Mark Lindberg, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation

TITLE: Director, Relief, Recovery and Development

FUNDING AREAS: Domestic and international relief work

CONTACT: MLindberg@macphil.org, 952-540-4050

IP TAKE: Cargill and Lindberg are still figuring out how to tap one of the largest endowments in America to advance work dear to Margaret Cargill's heart.

PROFILE: When the late Margaret Cargill's assets were finally liquidated in 2011, the news rippled through philanthropic circles quickly. Not only because the amount of her initial bequest was staggering at $1.8 billion, but also because the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies' trustees were able to exchange Cargill Incorporated stock owned by Ms. Cargill for stock in Mosaic, a publicly traded company. What happened next was that a $1.8 billion bequest turned into a $6 billion bequest. We're giving you this backstory because Cargill is now one of the largest foundations in the country, following on the heels of philanthropic giants like the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller.

Disaster relief was one of Ms. Cargill's top philanthropic concerns while she was alive. The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation's Relief, Recovery and Development (RRD) Program is still a work in progress, but it's safe to say that Program Director Mark Lindberg and his team are hard at work getting the program out of development and fully operational, because the foundation's singular goal is to honor the wishes of Ms. Cargill. We can expect the RRD program to be a huge funder in disaster relief efforts around the world when it becomes fully operational.

Before embarking on a career in philanthropy, Lindberg earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota, his JD from the William Mitchell College of Law, and his master's in public administration from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also served as a Shriver Peaceworker Fellow.

After satisfying his academic goals, Lindberg spent nearly a decade at the Otto Bremer Foundation as a senior program officer before accepting a position at the Medtronic Foundation as director of operations and international programs. Lindberg's duties, among a whole host of other responsibilities, included overseeing the program's $26 million budget.

Lindberg also sits on the board of the American Refugee Committee, the Advocates for Human Rights, and the Minnesota Council on Foundations. With his past experience and his current board duties, it seems safe to assume that the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation wants a strong international focus when its RRD program becomes fully operational.

We all know the government's role and involvement when it comes to disaster relief and recovery. It's a pretty big one no doubt. Given the financial disarray of the current federal budget, not to mention budget cuts, spending, and other fiscal policy fodder that we care not to dive into, philanthropy and policy making are linked—whether they want to be or not. While at Bremer, Lindberg stated:

Many foundations have adopted policies, informally or formally, that essentially declare that they will not try to step in or make up where public funding is short. At the Otto Bremer Foundation, we continue to review each proposal on its own merits, but our trustees have indicated a preference for not providing funding merely to meet shortages arising from budget cuts.

So, does this mean that Lindberg plans to award RRD grants only when budget shortages don't arise? Well, no. Budget shortages will always exist, and often become particularly prevalent during the unfortunate times of disaster. However, grantees shouldn't focus on budget cuts in their LOIs as a reason for needing grant money. Lindberg is already aware of the shortages, and restating them won't likely induce him to open up the Cargill coffers. Grantees should instead focus on what Lindberg likes to see—the merits of the work they are conducting.

In a 2014 interview, Lindberg articulated the RRD program's emerging focus even further:

"The program actually covers relief-related work but it also covers recovery work and longer term work as well and resiliency building. So, it’s a nice mixture of things that we support through the work. It focuses on natural disasters rather than man-made circumstances which typically come up in the developing world in different places. We’re really interested in lower-attention events. The circumstances that tend not to attract as much media attention also don’t attract so much philanthropic support. So we tend to be in places that just have fewer donors in place as well."

The RRD program has both a national and international focus and right now, with two-thirds of its granting funds going to the latter.  But they do take pride in their specifically-focused nationally programming, which they call "subprogram," including one for Midwest Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Recovery.

Cargill does not accept unsolicited LOIs or grant requests. The trustees and staff are responsible for seeking out possible grantees. With so many organizations with their eye on Cargill's money, you had best put everything you've got and then some into getting noticed by Lindberg and other Cargill leadership. 

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