McKnight Foundation: Grants for Global Development

OVERVIEW: McKnight seeks to improve the livelihoods of local communities in Southeast Asia by supporting projects and programs that advocate for resource rights, improve agro-ecology, and those helping local communities better manage their natural resources.

IP TAKE: The foundation tends to support big INGOs in its development portfolio. Lesser-known organizations may have a better chance at getting McKnight’s funding attentions if their work intersects with other issues of interest at the foundation, such as climate change and biodiversity.

PROFILE: Established in 1953, the Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation’s seeks to “improve the quality of life for present and future generations.” It is unusual in that the foundation is one of the country's largest foundations while remaining in one state. It is still overseen by the family board. Programmatic areas of interest prioritize regional economic and community development, Minnesota’s arts and artists, early literacy, youth development, Midwest climate and energy, Mississippi River water quality, neuroscience research, international crop research, and rural livelihoods. McKnight's grantmaking largely concentrates on Minnesota; however, it also directs funds to support projects in the rest of the U.S. and in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. 

Once of seven programs, the McKnight Foundation’s International grantmaking program focuses on natural resource management and community resource rights, mainly in the Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The program supports organizations that operate in Laos, and Vietnam, and seeks to improve the livelihoods of local communities—mainly smallholder farmers—by supporting projects and programs that advocate for resource rights (including land, forest, river, and coastal). It also seeks to support those aiding local communities to better manage their natural resources. McKnight's overall desire here is to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable populations in a way that empowers and is sustainable.

Affiliated with the International program, the Collaborative Crops Research Program (CCRP) also awards grants. CCRP is largely funded by McKnight, but has also been significantly bolstered with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The CCRP program  also seeks to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in its regions of focus. In contrast from the International program, the CCRP  supports collaborative research among key stakeholders in agroecology in order to improve nutrition and productivity in farming communities in Africa and South America.  CCRP awards grants to organizations that take either research or plant-based approach in their work. The program offers grants by invitation only and does not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry.

The foundation no longer participates in direct grantmaking activities in Cambodia. Instead, it relies on the Southeast Asia Development Program (SADP) to make grants on the foundation’s behalf.

International grants typically range from $100,000 to $450,000. Grantseekers can examine the foundation’s Grantee Database for a better grasp of the types of groups it funds. 

PEOPLE: 

  • Jane Maland Cady, Program Director, International
  • Megan Powers, Program Officer, International

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