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Where Has All the Paper Gone? MCF Convening Resources Available to All

Something was missing from the Minnesota Council on Foundations 2010 Annual Convening held October 28 and 29 — stacks of handouts and piles of paper.

While the notion of not having a print out of every PowerPoint presentation in my greedy little hands sometimes had me twitching during our two-day get-together of Minnesota grantmakers, I did learn to just sit back and soak in what the speaker was saying (I actually looked up more than down during the talks), taking comfort in knowing that we were doing our part to be green.

Instead of making zillions of photocopies, MCF is posting all the PowerPoint presentations, PDFs of reports, links to resources – nearly everything that was projected onscreen and highlighted during the idea sessions, and more – here on the convening schedule.

The theme of this year’s gathering was “Innovative Strategies for the Future: Realizing Our Full Potential.” The convening website is now an invaluable one-stop shop for the latest, greatest, most thought-provoking, catalytic materials on the topic.

On the website, just browse through the Schedule. Under each session description, you’ll see the corresponding resources for that program.

Keep checking back. While most of the resources have been posted, we expect to add more, including session notes, throughout the next couple of weeks.

- Chris Murakami Noonan, MCF communications associate

Joining us tomorrow?

We’re looking forward to seeing attendees tomorrow at the first day of the 2010 MCF Annual Convening! If you’re joining us, stay tuned to the blog and the site during and after the Convening to access resources from the plenaries and idea sessions as well as other media like photos, blog entries and more.

If you’re on twitter, we’d like to welcome you to join the conversation about the Convening by using the hash-tag #MCFAnnCon. You can also follow MCF on twitter, our handle is @FollowMCF.

We closed registration this afternoon because we had reached our capacity. It’s sure to be a tremendous event!

BoardSource Expert to Share “Vital Voices” on Diversity and Inclusion at Plenary

As I talk to philanthropic and emerging leaders about diversity and inclusion there seem to be more questions than answers. Questions like:

  • Is organizational inclusion like a unicorn? Something that we dream of and want to believe in, yet doubt because no one has ever seen it in action?
  • Is inclusion a feeling, or can it actually be measured?
  • Who gets to decide if an organization, team, or board is inclusive? How is it measured?
  • Can an organization successfully address inclusion without diversity? Or diversity without inclusion?
  • How can an effort on diversity and inclusion support my organizational objectives without feeling like an added burden?
  • How can boards of directors model values of diversity and inclusion when we have specific goals and expectations (monetary/title/company affiliation) for our board members?

If you’ve asked yourself these or similar questions about your own diversity and inclusion efforts you don’t want to miss my plenary session at next week’s Annual Convening.

Join me, your peers and a  special guest to learn more about the challenges organizations face when working to drive diversity and inclusion as organizational principles through board leadership.

Vernetta Walker, director of consulting and senior governance consultant with BoardSource will join us to explore her recent observation of the impact of an organization’s policies, practices, and board culture and dynamics on its ability to successfully integrate diversity and inclusion as living organizational principles.

BoardSource released a report entitled Vital Voices: Lessons Learned from Board Members of Color (pdf), sharing the results of their first survey of board members of color. The report outlines the facets that help and hinder progress towards building diverse and inclusive boards.  Our discussion will also include special highlights from local “vital voices” taken from recent focus groups held in the Twin Cities with nonprofit board members and trustees of color.

- Tawanna Black, MCF diversity fellow and president of Innovations by Design, LLC

What’s Different and What’s the Same in How and Where We’re Asked to Give

It seems that one of the prevalent topics in philanthropy and nonprofit fundraising is the impact of generational differences (or similarities). How will the values and characteristics of the next generation affect who they give to and how much they give? How will those values and characteristics affect how nonprofits interact with this younger generation?

The report The Next Generation of American Giving discusses not just the next generation, but four generations and their charitable giving – what makes each a target worthy of donation solicitations, how do they prefer to be asked to give, and how do they prefer to give and engage with nonprofits?

Released in March 2010, the report was commissioned by Convio, a provider of constituent engagement solutions for nonprofit organizations, and conducted by market research firm Edge Research, with technical support provided by Sea Change Strategies.

The report sought to answer what every nonprofit wants to know: How do we attract the next generations of donors without compromising current revenue from mature donors?

The short answer: The best fundraising is profoundly multi-channel. Seek ways to integrate those channels for stronger results.

The long answer is, of course, much more complicated. In Convio’s March/April 2010 online newsletter, in an article titled “Next Generation of American Donors: Changing the Art and Science of Fundraising?” by Tad Druart, Convio’s director of marketing and communications, the company’s Chief Strategy Officer Vinay Bhagat says:

This research and the decline in donor acquisition rates indicate that the marketing model needs to shift to attract the next generation of donors while supporting continued direct mail success. Charities need to move away from a solely direct response focus to a multi-channel approach with a heavier emphasis on online marketing, emerging channels such as mobile and social media, and empowering supporters to market and fundraise with and for the organization. Online marketing programs that have mostly operated as a silo must be integrated with traditional campaigns.

Here are some of the of the report’s findings.

Overview of the Generations

Mature Generation

  • Born before 1945.
  • U.S. population: 39 million
  • 79% gave to a charitable organization (other than school or place of worship) in the last 12 months.
  • Annual average total giving: $1066
  • Number of charities given to: 6.3


  • Born 1946-1964.
  • U.S. population: 78 million
  • 67% gave to a charitable organization (other than school or place of worship) in the last 12 months.
  • Annual average total giving: $901
  • Number of charities given to: 5.2

Gen X

  • Born 1965-1980.
  • U.S. population: 62 million
  • 58% gave to a charitable organization (other than school or place of worship) in the last 12 months.
  • Annual average total giving: $796
  • Number of charities given to: 4.2

Gen Y

  • Born 1981-1991.
  • U.S. population: 51 million
  • 56% gave to a charitable organization (other than school or place of worship) in the last 12 months.
  • Annual average total giving: $341
  • Number of charities given to: 3.6

How Do the Generations Like to Give Money and Get Information?

As one would expect, giving a check by mail is the run-away most common giving method for Matures. While giving by mail is still prevalent for Boomers and Gen X, it is significantly less so than Matures. The likelihood of giving via a website increases with younger generations; for Gen X, giving via the web only slightly trails mail, but for Gen Y, the web slightly surpasses mail.

An intriguing note: All generations give at similarly high rates through donations at the check-out registers of retail stores.

Similarly, the predominant charity information channel for Matures is mail. For younger generations, the channels are more varied, encompassing a combination of e-mail, websites and social media.

One of the most interesting findings in the report notes that when looking at how charities solicit donations from those with whom they have pre-existing relationships, donors said the most appropriate form of solicitation was indirectly via a friend who asked for a donation. This finding that indirect messaging is impactful could have great implications for all those strategies that involve communication “hits” directly between the nonprofit and the donor.

Again, for communication between donors and familiar nonprofits, mail was considered acceptable by more Matures. Mail did, however, score well with younger generations as well, but it is balanced with e-mail, “indicating the importance of multi-channel appeal strategies,” the report writes.

What Triggers Giving?

According to the report authors:

Younger donors are more likely to support a charity when friends/family ask versus the charity asking them. They consider much of their giving relatively random based upon their emotional reaction to something in the media, or based upon who asks. Older donors have a well established commitment to their primary charities. They have a budget set aside for charitable giving, and know the organizations they plan to give to. This suggests that it is harder for a new charity to break in with older donors, but once you secure them, they are quite committed. Younger donors represent relatively open targets. The best way to reach them is either through inspirational stories in the media or better still,via their friends. Given that a vast majority of charitable marketing efforts today are directed towards direct donor engagement and solicitation versus stimulating peer-to-peer engagement and general media exposure, it would suggest that those marketing efforts are poorly aligned with what younger donors say motivates them to give.

To read the full report, including recommendations for “Actions You Can Take Tomorrow,” visit the Convio website.

Learn More at the MCF 2010 Annual Convening

This report and other insightful research and tools will be part of an Idea Session, “Unleashing Our Human Assets: A Fishbowl Conversation on Engaging All Generations for Change,” at the 2010 MCF Annual Convening.

- Chris Murakami Noonan, MCF communications associate

Robert Byrd Invites You to Dinner and a Movie


Silence of the bees? New documentary addresses mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder.

The Jerome Foundation is proud to screen two wonderful films as part of the MCF 2010 Annual Convening. On Thursday, October 28th, from 6:00 to 8:30 pm join me and Alyce Myatt, the Executive Director of Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media, for Dinner and a Movie. Admission to this first-of-its-kind program is free with the price of registration to the Annual Convening.

The first film is a powerful documentary entitled Colony which takes a look at the mysterious mass deaths of bee colonies throughout the United States, a phenomena referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder. Beautifully filmed by Ross McDonnell, and skillfully edited by Carter Gunn, Colony is a riveting look at an unlikely issue with profound and unexpected environmental and economic impact.

We are excited to announce that recent MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient, Marla Spivak will be attending Dinner and Movie event. Dr. Spivak is a professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota who is internationally known for her research into honeybees.

Her MacArthur Genius Award is a powerful acknowledgment of that research.  She will be available to comment on honeybee collapse syndrome currently striking much of the country, as well as answer your questions about this mysterious disappearance of honeybees.

The second film, Flourtown, is a beautiful 8-minute drama by Minneapolis-based filmmaker, Bill Slichter.  In an alternate reality, Flourtown is a city owned and run by a group of rich and powerful industrialists whose choices have devastating impacts on the film’s protagonists.

The film is a mixture of live-action and computer generated animation that is visually exquisite. Its look and feel are the result of combining over 500 paintings with live action footage shot in HD video.  A team of over 100 talented artists and craftspeople came together to build props, make miniatures, design costumes and build sets, and create computer generated special effects.

Both Colony and Flourtown are highly effective representations of the power of media in telling both non-fictional and fictional stories that address important issues of our times.

If you’re involved in funding the arts and media, or are just interested in an opportunity to join us for an evening of thought-provoking entertainment, please  sign-up to attend this special program when you register for the convening.

- Robert Byrd, Jerome Foundation program director

For a preview of Colony, watch the clip below.

Image CC WildXplorer

From Ruby Slippers to Results: Laying the Path to Inclusive and Innovative Philanthropy

Ruby Slippers

Ready to ditch the ruby slippers? Check out Tawanna's plenary at the convening.

There’s a lot of discussion and goal-setting around diversity and inclusion happening these days. Although positive, this talk frequently falls short when it comes to actuating those good intentions.

Unsure of where to begin, it seems that many of us feel stuck, clicking our heels together chanting, “There’s no place like diversity,” hoping well-intentioned mantras, if repeated enough, will transform the systems that we work within.

Sadly there are no ruby slippers, and no yellow brick road marking the path to the inclusive future that we’re working towards. The path that we are on must be laid by hand, brick by brick, and that process happens when those who have had real success in creating diverse and inclusive organizations share what they have learned so that we may listen, learn and follow.

If you’re a traveler on this path, I’d like to invite you to the plenary session I’ll be conducting on Friday, October 29 at the MCF Annual Convening entitled “Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion as Assets for Innovation.” This multi-media session will include insights from local and national leaders who are actively leveraging diversity and inclusion to create a more fulfilling and productive culture within their organization, and ultimately better grantmaking outcomes for their communities.

For a sample of what you will hear and discuss during the presentation, watch this video featuring Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  In it Lavizzo-Mourey shares how their commitment to diversity has started at the top with transforming their board.

After the presentation there will be opportunity for you to engage in lively discussion among your peers regarding the most promising practices for leveraging diversity and inclusion in philanthropy. Leave informed, inspired and equipped to unleash diversity and inclusion as organizational assets in your own foundation or corporate giving program.

Ready to lay the path to a more diverse tomorrow? Start by commenting on this post.

  • In what ways does your organization put the values of diversity and inclusion into action?
  • If you’re an organizational change-agent, how do you help your organization stay true to its commitment to diversity and inclusion?

- Tawanna Black, MCF diversity fellow and president of Innovations by Design, LLC

Acting Bigger, Adapting Better

“Philanthropy does a lot of good in the world, but it’s not fulfilling its potential,” states Gabriel Kasper.

Kasper, a senior consultant at the Monitor Institute, is co-author of the report “What’s Next for Philanthropy: Acting Bigger and Adapting Better in a Networked World.”

The report argues that the best practices of philanthropic innovation over the last decade have been about improving the effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness of individual organizations. And the next practices of the coming 10 years must build on those efforts and include an additional focus on coordination and adaption — acting bigger and adapting better.

Coordination, because no private funder alone has the resources and reach required to move the needle on the most pressing and intractable social problems. And adaptation because given today’s pace of change, funders need to get smarter faster, incorporating the best available data and knowledge about what is working and regularly adjusting what they do to add value.

Acting Bigger
Unfortunately, collaboration today is still more often the exception than the rule. Working collaboratively can mean giving up individual control, being patient with group processes that feel slow and dealing with interpersonal tensions. It doesn’t help that collaboration’s benefits are often hard to measure in the short run.

But declines in foundation endowments remind us that no individual organization or actor, no matter how large their assets or how efficient their processes, has the resources to single-handedly produce meaningful change. Funders may not legally need to work with others, but if they hope to have a significant impact on their communities, they’ll have to. And increasingly, the others they work with will be not just from the nonprofit sector, but from business and government too.

The report says the most successful funders in the future will combine long-standing instincts toward independent initiative with an emerging “network” mindset that helps them see their work as part of a larger, diverse and more powerful overall effort.

Adapting Better
Yet, once philanthropy truly accepts acting bigger, the work will be only half done, according to Kasper.

It asserts mistakes made at a grand scale are still mistakes, and ambitious efforts that fall short of expectations are still failures. The successful philanthropy of the future will make judgments based on the best evidence available and then learn and adjust rapidly and publicly — adapting better.

Positive pressures to support these behaviors continue to build. Grantmakers no longer occupy a safe haven where they are given the benefit of the doubt simply because they are doing charitable work. As a New York Times headline proclaimed, the public is now “asking do-gooders to prove they do good.”

Kasper at MCF Convening
Don’t miss an opportunity to hear Kasper’s insights in person. He will present the opening plenary at the MCF Annual Convening! If you attend, you will have an opportunity to engage in discussions on key questions related to philanthropy’s ability to act, adapt and innovate.

You can read more about the plenary session, or if you’d like to learn more about Kasper, read his bio.

- Susan Stehling, MCF

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Elephant warning sign.

According to authors Dan and Chip Heath, acknowledging the "inner elephant" is important when trying to drive change.

Chip Heath, co-author of Switch, will be the closing plenary speaker at the MCF 2010 Annual Convening. Want a little taste of what Chip will share with you if you attend? Check out Stephanie Jacob’s post, originally published at the MCF Philanthropy Potluck Blog.

In the philanthropic sector, we talk a lot about making change. “We are change agents. We strive to make changes in the lives of others to improve our communities.”

As much as we talk about making change, we also talk about how hard it is. “People are resistant or slow to change. Change takes so much work!”

According to a new book by Dan and Chip Heath, it’s not necessarily that change is hard. In fact, some changes are pretty easy to make or even happen without people noticing (for instance, did you think ketchup was still the number one condiment in the U.S.? Guess again!) In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the Heath brothers explore why some changes are easier to make than others. The stories, tools, and advice they provide can be useful in your personal life, in your organization, or when you are trying to make changes in a community.

Dan and Chip start off by stating that there are two sides of the brain that inform how we decide to make changes: 1) the rational side that prefers logic and reason, and 2) the emotional side that caters to our feelings. When these sides work together, making a change is easier. When they work against each other, it’s much harder to make a change. The simplest example of this is demonstrated when someone is trying to lose weight. The rational side of the brain knows that to lose weight you should eat salads, but the emotional side of the brain really wants a cookie.

The authors take this premise to build on a metaphor borrowed from The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. Imagine that the emotional side of your brain is a gigantic elephant that is instinctual and impulsive (“Mmmmm…cookie!”) Now imagine that the elephant has a rider on its back, trying to guide that elephant in a certain direction. The rider is the rational side of your brain (“Dressing on the side, please!”)

Using that image, it’s easier to understand why people make certain decisions when it comes to change. The elephant is very powerful and doesn’t always listen to the rider, which can lead them down the wrong path. On the other hand, the rider can sometimes over-think and over-analyze a situation, which causes the elephant to stall. But, when the rider and the elephant agree, it can be a comfortable ride in the first steps towards change.

The Heath brothers believe there are three things we can do to make change easier:

1) Direct the rider by finding the bright spots:

The rider spins his/her wheels when there is no clear direction. The rational parts of our brains want to know the facts behind why we are going down a certain path. The best way to find that path is not to focus on the negatives, but to ask: “What’s working well for us? And how can we do more of what works well? How can we be more like ourselves at our best moments?” Answering these questions can provide direction for the rider. When making a change, people want knowledge and guidance as to what clear, specific changes need to be made.

2) Motivate the elephant:

The elephant is not going anywhere unless it wants to and logic doesn’t always provide the motivation. We need to find out what motivates people emotionally that will trigger them to make the changes we are hoping for: “What emotions are coming into play when people are considering this change? How can we use these emotions in a positive way towards change?” The combination of motivation and direction is catalytic when advocating for changes to be made.

3) Shape the path:

Once the rider and the elephant are in sync, there still might be obstacles in their path that can make things difficult. These are things in the environment that can be adjusted to make the path easier to tread. Sometimes, it’s easier to change some of the obstacles in the environment than to change the character of the people we are working with: “How can we remove some of the obstacles that are making it hard for people to change?”

When we view the process by which people make decisions to change in this way, we realize that it’s not necessarily that change is hard, but it does take time. It takes time to gather the information to define the clear path. It takes time to find out what motivates people to change and then persuade them to act on those motivations to change. It takes time to clear the obstacles in the path to change. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it.

Join the conversation: It’s often easier for us to understand the kind of information we personally need in order to make informed decisions (giving our rider directions) and how we feel about a certain subject (what motivates our elephants). When we think about making changes within our organizations or communities, it’s not always apparent what kind of information other people need in order to feel comfortable moving in a certain direction or how their emotions affect the decisions they make. How does your organization figure out what information to provide to lead people in a clear direction, and how do you motivate people to make those changes?

- Stephanie Jacobs, MCF director of member services

Image CC Adam Foster
LaTresse Snead

LaTresse Snead, Committee Co-Chair

I’m excited about our theme, “Innovative Strategies for the Future: Realizing Our Full Potential,” because it’s essential today that we be proactive – not reactive – and face change head-on. We need to define our own future and be open to new ways of operating in order to tap into all our resources.

The philanthropic community in Minnesota has a huge opportunity to take control and create the kind of change necessary to overcome the challenges we now face. The 2010 Annual Convening will offer us smart strategies, new avenues to think outside of the box, and connections that will enable us to become more engaged in building up our community.

At the Convening we will be able to have rich conversations with others who have tried new approaches. I’ll be excited to hear from trustees, CEOs, leaders of Corporate Giving programs, and others about how they are being proactive and embracing change within their own organizations. It will be an opportunity to learn how to engage our stakeholders in new ways of thinking. And it will be a chance to get energized about our work and inspired to take it to the next level.

To change up things this year and really unlock our full potential, we are adopting a new format for the Convening plenaries and “idea sessions.” Participants won’t just be talked at. They’ll be fully engaged in conversation and interaction so that they really look more deeply at issues affecting their organizations and come away with strategies that can be applied immediately.

There’s no doubt about it. This is a critical time for the philanthropic community. We need to come together to examine the state of the economy, address the challenges, and find new ways to operate more efficiently and give back more. At Tastefully Simple, we believe in “Giving With Gratitude.” Nurturing the community in which we live is one of our core values.

As nonprofits in our community and around greater Minnesota struggle with tight resources and higher demand for services, we at Tastefully Simple are looking for new ways to build their capacity to achieve their missions and to enrich our community. I know that my participation in MCF’s 2010 Annual Convening will make a difference for my work and for our community. I am eager to learn new strategies that will help my colleagues and me achieve our core value of nurturing the community.

I encourage all my corporate and foundation peers to attend this year’s event. After you sign up, plan to get the most from this Convening by coming prepared to learn new strategies for operating your organization. And, then, be prepared to walk away and take action.

- LaTresse Snead, Community Relations Team Lead, Tastefully Simple, and Co-Chair, MCF 2010 Annual Convening

What’s In a Name?

Melissa Eystad, 2010 Annual Convening planner

One of the biggest challenges in planning an event like the 2010 MCF Annual Convening is designing how people are going to “be together.” How often have you attended events where the old lecture method is alive and well? Or there’s a panel of talking heads with no time for participant interaction or questions? Or how about the PowerPoint presentation where every slide is read to you – verbatim?

For many years MCF has been giving members the opportunity to gather as a whole to discuss and learn about philanthropy opportunities and issues.  Can you think of a conference format or feature you’ve experienced? Well, we’ve probably tried it.

It would be easier to offer the same design and format year after year.  But our goal is never what is easier for us, but what will make each event interesting, informational, engaging and energizing for as many busy grantmakers as possible. And ultimately, to create an event that plants the seeds for new ideas, solutions and relationships that will increase philanthropy’s impact into the future.

One of the first changes you may have noticed about our 2010 event is the name.  Planning committee members and staff felt strongly that we needed a different image for our annual gathering.  A conference is a conference. The term “convening” conveys more — that it’s about bringing people with common interests and purposes together to learn, discuss, and be inspired about the work ahead.  This will be a truly participatory event.

So, to “break the mold” again with new features and formats at the 2010 MCF Annual Convening, we are:

  • Exchanging the traditional CEO/trustee dinner with a dynamic morning of presentations, conversations and explorations between CEOs, top philanthropy executives and their boards of trustees. These peers will join together to hear about innovative governance and philanthropic leadership opportunities.
  • Reframing breakout sessions as “idea sessions.” Our planning committee challenged us to create more engaging small-group formats that deliver three things: relevant topic content, more attendee discussion and sharing, and clear, tangible tools and applicable strategies.  This may be a tall order for 75- and 90-minute sessions on complex topics – but we’re up to the challenge!
  • Partnering with the MCF Arts and Culture Funders Network and Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media to offer our first dinner and film option on Thursday evening. Special thanks to MCF members Cindy Gehrig and Robert Byrd from the Jerome Foundation for helping to make this possible!

As planning continues, we’ll have more new developments to report. We know that grantmakers’ time and resources  are limited and valuable, especially in these changing times. But we also know that coming together to build our field-wide strengths is essential, too.

MCF members as well as other grantmakers from Minnesota and the upper Midwest are invited to attend.  Stay tuned to this website for more details and to register.  For a whole new convening experience, join us October 28 & 29 in Plymouth, MN!

- Melissa Eystad, former MCF vice president and current 2010 Annual Convening planner from World Spirit Consulting

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