What’s With All the Buzz About Gender Norms?

September 29, 2015

maskA member post from Gayle Ober, president of the George Family Foundation.

As a woman, I am very aware of all the benefits and challenges of my gender. What hadn’t occurred to me until a year ago is that the reality of gender norms in our society has had a profound impact on my life. Not just how I was raised, but how I present myself, think about myself and interact with others.

In fall 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a conference session presented by Riki Wilchins, the founder and executive director of True Child, a nonprofit think tank that gathers and communicates information about gender norms and how they influence how we raise and educate our children. After so many “ah-ha” moments that I couldn’t take notes fast enough, I realized that I wanted to learn more. I also wanted to find a way to share True Child’s message with the George Family Foundation’s (GFF) grantees and with our philanthropic colleagues in Minnesota and beyond.

So what are gender norms?

According to True Child, gender norms are “socially constructed ideals, scripts, and expectations for how we are expected to look, act, and think as boys and girls and women and men.” And we begin learn these rules from the time we are born from everyone and everything with which we interact.

To get started, GFF and The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota invited Riki to speak to a group of our grantees in November. Building on the positive reaction of our grantees to Riki’s presentation, in April 2015, GFF invited other institutional grantmakers who support programs and organizations in the education and youth development fields, to hear Riki speak. The discussions that took place at those two convenings led us to believe that there was significant local interest in learning more about gender norms.

GFF is a modest family foundation with a small staff. Our “plates” are full and there is more to do than hours in the day. So why then are we hosting meetings, conversations and events about gender norms? What difference will it make to the organizations we support and the community in which we work and live?

According to a concept paper commissioned by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, “two decades of basic research have found that when girls and boys buy into really narrow ideals for femininity and masculinity, they have measurably lower life outcomes in a cluster of related areas that include sexual and reproductive health, intimate relationships, economic empowerment and educational achievement.”

So if a foundation like GFF is trying to support organizations that will guide and nurture a generation of young people who are healthier in mind, body and spirit, we must look at the ways that society negatively impacts how they think about themselves. If we want young women to assume their full leadership potential, we need to recognize and build awareness of the rigid gender norms that promote “dependence, deference and desirability”. And, if we want young men to grow up to become fathers and spouses that can be emotionally connected and engaged deeply with their families, we need to work against the gender norms that encourage them to hide their feelings and never show the “softer” side of their being.

The Mask You Live In

On October 26, the George Family Foundation is co-hosting a screening of the new documentary “The Mask You Live In”. Produced and directed by Jennifer Siebel-Newsom, award-winning producer and director, “The Mask You Live In”, had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and explores how America’s narrow definition of masculinity is harming boys, men, and society at large. Following the screening, Siebel-Newson will join Ramsey County Attorney, John Choi; Ashanti Branch, Executive Director, The Ever Forward Club; and Joe Ehrman, Founder, Coach for America (both featured in the film) in a panel discussion moderated by MPR’s Brian Newhouse. Learn more about the event and purchase tickets.

GFF’s hope in offering these learning opportunities, is that we can build a philanthropic and non-profit sector that has greater understanding of gender norms and pays attention as to how they affect the success (or lack thereof) of our most valuable community asset, our children.

To learn more about the George Family Foundation, visit our website at www.georgefamilyfoundation.org.

MCF Welcomes Levi Weinhagen as Communications & Media Specialist

September 2, 2015

leviHelp us give a warm hello to our newest hire, Levi Weinhagen!

As a St. Paul native, Levi is incredibly proud to be a part of Minnesota’s unmatched philanthropic community. In his position as communications and media specialist, Levi will help MCF members better understand and tell the stories of the work they do and the communities they serve. Levi also works with writers, photographers, and other artists to tell the stories of how philanthropy impacts the state, the region and the country.

Prior to joining MCF, Levi spent over 15 years working in the nonprofit sector with the Minnesota Historical Society, Twin Cities Public Television and the Science Museum of Minnesota in service of education, community engagement and communication. He was also the Knight Foundation’s primary St. Paul arts writer in 2014 and 2015.

Additionally, Levi has been collaborating with artists and creative types for all of his adult life as a theater maker, comedy writer, and performer. He’s the co-founder of the all-ages theater company Comedy Suitcase and the host of Pratfalls of Parenting, a weekly podcast about the relationship between being a maker of cool stuff and being a parent. Levi was Artist in Residence at the Walker Art Center in the Winter of 2014/2015.

Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship Applications Open for 2016

August 5, 2015

Ron-McKinley-Philanthropy_FINAL_outlines_RGB-(2)MCF is excited to launch the third selection round for the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship – an opportunity which aims to increase the number of people from under-represented communities holding leadership positions in Minnesota philanthropy.

We’re looking for high-potential leaders who will push themselves and Minnesota foundations to think bigger and think differently about what is possible in the communities they serve.

In 2016, new fellows will be joining the seven already actively working at Minnesota foundations. These fellows will be employed by MCF and placed in full-time positions at the following five host foundations:

  • Blandin Foundation
  • Bush Foundation
  • F.R. Bigelow Foundation
  • Medtronic Foundation
  • The Minneapolis Foundation

The 2016 fellows will be selected through an application process that opened today and closes at noon on September 9th. For more information on this opportunity and the application, visit our website.

MCF is also hosting an informational webinar about this opportunity on August 26. Registration is open now.

Have a look and help us spread the word about this exciting opportunity!

Resources on Funding Civil Legal Aid

August 4, 2015

A member post from Bridget Gernander of the Minnesota Supreme Court Legal Services Advisory Committee on their grantmaking field of expertise.

Last year, the Minnesota Supreme Court Legal Services Advisory Committee (LSAC) became the first government grantmaker to join MCF.  LSAC’s focus is on funding civil legal aid statewide, with grants to twenty-six nonprofits that assist low-income people in meeting their legal needs.

LSAC hosted a member briefing back in April about the impact of funding civil legal aid.  If you were unable to attend the member briefing or want to learn more about the subject, video of the event is now available:

  • Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright (34 minute video with an overview of how access to justice for people who can’t afford an attorney is critical to our legal system)
  • Bridget Gernander, LSAC Program Director (37 minute video focusing on the work of LSAC and civil legal aid statistics)
  • Randi Ilyse Roth, LSAC Committee Member (29 minute video describing the return on investment of civil legal aid)

For those who prefer written materials to videos, the Minnesota State Bar Association has done a civil legal aid by the numbers infographic below (click to enlarge), and there are national resources about the impact of funding civil legal aid.



MCF Seeks Our Next Program Manager

July 30, 2015

help Are you or someone you know MCF’s next Program Manager? This highly-visible and member-facing role is perfect for someone with a passion for connecting groups of people to opportunity, link participants to resources and energy to grow and expand a well established set of program activities.

The Program Manager will manage the day-to-activities of the Council’s 20+ active member networks and growing web-based learning programs. This role will collaborate closely with other department program directors on the development of interactive and informative programmatic content relevant to MCF’s 176+ grantmaker members.

Core responsibilities include a leadership role in:

  • Member networks
  • E-learning / webinars
  • Briefings and programmatic opportunities
  • Program design and delivery

See the full job description on our website, and help us spread the word! Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis with the hope of a candidate joining the team late in August.

Photo cc Matt Wetzler

A Fond Farewell to Tara Kumar

July 21, 2015

TaraOur program manager, Tara Kumar, will be leaving her role with MCF as of July 30. She has decided to seek part-time work, so she can focus more of her time on her family.

In her two years at MCF, Tara has made a big impact on shaping and strengthening our member networks, as well as being a joy to work with. Here’s what our members and staff have to say:

“Tara has been invaluable to our work with member networks. Any question you’ve got about a network or member, she’s got the answer! She will be greatly missed.” –Alfonso Wenker, MCF director of program strategy and racial equity

“Tara cares deeply about her work. She took the time to understand the complexities behind planning programs and was eager to learn about issues that our members were addressing. Tara is kind, considerate and fun…the kind of person we all want as a co-worker.” –Maria Salas, MCF director of member relations

“There is no question that Tara has been a huge asset for the networks in which I participate and for other MCF activities in which she has played a part.” –Rob Scarlett, trustee, Sundance Family Foundation

“I’ll miss Tara’s ability to connect with members and find the most obscure philanthropy resources.” –Trista Harris, MCF president

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Tara. She has a great range of experience and so many contacts in the nonprofit sector. I’ll miss her!” –Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate

Tara’s closing note to members: “I feel incredibly fortunate to have engaged with so many members in my two years at MCF. I have learned so much from you all about the field of philanthropy and truly appreciate your efforts in making our networks and programming so successful.”

Thank you and good luck, Tara!



Meet Our Summer Communications Intern

June 24, 2015

pvangThanks to The BrandLab, a nonprofit that integrates students of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds into the marketing world, MCF has a communications intern this summer! Meet Paul Vang, who will be with us for the next seven weeks.

Paul graduated from Johnson Senior High School in Saint Paul, and still volunteers there for its wrestling team. He is currently a junior at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities pursuing a Communications major, with a minor in Leadership. Last summer he held a BrandLab internship with 3M.

While with MCF, Paul will help us with social media, email marketing, media relations, and website updates and improvements.

Glad to have you with us, Paul!