Does McKnight Have a Parks Program?

The Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation (see IP’s Profile) has recently approved $850,000 for two parks-related projects. Parks funding isn't one of the foundation's main grant programs; its environmental work tends toward protecting the Mississippi River or improving climate and energy programs in the Midwest. However, every now and then the foundation will pour money into improving Minnesota's green space. In the first quarter of 2014, the foundation spent nearly as much on greening urban areas as it did in its traditional environmental programs.

The recipients of McKnight’s 2014 parks funding will be the Minneapolis Parks Foundation ($150,000 to strengthen organizational capacity) and The Trust for Public Land ($700,000 to advance economic competitiveness through urban parks). Both grants will be funded not through the foundation’s environmental programs, but rather its “Region & Communities” program. This program does not mention parks under its program strategies, favoring affordable housing strategies and economically vibrant neighborhoods. The program does, however, mention sustainable regional development as a goal, which includes “environmentally sound” strategies.

The McKnight Foundation’s funding toward parks early on in 2014 is impressive, especially when compared to what it spent on the Mississippi River. In the first quarter of 2014, the Foundation spent $850,000 in its Mississippi River sub-program, granting $20,000 to $220,000 to eleven organizations. So far this year, the Midwest Climate & Energy program has received $40,000 for one grant.

Giving to parks is not a new development. The Trust for Public Land has received large grants every few years since 2004, including: $500,000 in 2004 for land acquisition; $375,000 in 2006 and $750,000 in 2007 for the Embrace Open Space program; $700,000 in 2010 for the Twin Cities' Parks for People program; and $700,000 in 2012 to promote open space as a part of urban development. 

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation received $75,000 in 2012 and $50,000 in 2010 and again in 2011. Other recipients in the past have included the All Parks Alliance for Change (most recently $40,000 in 2011 for general operating support), the City of St. Paul ($150,000 in 2007 for their Parks Conservancy), and the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota for land acquisition, especially along the Mississippi River watershed.

The McKnight Foundation may not have a dedicated parks sub-program, but they seem keenly interested in greening urban spaces. Although the McKnight Foundation appears to have its favorite organizations when giving for parks, other nonprofits shouldn’t be discouraged. The McKnight Foundation’s “Region & Communities” program is open to giving to parks.