We are very grateful for all the insights, questions, counsel, and outpouring of goodwill since the launch in January. A special thank-you to those who took the time to complete our survey—108 of you! We read the feedback with great interest.
When a funder puts out a public survey, we believe it is important to report the results. In this case, we were pleased to see very close alignment between what is top of mind for our partners in the community and our intentions with the Framework.
Here are a few of the most salient themes and questions that emerged—with representative comments woven throughout:
Urgency: Many shared our sense of urgency concerning the challenging times we live in and the increasing stress on our natural and social systems.
“Bang! This is a critical moment in our history so we’re upping our game and urge you to do the same. We need ALL hands on deck and we’ll be there with you.”
“A call to action. I’m the ED of a small arts organization, and the strategic framework document has me fired up to take our work all the more seriously in terms of what we do/can do/must do for the community we serve. My very small staff is fired up, as well.”
Climate Change: People identified specific areas where they felt particular urgency, especially the limited window of time we have to act in order to prevent the worst possible scenarios for the future of our planet and all the life it sustains.
“I appreciate that you have singled out the word earth in your vision statement…. All eyes need to be on sustaining our earth.”
“Society’s approach to solving problems has been reinforced for many years (linear and silo thinking, listening to the voices that are loudest, most well funded, or most connected, etc.). McKnight is uniquely positioned to be the enabler for the big changes we need to make to address climate change and move to a cleaner and greener future.”
Equity: Many people noticed how we elevated and integrated equity throughout the Framework. We remain committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as a priority of the Foundation, especially when it comes to increasing racial equity in our home state.
“A ‘more just, creative, and abundant future’ is exactly what Minnesota needs. I also appreciate your explicit announcement of an equity-focused approach and the specific naming of ‘racial disparities’ as an issue to be addressed. That puts you ahead of organizations that are afraid to name the specific issues for fear of rocking the boat.”
“The Framework orients the work in the community around assets, strengths, and resilience rather than from a place of charity and repair. That said, it also acknowledges harm that our current structures cause and continue.”
Others reminded us that DEI is nuanced work, and that we need to consider ethnicity, country of origin, language, geographic, and additional cultural contexts. One asked us to consider the needs of smaller organizations led by people of color, and another survey respondent expressed concern over the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few.
Defining Abundant: One of the top questions: What do you mean by abundant? The word intrigued some and baffled others.
When we say abundant, we are referring to the vast imagination and fortitude we possess as a people, as well as the generosity of our natural systems. We were deeply influenced by the tenets of biomimicry, which teach us that we already have more than enough for our needs if we use our resources wisely. For example, nature runs on sunlight. Quoting Kathleen Allen in her book Leading from the Roots, “All living beings—plant life, birds, reptiles, and mammals—are powered by the energy from the sun. Sunlight is not only ubiquitous, it is free! It’s stunning to realize that all life starts with such a generous act.”
Starting with an abundant mindset, rather than a fear-based scarcity mindset, frees us to imagine innovative solutions.
How We Invest: Here’s another question we heard: Will you invest in more program-related investments (PRIs)?
We will continue to consider emerging PRI opportunities that fit our criteria. (Visit our impact investing FAQ page to see the criteria.) Since embarking on impact investing in 2013, we have already shifted a third of our endowment dollars toward impact investments or mission-aligned investments. That means one of three dollars McKnight invests aligns with our values.
What’s Next? This new Strategic Framework has naturally sparked questions about what, if anything, may change at McKnight:
“What changes to your grantmaking programs are coming? Being clear sooner than later about how you think you are going to measure these is important (to the field).”
We value the important work you do, and we know many are eager to hear what’s next. At this point, we have no grantmaking changes to report and will keep you informed if and as our grantmaking changes. We do see the Strategic Framework as a grounding document, and we are continuously reviewing how to best advance our mission and live out our values.
Thank you so much for all you do to make positive change happen.