2.21 Fluff Free News Digest

Headline: Corporate and Education Reform Funding Trends, Time for Big Funder Changes, SFF Info

We Are NOT on Mute!


February 12, 2021


We love year-end lists: richest people, biggest donors, and the most popular words and phrases of the past year. Evidently, one of the top five new expressions from 2020 was “You’re on mute,” which touches on the big shift to new communications technology (aka zoom).

But more importantly, “You’re on mute” also echoes the challenge many smaller and newer organizations have embedding their stories into the minds and memories of funders, donors, and even their own folks.
Although George Floyd’s death may have opened a few new communications lines, during the pandemic, telling our stories is tougher than ever. Keeping our storytellers on task is critical.

This year’s #1 resolution: Stay off mute.


In case you missed it, TONYA ALLEN was selected McKnight Foundation president, effective March 1, 2021. Here’s her LinkedIn page.

Local foundation program officers and NPO leaders are excited about having SOMEONE at the reins of the McKnight Foundation. And most folks feel Ms. Allen is a great choice – someone who can lead the Metro philanthropic community back to its old nationally innovative and risk-taking ways. Personally, I think the Allen-Nicholson combo will be fun to watch. My contacts at her old joint, the Skillman Foundation, have great things to say about her.

A lot of expectations. Here’s to Tonya’s success!

At the same time as we’re welcoming new leaders, we’re watching the departure of one of Minnesota’s iconic nonprofit leaders, Jon Pratt. He was founding ED of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and director of the original Philanthropy Project that conducted the first surveys of Minnesota foundations giving to women, BIPOC, and folks with low income. Although the surveys took place in the mid-1980s, they continue to affect local community-foundation power relations.

While some nonprofit trade associations in other states are rightfully known as “councils of non-content,” Jon and his folks showed how nonprofit trade associations can truly produce great things for their members and for all of us.

But Jon’s not going away. He’s going back to his original love –research as an MCN Research Fellow.


William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is looking or a Director of Effective Philanthropy.
Tory Burch Foundation (the purse lady) needs a Programs Manager. Big on women’s business support.
George Family Foundation is looking or a new president (deadline 3/15). Good foundation owned by two interesting philanthropists – Bill and Penny George. The new president will be a big part of the foundation’s remodeling, and perhaps will be part of planning for the post-Bill and Penny era. BTW, last year the foundation granted nearly $1 million, the largest amount in its history.

Fidelity Foundation needs a new Senior Research and Evaluation Officer. Interested in working for one of the largest donor advised funds in the country?

Foundation for Puerto Rico needs a Development Director. Based in NYC.
Eleanor Crook Foundation needs a Policy Director. A new and growing DC-based funder focused on children’s malnutrition worldwide. This is philanthropy, not fundraising.

Carroll Petrie Foundation needs both a Grants Manager and an Animals Program Officer, primarily working in New Mexico and the American Southwest. $13 million in giving for animals.

Levi Strauss Foundation is looking for a new Executive Director. One of the best corporate giving programs around, and one of the best low –income and immigrant funders.

Catholic Community Foundation of San Diego needs a new CEO. Lots of sailors, marines, and vets in San Diego, where it’s 70 degrees in March. Look out your window and think about that.


Lots of changes these days. It’s been our mantra for 20 years, but CHECK WITH THE FUNDER BEFORE YOU WRITE. If you can’t talk to the funder, talk to us (steve@accessphilanthropy.com).

Ciresi Walburn Foundation for Children: If you hire a public policy wonk as your first ED, we expect you’ll engage in public policy. Ciresi Walburn’s ED and former MINNCAN president, Daniel Sellers, is doing just that, helping the Foundation move more into public advocacy field – and not just billboards. Check the website. BTW, the foundation reports it will continue to grant $2 million or more this year.

U.S. Bank Community Possible: “In 2021, we are switching to an invitation-only grant application; moving away from three payout cycles, and instead making quarterly payouts to provide funding when it is needed most.”
Travelers Insurance Foundation: New deadlines. Cycle 1: February 8, 2021 – Culturally Enriched Communities Grantees. Cycle 2: April 5, 2021 – Academic & Career Success Grantees. Cycle 3: September 13, 2021 – Thriving Neighborhood Grantees.

The Walton Family Foundation has a new 5-year, $2 billion strategic plan. The three priorities remain the same (rivers/waters, K-12 reform, and NW Arkansas), but the “how” has changed, with very clear priorities. New “how and “who” examples: “Support for community leaders who are using market demand for sustainably produced products to improve agricultural practices and fisheries management;” “ elevating the voices of those affected by water policies;” “engage & empower diverse allies;” and “supporting entrepreneurs and innovators.”

Craig Newmark Philanthropies (Craig’s List) is also shifting priorities, including nationally-focused journalism, food, voter protection/registration, women in tech (no startups, please), vets, and families
Annie E. Casey Foundation is shifting emphasis to “Thrive by 25,” funding more young people AND YOUNG ADULTS (mid-teens to 24 years old). Annie isn’t giving up on families and children, but has decided that young adults are worth more focus.


The Annie Casey priority shift is consistent with one of the other big trends in institutional philanthropy. Workforce readiness (skills and “soft skills’) has become the #1 public priority for national funders. Let’s be straight. Workforce readiness is NOT the actual #1 funding recipient: it is the #1 public interest area.
This “public vs. actual” priority differential is also consistent with real time funder realities. For example, in the past, K-3 school reform, tobacco use – and more recently – racial and ethnic DEI, have all been the #1 public interest area, but not necessarily the #1 actual recipient of foundation funds.

What funders prefer, and what funders can deliver, are two different things. Old and revered actual funding priorities (e.g., colleges, hospitals, Big Arts) still hold strong and hold sway for most funders.
Hopefully, the changes we discussed after George Floyd died won’t be abandoned by Saint Patrick’s Day


Access Philanthropy is teaming up with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to conduct our biennial Small Family Foundations webinar on April 8, from 9 to noon. There are 1,000 small family foundations in Minnesota awarding more than $90 million annually. Why pass on that opportunity?


The funders we chatted with last fall and into December were clear: “things will be returning to normal in the Spring.” Many funders believed their boards (and staff) would be looking forward to the good old days, sometime around this March.

Many folks, however, are not happy to see the return to “normal” (see our last issue of Fluff-Free Fundraising). But clearly, many development directors and executive directors are hoping for more funding opportunities.
Like birds and blooms, the signs of recovering grantseeking are clear. Funders are getting lots more requests for meetings. AP is getting lots more requests for grant prospecting, and most important, grantwriters are at a premium! (AP is hiring a grantwriter: contact gail@accessphilanthropy.com).


Spring is coming, so you’re going to need new places to look for fundraising. AP’s digital assets phenom, Mary Anne Welch (maryanne@accessphilanthropy.com), has PRECISELY the lists of funding prospects you need at affordable prices.


Some of the Jon Pratt story came from the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Business Journal, a relatively small, but influential, online daily that has steadily increased both its overall readership and its coverage of nonprofit life. In the last couple months, two AP clients, Appetite for Change and Wildflyer Coffee, received coverage in the Journal. Every few days, there are articles on nonprofits large and small. See if they’re interested in you.
Besides nonprofit coverage, the Journal is also a good place to find profiles of corporate CEOs and C-Suite members (including grantmakers); lists of largest hospitals, grocery chains, etc.; news on personnel, marketing, and product shifts; new companies in town, and (if you’re into that sort of thing) the fanciest homes and offices in the Metro Area. It’s good place to browse on a weekly basis or more.
Mark Reilly, Managing Editor | mreilly@bizjournals.com | 612-288-2110

Dylan Thomas, Staff reporter | dthomas@bizjournals.com | 612-288-2106


Grantmakers for Education (GFE), a trade association of education philanthropists, interviewed 91 funders responsible for nearly $800 million in education funding to find out about their priorities. We followed up this piece by chatting with a few Minnesota and national education reform funders. This is what GFE (with the local angle from AP) found about Ed reform giving:

According to GFE, 70% of education reform funders are interested in economic inequity education reforms, but just 40% are interested in race/ethnic education reforms. Maybe economics is proxy language for Race/Ethnicity? But that’s not what education reform funders said in the survey.

Ed reform funders have increased their giving in academic fields related to education reform (departments of Education Reform, and academic research on the effects of lack of education reform).

Ed reform funders are thinking about the internal capacity of funding staff to understand education reform. Advancing an equity agenda requires both developing outward-facing strategies and engaging in internal learning, dialogue, and self-assessment to ensure that staff have a shared understanding of, and commitment to, an equity agenda.

Grantmaking for teacher/administrator preparation/advancement funding has declined precipitously in the last three years. Still lots of talk about BIPoC teachers, but $ isn’t there.

91 percent of respondents to the survey reported participating in some type of collaborative activity. All their ed reform program and funding priorities seem to require a collaborative effort with several other funders. It means there’s more money, but more policy by committee.

Three other shifts in education reform philanthropy
The % of ed reform funders supporting public policy funding has dropped to 53% of respondents (down from 62% in 2015)

On the other hand, there is a major increase in funding for early education, especially statewide system reform is the top priority for 1/3 of all ed reform funders
Major increases to family engagement programs and for the “whole learning” approach. Whole learning and family engagement are #1 and #2 in ed reform $$.

Us too. Take time to chat with one of the great senior advisors at Access Philanthropy. Thirty minutes just to chat about life, or specifically about philanthropy/fundraising life. Get out of the doldrums. (Contact gail@accessphilanthropy.com)or just call us 651-295-4684.


The online and mobile fundraising platform Classy reports it processed $44.4 million in donations on December 31. But their Giving Tuesday’s take was only $37.9 million, $6 million less than 12/31.
The lesson: Giving Tuesday is great FUNDRAISING tool, but December 31st is a great TAX tool. If death and taxes are the two inevitabilities, where does your group want to be each December?


If you didn’t focus on December 31st, you can probably be forgiven. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the nonprofit sector lost 50,000 jobs in December alone Did you lose someone?


Our friends and teachers at Candid (formerly known as the Foundation Center and Guidestar) put out a short piece on corporate giving trends in 2021. See if anything here rings a bell for you.
Don’t just view corporations as grantmakers. Big businesses are getting lots of pressure to “be out there” on social/civic issues. Consequently, many corporate marketing teams are putting together socially relevant marketing and communications plans (Did you watch all the Superbowl commercials?). Can you work with them on something?

Relatedly, many corporations are getting push from their shareholders, officers, customers, and employees about systemic change. Seventy-three percent of customers say corporations should be involved in systemic change. Where do you come in?

Don’t EVER forget about sponsorships. Sponsorships are the easiest NPO-biz relationships for corporate officers to understand. “You get something. We get something.” Make it easy for bosses to understand and make it look AWESOME to the corporate big kids.

Think creatively. Cash register roundups (don’t take your change, give it to XYZ) are among the most robust fundraising tools in retail outlets right now. Just ask your local food co-ops. Are there other types of easy giving tools you can offer to retailers and manufacturers/distributors?


Keep up with the BANKS. The Twin Cities Metro Area (as well as Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud) banking presence is growing like CRAZY. Lots of new bank branches in-city and in the suburbs. Almost all JPMorgan branches have a community relations person. Also, talk to branch managers. Most of them are looking to move up from being a branch manager to being somebody. Friends for life?


Black history and Black culture are not an event, they are a big chunk of our lives. Nevertheless, if we could be together on one day – February 27th, we could celebrate Marian Anderson’s birthday
No question that we know Ms. Anderson best because the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall (she subsequently sang on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday)

BUT she deserves to be known for so much more. She was the greatest singer of her age, doing opera, spirituals, American standards, and folk music from all over the world. All the while breaking barriers (and maybe a few wine glasses).

So even though we can’t be together, let’s raise a glass (or maybe an octave) to Marian Anderson, the greatest singer of her time. Period.

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