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The McKnight Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-11-02

At A Glance

The McKnight Foundation

710 S. 2nd St., Ste. 400

Minneapolis, MN United States 55401-2290

Telephone: (612) 333-4220


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

  • Family foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $2,262,928,471

Total giving: $88,691,875






Incorporated in 1953 in MN - The foundation was established in Minneapolis in 1953 by William L. McKnight and his wife, Maude L. McKnight. One of the early leaders of 3M, William L. McKnight rose from assistant bookkeeper to president and CEO in a career that spanned 59 years, from 1907 to 1966. The McKnight Foundation, however, is an independent private philanthropic organization; it is not affiliated with the 3M Company The grantmaker is a signatory to Philanthropy’s Promise, an initiative of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). By signing on, the grantmaker has committed to allocating the majority of its grantmaking dollars to marginalized communities and at least 25 percent to social justice strategies, such as advocacy, community organizing, and civic engagement.

Purpose and Activities

The grant maker seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grant making, coalition-building, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, it uses its resources to attend, unite, and empower those it serves.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Affordable Housing Design Award Recipient

In conjunction with AIA Minnesota, the award recognizes innovative, high-quality designs for affordable housing, including single-family homes, transitional housing, affordable apartment buildings, and more. It was created to: 1) Improve the visibility and stature of affordable housing design to increase public support of affordable housing; 2) Recognize design and development teams and affordable housing organizations that have designed excellent, affordable housing projects; 3) Encourage a broad understanding of how financing mechanisms, cost, diverse client populations, and community-based design processes contribute to a completed work of architecture. Submission is open to all affordable housing design projects, ranging from single-family homes to transitional housing to affordable apartment buildings. For more information see foundation web site or visit AIA Minnesota's web site: .


The foundation funds organizations, programs, and projects that fuel exceptional and diverse artistic practice. Grantees advancing this strategy provide support structures for working artists to develop and share their work. The foundation funds and leverages local and national collaborations, knowledge, and policies that maximize the value of artists' work in their communities. Grantees advancing this strategy provide support structures based on data and networks that bolster artists’ value inside and outside the arts sector. See foundation web site for more application information for this program .

Education and Learning

Within the cradle-to-career continuum, the foundation focuses on increasing the percentage of students reading at grade level by the end of the third grade; increasing access to high quality learning beyond the classroom so that all Minnesota's youth thrive. To achieve this goal, the foundation utilizes two strategies: 1) Early literacy. The program aims to dramatically increase the percentage of successful 3rd-grade readers — especially among populations underserved in our schools — and to encourage evidence-based policies and practices that ensure their continued achievement; 2) Youthprise. Through the foundation's support of Youthprise, the program strengthens leadership, innovation and systems to increase access to high-quality learning beyond the classroom .

Employee Matching Gifts

The foundation matches employee contributions to charitable organizations.

Environment: Mississippi River

The program seeks to restore the water quality and resilience of the Mississippi River; and to avoid catastrophic climate change and help the Upper Midwest provide a significant portion of the nation's renewable energy supply. It employs three strategies: 1) restore and protect floodplains and wetlands in the 10-state Mississippi River corridor; 2) reduce agricultural pollution in four states along the northern half of the river (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois), focusing on farmland and operations with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus runoff; and 3) in the 10-state Mississippi River corridor, achieve cross-boundary and interagency coordination (among government agencies) that improves the river's water quality and resilience. Call the foundation to discuss ideas with a program officer and to learn more about the strategies the program is pursuing.

Grants to Individuals Program

Awards to MN artists in recognition of their artistic excellence and significant impacts on the state's cultural life over several decades. Awards by nomination only to residents of MN who are direct-care personnel with minimum public recognition and minimum financial remuneration.

Impact and Investing Program

The foundation is launching an Impact Investing Program (IIP). The IIP is intended to deepen the impact of The McKnight Foundation’s work and strengthen its capacity to advance its philanthropic goals. The IIP has four elements: 1) Public Markets Mission Related Investing (MRI); 2) Private Markets MRI; 3) Mission-Driven Investing (MDI); and Program-Related Investing (PRI). Together, these four elements provide McKnight with an expanded set of tools with which to do its work. .

International: Southeast Asia

Through community building and empowerment, the program seeks to strengthen local institutions and initiatives that sustain and improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. It employs three strategies: 1) supporting efforts to increase self-determination for indigenous and ethnic minority communities; 2) supporting efforts to increase community resource rights related to rural land, forests, rivers and coastal resources, and, in some cases, urban land housing; and 3) supporting balanced approaches toward better management of natural resources in ways to support both local communities and biodiversity conservation. See web site for online application .

McKnight Artist Fellowship Program

Except for of the foundation's annual Distinguished Artist Award, the foundation delegates administration of its fellowships in the arts to artist service agencies and arts organizations around Minnesota. In partnership with the foundation, these organizations structure their own programs to respond to the unique challenges of different creative disciplines. Artists interested in the McKnight fellowship program should contact one of the organizations indicated on the foundation's web site for guidelines, application deadlines, and further information. Currently there are ten arts categories eligible for an artists fellowship: 1) ceramic artists; 2) choreographers; 3) composers; 4) dancers; 5) media artists; 6) musicians; 7) playwrights; 8) theater artists; 9) visual artists; 10) writers .

McKnight Distinguished Artist Award

The McKnight Distinguished Artist Award recognizes a Minnesota artist for artistic excellence as well as significant impact on the state's cultural life over several decades. One artist is honored with this $50,000 award each year. The award celebrates the achievements and contributions of a generation of artists who, individually and collectively, have laid the foundation for the wealth of arts activity Minnesotans currently enjoy. Although these artists have been working in the state throughout their lives, their role in Minnesota's vital artistic tradition as well as their own accomplishments often are overlooked as time goes on. In recognizing them, the award will help document Minnesota's cultural history. The award is the newest component of the foundation's long-standing support for individual artists. Artists in all disciplines - including ceramics, dance, film, literature, music, theater, and visual arts - whose careers have made a substantial impact on the arts in Minnesota may be nominated. Artists must have worked in Minnesota over a span of decades, although they need not reside in Minnesota when nominated. Those from Minnesota who achieved their primary successes elsewhere, however, are not eligible. No one may receive the award more than once. No posthumous awards will be made. Send your nomination via e-mail to Kristen Marx, Arts Program Admin.,

Midwest Climate and Energy

The program's goal is to help the Midwest become an international model in addressing climate change by reducing heat-trapping emissions in all economic sectors, while employing a sustainability lens that both informs strategies and catalyzes action. Three key objectives will drive the work: 1) Climate and energy policy: Support for grantees and networks to advance related Midwest policies in energy generation, efficiency, transmission, agriculture, and transportation; 2) Community engagement: Support to advance scaleable community-level actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster sustainability; 3) Resilient clean energy economy: Support to facilitate private-sector leaders and networks to develop, promote, and implement climate and energy objectives for the Midwest. Proposals are by invitation only .

Neuroscience Research

This research program is overseen by The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, an independent organization established for this purpose and funded exclusively by The McKnight Foundation. The endowment fund has its own board of directors, but is administered by the foundation. The endowment fund supports innovative research in neuroscience through three competitive annual awards: 1) McKnight Scholar Awards - for scientists in the early stages of setting up their independent laboratories and beginning to focus on disorders of learning and memory; 2) McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards - for scientists developing new technologies or using technology in new ways to expand neuroscience research; and 3) McKnight Memory and Cognitive Disorders Awards - for scientists working to apply the knowledge achieved through basic research to human brain disorders that affect memory or cognition.

Program-Related Investment

The foundation has made PRIs in the form of loans to help stabilize communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis in Minnesota. Historically, the foundation made PRIs in the form of loans in the early-1980s to support housing, community development, and the arts in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. In 1992, the foundation began making new PRI commitments in the areas of housing, community development, and the environment. PRIs have supported facilities construction and renovation and the capitalization of earned income ventures and housing development projects. In 1996, the foundation helped launch The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund of St. Paul. This fund provides assistance to housing developers, including low-interest interim financing and zero interest loans.

Region and Communities

The goal of the program is to increase efficient and sustainable regional metropolitan development in the Twin Cities regions that creates livable communities and expands opportunities for all to thrive. The program employs three strategies: 1) Sustainable regional development; 2) Homes for all; and 3) Economically vibrant neighborhoods. To apply, review guidelines and call the foundation to discuss. See foundation web site for more information.

Research: Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP)

The program is a competitive grants program that seeks to increase food security for resource-poor people in developing countries. The CCRP strategically combines elements of research and development, seeking innovative solutions to real problems that will improve availability, access, and utilization of nutritious food by rural people with the fewest resources. The goal is to help build capacity to achieve food and nutritional security for resource-poor rural people in developing countries, in a way that is consistent with local cultures and the maintenance of ecosystem health. Proposals are accepted in response to regional requests for concept notes announced on the CCRP website: html.

Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service

Each year the foundation recognize up to six Minnesotans who have demonstrated an exceptional personal commitment to helping others in their communities but who have received little or no public recognition. Each receives $10,000 and is honored at a ceremony in late summer. See web site for nomination deadlines. Nominations may be submitted online, or a nomination form can be printed from the foundation's web site and submitted via postal mail .

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Child development
  • Child welfare
  • Community and economic development
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environment
  • Housing development
  • Neurology
  • Public transportation
  • Renewable energy
  • Youth development
International Interests
  • Cambodia
  • Laos
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Vietnam
Population Groups
  • Children and youth
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Low-income and poor people

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $2,262,928,471 (market value)

Gifts received: $1,066,581

Expenditures: $118,112,134

Total giving: $88,691,875

Qualifying distributions: $101,197,376

Giving activities include:

$88,514,281 for 712 grants (high: $1,013,700; low: $1,000)

$75,000 for 6 grants to individuals (high: $25,000; low: $10,000)

$102,594 for 210 employee matching gifts

$433,157 for 4 foundation-administered programs