We understand that our recent announcement of our grantmaking transitions likely spurred a lot of questions. We aim to be as helpful and responsive as possible with the answers you see here. If you do not see an answer to a particular question that is important to you, please include your question in the comments section below, and we will do our best to respond directly and update this page.  

Rationale and Process

1. What is changing about McKnight’s grantmaking?

In January, we announced our 2019-2021 Strategic Framework and new mission: to advance a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive.

After considerable deliberation, McKnight’s board of directors has decided to increase our focus on two priority areas: advancing climate solutions and building a more equitable and inclusive Minnesota.

This means we are expanding our existing Midwest Climate & Energy (MC&E) program. Additionally, we are replacing two of our current programs—Region & Communities (R&C) and Education—with a new program focused on building equitable and inclusive communities in Minnesota. The new goal is: Build a vibrant future for all Minnesotans with shared power, prosperity, and participation.

As we develop our new strategies, there will be no initial inquiry application cycles in the R&C and Education programs. Those with an earlier approved grant will not see any changes to that grant—we will honor all previously approved grants so that our grantees can continue their important work.

We expect to announce the guidelines for this new community program by fall 2020, at which time grantees who fit the criteria may apply for new funding.

Please see our public announcement and the related blog posts on the expanded MC&E program and the emerging community program for more details.

Finally, we have decided to sunset our Mississippi River program.

If you are a grantee in the River, Education, or R&C program, please scroll down this page to Process for Grantees in Transition.

2. How did McKnight make these decisions? Did McKnight seek community input in their decisionmaking process? 

Our new mission, which is to advance a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive, drove these changes, as did the context of our external environment.

If we want to see a future where people and planet thrive, we must do everything we can to build an inclusive and equitable Minnesota and accelerate climate solutions. That’s why we are expanding our commitment in these two areas: responding to what we believe are the biggest challenges of our generation, and hopefully, leading the way for others to do the same.

Please see our public announcement that describes these changes in more detail.

Since adopting our new Strategic Framework in January 2019, McKnight’s board and staff have entered into a strategic review period that assesses where we are now, how we can do better, and where we are challenging ourselves to go. The board has heard from expert advisors, national peers, community groups, and staff with deep ties to our communities.

As we further develop the program guidelines for our work going forward, our teams will continue to consult and engage with others as we strive for smart and effective approaches. As a foundation, we look forward to continued and honest feedback from our partners with whom we have worked, to ensure we stay true to our mission and goals.

We invite you to share your wisdom to inform our discussions and strategic decisions as we develop program guidelines for our new equitable communities program.

3. How can I add my voice as McKnight makes additional decisions regarding strategies?

We welcome and value your thoughts and ideas. The best way to share your voice is by contacting your program officer or primary Foundation contact. You may also add a question or comment below.

We invite you to share your wisdom to inform our discussions and strategic decisions as we develop program guidelines for our new equitable communities program.

4. Did McKnight consider the impact of these changes to my sector or community? 

We care very deeply about all the communities and sectors we serve and have deeply considered the implications of these changes. We value the deep relationships we have formed, and we remain committed to a responsible and caring transition, for our partners, their sectors, and the communities they serve. These shifts emerge from deep reflection on what is the highest and best use of our finite resources.

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New Program Goals and Focus Areas

5. Can you elaborate on what you mean by your new goal statements?

Our new goal statements are:

Take bold action on the climate crisis by dramatically cutting carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030.

With this goal, we signal a higher level of ambition, inspired as much by our youth as by scientific consensus, that we only have a little more than a decade to prevent the worst catastrophes. We know the Midwest is critical to climate success, as it is the sixth largest regional producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The 2030 timeline refers to the international standard being used to measure climate progress, and it is a reminder of the urgency required for this work.

To meet this goal, we will (1) accelerate progress in the power sector, (2) electrify vehicles, homes, industries, and buildings with clean energy sources, and (3) ensure carbon sequestration, especially on working lands in the Midwest.

Build a vibrant future for all Minnesotans with shared power, prosperity, and participation.

With this goal, we declare the possibility of a vibrant future for all Minnesotans across race, culture, ethnicity, income, geography, and other differences. At a time when our home state of Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the worst for racial disparities, we envision a future where people of color and indigenous people—who are situated differently relative to opportunities and outcomes—gain and exercise power, prosper socially, culturally, and economically, and participate fully in our civic life.

Furthering our commitment to communities in Minnesota, the new program will focus on promoting economic mobility, advancing equitable development, and increasing civic engagement.

Economic mobility is about closing the racial gaps in income, employment, education, and wealthAs Minnesota’s workforce ages and younger generations become increasingly diverse, we have an opportunity to foster greater racial and economic inclusion.

Equitable development applies racial and economic equity lenses to community development strategies. “Equitable development is a positive development strategy that works to ensure accountable, inclusive, and catalytic investments are made in low wealth communities and communities of color, while also ensuring that these communities are a part of directing and benefiting from these new investments,” according to PolicyLink.

Civic engagement means supporting a community’s ability to identify priorities and advance solutions, in the belief that when we are rooted in shared values, we all benefit. We believe engagement will require new ways of working together, bridging across familiar yet often disconnected arenas, and increasing the capacity of multiracial and multicultural communities across Minnesota to examine persistent structural problems from different vantage points. In our experience at McKnight, both internally and externally, these approaches sharpen our ability to focus, set priorities, and advance better solutions.

6. Will McKnight be able to elaborate on its new strategies after they are ready and announced? 

Yes, absolutely. We will fully and clearly communicate our new strategies and rationale once they are ready and announced, likely in fall 2020. In the spirit of transparency and respect for our partners, we will keep our grantees, community, and colleagues informed as our thinking and process evolve.

7. Why expand on climate? Can the Foundation really “solve” such a big issue?

We are living in a time of unprecedented societal and planetary pressures—a time that calls for institutions to be bold and more imaginative. We are answering the call for change; the climate crisis is too urgent to do otherwise.

While the McKnight Foundation alone cannot solve the climate crisis, we do know this: The Midwest is critical to climate success. The Midwest is the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world—and if the world is to stave off the worst consequences of climate change, it needs the Midwest to do it.

Our climate goals are ambitious, and with our partners, we will achieve them. Building on our place-based regional approach and our track record of coordinating with other regional funders, we will continue our progress to date while making space for innovation and new learning. We believe everyone must do their part on climate. This is ours.

Learn more about why bold action is necessary and the vision for the work ahead from Aimee Witteman, program director of MC&E.

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Grantee Eligibility

8. I’m a current McKnight grantee. Will I fit the new guidelines for future funding?

It’s possible, but it’s simply too early to say. We plan to announce our new program guidelines in fall 2020. Please return to our website at that time for more details about our guidelines and eligibility.

9. Will there be transition grant increases available if I don’t fit anymore?

It’s possible. When we make big transitions, McKnight is committed to responsibly winding down our grantmaking and giving grantees as much advance notice as possible.

Please contact your program officer to find out if your organization is eligible for an increase in your grant funding. We make this determination based on a number of factors, including when the grant was approved, the type of grant, the funding expectation at the onset, and the duration of our funder relationship.

10. I think I’m going to be a fit going forward. Will a program officer hear my new idea?  

We will announce opportunities to offer feedback on overall strategy development in the coming months.

In terms of specific grant proposal inquiries, we ask that you wait until we announce new program guidelines, likely in fall 2020. Current and prospective grantees must wait for these new guidelines to see if they will fit the new guidelines. Please hold off on contacting staff with initial inquiry ideas until the guidelines have been announced.

11. My organization’s work supports the new goals in the new climate and community programs. Will I be eligible to apply?

It’s possible. At this point, it’s too early to tell. We plan to announce new program guidelines for the expanded Midwest Climate & Energy program in fall 2020. We ask all current and prospective grantees to wait for these new guidelines. Please hold off on contacting staff with initial inquiries or requests to discuss ideas until the guidelines have been announced.

12. If I don’t fit the new guidelines for one program, will I be considered for another?

It’s possible. At this point, it’s too early to tell. We plan to announce new program guidelines in fall 2020. We ask all current and prospective grantees to wait for these new guidelines. Please hold off on contacting staff with initial inquiry ideas until the guidelines have been announced.

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Process for Grantees in Transition

13. If our program is closing or being replaced by a program, do we still have to turn in interim and final reports? 

It depends. Some reports are required, such as interim reports that precede a second-year payment, and all reports for grants requiring expenditure responsibility. As much as possible, we will look for opportunities to streamline where it makes sense. Follow the instructions in our most recent payment correspondence where we note if a report is due or not.

14. Will we have to submit a new proposal for exit grant increases?

No, you do not need to submit a new proposal for exit grants. In order to support our exiting grantees, we will minimize the administrative work on exit grants and arrange for a grant increase. Please contact your program officer with specific questions.

15. I have one year left on my two-year grant. Will we still get a transition or an exit grant increase, or does year two count as my transition grant?

Current grants will not be affected. It’s possible, depending on the circumstances of your specific grant, that you may be eligible for an additional transition or exit grant increase.

McKnight program staff are using their discernment on exit grant increases based on a number of factors, including when the grant was approved, the type of grant, the funding expectation at the onset, and the duration of our funder relationship.

You may also still be able to apply for future grants under the new program guidelines. Look for our announcement of those guidelines to come in fall 2020.

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What to Expect Going Forward

16. What happens next? What other changes can I expect moving forward?

As our strategies evolve, we will continue to adapt internally at the Foundation for the highest and best use of our time, resources, and impact. Over time, we will continue to respond to the needs of a changing world and feedback from the community. Look on our website and look on our social media platforms for updates. We will keep you informed as we reach important decisions and milestones along the way. We invite your input and questions, and will answer them as more details emerge.

17. Will my program officer still be my program officer?

If there are any staff changes, we will keep grantees apprised.

18. Who can I call to discuss my organization’s situation?  

Please contact your program officer or primary Foundation contact in the area where you work. If you don’t have a contact, please leave a general comment or question below.

Please note that we do not respond to unsolicited commercial pitches or inquiries that clearly fall outside our guidelines.

19. When do these changes begin?

We will begin a process of transition planning effective immediately. Any grants already approved will not be affected by this decision. We will honor all previously approved grants so that our grantees can continue their important work. Invited grant requests that are in progress will be reviewed under the current guidelines with decisions made by the end of 2019. There will be no future initial inquiry application cycles in either the Education or R&C programs.

We plan to announce new program guidelines for our new climate and community-based programs in fall 2020 and begin grantmaking according to new guidelines in 2021.

20. Will McKnight’s investments—endowment and impact investing work—follow a similar reorientation? 

We will continue to seek investment opportunities between McKnight’s grantmaking and our impact investment portfolio. As before, our impact investments seek three kinds of return: (1) financial, (2) social or environmental impact aligned with grantmaking, and (3) learning for the Foundation. As program guidelines evolve and change, the investment team will thoughtfully recalibrate McKnight’s investment program.

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Comments and Feedback

To contact your program team, please use the form below.


If you would like to leave general feedback about our announcement, use this form. By using this form, please know that we can’t get back in touch with you, but we want to provide you an option to provide anonymous feedback.

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