Mention “foundations,” and the first thing most people think about is money. That makes sense: The Minneapolis Foundation, like most other foundations, delivers grant dollars to make positive change in the community. And the Minneapolis Foundation is proud that, in each of the past three years, we have distributed nearly $100 million in grants—twice what we did a decade ago.
But when our community—and this country and world—continue to struggle with persistent injustices and inequities, and they break so glaringly along racial lines, grants are not enough. It has become clear that we need to move “from grantmaker to changemaker.”
That is an easy turn of phrase, but it is exceptionally hard to do. Grants are, obviously, critically important to our partners, and we certainly don’t want to stop distributing money. But the many serious challenges of the day require us to use additional impact levers to make change, including advocacy, policy development, strategic partnerships, convenings, impact investing, and more.
Minneapolis Foundation Staff Members
You have seen this in the two major areas where we focus our discretionary grantmaking:
In education, we mixed grantmaking with advocacy for school funding and policy changes that help ensure our schools are well-resourced, representative, and welcoming spaces for all students. Last year, we partnered with a multiracial movement of Minneapolis community members that brought a policy agenda to the state capitol for the first time. We supported groups that successfully advocated for historic changes to how Minnesota supports schools and educators in teaching children how to read. We sponsored a statewide conference where K-12 educators and school leaders learned about tools and strategies to make our education system more equitable. And we continued our support of a partnership between University of Minnesota education experts and teachers in Minneapolis Public Schools.
In racial and economic justice, we supplemented our ongoing grants with a broad-based initiative of public, private, nonprofit and community partners to help small business owners rebuild along Lake Street, West Broadway, Franklin Avenue, and other key commercial corridors. We have also helped those same businesses with low-interest impact investments through our InvestMPLS loan pool, and the scale of this work can be expected to grow in the coming year as we partner with other foundations and financial institutions on the GroundBreak Coalition.
Beyond our endowment and unrestricted funding, tens of millions of dollars flow through us into the community through the 1,500 charitable funds we hold.
Many of these funds are advised by generous individuals, families, and businesses. These fundholders are a key reason we put so much energy into our work as a convener: Through events and other learning opportunities, we create spaces where these individuals can learn alongside us about key community issues like affordable housing, education policy, children’s mental health, the future of downtown Minneapolis, and more.
Change is not an option in today’s world, and the pace of that change is coming at us faster than ever. That doesn’t intimidate those of us at the Minneapolis Foundation, because the pace of some of the changes we need in our community hasn’t been fast enough. This is no time to cling to the status quo, but a moment when we must bring more tools, and more people, into the work of building a more just society.
Learn more about our work in 2022-2023 by exploring our annual report.