Tawanna Black, head of the
Northside Funders Group
Foundation collaborative aims to change
the way philanthropy works in North Minneapolis
A Civic Caucus
Review of Minnesota’s Public
Interview August 19, 2016
Steve Anderson, Tawanna
Black, Paul Gilje (executive director), Randy Johnson, Dan
Loritz (chair), Dana Schroeder (associate director), Clarence
Shallbetter, T. Williams. Phone: Janis Clay.
A number of foundations
and other funders who have been deeply invested in North
Minneapolis for many years have not seen the change they'd like
to see in that community, Northside Funders Group Executive
Director Tawanna Black states. The funders decided they needed
to work differently and to get to know each other to better
understand places of overlap, challenges and gaps. After meeting
informally for six years, 20 foundations and other funders
formed the Northside Funders Group (NFG) collaborative in 2013.
NFG's mission is to change the way
philanthropy works in North Minneapolis, Black says. She points
out that NFG has developed three priority focus areas where it
concentrates its work and funding: building thriving learning
communities, building social capital and building thriving
economies. NFG is one of fewer than five place-based foundations
in the country. Black says NFG's place-based approach allows the
organization to attempt to transform an entire neighborhood.
NFG member grants to Northside
organizations, which collectively amount to $15 million to $20
million per year, are more focused and coordinated than they
were before, Black notes. Some NFG member funders give grants to
Northside organizations on their own, while the rest donate to a
pool from which NFG members determine what joint grants they
will make. All of the grants are investments in the
organization's three focus areas.
Black calls on legislators to evaluate
workforce programs by looking at participants' outcomes two
years after they complete a program. Average outcomes of the
programs have not been good, especially for African American
men. She believes state and county governments must make
data-based decisions and shift the way they decide who gets the
money for workforce programs. She discusses the use of the $35
million investment in equity appropriated by the 2016
Legislature, what difference the funding will make and how
recipients of the money will be evaluated.
Tawanna Black is executive director for the Northside
Funders Group, a collaborative of 20 corporate, community, and
private foundations and public-sector investors. The members are
committed to aligning investments to catalyze comprehensive,
sustainable change in North Minneapolis.
Black's diverse career destinations
have had one common theme. She's been the chosen leader to build
consensus among individuals, organizations and companies with
varied backgrounds, experiences and motivations, so they can
move toward one common vision with extraordinary results. She
comes to the Northside Funders Group with over 15 years of
groundbreaking work transforming organizations and communities
in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Black also lends her expertise to
several boards. She is president of the Minneapolis-St. Paul
chapter of The Links, Inc., a board member for the Minneapolis
Public Housing Authority and a trustee of the Women's Foundation
of Minnesota. In 2014, Black was named a Bush Fellow.
The Civic Caucus is
undertaking a review of the
quality of Minnesota's past, present and future public-policy
process for anticipating, defining and resolving major public
problems. The Caucus interviewed Northside Funders Group
Executive Director Tawanna Black to get her assessment of how
foundations and other funders can collaborate to put forward or
react to proposals for resolving public-policy problems.
Information on Northside Funders
Group. The group is a collaborative of private, public and
corporate funders committed to aligning investments and
strategies to catalyze comprehensive, sustainable change in
The Northside makes up the northwest
corner of Minneapolis. It runs roughly from Glenwood Avenue on
the south to the city's northern border at 53rd Avenue and from
the city's western border to the Mississippi River. See
The following members comprise the
Northside Funders Group (NFG):
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation;
Carlson Family Foundation;
City of Minneapolis;
General Mills Foundation;
Greater Twin Cities United Way;
Headwaters Foundation for Justice;
Twin Cities LISC;
The McKnight Foundation;
The Minneapolis Foundation;
Minnesota Department of Public Safety;
Mortenson Family Foundation;
Nexus Community Partners;
The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota;
Wells Fargo Foundation;
Women's Foundation of Minnesota;
Xcel Energy; and
Co-chairs of NFG are Jo-Ann E. Stately
of the Minneapolis Foundation and Sarah Hernandez of the
How do we change the way philanthropy works in North
Black of the Northside Funders Group said the group's 20 members
(see above) include a wide range of foundations and other
funders. All of them have been deeply invested in North
Minneapolis for many years. But, Black said, "They haven't seen
the change they'd like to see in North Minneapolis."
The collaborative came together to
work on changing the way philanthropy works in North
Minneapolis. "That's our mission," she said. "It's not
programmatic, it's not numerical." Black said the group started
by looking at the innate traits of philanthropy and the way
donors have typically gone about their investments in a
The funders started meeting in 2008
and spent several years building relationships, exploring common
funding goals and grantees, and exploring options for
strengthening their philanthropy in North Minneapolis. Black
said they decided it wasn't as easy as amassing a new fund,
taking on an issue and issuing a request for proposals (RFP).
Instead, before they came out with a strategy, they needed to
work a little bit differently and funders needed to get to know
other funders to better understand the places of overlap, the
places of challenges and the places where there were gaps.
When Black came on as executive
director in 2013, the group had just put together its first
blueprint for action aimed at changing the way philanthropy
The Northside Funders Group (NFG) has
three priority focus areas: building thriving learning
communities, building social capital and building thriving
Black expanded on those three priority
Building thriving learning communities.
on assuring that all children in North Minneapolis can access
both a high-quality school in their neighborhood and quality
out-of-school time," Black said. Data show that Northside
children who leave to attend schools outside North Minneapolis
don't perform much better in those schools than in Northside
schools. "You can't just change the environment without also
addressing teachers," she said. "Are teachers equipped to
teach children from all backgrounds and all experiences? Is
that trust there? We believe in the schools in North
Minneapolis and believe that with the right supportive
partnerships they can provide high-quality education. Families
here should be able to access high-quality education in their
backyard." The group's funders support out-of-school programs
like mentoring programs, coaching and extracurricular
programs. Black said NFG wants to make sure the programs
they're funding are high quality for everyone.
Building social capital.
Black said often funders have
been in control of meetings, but NFG wants funders and
recipients to be on an equal footing as co-creators with
community-based organizations and residents of the community.She
noted that the funders hadn't taken on the issue of racial
equity before the NFG came together formally in 2013. "For us,
we feel that's the lens we have to start with," she said. "We
have to see the intersection among place, race and income.
It's important that we invest in building social capital with
and for families in this community," Black said. "We often
don't think about families having social capital, but they do.
We want our grantee partners to think about how they support
families and increase social capital."
Building thriving economies.
In 2013, Black said, the
NFG had an economic development focus and a workforce focus
that were separate from each other. She noted that fewer than
20 percent of Northside residents work on the Northside. While
12,000 people drive into the Northside to work there, 20,000
drive out to work elsewhere. "So, it's important that we have
an economic development focus and a workforce focus at the
same time," she said.
"We have to think about how economic
development will benefit the people who live here and about
training people for jobs that are available," Black said. "We
should think regionally, but act locally."
In economic development, she said, we
should think about having new businesses locate in North
Minneapolis. And to solve the region's predicted worker
shortages, we should look at the opportunities to tap talent in
this region, especially among those aged 25 and over, rather
than importing talent. "We very narrowly and very intentionally
focus on the hardest to employ through our efforts, investments
and policy work," she said.
The Northside Funders Group launched a
strategy earlier this year called North@Work to connect 2,000
African American men to meaningful, sustainable, living-wage
employment over the next five years. Black said the strategy
came about when NFG asked who isn't being served at scale by the
current landscape of programs. Over the course of a year, NFG
brought in employers, community-based organizations, community
champions, funders, public-sector leaders and black men from the
community. NFG asked the men what their journey has been like
and what they'd like to see in workforce programming in the
Literature from NFG says North@Work,
which NFG both funds and runs, focuses on all facets of the
workforce system-training, placement, funding, retention, cohort
support and more-to create real change for African American men
living on the Northside. Currently, more than half of black
males in North Minneapolis are unemployed.
Black said NFG heard feedback that
employers need as much training as the potential employees to
make the strategy a possible solution. For this reason,
employers are supported by diverse staffing experts to
strengthen their skills in hiring, training and retention.
NFG is one of less than five
placed-based funder collaboratives in the country. "People
are often scared to take on place," Black said, "because it
means we can measure the impact of what they're doing more
NFG has four levers it applies:
have to first get in the seat of learning about this community,"
Black said. NFG developed a model called Together in Learning,
where the group convened over 220 partners in the community to
ask what's happening in the community; what they want funders to
do that's going to be transformational; how we honor our values
of co-creation; and what the power dynamic is.
"Since our mission is changing the way
philanthropy works," Black said, "my success as executive
director is not how many programs we've funded, but how our
member foundations have changed the way they do business."
invest $15 million to $20 million collectively in the Northside
every year. NFG also works with its community partners to help
them court national funders.
. Black said
NFG has built a lot of credibility at a lot of tables in a short
time, but that's only good if the organization uses it to
benefit the Northside.
. NFG does both
pooled funding, where members put funds into NFG, which
re-grants it out to other organizations, and aligned funding,
where members make investments themselves in NFG's three
priority areas-building thriving learning communities, building
social capital and building thriving economies.
"We have a focus on collaborative
work, so it'd be rare for us to fund one nonprofit by itself,"
Black said. "We only fund catalytic and, likely, new work."
Contrary to many people's assumptions,
the Northside is not a place of constant turnover or a place of
last resort. Black said Census data and other research show
that 66 percent of the people on the Northside were in the same
homes they were in the last time data were collected. "The vast
majority of African American people on the Northside want to be
here," Black said. "They hope they can stay here. The challenge
we face is the housing stock. Your options for purchasing a home
on the Northside are not as great as if you went to Brooklyn
Center, Brooklyn Park, Golden Valley, St. Louis Park or other
parts of Minneapolis."
She said the Northside Achievement
Zone has found that some people who move out of the Northside
miss the fabric of the community, so they move back. "We have to
make sure all the amenities people need and want in their
neighborhood are here so they can stay here, no matter what type
of experience they want," Black said.
Besides African American and Hmong
residents, Black said the Northside also includes white
millennials and Generation X-ers who are choosing to move to the
Northside and a sizable Jewish population.
She noted, though, that many Northside
residents can't afford to live in new housing developments in
their neighborhood. The largest percentage of people on the
Northside makes less than $20,000 per year, many less than
$14,000 per year. "New housing does not necessarily always
translate into new opportunities for our residents here," she
said. "Having quality housing that's affordable for families who
aren't earning living wages is still a challenge."
NFG's recent testimony to the Senate
Equity Committee called on the Legislature to be more
intentional and to make decisions based on data.
It's important to note the following
Census and DEED unemployment data:
Twin Cities regional unemployment in 2015 was 3.8 percent.
North Minneapolis unemployment in 2013 was 22.3 percent.
African American male unemployment in North Minneapolis in
2013 was 52 percent.
Black told the Senate committee that
the most important information to look at when evaluating
employment programs is where the participants are two years
after completing a program. Data from the Minnesota Department
of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) show different
outcomes for different communities of color, even among men who
have completed employment programs.
Only 27 percent of African American men showed stable
employment after finishing a workforce program, compared with
31 percent of Asian men, 33 percent of white men, and 44
percent of Latino men.
The average annual earnings of employed men after
completing a publicly funded workforce program were $14,281
for whites; $11,405 for Latinos; and $5,547 for African
Black said from the state's own data,
legislators should see that the average employment program is
costing the state more than the state is gaining back by
increasing participants' incomes. She said the programs must be
more focused and nuanced. What's going on in North Minneapolis
is different from what's happening on the Iron Range or what's
happening with the Somali community in Minneapolis's
Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. "It is imperative that we solve
for the cross-section of issues for each community of people who
aren't experiencing the prosperity of our region," she said.
Hennepin County and the state have
greater resources than private philanthropy does. "We need to
shift the way we decide who gets the money," Black said. Because
people in different circumstances need different amounts of
resources, funders shouldn't grant programs the same amount of
money for someone who's been out of work for six months as for
someone who hasn't worked in seven years. "It just doesn't make
sense," she said. "But, unfortunately, the majority of our
public and private funding sources are designed that way."
"We need a marriage of what state data
and NFG data show, as well as what the community is telling us,"
Black said. "We must be much more informed and focused and
realize we can learn from what we've done that hasn't worked."
While Gov. Mark Dayton proposed that
the state invest $100 million into equity, the 2016 Legislature
appropriated only $35 million. "We probably need $500
million," Black said.
The $35 million in funding went mostly
to workforce development programs, but falls outside of DEED's
many competitive grant programs, Black said. "We're not naïve
about one year of funding," she said. "We won't see drastically
different results in that amount of time. But the Legislature
doesn't want to hear a bad story after a year."
Black asked what will be different
because of the $35 million in state funding. "We have to be
working differently," she answered. "It should prompt those
receiving the funding to do something differently that leads to
a different outcome." She was glad to see that some
organizations decided to partner up on their appropriation
requests. NFG is asking those groups how partnering changes the
way they do their work.
An interviewer asked whether there are
evaluation plans tied to the equity funding. Black responded
that each organization must submit intended outcomes and a plan
for evaluating its program. DEED will also evaluate the
NFG has funded several studies to look
at matching Northside residents to the jobs already located
there. An interviewer asked what is keeping residents from
working in Northside jobs. Black responded that to some extent,
there is a skills and experience gap and mismatch. She added
that some of the problem is perception and an immediate bias
against Northside residents. "You must get down to the actual
supervisor who's doing the hiring," she said. "We have to take
that on as much as the skills gap."
"We need to match up organizations who
train people for specific jobs, such as machinists or
customer-service workers, with employers looking for those
skills and have the city support that partnership," Black
NFG makes grants through its member
foundations in two different ways. According to Black, some
member foundations make their own grants to Northside
organizations. Other foundations donate to a joint NFG pool of
money, which is used to make grants. Representatives from NFG
member foundations sit on one of three committees that align
with the organization's three focus points (building thriving
learning communities, building social capital and building
thriving economies). These committees make recommendations on
how the joint pool of money should be spent.
When an organization comes to NFG with
a proposal, Black determines whether the proposal fits within
one of the three focus points and the measurable goals NFG has
established. If she believes it does, she invites the
organization to complete a grant application. She makes a
recommendation on the grant proposal and passes it on to the
appropriate focus-area committee. The committee makes a
recommendation on the proposal to NFG's advisory committee,
which acts as an executive committee, and makes the final
decision on whether to fund the proposal.
NFG's place-based approach allows the
organization to attempt to transform an entire neighborhood to
the point that the neighborhood is able to take advantage of the
wellbeing of the entire region. "Getting it right in the
hardest places positions us to get it right everywhere," Black
asserted. "North Minneapolis and East St. Paul have challenges
in common. We should see both of these neighborhoods as two of
our region's greatest assets in our efforts to maintain the
economic vibrancy and prosperity we're accustomed to."
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (executive director), Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz (chair), Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmermany,