McFarland Interview Please take one minute to evaluate our website. Click here to take the survey.
Foundations should be doing more to get to the root causes of problems, rather than just treating the symptoms, says Richard McFarland, veteran member of several foundation boards in the Twin Cities. An interviewer restates the issue: whether foundations should be doing good directly, such as putting up a building for an organization, or doing good indirectly by supporting, in an ongoing way, institutions or organizations that would play a role over time in resolving community problems.
McFarland has served on the boards of the Dain, Graco, Minneapolis, McKnight and Bush foundations. In his experience, the Bush and Minneapolis foundations have usually focused on initiatives put forward by the staff, as opposed to the board looking outside the staff to get ideas on issues. But he stresses that every foundation is different. The McKnight Foundation is a family foundation, he notes, so the McKnight family sets its priorities. And the Dain Foundation was really run by the employees, since it funded organizations and causes in which employees were involved. He says the priorities of each big corporate foundation depend on the company's CEO and senior officers.
According to McFarland, foundations should evaluate the success of their initiatives against measurable goals. He gives examples of several foundation-funded projects, some of which failed to succeed and some where the jury is still out. In one case, he faults the funding foundation for not reporting, when a major initiative came to an end, what had worked and what hadn't.
McFarland believes that a number of local foundations feel a responsibility for the health of the metro area and the rest of the state and for picking the most urgent issues to work on. He points to the success of the six nonmetro regional initiative funds, still in operation today, that the McKnight Foundation started 30 years ago.
For the complete interview summary see:McFarland interview
Forty years later, with a professional career
in using public financing to get at root causes in the private financing
of health care cost escalation, I must say they took our advice, but
their national leadership seemed incapable of translating it into
deliberate and focused financial investment [or] in understanding, and
project support for, change. They were so big they could have shaped the
national agenda at a time when the only politics in health policy was
provider politics, not political, and there were a large number of us
ready, able, and willing to help. Today that number in Congress, and the
Minnesota Legislature as well, is down to three or four, max, and the
rest find it much too complicated, so they are swayed by both
They perhaps should be a source of funding non-partisan public policy research with no strings attached.
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The Civic Caucus is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (Executive Director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted
© The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919 ~  Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.