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Our Voice: Kate Wolford: Appreciation for grantee efforts, and 2010 grantmaking forecast

December 2009 - Open letter to McKnight's grantees from foundation president Kate Wolford.

As the year draws to a close, I want to express appreciation on behalf of the board of directors of The McKnight Foundation for the results our grantees have achieved, especially in this changing and challenging economy. Partners like you are our most important collaborators in achieving the Foundation's mission and goals, and we are committed to keeping you informed about our plans and priorities.

Last year at this time, McKnight reported a 30-percent drop in our endowment. Despite positive gains in 2009, we anticipate it will take years for the endowment to recoup such massive losses. Nevertheless, I am pleased to inform you that McKnight plans to invest about $95 million in grantmaking in 2010, roughly on par with our grantmaking in 2009.

In setting grant payout levels for 2010, our board balanced several factors, including our commitment to support opportunities for innovation and leadership, to maintain strong momentum toward program goals, to attend to the increased demands on many grantees and the communities they serve, and to provide sound stewardship of the Foundation's assets. Balancing our diminished resources with a desire to maintain our commitments to the communities we support, our board has authorized us to draw a significantly larger than usual percentage from the Foundation's endowment for the second year in a row.

To further ensure the best use of our resources, McKnight's board and staff will also seek to trim administrative costs where appropriate. Among our plans for 2010, the Foundation will reduce staffwide compensation through a salary freeze and two unpaid furloughs. To minimize the impact of the furloughs on grantmaking relationships, we have scheduled each to coincide with traditionally less busy times of our annual schedule: just after the Fourth of July holiday, and the week between Christmas and New Year's. As these dates approach, we will be in touch with relevant details to ensure our brief absence will not hold up grant reviews, payments, or related business.

In recent years, we have aimed to improve our grantee partnerships by increasing the transparency in our grantmaking processes, streamlining our grant reporting requirements, providing our offices as a free convening space, and more. Aligned with these and other ongoing efforts, we will also continue our move toward online grantmaking — originally scheduled for this year, but pushed into next year to ensure we implement changes as smoothly as possible for grantees. In the coming weeks, we will provide more details about this important transition.

Owing to the outstanding initiative of our grantees, as well as our own board's sound stewardship, The McKnight Foundation approaches 2010 from a position of resilience and enduring commitment. We will continue to make the majority of our grants in our home state of Minnesota, as we have for over 50 years, counting on regional grantees and community partners to foster the greatest outcomes through strategic collaboration, innovation, and advocacy. We also collaborate with national and international partners to support policies, systems, and practices that benefit people, places, and the environment.

As always, guidelines for all programs are on our website at New and returning grantseekers with immediate questions are invited to talk with appropriate program staff.

Throughout our work and throughout our communities, we remain profoundly appreciative of our partnerships and of the important work of organizations like yours.



Kate Wolford