How To Measure Social Impact?

November 12, 2015

17123254699_c2f412c9ee_mToday on the blog we welcome Karen A. Florez, C.F.A. and manager of investments at The Minneapolis Foundation. Karen reports on the Mission Investing Network Forum held at the Northwest Area Foundation on October 20. The forum addressed “How to Measure Social Impact.”

Northwest Area Foundation hosted a full house of diverse attendees representing a wide range of area nonprofit leadership, staff, board members, consulting firms and financial institutions.

Amy Jensen, investment director at Northwest Area Foundation, kicked off the event by sharing the decision-making process, experiences and lessons–learned as her organization evolved their Impact Investing model. There was plenty of audience participation with good discussion, questions, sharing of resources and wading through industry acronyms. Most of the organizations represented in the room are rapidly expanding the time and resources they put toward mission-investment endeavors. We are clearly growing a valuable network in this community!

Amy then led a panel presentation and discussion with Tom Woelfel, PCV Insight, and  Tim Bubnack and Hope Mago, HCAP Partners. A wide range of insights, ideas and suggestions flowed from this dialogue.

Discussion Takeaways:

  • This is a collaborative effort and we are all learning as we go along. Leverage the capabilities and resources available as you build your program.
  • Be flexible with the partners you choose to work with. Talk with partners about values and culture early on, and really take time to get to know the people. Carefully evaluate if they are a good fit for your organization and mission.
  • Get samples of reports that potential partners are creating, ask how their strategy came to be, how long they have been doing it, what impact measurements they document and what they ultimately do with that data.
  • Establish the social metrics you wish to measure in advance of initiating a program. Content around the numbers is increasingly important.
  • Start measurement early on and try to set expectations of what you consider to be good quality data. The first steps are the most challenging and the most significant effort is in getting started with staffing, strategy, priorities and documentation. It may not feel perfect, but just do it!

The program ended with another round of great discussion and plenty of casual conversation after we adjourned.

Enormous thanks to Amy Jensen for planning and executing a very strong, relevant and thought-provoking event!

Photo: Flickr CC

Annual Grantmaker Rankings Released

March 24, 2015

numbersMCF today released its annual rankings of the top grantmakers in Minnesota based on cash grants paid in 2013.

The top five Minnesota grantmakers by grants paid in 2013 were:

  • Target Foundation and Corporation ($148.6 million);
  • General Mills Foundation and Corporation ($105.7 million);
  • The McKnight Foundation ($86.4 million);
  • The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation ($65.6 million); and
  • Cargill and The Cargill Foundation ($59.6 million).

This is the third consecutive year that these five organizations are Minnesota’s top grantmakers.

Of the 50 top grantmakers by grants paid in 2013, 47 also appeared on the 2012 list. Cash giving by the top 50 grantmakers totaled more than $1.2 billion.

Grant Dollars Distributed Beyond Minnesota
Almost 60 percent of the cash giving by the top 50 grantmakers was designated to organizations based outside of Minnesota.

Corporations Give More than Cash
In order to ensure that grantmakers are compared consistently, in-kind and other noncash contributions are not included in the rankings, but MCF invites large corporate grantmakers to self-report information about noncash contributions.

MCF’s 2013 annual rankings are based on the amount of cash grants paid by funders during fiscal years ending June 1, 2013, through May 31, 2014.

The annual rankings lists include:

The complete Minnesota Annual Grantmaker Rankings and the methodology used to complete them can be found at

More Charitable Giving Research Online
Late last year, MCF released its Giving in Minnesota, 2014 Edition research, which is a comprehensive analysis of annual giving trends by Minnesota foundations and corporations between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013. See for information about grantmaking to specific subject areas, geographies, beneficiaries and more.

– Susan Stehling, communications associate

Photo cc onegoodbumblebee

Trista Harris Selected as 2015 Bush Fellow

March 17, 2015

2015bushfellowsMCF President Trista Harris has been awarded a 2015 Bush Fellowship!

Bush Fellows receive up to $100,000 over 12-24 months to pursue learning experiences that help them develop leadership skills. Trista will use her fellowship to advance her work examining how the tools of futurism can be used to strengthen the field of philanthropy.

Trista will continue to serve full-time as MCF President, and she will leverage the insights she will gain from her Bush Fellowship to better serve the field.

Trista joins 22 others awarded a fellowship this year. Get an introduction to the whole cohort in this short video put together by the Bush Foundation:

Learn more on Bush’s website, and learn a bit more about the work Trista will be doing in this Pioneer Press article.

Big congratulations to Trista and to all of the 2015 Bush Fellows!

Charitable Giving is Up in Minnesota

December 4, 2014

Screen_Shot_2014-12-03_at_4.16.17_PMToday, MCF released our new Giving in Minnesota research, the most comprehensive analysis of charitable giving in the state. It shows that individuals, foundations and corporations gave $5.7 billion in 2012, a 2-percent increase in total giving over 2011.

Individual giving went up to $4.1 billion in 2012, while grantmaking by foundations and corporations in Minnesota declined by 6 percent to $1.6 billion. Other highlights include:
Education Receives the Most Grant Money
Screen_Shot_2014-12-03_at_4.15.16_PMAs has been true historically in Minnesota, education received the largest share of grant dollars (29 percent) of eight subject areas tracked. Education was followed by human services (23 percent); public affairs/society benefit (16 percent); arts, culture and humanities (13 percent); and health (10 percent).

Half of Grant Dollars Stay in State

In 2012, 48 percent of Minnesota grant dollars went to organizations and programs serving the state. Forty-seven percent was distributed to groups serving other parts of the U.S., and 6 percent supported international causes. Corporations tend to distribute grants more widely than other types of grantmakers.

Check out the full report on our website, and see today’s featured stories on our research in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press.