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McKnight Foundation Background

The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform.

The Foundation makes grants in support of regional economic and community development, Minnesota’s arts and artists, education equity, youth engagement, Midwest climate and energy, Mississippi River water quality, neuroscience and international crop research, and community-building in Southeast Asia.

For more than 60 years, its primary geographic focus has been the state of Minnesota.

The Foundation was established in Minneapolis in 1953 by William L. McKnight and his wife, Maude L. McKnight. One of the early leaders of 3M, William L. McKnight rose from assistant bookkeeper to president and CEO in a career that spanned 59 years, from 1907 to 1966. The McKnight Foundation, however, is an independent private philanthropic organization; it is not affiliated with the 3M Company.

In 1974, shortly after his wife's death, William L. McKnight asked their only child, Virginia McKnight Binger, to lead the Foundation. Working with Russell Ewald as executive director, Mrs. Binger established the formal grantmaking program and community-based approach that remain the Foundation's legacy today. In 2015, Meghan Binger Brown was elected chair of the board of directors, succeeding Ted Staryk and becoming the Foundation's seventh chair since it was established in 1953. 

McKnight had assets of approximately $2.2 billion and granted about $87 million in 2016. The Foundation has granted more than $2.3 billion (not adjusted for inflation) since its founding.

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