Meet Our Team:
As Director of Collective Giving, Sara Lueben partners with community members to organize and host giving circles and collective giving strategies. She spent 14 years working for nonprofits in North Minneapolis before joining the Minneapolis Foundation in 2021.
What was your path to working at a community foundation?
Sara: Before joining the Minneapolis Foundation, I worked at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, where I was a program director and later led community engagement and communications. NorthPoint has incredible programs, but funding was critical to advancing new ways to serve our community. I didn’t work in development, so I had heard of the Minneapolis Foundation, but had no idea what a community foundation was and how it differed from other types of foundations or the United Way.
Around that time, I was seeking leadership opportunities and wanted to get engaged with nonprofit boards. I attended a board members of color recruitment fair and met a staff member from the Minneapolis Foundation, who was recruiting members for Fourth Generation. Joining Fourth Generation helped me to learn more about foundations and what they do, from grantmaking to Donor Advised Funds. When my position opened, I knew I wanted to transition into philanthropic work to help direct where resources are distributed in our community. I applied for the position and joined the Foundation’s staff two years ago.
Your position focuses on collective giving. What exactly does that mean?
Sara: Philanthropy has been in the fabric of many communities that have not been historically recognized by traditional or organized philanthropy. Giving circles are a way to recognize the generosity and problem-solving that already exists in community. This can show up in multiple ways. For example, Fourth Generation is a group of mid-career professionals who want to give as a group, and so they pick a topic, explore it, and then make grants together. I facilitate their exploration of resources and grantmaking processes through an equity lens, which aligns with their core values.
More broadly, my work focuses on launching more giving circles. My goal is to launch new groups that reflect the diversity of our community. Everyone I speak to is already a philanthropist; what I’m doing is bringing people together in ways that highlight and amplify their generosity. For me, this is about democratizing philanthropy by supporting community-led problem solving and changing the narrative about who is a giver and who is a receiver. This work isn’t new. We have seen and worked together to address the needs of our relatives, neighbors, and friends for generations. What we’re doing with giving circles is amplifying the spirit of generosity that already exists in our communities.
What’s the best part of your job?
Sara: I love that people who start giving circles can really create the space they want to see. It’s a “choose your own adventure” situation: If you don’t see yourself represented in philanthropy as it is today, this is an opportunity to create that space.
At the Minneapolis Foundation, we strive to align all our work with our values. Which of those values speaks most to you?
Sara: One of our values is that change is personal. Often people skip that part and focus on changing others, but I think self-reflection and learning is critical. None of what we’re tackling in society today is a spectator sport. You’re in it, whether you believe you are or not. So, when you’re thinking about giving, it’s important to step back and ask, “What are my values? What is important to me? Where does my passion live? How can I make an impact?”
What unique perspective or experience do you bring to the team?
Sara: When I joined the Foundation, I thought my biggest asset would be my background, because I worked for North Minneapolis nonprofits for years. But when I met my co-workers, I realized how rich and deep their networks and community relationships are. I knew that wasn’t my main contribution to the team. My main contributions are relentless curiosity, relationship building skills, and the ability to develop creative solutions. I have an asset-based approach to problem solving, and I’m confident there is always a way to get things done.
What’s one resource at the Foundation that you want all donors to know about?
The Foundation has a thoughtful approach to grantmaking and community engagement, whether you’re looking at groups like BMPP, a giving circle of intergenerational Asian American families, the Racial and Economic Justice grants, or OneMPLS Fund. If I were a fundholder, I would keep an eye on these grants and other programs supported by the Foundation. There’s just so much listening and strategy and community engagement that happens in those spaces.