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