Philanthropy’s Role in Disaster Relief

June 9, 2014
Damage from the 2009 Minneapolis tornado.

Damage from the 2009 Minneapolis tornado.

In December 2013, MCF’s board adopted the following policy statement:

Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery: MCF will promote disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and long-term recovery policies and procedures that involve marginalized communities, respond to their needs and define a realistic and effective role for philanthropy.

In May 2014, MCF’s Government Relations and Public Policy committee invited Holly Sampson, president of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, and Erik Torch, grant program manager of the Northland Foundation, to share their experiences and lessons-learned since extensive flooding in 2012.

Presentation Highlights

  • One hundred-year weather events now happen every few years. Vulnerable populations — including seniors, those living in poverty, the mentally ill and those already living on the edge — endure the greatest and longest lasting challenges.
  • There is an immediate need for a common data system to track those affected, their needs and how they have been met. Because this doesn’t currently exist, disaster victims must “shop for aid.” This is unacceptable.
  • Recovery will take longer than expected. Disaster declarations, insurance pay offs and buy-out programs may take months or years. During this time, people can’t live in their old homes, but they must continue to pay those expenses along with expenses associated with new housing. This is a financial disaster for families.
  • Low-income and rental housing was hit hard. Landlords may leave it up to renters, without financial resources, to respond. There are not programs to replace renters’ possessions.
  • In Duluth, $2.7 million in private giving is being used to fix what insurance and the private sector could not. More and more, private giving is relied upon in these situations.
  • Disaster relief efforts require regional, institutional and cross-sector response teams. No one sector can do it alone. Grantmakers need to strategize preparation and recovery efforts to effectively serve families and stabilize communities.

Upcoming MCF Bus Tour

On August 11, 2014, MCF will sponsor a bus tour and workshop, “Responding to Minnesota’s New Reality of Disaster Relief,” to explore grantmaking and public policy responses to disaster preparedness, relief and recovery in Minnesota. Watch our events calendar for a listing — coming soon — or contact Tara Kumar to ensure you’re included.

How Funders in Other Hard-hit States are Responding:

Jesse Ball duPont Fund

After a deadly 2011 tornado hit Alabama, Jessie Ball duPont Fund published Creating Order from Chaos to help foundations identify their roles and points of entry in response to disaster planning and recovery. Its framework names three fundamental stages of disaster response and recovery.

  1. Planning and Preparation: community members, grantmakers and local officials create a system to support the community in case of disaster.
  2. First Response: occurs directly after a disaster occurs. Critical moment where federal and community agencies provide immediate resources and support to communities and families.
  3. Recovery and Rebuilding: federal and local leaders work toward rebuilding community and families to state of health.

Long after disasters hit and federal resources are spent, communities will still need help. Philanthropy can play a role by providing long-term sustainable engagement before and after a natural disaster.

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation takes an innovative approach, working with communities to build resilience when hit by disaster and other stressors. It defines resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, business and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

It has identified five core characteristics of resilient communities:

  1. Constant Learning: The ability to internalize past experiences linked with robust feedback loops that sense, provide foresight and allow new solutions.
  2. Rapid Rebound: The capacity to re-establish function, re-organize and avoid long-term disruption.
  3. Limited or “Safe” Failure: Prevents failures from rippling across systems.
  4. Flexibility: The ability to change, evolve and adapt to alternative strategies in the face of disaster.
  5. Spare Capacity: Ensure there is a back up or alternative available when a vital component of a system fails.

Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, MCF government relations and public policy fellow

Photo cc mollyapolis

A Good Food Future: The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network

January 8, 2014

healthyfoodToday on the blog we feature Pam Bishop, entrepreneur senior program officer, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. She presented at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening about one of MCF’s member networks, the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network. She tells us more about it here.

At the November 2013 MCF Philanthropy convening, representatives from the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities (HFHC) Funders Network introduced the network during an interactive breakout session. Here is some of what was covered:

Who We Are
The Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network is a group of Minnesota-based funders who make informed, coordinated and strategic investments to improve key facets of our food system. Our shared commitment to the vitality and prosperity of our state’s communities and resilience of our landscapes inspire us to work together.

What We Do
This diverse group of funders:

  • Shares information about promising programs, organizations, issues and research.
  • Coordinates funding among members to ensure resources are well-distributed across organizations and initiatives focused on food systems.
  • Increases overall funding available for food systems-related work.
  • Convenes meetings for Minnesota’s funding community on relevant issues of interest around food systems and philanthropy.

Our joint agenda for learning and investment is based on the concept of collective impact. It emphasizes three strategic priorities:

  1. Facilitate Local Entrepreneurship across the food supply chain.
  2. Improve Access to Healthy Food to enhance wellness and health equity for all Minnesotans.
  3. Strengthen and sustain Farmland Access throughout the state.

For the next three years, these priorities will inform the content of HFHC-sponsored meetings for the broader funding community. They will also influence strategies to align and increase funding.

Each priority has a working group that meets regularly to plan network-wide learning opportunities and execute a successful strategy to coordinate and increase funding.

Get Involved
If you are a funder interested in these issues, here are some ways for you to get involved with the Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities Funders Network:

  • Join the HFHC listserv by contacting Tara Kumar, member services manager at MCF.
  • Attend the HFHC public meeting in early 2014. Watch for details — coming soon.
  • Join one of the HFHC working groups to collaborate with other funders on strategic alignment of funding on an issue you care about. Contact Tara if interested.

HFHC Funders Network has members from agencies, organizations and institutions that fund efforts to address social, environmental, economic and human health dimensions of food and agriculture in Minnesota.

For example: family, community and corporate foundations; state agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Health; academic institutions, such as the University of Minnesota; health organizations, such as UCare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota; and hunger relief groups such as United Way.

Photo cc NatalieMaynor

Achieving Better Community Outcomes

September 3, 2013

Xcel Energy 2012 CRR OverviewXcel Energy Foundation undertook strategic planning in 2012, with a goal of  pushing themselves and their community partners, including Greater Twin Cities United Way, to achieve even better outcomes for the communities they serve and for the company.

One objective: Strengthen the tie between corporate giving and key business priorities.

Since then, Xcel Energy has focused its education  funding more narrowly on science, technology, engineering and math – or STEM – disciplines. Most jobs at Xcel Energy require STEM training and because half of the company’s workforce is eligible for retirement in the next decade, it seeks to produce a more highly trained workforce that can better support a number of industries, including its own.

Xcel Energy also focuses on the environment. Water is an important natural resource for energy production, and Xcel continues to be part of the solution in sustainably managing this resource. It funds research and education projects that support issues related to water quantity and quality.

For more on Xcel Energy’s funding focuses, read “Xcel Focuses Community Support,” in the summer issue of Giving Forum on corporate philanthropy.

– Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

McKnight Focuses on Midwest Climate, Energy

April 10, 2013

logo_mcknight_200This week MCF member The McKnight Foundation announced a new strategic focus to make the Midwest a leader in addressing climate change.

The new Midwest Climate & Energy program complements over 20 years of McKnight support for renewable energy in Minnesota and the Midwest. Aimee Witteman will direct the new initiative.

“Over the past five years, McKnight has invested over $60 million globally through the ClimateWorks Foundation network, which has yielded major advances in carbon reduction and helped draw other funding into key areas around the world,” noted Kate Wolford, foundation president. “Now building on the Foundation’s history as a place-based funder, we will concentrate attention and funding in the Midwest.”

“America’s Midwest contributes 22 percent more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the national average,” explained McKnight board chair Ted Staryk. “With the right vision and collaboration, we have an opportunity now to use the Midwest’s industries, geography, and bipartisan political will to our advantage for greater economic prosperity and an overall better regional future.”

$25 Million in Grants Announced
McKnight is jumpstarting the Midwest Climate & Energy program with $25 million in funding to two key partners:

  • RE-AMP received $5 million over two years to promote policies in the Upper Midwest that advance clean energy and combat climate change. A grantee since 2004, RE-AMP is a network of more than 150 nonprofits and 14 foundations working in eight Midwest states to reduce pollution that causes climate change.
  • Energy Foundation, San Francisco, received $20 million over two years to win new clean energy policies in the Midwest and reshape the national narrative around energy and climate. McKnight has partnered with EF since 1993, with a primary focus on public policies to encourage markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Public, Private Integrated Approach
McKnight’s climate-related work will engage the region’s public and private leaders, decisionmakers, and communities. Key objectives are:

  • Climate and energy policy: Support for grantees and networks to advance related Midwest policies in energy generation, efficiency, transmission, agriculture, and transportation.
  • Community engagement: Support to advance community-level efforts that promote energy and transportation efficiency, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Resilient clean energy economy: Support to facilitate private-sector leaders and networks to develop, promote, and implement climate and energy objectives for the Midwest.

For more, read the Star Tribune’s coverage of the announcement or visit The McKnight Foundation website.

McKnight Open Letter Forecasts Its 2013 Grantmaking

January 23, 2013

mcknight-foundationIn an open letter to its grantees and program partners, The McKnight Foundation announced its grantmaking plans for 2013.

These plans includes core giving of $79 million in the coming year, about on par with previous years, as the foundation continues to recover from the economic downturn. McKnight will also finalize $25 million in grants that will go toward addressing climate change and developing renewable energy.

The foundation also celebrated some key 2012 achievements, and tied them back to its new strategic framework grounded in adaptive leadership, meant to infuse new agility in how the foundation serves the community. These 2012 milestones include:

  • Co-funding a University of Minnesota report on ensuring a network of 14 Twin Cities transitways planned for 2030 reaches its full potential.
  • New grants to Twin Cities school districts and charter schools to create a seamless pipeline from pre-kindergarten through grade 3, and increase the percentage of successful third grade readers. McKnight also funded a case study that examines the impact in Minnesota from investments in early education.
  • Loans that helped the State of Louisiana purchase coastal wetlands important to the native environment.
  • The launch of the State of the Artist blog, which provides a new platform for important conversations about and among regional and national thought leaders in the arts.

Congratulations to The McKnight Foundation on these accomplishments, and on the recent launch of its new website! You can head over to it to read President Kate Wolford’s full open letter.

Member Post: Pe’ Sla Returns to Oceti Sakowin

December 13, 2012


We hear today on the blog from MCF member Indian Land Tenure Foundation. The foundation shares its story of a recent victory in protecting a site sacred to the Oceti Sakowin — a great example of how philanthropy can successfully help to fight for a community in need.

Last week in Rapid City, South Dakota, full ownership and control of the sacred site Pe’ Sla, located in the Black Hills, was officially returned to the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation). We at Indian Land Tenure Foundation would like to offer our sincere and heartfelt congratulations to the Oceti Sakowin on its return of the control of this sacred site to all the people of the Nation and its relatives today and for all future generations.

It was first announced in August that the land containing Pe’ Sla was going to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The area known as Pe’ Sla by the Lakota is one of five holy sites for the Nation and the only one not on public land. This area is particularly important in that it is the site of the Lakota origin story and star knowledge.

A collaborative effort raised the $9 million purchase price for the 1,942 acre parcel of land. While recognizing that the ownership of this land and the remainder of the Black Hills is still disputed by non-Indians, gaining control of this site was an opportunity too good to pass up and too important not to fight for.

It has truly been an honor for Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Indian Land Capital Company to be a part of this remarkable effort and to work with the Lakota and Dakota nations and other partners over the past few months. Indian Land Capital Company, ILTF’s affiliate lender, was able to provide $900,000 in rapid financing in order to help the tribes secure the initial purchase agreement.

In the end, all of the tribes of the Oceti Sakowin will have contributed time, effort and scarce funds to make this transaction possible. It is anticipated that each tribe will also participate in the oversight and management of the land to ensure its spiritual and cultural values.

As Indian people, we are faced every day with the loss of our sacred lands and the way in which this has impacted our communities, families and cultures. History being what it is, we recognize that our struggle to recover these lands will be difficult and long but we do not accept that these losses are permanent. The return of Pe’ Sla has renewed our spirit. To see so many people willing to support the rights of American Indians and the return of Indian land makes us hopeful that there is a growing number of people that understand the magnitude of what we have lost.