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Bright Spots Worth Celebrating

Nonprofits Adapt to Covid-19 with Creativity and Resilience

In uncertain times, it becomes even more important to look for bright spots. At McKnight, we see bright spots in our remarkable partners who work doggedly to advance a more just, creative, and abundant future. Under the daunting circumstances of this pandemic, they continue to find the most inventive and impactful ways to serve our communities. These bursts of creativity and acts of human solidarity inspire us.

Video production by Molly Miles, Digital Storyteller

We celebrate the many grantee organizations adapting to Covid-19 on this page and in a social media series we’re calling #BrightSpot. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, and join us in sharing any bright spots you discover. As we adjust to the new normal, we all need a little more hope streaming in our news feeds.

Note: We will update this page as we learn of new events and ideas. Since this is a dynamic situation, some older posts will expire. We are keeping them on this page to capture the many creative efforts that emerged during this unique moment in history.

Visit this page to stay updated on Covid-19 resources for nonprofits and announcements related to McKnight’s response to the virus.   

Empowering New Minnesotans


CAPI USA is using their food shelf and produce distribution events to promote the 2020 census and to encourage voter education, registration, and mobilization.

COPAL en la Comunidad


COPAL is hosting 24 “COPAL en la Comunidad” events across Minnesota in the lead up to the 2020 election to engage Latinx voters and provide Covid, census, and election resources.

Little Africa Fest

African Economic Development Solutions

To support local immigrant businesses in a time of tremendous need, AEDS is bringing Little Africa Fest to your living room with a four-day online celebration of food, music, and art.

Andean Students Get Connected

Seeds and Schools

Alumni of the Seeds and Schools project in the central highlands of Peru purchased radios for students who didn’t have the technology to access classes from home.

Strength in Numbers

United Renters For Justice

United Renters For Justice / Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia is helping community members connect with neighbors and take action together if one is unable to pay rent during the pandemic.

Aspiring Artists Go Online

In Progress

To help diversify cultural dialogue and pave the way for new voices in the field of digital art making, In Progress has free online training for new and developing photographers, filmmakers, and musicians.

Deep Protein Knowledge

Loren Looger, Ph.D.

Loren Looger, Ph.D., McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards committee member, is using his deep knowledge of proteins to work exclusively on developing tests for Covid-19.

Exploring Race in America

Penumbra Theatre

Penumbra Theatre now offers its RACE Workshops online. Workshops use expert facilitation, artist monologues, and theater to guide a powerful exploration of race in America.

Nonprofits Get a Helping Hand

Propel Nonprofits

Need help revising your cash flow, or advice on being a supportive board member? Propel is providing nonprofits with free technical assistance on finance, strategy, and governance.

Meals for Medics

Neighborhood Development Center

As a token of appreciation, Neighborhood Development Center and Midtown Global Market organized Meals for Medics, providing 50+ meals per day for frontline workers at Abbott Hospital.

Laptops to Families


Youthprise has partnered with the Venn Foundation to provide free or very low-cost laptops to families in need, allowing all students to participate fully in distance learning.

Resources for BIPOC-owned Businesses

Metropolitan Economic Development Association

MEDA is helping BIPOC-owned businesses survive and thrive during COVID-19 by providing business consulting, access to capital, and step-by-step guides to navigating the pandemic.

Harvesting Quinoa in Quarantine

Fundación PROINPA

When COVID-19 hit Bolivia, Dr. Alejandro Bonifacio moved into his lab to maintain experiments. He and his team are harvesting quinoa to support decades of crop breeding and biodiversity conservation work.

Compensate for COVID Cancellations

Springboard for the Arts

Springboard expanded its Personal Emergency Relief Fund through which eligible applicants can receive up to $500 to compensate for cancelled work. Apps are available in English, Somali, and Hmong.

Community Needs Covered


The Minnesota Council on Foundations and Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation created the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund for coronavirus. To date 50 philanthropic entities contributed $11M.

Peruvian Potatoes to Market

Guardians of the Native Potato

COVID-19 shut farmers’ markets and public transportation in Peru. The farmers’ network is helping to arrange private transport and using digital tools to deliver potatoes directly to consumers in Lima.

Youth and Families Nourished

The Sanneh Foundation

The Sanneh Foundation reassigned staff members to support emergency food relief for families, providing large-scale food rescue and distribution to food shelves and homes.

Reduce Home Energy Use

Center for Energy and Environment

The Center for Energy and Environment now provides virtual Home Energy Squad visits to help customers find their biggest energy savings. The visit is conducted online and costs nothing.

Care and Compassion Continue

Wilder Foundation

The Wilder Foundation’s Healthy Aging team is delivering meals, making wellness calls, and providing much-needed human connection for more than 500 older adults and caregivers.

COVID-19 Tests in Development

Feng Zhang, Ph.D.

Feng Zhang, Ph.D., a McKnight Neuroscience Tech Awardee, and his team developed a one-hour, at-home Covid-19 test prototype with the goal of early detection and containment.

Signs of Gratitude

Hennepin Theatre Trust

Hennepin Theatre Trust worked with artists to offer billboard messages of hope and gratitude for those working on the front lines during the coronavirus. #ArtConnectsUs

Growing Independent Filmmakers

My Film North

Are you a budding screenwriter or film producer? My Film North has moved their spring classes online and is offering its lowest rates ever!

Chronicling MN’s New Americans

Sahan Journal

Learn how Covid-19 is affecting immigrants and refugees in Minnesota—from census response to navigating distance learning—by reading Sahan Journal.

Visit Us Virtually

Plains Art Museum

Plains Art Museum is sharing virtual programs and resources for all ages! From live classes to mindfulness exercises, center art-making and art appreciation.

Virtual Book Festival

Loft Literary Center

The Loft Literary Center has gone virtual with #WordPlay, an online book festival. Join more than 100 authors, poets, and songwriters for readings and discussion.

Your Questions Answered


TPT has Covid-19 coverage and resources to help protect yourself, your family, and your community. Resources are available in Hmong, Spanish, and Somali.

The M @ Home

Minnesota Museum of American Art

Virtually explore the Minnesota Museum of American Art, engage with the artwork as a family, and explore resources related to the art and artists on view!

Earth Day Storytelling Slam

Climate Generation

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy is honoring the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (4/22) with a day of digital community and climate action.

Creating Opportunity for Theater Artists

The Playwrights’ Center

The Playwrights’ Center has taken action to create income streams for unemployed theater artists and provide connection during Covid-19 with a virtual spring 2020 Season.

Protecting the Most Vulnerable

Catholic Charities Twin Cities

Catholic Charities Twin Cities is helping homeless Minnesotans move into hotels. We all do better when we protect the most vulnerable, such as our fellow Minnesotans without a home.

Feel the Power of Music

Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra is hosting at home performances where you’ll experience orchestra musicians practicing, performing and continuing to share music directly from their homes.

Chain Chat

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota

Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) is holding online hangouts to help us stay connected. Follow them for the latest events and let them know what two-wheels topics you’d like to talk about.

Dance Classes in Your Living Room

TU Dance

TU Dance is offering open online dance classes with their teaching artists through June 12. Check out their schedule, take a class, and support their efforts if you’re able.

Quality Gifts and Goods With a Mission

Indigenous First: Art & Gift Shop

The American Indian Community Housing Organization quickly launched an online store to ensure indigenous artists & entrepreneurs could continue to sell their products.

Strength in Indian Country

NDN Collective

NDN is supporting 80 partners in 19 states and awarding more than $2.3 million across Indian Country to organizations, Tribes, and individuals providing gap services during this time.

Multilingual Mental Health Resources

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio

CLUES recognizes that negative feelings can accompany isolation, so their mental health professionals have created videos in Spanish and English to help reduce anxiety.

Keeping the Lights On

CUB Minnesota & Fresh Energy

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Minnesota and Fresh Energy are asking MN utilities to keep customers turned on and sharing which utilities are suspending disconnections.

Supporting Independent Literature

Coffee House Press

Coffee House Press launched the Coffee House Writers Project to commission original, short works from artists who have lost income due to COVID-19.  

Navigating Distance Learning

Educators for Excellence

Educators for Excellence has put together a list of resources for teachers, students, and parents to find lesson plans, activities, and even some off-line options!

Contemporary Indian Dance

Ananya Dance Theatre

Ananya Dance Theatre, a contemporary Indian dance theater, has made performance videos and classes available online until the end of Governor Walz’s stay at home order.

Healthcare Workers on Wheels

Nice Ride Minnesota

Healthcare workers can bike free for 30 days through Nice Ride MN. Healthcare organizations can sign up for their employees to access unlimited 60-minute trips.

Improv Artists Jam

HUGE Improv Theater

HUGE Improv Theater is streaming improv jams on Facebook every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Jams include movement-based warm-ups and improv mini lessons with different topics each week.

Moving Asian American Theater Online

Theater Mu

Theater Mu is hosting free virtual table readings and online hangouts with artists and supporters to talk about art and the issues that are important them.


Coalition for Asian American Leaders

The Coalition of Asian American Leaders is standing against anti-Asian discrimination and violence and uplifting the rich and diverse stories of the Asian Minnesotan community.

April 2020