Here's How Minnesota's Richest Man Gives Away Money In Education

Billionaire Whitney MacMillan was the last member of the Cargill family to run Cargill, which his great-grandfather founded in 1865 as a small grain storage company. These days Cargill is an agro-giant, and there are several Cargill family outfits engaged in philanthropy. Consider the late Margaret Cargill, and the work we've written about being done through Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

Related: Confused by Cargill? Join the Club, And Read This Primer

Then there's MacMillan, and his $4.7 billion, a net worth which makes him the richest individual in Minnesota. MacMillan has been involved in philanthropy for decades and his philanthropic vehicle, the WEM Foundation, focuses in on Minnesota, where the foundation holds interests in areas such as arts, environmental conservation, and education. The foundation has held more than $330 million in assets in a recent year and is one of the largest foundations in Minnesota.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the WEM Foundation doesn't appear to have a website, or a clear avenue for grantseekers to get in touch, but the foundation's education grantmaking is worth knowing about, particularly because of the money waiting in the wings. Here are a few must knows:

1. Supporting Charters and Education Advocacy Groups is a High Priority

Charters such as Hiawatha Academies in the Minneapolis region, and KIPP Stand Academy have been recently supported. Education advocacy groups such as MinnCAN ($50,000 in 2013), Education Transformation Initiative Fund, Educators 4 Excellence, Learning Alliance ($350,000 in 2013), Tregoe Education Forum, and Orono Alliance for Education have also received funds. It's worth noting that some of the money going to Orno Alliance has supported a K-5 literacy program, which is in line with many other funders in this space that recognize the importance of early literacy programs during those formative years. As well, the foundation has supported Charter School Partners which provides academic and financial technical support to improve charter school performance and advocates for high performing charters in Minnesota.

2. The Foundation Has Also Supported Teachers

WEM has paired with the Synergy & Leadership Exchange (Synergy), an education nonprofit in Minnesota to develop the WEM Oustanding Educator Awards Program. Educators, administrators and academic challenge coaches from Minnesota public or non-public schools and educational institutions are eligible. Each year a call for nominations is issued. State honorees receive an unrestricted $15,000 gift and regional honorees receive an unrestricted $1,500 gift.

3. Scholarships Are Also Of Interest

WEM has supported the DEALT Scholarship at Dartmouth College, though the exact nature of that scholarship is unclear. As well, a component of the foundation's philanthropy involves supporting schools and students abroad. Kingswood College in South Africa is the site of the MacMillan Scholarship & Telkom Students and sums have also supported St. Andrew's College and a scholarship at that college. 

Related: WEM Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education