Case Study: Minnesota Council on Foundations

Responding to Crisis: Lessons in Innovation

A program assessment that fostered inclusive participation.

Services: Research

In late January 2020, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S., and the severe disruption of our collective lives became a real possibility. When communities respond to crisis, whether a natural disaster or a tragic event, timing is of the essence.

But how does a community respond to a slow-moving crisis, one that creates fear and uncertainty? An emergency that stars slowly before spreading its devastation out over the course of months, even years?

For the Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF), the answer was clear – swift action. In March 2020, over two days, MCF President Susie Brown spearheaded a fundraising effort that amassed $4.4 million. Collaborating with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund (MDRF) was established to address community needs stemming from the pandemic. Ultimately, more than $11.5 million was distributed to 92 community intermediaries for disaster recovery efforts statewide.

In spring 2021, MCF partnered with Seiche to design and implement a learning report that engaged MDRF participants and lifted up their experiences, reflections and recommendations for future fast-acting pooled funding collaboratives.

What We Did

MCF is dedicated to continuous learning and ethical leadership. For this partnership, we designed a program assessment approach that fostered inclusive participation and delivered a final product representative of diverse voices.

Leveraging Expertise for Informed Insight

  • Seiche is deeply familiar with Minnesota’s philanthropic landscape, offering invaluable perspective to our assessments. Our nuanced understanding unearthed additional insights and recommendations crucial to program refinement.
  • Through interviews, we gathered qualitative insights on the MDRF’s structure, processes, and engagement. Our approach combined personal narratives with rigorous data analysis, yielding insightful reflections and actionable recommendations for future, fast-acting funding collaboratives.

Putting People First

We believe the best communications and learning approaches are grounded in respect for, and understanding of, those with whom we wish to engage.

  • We approached the assessment through an equity lens, ensuring diverse representation in interviews and accommodating various participation modes.
  • We worked to build trust and common ground with interviewees, facilitating open discussions on relationships with funders and other sensitive topics.

A Long-Term Relationship

Our client partnerships are built on mutual respect, generosity, deep listening, and honesty.

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