Minutes or Less” recommendations for individuals to take action to address inequities.

In releasing the report today, Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of the foundation,  encouraged women, girls and all community members to use the findings to jump-start social change.  She emphasized:  “Research without action is pointless.”

Next week Women’s Foundation staff members will launch the 2010 “Road to Equality Tour,” sharing the research and obtaining community input in Warroad, Moorhead, Grand Rapids, Duluth, Willmar, St. Cloud and Rochester.

Research and writing for the report was conducted by the University of MN Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women & Public Partnership.  More than 100 experts from academia, government, nonprofit and private sectors, elected bodies and philanthropy participated in working groups to review data, identify key issues and proffer solutions.


Check Out the Next UPstart Lecture: Black Feminist Politics in the Age of Obama

February 25, 2010

Duchess Harris, author and Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, will be lecturing on black feminist politics in the age of Obama at the next installment of the UPstart Lecture Series on March 17 at the YWCA Midtown in Minneapolis.

The mission of the series is to bring diverse women leaders and world views to our community. Presented by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, an MCF member, in partnership with the YWCA Minneapolis, the lectures are free and lunch is provided to those who RSVP in advance.

To learn more about the series, and to listen to previously recorded lectures, visit the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota website. To register for the lecture, email nicole@wfmn.org by Monday, March 15.


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