Upcoming webinar: Small Family Foundations Giving in Minnesota


Target Foundation Funding Opportunity: Racial Equity Grants. This opportunity is up to $200,000 in general operating support, with an opportunity to request support over two years for BIPOC-led organizations. Four priorities:

  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business
  • Workforce Development
  • Housing
  • Asset Building

The Foundation supports organizations that improve the asset building opportunities available to traditionally marginalized communities, especially those that are engaged in work to increase financial inclusion, wealth building and overall financial health.

Mortenson Family Foundation is making three key changes to its grantmaking process:
  • Schedule a 30 minute call with Community Relationship Officer Ambar Hanson (for Expanding Opportunities for Children and Families grants) or Danyelle O’Hara (for Sustaining Environmental Systems grants).
  • Share updates on the outcomes you stated you want to accomplish in your 2021 application. No more budget reports.
  • If you have an annual report that includes last year’s outcomes, the foundation can use that report.[1]
  • We applaud the Mortensons for streamlining grantseeking for nonprofits.

This may confuse some applicants- there is a different process/contact depending on grant.
See: mortensonfamily.org/explore-partnership/

Huntington Bancshares (which merged with TCF) announced it wants to be the largest SBA funder in the Twin Cities market. No small feat, since climbing to #1 in SBA loans means creating A LOT of general banking business – both consumer and corporate lines. In turn, this means a lot more presence in the Twin Cities and lots more community investments, including Community Reinvestment funds. Consequently, more funding for community causes. Watch these folks, especially, Marcio Thompson, Community Development Relationship Manager.
Groundbreak Coalition – You’ll be hearing about these folks and the $2 billion they’re investing in thousands of BIPOC homeowners, businesses, rental units, and commercial developments in the neighborhoods most affected by the George Floyd protests. Th effort is led by representatives of major regional and national foundations, including the McKnight, Minneapolis, and Bush Foundations, our Twin Cities Mayors, several banks (PNC, Sunrise, Wells Fargo, US Bank, JPMorgan, and others), Chambers of Commerce, the Center for Economic Inclusion, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, and several private businesses.

Our Favorite Dysfunctional Financial Corporation – Our friends at Otto Bremer Trust are getting things together with the help of Ramsey County District Judge Robert Awsumb. Two big things:

  • The judge removed trustee Brian Lipschultz from the OBT board of trustees. Read the Star Trib article here.
  • The judge said the trustees could still move forward with the proposed sale of Bremer Bank, one of the things that started the relationship meltdown between the trustees and the bank official.

Lots of questions about the remaining trustees’ ongoing interest in selling the bank. But there’s no question that someone would be willing to pay big bucks for it, its presence in four states and its great relations with local (rural and urban) communities.

One of the top current bidders is Huntington Bank (the new TCF). Would Huntington keep up OBT’s community grants and outreach programs? They don’t have a history in their own banking practices, but maybe.

Meantime, the trust’s grantmaking operation remains remarkable, one of the best, if not the best, in Minnesota. April announcement of $7.3 million to 96 organizations.

Cryptocurrency and Philanthropy

An AP Philanthropy Landscape Report
May 2022

Stories about cryptocurrency have been showing up in business journals, consumer magazines, daily newspapers, and nonprofit publications. In March, some funders acknowledged one of the only ways to get relief money into Ukraine was via cryptocurrency. We sent AP Researcher Laura Wilson to find out more. She looped in folks from ImpactMarket and Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee) to talk about implications of Bitcoin,  Ethereum, and other crypto donations for nonprofits. You can read her report

New Ways of Giving

Starting as a thought experiment in the 1990s, cryptocurrency has slowly bled into everyday life, developing into a nearly-mainstream market. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, from 2015 to 2021 the percentage of Americans who personally invested in cryptocurrency rose from 1% to 16%; in 2021, 86% of Americans knew something about cryptocurrencies. Official counts vary but the consensus is, more than 10,000 cryptocurrencies exist today, with the most popular being Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Congress is in the process of developing legislation to regulate cryptocurrency within U.S. borders, and has already passed a tax provision to simplify reporting requirements. These changes have implications for the philanthropic space and the willingness of donors and other stakeholders to engage with cryptocurrency.

Blockchains Enter the Philanthropy Space

Charitable giving via cryptocurrency gained steam in 2013 with the establishment of the BitGive Foundation, the self-described “first Bitcoin and Blockchain charity.”  It rose sharply in visibility in 2017 when an anonymous donor established the Pineapple Fund and donated Bitcoin worth over $55 million to 60 charities.  Since then options for donating cryptocurrency have expanded:

Funding Missions with Cryptocurrency

Once the gifts are held by a donation management platform or nonprofit, more possibilities emerge.  The decentralized characteristic of all cryptocurrencies allows them to bypass country borders and traditional currency exchange rates.  To use cryptocurrency, nonprofits can either spend the digital asset  or convert it into fiat (traditional) currency.

Many nonprofits will “cash out,” since volatility makes these currencies a risky choice for long-term investment. Most currency exchanges around the globe work with only fiat currencies.  Some organizations, however, are working to build the capability to lean into the properties of cryptocurrency.

We spoke with representatives from ImpactMarket, and Alight who are collaborating to expand the practice and impact of Universal Basic Income (UBI) using cryptocurrency.

ImpactMarket created and maintains a platform for donors to give cryptocurrency. That currency is funneled directly to recipients in participating communities across Brazil, Nigeria, Ukraine, and India, many assisted by Alight. In communities where Alight doesn’t work directly, ImpactMarket partners with other nonprofits. The recipients of UBI funds choose how to use the currency, based on what is available in their area (“cash out” or use as is).

Their efforts haven’t been without challenges, like technology  and Internet access, as well as building trust with recipient communities.  But initial results are encouraging. Both organizations expressed hope for the future of the program, which seems to be fostering greater financial stability and long-term financial planning.

Without the existence of cryptocurrency, this type of global effort would be next to impossible.  Through ImpactMarket’s platform, donors can see exactly where their currency is headed and which communities they are supporting, creating a strong sense of donor-connectedness (GiveTrack works in a similar manner).  The global transfer of traditional currency is costly and time-consuming, while cryptocurrency has none of those associated fees.

Other ways of utilizing cryptocurrency on the nonprofit end include:

  • Working in philanthropic incentive programs for cryptocurrency miners and donators like RootProject, PinkCoin, and Impact Market.
  • Advancing donor involvement through the use of a reporting and voting system networked directly with donors (GiftCoin in partnership with Network for Good).
  • Using a blockchain to track the source and movement of goods as they move through supply chains (IBMs Blockchain for Social Good).

The Future of Crypto for Charity

One significant drawback to cryptocurrency is its negative impact on the environment. Blockchains require large amounts of energy to store and verify transactions. Bitcoin mining, for example, consumes 22 to 22.9 million metric tons of CO2 in a year. That’s comparable to Kansas City’s annual emissions.

Only 39% of the energy used to mine Bitcoin comes from renewable sources (mostly hydropower), with the rest produced through traditional fossil fuels. While there are proposed solutions, they have not yet been widely implemented.

Art museums, battered by the impact of the pandemic on attendance and income, first turned toward, then away from, selling NFTs, for these environmental reasons.  ImpactMarket uses Celo, the first carbon-neutral blockchain, which offsets its energy use by investing in tree planting and other carbon reduction projects. Alight’s decision to scale up its work with ImpactMarket will take environmental impact into account.

The anonymity of crypto donors is also problematic. Although transactions are recorded and tracked via IP address, the identity of the individual is not recorded.  This creates an obstacle in creating and maintaining personal relationships with donors. It also turns away organizations that avoid opaque funding sources.  In an interview with The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Erich Mische, Executive Director of Minnesota nonprofit Spare Key, said “We don’t want to get caught up in a situation where you get a knock on the door and find out that someone who gave you a significant donation is on some list that makes things problematic.”

AP is keeping a close eye on further developments, as the adoption of cryptocurrency in the philanthropic sector shows no signs of slowing down.

For more information on Access Philanthropy or suggest new ideas for a Philanthropy Landscape report, contact Steve Paprocki at [email protected]. To connect with researcher/author Laura Wilson, contact [email protected].



Register now at MN Council of Nonprofits

3.21 Fluff Free News Digest

Good March to you and yours! We’ve had a couple of really warm days already so far, so we, the overly optimistic Minnesotans are ready to put away shovels and bring out lawn furniture. One of our AP team drove up to Duluth in shirtsleeves. But you know what happens when the snow goddesses, gods and non-binary deities see the snow shovels in storage!

But, but, but… on the other hand grantseeking optimism needs to remain strong to justify the work you do on proposals, budgets, applications, and letters of inquiry. So, keep both your snow shovels and your budget templates within reach.

Access Philanthropy & MN Council of Nonprofits will hold the annual Small Family Foundations Workshop

Thursday, April 08, 2021. Virtual Live/Online

Truthfully, who else talks about small family foundation fundraising except for Access Philanthropy? There are more than 1500 small funders (<$1 million in annual giving) in Minnesota, and most of them are small family foundations. So, get goods from AP folks and small family funders, and then walk away with a book, the power point and some access time to AP’s Small Family Foundation 300+ database.

Other Foundation News
Corporate Foundations vs. Corporate Donations Programs (non-foundation gifts)

Interesting study on corporate foundations vs. corporate donations (non-foundation giving programs).

Corporations that use foundations instead of corporate giving programs are viewed as

The truth is corporate foundations are, to some extent, regulated by the IRS and state attorneys general (Bremer, ahem). Legally, they are independent of the corporation, but since the funding and the people come from the corporation, they do have corporate interests at heart. However, their interpretation of corporate interest is generally broader and different from those who only use corporate donation programs.

Anecdotally, it’s true that corporate foundations have invested in the infrastructure, people, and corporate volunteers, and are generally more professional about their giving. Corporate donation programs are not JUST about corporate self-interest (some of it is about size and corporate capacity), but corporate donation programs are often more limited in their altruism.

What’s our fluff-free advice? – When you’re thinking about soliciting gifts from a large corporation, understand the limitations of a corporation that uses only an in-house donations programs in contrast to using a foundation.

Selective Job Board

A great month for philanthropy jobs. See the variety on the MN Council of Foundations and the Bridgespan Group jobs boards.

Access Philanthropy is looking for good researchers and writers. Great work with great clients and a great team of writers, researchers, and advisors ([email protected])

Google Ads.

No more excuses. Look at this. Here’s the link to the downloadable Google Ads Guide.

Giving Surveys
General Operating Support and Unrestricted Gifts?

Just as the pandemic was beginning last year, the Council of Foundations issued a public statement in which 850+ foundations agreed to offer more general operating support and put less restrictions on their grantmaking.
So far there’s not a lot of evidence that foundations are fully engaged in either – with two exceptions – multi-million-dollar gifts to huge national organizations are less likely to have all kinds of stipulations, and food/basic need grants have fewer restrictions. This is a good start, but someone should check whether unrestricted, gen op gifts are only for the wealthy NPOs, or whether these commitments also include mid-sized and smaller nonprofits.

COVID Giving Stats

We must admit that Covid philanthropy reports are getting as tedious as the damned virus itself. But let’s face it, last year was so different, so we’re all curious about what happened in our industry. Here’s a few trends from Candid, ARNOVA, and the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy:

Individual Giving Stuff
The Oprah Effect? Celebrities and Nonprofits

Sports, movie, and television stars, and even politicians, have been part of the charitable solicitation world. There have always been questions about the value of using these celebrities for nonprofit work. The debate continues. But now some folks have done some great work with interesting findings:

The bottom line from the study – connecting any old celebrity to any old charity is dumb. The cult of celebrities may still be alive and well, but even if your donors subscribe to People magazine, there’s a good chance their charitable decisions are not based on their favorite superstar’s charitable requests.

Signs of Life. Time for Spring Fundraisers?

The NY Times recently did an article indicating how the US retail industry is showing signs of re-opening:

So, with younger people and others ready to move outside, is it time for your organization to start thinking about a late spring, summer, or early fall event? And does anyone have a good mailing list of high net wealth Neanderthals?

Need to Talk to Someone about Fundraising Problems and Concerns?

AP now has six senior advisors, all of whom have thirty-forty minutes to chat and lots of experience in grantmaking and grantseeking. ([email protected] or [email protected])

One-Off Workshops

Besides the April 8th workshop on Small Family Foundations, here are a couple off the radar workshops

Neuromarketing Workshop from the SBA:

Fundraising Words to Avoid

Big Duck, a nonprofit communications firm, recommends avoiding these nine terms in 2021. Some will be tough to avoid, but good writers will do so. See the website for additional insights:

Speaking of Nonprofit Communications…

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide issued its 11th annual Nonprofit Communications Trends Report. It includes pieces on work in the pandemic, managing communications teams (including volunteers), growing communications efforts, email practices, and lots of stats on the effects and costs of communications tools.

Raising a Glass to the Folks Who Put a Union Label on California Wine Bottles.

If you can get together at the end of the month, raise your glass the United Farm Workers, the folks who unionized the grape and fruit fields of California. After decades of disappointment and lack of support from other unions, the UFW and its charismatic leaders Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez succeeded in establishing a union for migrant workers. Cesar’s birthday is March 31st. Arriba, abajo, afuera, adentro.

Word to the wise but not so optimistic: keep both your snow shovels and budget spreadsheets nearby.