2021 Principles for Grantmakers History

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History of the Principles for Grantmakers

The original work of writing the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ Principles for Grantmakers took place in 1994-1995 through the work of MCF’s Philanthropy and Public Trust Task Force. The committee was named “philanthropy and public trust” in order to demonstrate a commitment to upholding standards beyond basic legal requirements – standards that would uphold the public’s trust in philanthropic organizations.

Former MCF President Bill King explained the effort in these words:

Purposeful work in creating standards and identifying exceptional philanthropic practices keeps us engaged in continual improvements, brings others new to the field into the fold, and demonstrates to all constituencies our commitment to not just maintain but also seek the public’s trust.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations was founded in 1969 by several leading foundations at a time of increased scrutiny, as Congress had recently passed the first substantial regulation of philanthropy. From that beginning, MCF’s work focused on ethics, law and “lived” standards in the field. Our role was to advance the work of foundations in fostering public trust.

In 1996, MCF became the first regional philanthropic association to adopt a set of principles for foundations and corporate giving programs. In the time since then, various regional, national and international organizations adopted MCF’s Principles for Grantmakers. MCF approved an updated version of the Principles for Grantmakers in 2006.

In 2020-2021, MCF reconvened the Philanthropy and Public Trust Task Force to again rewrite the principles, taking into account a heightened focus on equity and anti-racism and new demands for transparency and engagement from community partners. This time, committee members included a balance of grantmakers and grantee partners – committed to sharing a holistic view of philanthropy’s work across Minnesota. We offer these principles for the betterment of our organizations and our communities.