6.21 Fluff Free News Digest


June, 2021



Restaurants, grocery stores, bodegas, discount stores, and lots of other retail stores are reopening now that most folks have been vaccinated (although vaccinations numbers in BIPOC and rural communities are dreadfully below those in White urban communities).


In honor of our reunification with our old companions, the shopping carts, this month we’re talking about philanthropy from Big Box retailers (Target, etc.) and Big Bag grocers (Hy-Vee, etc.).



The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and partners ― the F. R. Bigelow Foundation and Mardag Foundation ― will open a second cycle of 2021 grantmaking shortly. Grant applications for this cycle open on June 29 and close on July 27 at 3 p.m.



Guess who is also back? Mid-level donors. In fact, they never really left. We just sort of stopped asking for gifts from folks who make personal gifts between $1,000 and $5,000.

But the pandemic shifted fundraising methods and targets. According to Sea Change Strategies, several major national nonprofits re-engaged with mid-level donors and found huge retention rates in both the first year and for several years afterward.


Besides greater retention, mid-level donors are now much easier to solicit and engage ONLINE. That’s a big shift for many donors who average more than $1,000 per gift.

But most mid-level donors still like old-fashioned solicitations. For example, they still like:

  • Personal engagement
  • Individualized emails
  • Telephone calls
  • Handwritten notes.


If you need help thinking through how you might develop a mid-level donor campaign, talk to one of AP’s senior advisors. Call Gail (gail@accessphilanthropy.com) to arrange a time.



A study of high net wealth philanthropy says REALLY rich millionaires give a larger % of their income to charity than anyone. BUT the study also reports that:

  • People who have an income between $200,000 and $500,000 proportionally give more than people with greater income — ranging between $500,000 and $2 million.
  • People with annual income of less than $200,000 but with liquid assets of more than $1 million give more than either of the $200,000+ donor groups.



According to several small family foundation owners/staff people, attractive, handwritten postcards are still one of the most effective ways to be remembered.



Aramark, the folks who work the concession stands at US Bank Stadium, “hire” volunteers to operate the concessions and then donate/pay the nonprofit organizations who recruit the volunteers. Donations are based on your stand’s commission, or $125 minimum – whichever is greater.


It’s not a get rich scheme that’s for sure, butut some orgs build volunteer corps this way. On June 7th orientations start. Interested?  Contact Jared Woodford at woodfordjared@aramark.com.



We really are growing like crazy. Three great new people this month:


Jeanne Zimmer is our new SENIOR ADVISOR/WRITER. Jeanne was E.D. of the Dispute Resolution Center for many years and taught at UMN and St. Thomas. Recently, she started working with our clients Literacy Minnesota and University Research and Outreach Center.


Serena Xiong, our new WRITER is a scientist. She is getting her PhD in epidemiology next year. Currently, she’s working with Village Ventures International in Kenya and with our great friends at the Asian American Organizing Project.


Laura Wilson, our new RESEARCHER, is also a physical scientist. However, she’s starting her Masters in poetry at the University of Wisconsin (Humphrey Davy and Lord Byron would be so proud). Laura is currently working with Mary Anne Welch and Jana Simmons on two new AP research projects that will be published soon.



Chat with one of our Senior Advisors or our writers, all of whom have been in your place for 20 years or so. We’re getting lots of interest in special events, refreshed messaging, and capital campaigns. Email Gail (gail@accessphilanthropy.com) for a time to talk with us.



During the last few weeks our clients have had incredible success with funders. We certainly can’t take credit for their successes. Their leaders, their programs, and their dynamic messaging are the reasons they’ve succeeded. 


Still, it has been wonderful for our folks to witness AP clients collectively receiving more than $1 million for two weeks in a row. 

It’s so great when the people you love and respect are recognized for their great work. Our congratulations to funders for hearing the message and partnering with great organizations.




In the old days (pre-Gates), community foundations were often the nonprofit incubators in their neighborhoods, supporting the most creative and sometimes riskiest new things to come along. In the Jim Shannon and Tom Beech days of the Minneapolis Foundation, the organization was often the most enthusiastic supporter of groups no-one had ever heard of.


Fundraising pressures and new standards in institutional philanthropy drew major funders (including community foundations) toward larger and more traditional grantees, however.


But recently, the Minneapolis Foundation announced its final round of Micro Grants intended to address community trauma and promote wellness. The first round of these small grants ($2,000 to $5,000) have gone mostly to smaller, newish, less traditional groups for creative community-making.


Great work, Chanda and all, at the Foundation. Welcome back to a golden era of community foundations, when re-engaging with tiny new organizations was a perilous, but hugely, important (and satisfying) part of your work!


Big Box Funders: Grant Applications Are With Soap and Detergents

Three “Big Box” retailers –Target, Wal-Mart, and Big Lots – have all recently announced big changes in their corporate and foundation giving programs. All of these affect you.


WALMART – has several new processes, such as an online application process through CyberGrants, and new definitions of its four giving areas: Creating OpportunityAdvancing SustainabilityStrengthening Community, and Center for Racial Equity.


Two big new interests are Retail Opportunities (how to use retail work as job training, economic development, and entrepreneurship partnerships), and Healthier Food for All.


Walmart is keeping the local store grants, but organizations may only submit a total of 25 applications and/or receive up to 25 grants within the 2021 grant cycle (what am I going to do with this 26th application?), but they’ve done away with the state-by-state giving deadlines. Rolling deadlines begin February 1 and end on December 31.


TARGET FOUNDATION HOMETOWN FUNDING – These are LOCAL grants, awarded only to Minnesota groups (with a focus on the Twin Cities). According to the Foundation’s press release, “The Foundation will prioritize support for organizations which:


  • Strengthen networks, coalitions, and movements: Driven by the understanding that social change is complex and is not solely in the purview of the nonprofit sector or the mission of a single organization, collaborative networks of organizations within a field, as well as across sectors that are aligned around a common agenda, are an important condition of success


  • Pursue systems change through advocacy, policy, and communications: Given the scale of challenges relative to any foundation’s resources, efforts to effect social change need to address policies at the local, state, and federal levels that will inevitably affect the region. This requires reliable data, effective messaging, engaged and empowered residents, and strong advocates.”


TRANSLATION: We have four interest areas:

  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business – training, financial services, and network building
  • Workforce Development – career pathways and job training
  • Housing – affordable,, fair and just housing, and sustainable home ownership
  • Asset Building – financial education, financial supports, and services.


Hometown grants will range from $25,000-$200,000. If this is the first time you’re hearing about the Target changes, you’ll have to wait until late fall, or early winter to apply, as the current round ended on June 2nd.


BIG LOTS FOUNDATION – Big Lots has stores in the metro area, but no offices or regional distribution centers, so we aren’t a big funding focus.


Big Lots is a new and relatively struggling corporate giving program. You can tell they’re struggling by the fact that there is no actual foundation, just a corporate giving program that uses the foundation name. Most corporate giving newbies also don’t announce their past recipients and don’t give their grant range. We think it’s better for a corporation (or any funder) to provide this type of information which tends to limit requests. You can also tell they’re new because they have twice as many “ineligible” criteria as “eligible” criteria.


Nevertheless, they are making grants and if the Google search for “Big Lots grants” is any indication, most are in the $2,500 to $7,500 range. The next grant round ends July 1. It helps to have a Big Lots associate involved as a board member. (When Walmart had a similar preference, one of our clients walked into a store and signed up the woman in charge of the pet section as a temporary board member). These are Big Lots funding priorities:


  • Healthcare • Improving healthcare through research and education • Providing preventative education and care • Providing affordable, critical medical care
  • Housing • Preventing families or individuals from losing their housing • Providing affordable, stable housing • Providing emergency shelter for families and individuals
  • Hunger • Providing nutritious food or meals • Providing emergency food assistance • Educating families or individuals about the importance of healthy eating
  • Education • Providing service-learning curriculum that aligns with education standards • Promoting servant leadership through academic and experiential learning • Improving classroom learning outcomes through innovation.


Big Bag Funders: Clean Up on the Philanthropy Aisle

The “big bag” picture of mega grocery chains in Minnesota has changed in the last couple years:

  • Rhode Island-based United Natural Foods Inc (UNFI) ate up two of Minnesota’s favorites grocery stores: SUPERVALU and Cub Foods
  • SpartanNash merged with Minnesota’s largest and oldest wholesale food company, Nash Foods, making SpartanNash the fifth largest food distributor in the U.S.
  • Des Moines-based Hy-Vee projects that the Twin Cities will now be its largest market
  • Meantime, Aldi, Fresh Thyme, Target, Costco, and Trader Joe’s and other chains have all made inroads in the Minnesota retail grocery market.
  • Let’s face it, grocery stores work on the slimmest of profit margins, so we don’t see a lot of cash philanthropy from this sector. But here’s a quick view down their philanthropy aisles.


  • SpartanNash awarded 58 grants worth $750,000 since 2018 to Minnesota groups


  • UNFI Foundation just 3 reported Minnesota grants worth $20,000 in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties to Farmers Legal Action Group and the Minnesota Food Association. Like nearly every other grocery store, UNFI also has a big food donations program. We expect to see a much bigger giving program in the next year or so


  • Hy-Vee has no published grants in Minnesota, but they have a food give-away program, charitable store programs, and a big scholarship program in Des Moines and other markets. Expect MN students to get part of that action soon


  • Aldi has more than 70 stores in Minnesota (second only to Cub Foods). Like many European owned companies, Aldi isn’t big on corporate giving, but they do have the Aldi Smart Kids program, with a focus on kids’ health and well-being: food insecurity: and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs


  • Costco has Warehouse (aka stores) Donations for smaller local groups and grant applications for larger groups. The Costco Foundation is all about personal care for employees and their families. No cash there for your group.



The personal changes in the Gates family have prompted a lot of analyses of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). There’s lots of speculation about changes in governance, spin-offs, and the endowment. Most of all, there’s been new scrutiny of the BMGF’s overall grantmaking effectiveness and their treatment of beneficiaries.


First off, BMGF is a great organization. In a few short years, they vibrantly transformed institutional philanthropy, re-invented philanthropic collaborations, and offered a much better model for funders to become proactive. These changes dramatically altered 21st century institutional philanthropy.


HOWEVER, since the Foundation’s inception in the early 90s, scholars, funders, and grantseekers have voiced concerns about its handling of educators, parents and students; malaria/measles victims; and farmers touched by BMGF’s African Green Revolution.


Like many things philanthropic, Minnesota played a quiet, but noteworthy, role in this BMGF “ultimate beneficiary” analysis. Three years ago, a young researcher from University of Minnesota studied how BMGF’s African Green Revolution treated African famer beneficiaries.


Since Dr. Rachel Shurman’s publication of this work in World Development in 2018, many scholars worldwide have affirmed her conclusions about how BMGF treat African farmer and have suggested the beneficiary treatment patterns that Dr. Schurman found could also be seen in other Gates projects, and in fact, in several other mega funders’ grantmaking work.


These are three of the beneficiary-treatment patterns that concerned Dr. Schurman and other researchers about Gates and other mega funders

  • The “culture of smartness” that characterizes the BMGF distances and insulates its staff from the field
  • BMGF treats farmers as passive objects of development rather than as complex social actors
  • Through its norms, interactions, and demands, BMGF shapes other development organizations’ priorities and practices.


Sound familiar? These very smart and very well-meaning mega funders need to better track the impact of their work on the ultimate beneficiaries.


The Fluff-Free Point: While Dr. Schurman wasn’t focused on changes in philanthropy, many of the recent challenges to grantmakers for greater diversity, equity and inclusion are constructed on Dr. Shurman’s work. We thank her.


AND REALLY… Have Melinda & Bill considered just unplugging and rebooting?



Please note, these are not paid job advertisements. We believe Minnesota will be better served if Minnesotans are hired by national foundations. Stuff about local funders is just interesting.

  • Bush Foundation is looking for a Native Nations Program Officer
  • Overdeck Family Foundation needs an Associate Grants Administration Manager. They are relatively new (2011), but already have a great reputation in preK-12 funding
  • Bill and Melinda are looking for a way out of marriage, but their foundation is looking for a Senior Program Officer, Education Product
  • Tupperware Brands Foundation wants Global Social Impact Foundation Specialist
  • Brown Foundation of Houston needs an Associate Grants Officer. They give to national and regionally important groups in 25+ states, but 80% stays in Texas
  • Central Minnesota Community Foundation needs an Executive Director
  • Ford Foundation needs a Grants Manager for their Civic Engagement and Government-US (CEG-US) program. They also need a variety of Program Officers in other areas
  • Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is dedicated to advancing artificial intelligence and data science solution. They need a Grants Manager
  • Strategic Philanthropy Inc. needs both a Philanthropic Advisor and a Grant Administrator. SPI is a philanthropy consulting firm for individuals, families, and businesses. They research, vet, and manage grants for clients
  • Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation needs a Senior Program Officer in their global work area. STBF is one of the premier U.S. women’s funders and in lots of other areas. It’s one of the Warren Buffett family of family funds, and is based in Omaha
  • Park City Community Foundation (UT) still needs an Executive Director
  • McKnight Foundation is looking for a new Senior Communications Officer
  • GHR Foundation needs a Twin Cities Racial Equity Senior Program Officer
  • Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies needs a U.S. Jewish Grantmaking Program Associate. The Foundation is one of the leading Jewish grantmakers in America, creating several grantmaker collaborations in the field
  • Campbell’s (as in soup) needs a Specialist, Community Affairs who will handle employee giving, volunteerism and grants (not a big part of their operation)
  • William and Flora Hewlett and Annie E. Casey foundations are still looking to fill the jobs we described last month
  • Youthprise wants an entry level Grants Associate
  • And if none of these jobs interest you, the Boston Debate League needs a new Executive Director. Your dream job – managing Boston debaters. It pays more than the Bush Foundation job.



Philanthropy Daily newsletter and blog are published by American Philanthropic, a conservative leaning philanthropy research and consulting group. Lots of good content. With support from funders and fundraisers, they’ve put together their favorite Five Silly Grantmaking Mistakes:

  • Missed deadlines
  • Proposals lacking in content
  • Too much selling
  • Not doing your homework
  • Giving up too soon (YES, WE ABSOLUTELY AGREE!)



The most interesting holiday/holy day in the United States is Juneteenth, the  commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people at the end of the Civil War. Things went way wrong within a few short years of emancipation, but Juneteenth is the only time we acknowledge the lives and sacrifices of American people who were enslaved by their fellow Americans.


Whether you are with other folks, or by yourself, on June 19th, raise a glass to the millions of unacknowledged heroes/saints of American history.


Until next month…


Need to talk to someone about fundraising? Let Gail know (gail@accessphilanthropy.com).