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MCF Leads: Aligning Our Governance Practices With the Principles for Philanthropy

Each summer, MCF’s Governance Committee launches the MCF Board recruitment process. It is always an exciting time for those of us at MCF; this year it is especially so as MCF staff works to enact more equitable and transparent board and committee practices, including recruiting two non-members to join the Board in 2024. How did we get here, and what are we doing differently? Let’s examine MCF’s governance history and connected strategy, as well as what practices have been launched to support this work.

Developing a New Strategy

While MCF’s early governance history dates to the beginning of the organization in 1970, the most recent iteration of this work begins in 2019. Even then, it wasn’t linear. The culmination of MCF’s pre-2020 diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work, when mixed with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd, shifted the operating environment at MCF. It was during this time that MCF’s staff and board began listening, learning and gathering feedback from MCF members, partners, and others, to inform the organization’s culture and practices. Some of the tools and conversations that influenced MCF’s strategy around inclusive governance included:

  1. The deployment of the Transforming Organization Culture Assessment tool (TOCA), which helped MCF understand its own internal dominant mindset/white supremacy culture and gave the organization the opportunity to reflect on related areas of improvement
  2. The re-development of MCF’s Principles for Philanthropy, which named specific governance ideals to aspire to, including: Ethical Leadership, Equity & Justice, Community Engagement, and Transparency & Accountability
  3. MCF’s commitment to being an anti-racist organization
  4. The development of a new strategic framework which named specific organizational commitments around inclusion, difference, diversity, conflict, and accountability
  5. Engaging with DEI consultants to identify areas of future equity work, while recognizing bias and/or organizational shortcomings
  6. Candid conversations with board and committee members about Robert’s Rules of Order and how this style of governance formality can create a culture of exclusion

It was through this learning that MCF was able to re-commit to the organizational mission to connect, strengthen, and mobilize the power of philanthropy to advance prosperity and equity, and in doing so, ensure that DEI and anti-racist practices were centered in organizational policies and procedures, including MCF’s governance practices.

Launching Our New Governance Practices

Between 2019 and today, MCF staff have gathered assessment results and various feedback to carefully implement new governance practices that align with MCF’s commitment to being an anti-racist organization, while also being grounded in the organization’s Principles for Philanthropy and its newly adopted strategic framework. These new governance practices include significant adjustments to the way the board, staff and committees do their work. This list will continue to be developed as MCF staff and board members continue to learn.

Reviewing and Amending Governance Language and Policies
  • The MCF Governance Committee, with the help of a DEI consultant and MCF’s pro-bono legal counsel, reviewed the organizational bylaws for dominant culture language and practices; the bylaws were also amended to include naming the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee as a standing committee in order to ensure a longstanding commitment to DEI and anti-racism work at the governance level.
  • MCF staff reviewed and re-wrote each committee’s charter, including specific DEI and anti-racism language, and aligned it with the refreshed MCF bylaws.
Embedding DEI in All Areas of Governance
  • To create accountability, transparency, and center DEI and anti-racism through MCF’s committee structure, a DEI Liaison position was created to serve as a bridge between the DEI committee and all other standing committees.
  • The DEI Committee Chair was added as a member of the Executive Committee to ensure that MCF’s commitment to DEI and anti-racism is present and influential in the organization’s leadership.
Meeting Accessibility and In-Person Connection
  • The Board committed to holding half of its meetings in person and the other half virtually, to build relationships, while also recognizing the importance of accessibility through virtual tools for those who live in greater Minnesota.
  • The Board also concluded that its annual orientation for new members will be held in person and be open to all board members, not just those starting their first term.
  • The Board committed to hold meetings in greater Minnesota, as logistics allow. In 2023 the Board will hold its annual retreat in Fergus Falls.
Board Buddies
  • The Board deployed a “board buddy” system to support, connect, and orient new board members to their work.
Disbanding Robert's Rules of Order
  • The Executive Committee and all committee chairs built consensus around a set of inclusive governance practices to be used at MCF governance meetings; this included a formal disbanding of Robert’s Rules of Order as the main vehicle for meeting structure and action. An inclusive governance worksheet was created to guide and support chairs and MCF staff in their work together.
Tracking Confidential Metrics and Data
  • MCF staff created an inclusive governance dashboard which serves as a tracking system for inclusive governance board priorities.
  • In order to hold the organization accountable to its work of embedding MCF’s five key areas of diversity, board members are asked to participate in an annual optional demographics and skills survey so that MCF staff may aggregate and present anonymous board data to the Governance Committee in preparation for its task of recruiting a diverse and representative board.
Committee Orientations
  • Each committee began their year with an orientation intended to ensure all new and returning committee members felt grounded and equipped to do their work for the year.
Sharing Power
  • The MCF Board determined that in order to share power with the broader community MCF would recruit two people who are not MCF members to serve on the Board. These two board positions will be equal in all ways (terms, voting, committee services, etc.) to board members who serve as representatives of MCF member organizations.
And The Work Goes On

It’s important to acknowledge that equity and justice work never ceases. MCF’s Board and staff are committed to continued curiosity, development, and learning so that MCF may live out its mission of connecting, strengthening and mobilizing the power of philanthropy to advance prosperity and equity. If you are interested in leading with your peers in this way, we encourage you to apply to join the MCF Board

Headshot of Brianna Kocka

Reach Out

If you or your organization wishes to learn more about MCF’s inclusive governance journey, I would love to hear from you!

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