Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation 2015 President’s Report


 The year 2015 marked the 58th Anniversary of the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation.

The year also marked the five-year anniversary of the Foundation’s social justice grantmaking program. Upon reflection, Foundation support of several worthy social change efforts has made the Twin Cities a better place:  In the political power and process area, strides were made in increasing voter participation in communities with little political power.  In the environmental justice area, a Twin Cities environmental justice atlas was created.  In the civil and human rights area, the Foundation received an award for responsive philanthropy with support of activities designed to prevent Islamophobia.

The Foundation continues to support work associated with the environmental justice atlas. In December 2014, the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) received the second $25,000 installment of a three-year $75,000 grant to ensure impacted communities and those responsible for policies are using the atlas.

In the area of political power and process, the Foundation convened an esteemed advisory board:

Brian Elliott, Executive Director of the Service Employees International Union’s Minnesota State Council

Peggy Flanagan, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota

Mark Ritchie, former Minnesota Secretary of State

Rosa Tock, former Associate Coordinator for the International Fellowship Programs, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Due to a last minute conflict, Pakou Hang, Executive Director of the Hmong American Farmers Association, was unable to participate in the meeting, but provided input at a later time.

The advisors offered background, thoughts and recommendations about community programs, activities and organizations involved with increasing civic participation of underrepresented communities. Research and follow-up from the meeting continues.

Upon a five-year review of the social justice grantmaking program, a decision was made to omit civil and human rights from the rotation of priorities. Although committed to supporting efforts in other ways, the lack of Foundation capacity in terms of funds, staff and time precludes continued inclusion of the focus in the social justice grantmaking rotation.

In April, members of the board and staff attended the Council on Foundation’s Annual Conference in San Francisco. The conference was well-organized, interesting and teeming with information on timely topics categorized by three strands – Natural Resources & Energy, Economy & Finance, and Civil Society.  Sessions were also identified by interest to community foundations, family foundations and corporate foundations.  Conference participants were free to attend any session of interest.

A Leadership in Action series of speakers featured Cornell Williams Brooks of the NAACP; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; and Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute. All were articulate, inspirational speakers.  The plenary speakers also did not disappoint.  Walter Isaacson spoke of leadership as teamwork and the duo of Van Jones and Newt Gingrich spoke to leading across differences.

Several sessions attended pertained to impact investing. Earlier in the year the Foundation moved towards coal and fossil fuel divestment.  In addition to approving a strategy crafted by one of the Foundation’s portfolio managers, meetings with representatives from a similar-sized family foundation and other investment contacts were held to further research impact investing options.  The investment policy is being retooled to better reflect Foundation values.

The September board meeting was held at the Zeitgeist Café in Duluth and followed a previous day site visit to Sax-Zim Bog where the board and staff were treated to an interesting and informative tour of the area. At the board meeting, Directors heard about the activities and programs of Sugarloaf, a long-time grantee of the Foundation.  In December 2014, Sugarloaf was awarded a three-year $6,000 grant for general operations.

The year 2015 marked the first year of exclusive use of the cloud-based grants management system and on-line application process. Both grant applicants and the board as reviewers are becoming more proficient in its use.

Other internal developments include a new office copier and additional signage for the Foundation office. A consultant was identified and hired to aid in the revamping of the internal financial reports.  A manual of procedures is being developed for Foundation business.  A new version of QuickBooks was put to use beginning in December 2014.  Also, the schedule of meetings was revamped for better workflow and to accommodate board availability.

In addition to the environmental justice social change grant, grant payments of note include the third of four $10,000 payments for The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library for its capital campaign and a $4,000 first year payment on a five-year $20,000 grant to the University of Minnesota Foundation for the Whittington Press collection of the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Also, the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project received the final of three $6,000 payments for general operations. The Anoka Technical College Foundation received the third of five $3,000 payments for scholarships. Carleton College received the final of three $4,200 payments for a student service program and the Muskegon Museum of Art received the third of four $5,000 payments for its capital campaign.

Anticipated in 2016 are the continued retooling of internal financial reports, documentation of Foundation procedures, research on impact investing, and a grant award in the area of political power and process.

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