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Knight, McKnight Foundations Respond to Economic Crisis

December 30, 2008

Here are two more announcements from major foundations in response to the economic crisis.

In an open letter to partners and grantees, Kate Wolford, president of the Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation, outlined McKnight's plans for grant payouts in 2009:

  • To limit the recession's impact on grant payments, the foundation will increase the percentage it draws from its own endowment in the coming year.
  • While McKnight continues support for all current programs -- children and families, region and communities, the arts, the environment, and select international work and scientific research -- the foundation will expand its strategies to mitigate catastrophic climate change.
  • Although fewer funds will be available for new and returning grantseekers, McKnight pledges to honor all active grant agreements to completion.

Wolford writes:

Earlier this year, the Foundation made a decision to expand our funding to fight catastrophic climate change. Our increased investment builds upon work we have pursued for decades and represents a timely extension of our central mission. Unchecked in the short term, climate change will affect our planet and its people for generations, endangering all those served by McKnight's programs. To accommodate this increased investment, we planned to slow the growth of other program areas.

As the economic downturn creates a troubling new context in which to expand our climate work, it also raises the issue's urgency. We believe strategic philanthropic investments made now can help chart a new low-carbon future, one that is good for the environment and the economy. Our region stands to benefit greatly from innovations in renewable energy production and transmission, a green workforce, and more. For these reasons, we believe now is exactly the right time -- in fact, a critically important time -- for McKnight to expand our work in this priority area.

Balancing McKnight's resources with the volatile economy and our longstanding mission and values, the foundation's board of directors met recently to finalize our grantmaking forecast for 2009. Since January, McKnight has lost more than $700 million, roughly 30 percent of our endowment -- a shocking loss, although generally on par with foundations around the country. To limit the impact on the communities we support, McKnight's board has authorized us to draw a larger than usual percentage from the foundation's endowment next year. But the net result will not be status quo....

Click here for the complete statement.

And earlier today the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation released this video of foundation president Alberto Ibargüen talking about Knight's work and how the foundation plans to respond to the economic crisis in 2009.

For a print transcript of Ibargüen's remarks, click here.

For more foundation responses to the crisis, go here, here, and here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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