receive a substantial part of
its support in the form of contributions from publicly supported
organizations, governmental units and/or the general public.
The purpose of community philanthropy,
Mulholland asserted, is to serve the community into perpetuity.
Various community philanthropists view that differently, she
said. The Saint Paul Foundation's theory of philanthropy is that
the community is in the best position to both identify and solve
big challenges. "The role of community philanthropy is to invest
well to grow the capacity in the community," she said.
The Saint Paul Foundation has two
major strategies and philosophies:
(1) It is not its role to solve
problems, but rather to see that problems get solved by
investing in community capacity building. The Foundation has
a very thoughtful grant-making process, using
its unrestricted and field-of-interest
dollars. That process is fairly wide open in the east metro
area: Ramsey, Dakota and Washington Counties, Mulholland said.
"We believe we ought to be open broadly, because there are many
different levers you have to pull on to have change in the
community. Our strategy of getting to scale is to grow the
capacity of a multitude of nonprofits and community
organizations to actually rise up and be able to solve the
community's problems. That is unique in community philanthropy."
For the last decade, she said, private
philanthropy has gotten fairly narrow, focusing on a specific
issue or topic. The Saint Paul Foundation has chosen to remain
broadly open in terms of topic areas, but to be more specific in
terms of what it's trying to accomplish. Our indicators of
- A greater number of individuals in East Metro communities
thriving in a region with increased equity and opportunity;
- A greater sense of community connectedness, participation,
inclusion, and civic involvement;
- An increase in organizations using approaches that
indicate their understanding of the needs of the distinct
cultural and racial communities they serve;
- An increase in nonprofit capacity to support equitable
outcomes for East Metro communities
(2) When there are issues the
community has elevated, it is community philanthropy's
obligation and role to hear those issues and to provide
resources, partnership and leadership, if desired and if
necessary. "We are here to be an important part of this
community effort and we'll lead if you need us to," she said.
"But we believe the community knows best what is needed."
The Saint Paul Foundation is willing
to take risks. Mulholland said the foundation gives capital
grants, program grants and transitional operating grants at a
variety of levels and on a variety of issues and is willing to
accept the risks inherent in those grants.
She gave the example of Ujamaa Place,
a nonprofit organization focused on young African American men
in Saint Paul (primarily between the ages of 18 and 30), many of
whom suffer multiple barriers to becoming stable, productive
members of the community. These barriers include being
undereducated, unemployed and/or unemployable, being affiliated
with gangs, having a criminal history, and experiencing
homelessness, illegal drug use, and a general marginalization by
She said when a few individuals in the
African American community had a vision for such a program, The
Saint Paul Foundation stepped up at the very beginning to
provide resources to help bring this vision to life. The
foundation also stepped up to assist with College Possible
Minnesota (formerly Admission Possible), which coaches
low-income students to and through college. It serves more than
2,000 high school students attending 53 high schools across the
state and 4,500 college students on campuses across the country.
The foundation provided one of the first grants to the program.
She said there are more examples like these.
"Our multiplier impact is believing
that if we invest wisely and take risks with big ideas and big
thoughts in the community, we will be successful in building the
right community ecosystem," Mulholland said.
A distinction of community
philanthropy is deep engagement in the community, listening to
community needs and stepping up to lead when the community needs
or wants philanthropy's leadership. "We want to be asked to
step up, because it is not our place to dictate solutions,
rather, we must listen, engage, respond, take risks and be there
when the community needs us. We are a resource and a partner. We
go deep. Above all, we believe in highlighting the community's
"There are several issues that have
percolated up in our community that we believe the community is
looking for targeted resources to address," Mulholland
continued. One example of The Saint Paul Foundation's strategy
of partnering and leading on priority issues is the Central
Corridor Funders Collaborative. "Back in 2008, we knew a
billion-dollar investment in light-rail transit (LRT) was going
to occur through one of the most underserved and
opportunity-rich, neighborhoods in St. Paul," she said. "We knew
it was important that the LRT benefit the people living along
The foundation convened 14 funders
from around the region and around the country and raised $12
million for community development, workforce development and
much more, to increase the benefit of LRT to the community.
The Funders Collaborative succeeded in funding important
community needs during this project, such as business loss
mitigation during LRT construction along University Avenue and
both a visionary housing plan and a long-range development
strategy for the entire corridor.
The Saint Paul Foundation funds and
engages deeply with Generation Next and the St. Paul Promise
Neighborhood. "We lean in heavily, but it's when the community
asks us to," Mulholland said. "We are not afraid of big issues."
Foundations are playing active roles
in public policy. "There is absolutely a role for
foundations with public policy," Mulholland said. "As a
community foundation we view public policy a lot more broadly
than simply lobbying the State Legislature, although I am a
registered lobbyist. There are many other forms of public policy
that we can, should and do engage in, including lifting up
issues for public discussion, that are important to the
"We have a very active role in the
full spectrum of what public policy is," Mulholland said. "We
fund organizations that do public policy and help organizations
grow their own public-policy capacity."
Organizations that brought up issues in the past are being
replaced by on-the-ground organizations raising issues and
solutions. She said that to a number of people, it feels
like we're losing some of the institutions and organizations
that have lifted up issues in the past. "But what is happening
on the ground locally, statewide and nationally is that issues
are being raised and the seeds of solutions are being conceived
of in a different way than we are used to. And this is a good
She mentioned organizations like
Neighbors Organizing for Change, Black Lives Matter, Ujamaa, the
St. Paul Promise Neighborhood and the Northside Achievement
Zone, which she called "community-based efforts by and for the
community that are beginning to have influence and traction and
beginning to create voice for themselves."
"I would suggest it's our role," she
continued, "having been in places of leadership and privilege in
this community, to get behind and lift up those new voices of
change. They'll be the identifiers of problems and solvers of
problems. They're most related to those problems and challenges,
because they're living them."
Government at the local level works
most effectively with these new voices from the community.
An interviewer commented that there is a growing disconnect
between government and those they are serving. He asked how
government can navigate this new world, so these voices feel
they are being heard and seen as legitimate, rather than as
Mulholland replied that this is being
done most effectively at local levels. "The State Legislature is
a lagging indicator," she said. "We elect a body and it's behind
where the people are."
She offered an example from her time
working in the St. Paul mayor's office. A group of community
organizations came together around equity in developing the
light-rail line and one of their primary focuses was to include
three additional stops to the line to address the needs of
underserved communities. The group initiated a lawsuit that
risked delaying or killing the project. The lawsuit claimed that
the LRT would bypass the high-poverty neighborhood that the line
was passing through. Coincidentally, The Saint Paul Foundation
and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative funded many of
Mulholland said the city was afraid
the lawsuit might result in the loss of the $1 billion LRT
investment. "It was not until the lawsuit that we realized there
was no way around this," she said. "Despite all of our fears of
losing the line, we had to throw the doors wide open and say
we're going to be vulnerable." As deputy mayor, she went to
Washington with Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough and met
with the Federal Transportation Agency (FTA) to be sure the
project was on track. In the meeting it was clear the lawsuit
had sparked interest and questions about equity. Because of the
community efforts, because the FTA listened, federal laws were
changed which allowed for the three additional stops and the
project was not delayed. The community was heard.
"We have to hear those voices and
realize there is massive frustration," she said. "We have to
engage those individuals in the solutions."
The Saint Paul Foundation is here to
serve those with the least voice and those who are the most
vulnerable. Mulholland said the foundation believes lifting
up that segment of the community lifts up the whole community.
But the foundation also supports larger institutions like the
Ordway, the Science Museum and the Children's Museum, because it
believes great assets are vital to building a strong community.
"But making sure there is access for a Karen mother to attend
the Ordway is equally important to us," she said.
"We're asking our grantees to tell us
who's on the board, who they are listening to and what research
is driving their programs," Mulholland said. "We want to lift up
the community. Sometimes we fly in the face of others when we do
that." She said, for example, that not everyone agrees we should
be funding former convicted felons through the Ujamaa program.
"But what Ujamaa is doing and what we believe in, is investing
in people, all people."
The Saint Paul Foundation is working on how it is measuring its
success and its accountability. "It's the great question of
contribution vs. attribution," Mulholland said.
She said the foundation contributes to what it believes is a lot
of community success. "But what can you attribute to our
actually having accomplished?" The foundation is looking at:
- Who is getting its grants: Is it a range of organizations
along the whole life cycle, from fledgling groups to community
- How often are its grants given to organizations that are
run by the people they're serving?
- In 2014, 75 percent of its grants were given to
organizations primarily serving communities of color, but only
25 percent of those groups were led by people of color.
- In 2015, again, 75 percent of its grants went to
organizations serving communities of color, but now nearly 40
percent of those groups are run by people of color.
It's important to address both
symptoms and causes of problems. An interviewer asked why
foundations don't spend more time addressing causes, rather than
dealing with symptoms of public problems. Mulholland replied
that her foundation believes it needs to help address symptoms
as well as give hope to people suffering from the symptoms.
But it is working on the cause side as
well, through programs in early childhood and workforce
development. And it has funded a pilot program of culturally
specific summer schools in St. Paul, the Freedom Schools, which
have provided personal empowerment to kids who participate.
Those kids also have shown no summer learning loss. The
foundation is pushing the St. Paul Schools to expand the
"We are working on the symptoms and at
the cause level, trying to lift up models that are working and
should be replicated system-wide," she said.
Foundations are assessing the
composition of their staffs and boards. Mulholland said
community philanthropy is very aware of the importance of having
representation and true engagement of the people it is serving
in decision-making positions. But, she noted, that board
development is so often about fundraising and so much of the
wealth still sits heavily with the white community. She said we
must think differently to diversify our organizations.
The Civic Caucus should include some
wise elders from communities of color.
Mulholland said it's laudable that the
Civic Caucus comes together to learn about issues in the
community, but the group should include people from other
communities, such as wise elders from communities of color, as
well. These people may have different communication styles and
experiences that would benefit the group. "It would be valuable
to do it, but you must be vulnerable and willing to be wrong,"
She also suggested that the Caucus
assess how it's hearing about and thinking about ideas and
invite in more interviewees from communities of color.