St. Paul, Minnesota Community Foundations Raising Profile of Giving

St. Paul, Minnesota Community Foundations Raising Profile of Giving

After decades of working behind the scenes, the St. Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations are working to raise the profile of their grantmaking, the Star Tribune reports.

The St. Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation, which share a CEO, staff, and governing board, have a combined $1.3 billion in assets, and award grants totaling $100 million annually to more than two thousand local nonprofits, are now working to shine more light on their work at a time when donors and community members are demanding more information on philanthropy and its impact. 

"We have a tradition of being a bit quieter. Our point of view is we want to lift up community-based organizations on the ground," said Ann Mulholland, the foundations' vice president of community impact. "One of the things we learned: Sometimes the community needs us to use our voice more."

To that end, the foundations are abandoning the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners moniker, which they've used for nearly a decade, and are going back to their joint foundation name. In addition, the foundations' leaders are talking more about their work to advance equity, strengthen healthy communities, and broaden philanthropy locally. Those initiatives include giving assistance to seventeen community foundations and affiliates across the state and ramping up outreach to individuals whose donor-advised funds comprise most of the foundations' annual grantmaking.

"The new generation is stepping on the accelerator for change," said Eric Jolly, the foundations' CEO and president. "They want to see the direct impact of their gifts."

Jolly, who joined the foundations in 2015 after serving as CEO of the Science Museum of Minnesota, said he's trying to disrupt the traditional top-down philanthropy model by allowing local communities more input. For example, the two foundations are gathering data through a biannual survey of residents in Dakota, Ramsey, and Washington counties and have helped form the Council on Black Male Success, which brings nonprofits and community members together to discuss how philanthropy can better meet community needs.

"It's about helping communities care for themselves," said Jolly.