New Approach, Same Goal: A Clean and Resilient River

March 21, 2017, 2:17 pm

Aerial view of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.


McKnight is proud of its 25-year history of commitment to the Mississippi River. The river has a unique and extensive impact on the economic and social fabric of Minnesota, the Midwest, and river communities down to the coast of Louisiana. We know that McKnight grantees have made a difference and improved the quality of life for these communities, and we are deeply grateful for the years of hard work and dedication.

We recently took a step back to assess the Mississippi River program’s strategies for supporting a clean and resilient Mississippi River. The last time McKnight conducted a river program refresh was in 2009, and much has changed since then. On the positive side, soil health has captured the interest of Midwest farm organizations, and many farmers are incorporating water-protecting practices because of the corresponding benefits to soil health and crop yields. Additionally, food companies are heeding the demands of consumers for sustainable production practices, and they are in turn exploring opportunities to incorporate on-farm sustainability practices into their supply chains. Read the rest of this entry »


Artists as Must Haves: Why Our Communities Need the NEA

March 17, 2017, 10:00 am


CREATE: The Community Meal, a living artwork in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood about food,
food access and food justice by Seitu Jones/Public Art St. Paul. Photo: Andy King


In my office, I’ve hung a quote on poster paper that reads: “Artists are MUST HAVE, not nice to have. They are essential, not peripheral.” It’s a conviction our board and staff share as McKnight’s arts program places working artists at the core of our focus.

Millions of Americans agree that artists and the arts are essential. But once again, the public good derived from the arts in communities all across the country has come in question with the potential elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), along with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Read the rest of this entry »


McKnight’s Pathway Schools Initiative to Sunset

January 13, 2017, 1:30 pm

Students at Community of Peace Academy in St. Paul, part of the Pathway Schools Initiative. Photo: Steve Foley


In 2011, McKnight adopted an ambitious goal — to dramatically increase the percentage of third grade readers in the Twin Cities. Since then, the Foundation has partnered with a select group of district and charter schools in the Twin Cities, the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, and an independent evaluator, SRI International, to meet this goal by aligning and improving the quality of school leadership and literacy instruction from PreK-3rd grade. We dubbed this effort the Pathway Schools Initiative, and after careful consideration, McKnight’s board of directors has made the difficult decision to sunset the initiative at the conclusion of our partners’ current grant periods — the 2017-18 school year for most. Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s Embrace Our Philanthropic Fiduciary Duty

December 12, 2016, 10:00 am


Below is president Kate Wolford’s essay, “Let’s Embrace Our Philanthropic Fiduciary Duty,” originally published in the “Center for Effective Philanthropy’s report CEO Reflections on the Future of Foundation Philanthropy.”

The Future of Foundation Philanthropy highlights “promising practices” in philanthropy, such as providing long-term general operating support, offering greater transparency, and learning from grantees. Agreed. But by now, the benefits of these practices are familiar to most of us thanks to the thoughtful exploration I’ve witnessed across the foundation community. Read the rest of this entry »


Still Thriving: The Changing Face of Southwest and South Central Minnesota

December 5, 2016, 10:00 am
View of Milan, Minnesota.

View of Milan, Minnesota.


Below is Vice President of Program Neal Cuthbert’s foreword from the McKnight-commissioned “Still Thriving: The Changing Face of Southwest and South Central Minnesota,” an essay by Jay Walljasper exploring opportunities and challenges in Albert Lea, Morris, and other small communities in the southern half of Minnesota.

The regional treatment center in Willmar was shuttered more than a decade ago, but the death knell we’ve come to expect when a small community loses a big employer never sounded. Instead, Willmar redeployed one of its best community assets, converting the 1912 state hospital’s historic lakeshore campus into a bustling business incubator now home to more than 30 companies employing nearly 570 workers—nearly as many as the hospital had in its heyday. In fact, as Jay Walljasper reports from his recent visit, Willmar’s creative co-working space showcases the low-cost quality of life and dot-com credibility that are helping to lure growing numbers of millennials and Gen Xers back to Minnesota’s small towns. Read the rest of this entry »