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Endowing A Legacy

How the Minneapolis Parks Foundation Partnered with us to steward their endowment


For 140 years, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board has been providing Minnesotans with some of the country’s best parks—luscious greenery, glistening rivers, lakes and creeks, along with greenways and walk trails that have inspired others to invest in nature’s beauty.

One of the ways the parks can remain viable for generations to come is by making a plan for ongoing financial stability. To do this, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation (MPF) entrusted the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation with their endowment late last year, in an effort to continue the great legacy of the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board.

Since its inception in 2003, MPF has made it their mission to work with the community to bring about a more prosperous and equitable park system for all. Their foundation’s work is built on making sure that the Minneapolis Parks remain one of the top listed in the country, providing an abundance of healthy and safe places to those who visit.

“They are an organization that understands that they're built on a legacy already,” said Elizabeth "Beth" McCray, gift planner for the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. “The city planners in Minneapolis were in the forefront in creating the Minneapolis Parks system. The organization itself has inherited a legacy, so they understand the power of pushing it forward and giving back to community.”

Nonprofit endowment sustains parks

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation offers an investment tool called a nonprofit endowment to provide organizations like MPF with continual income. Beth and her colleague Mariah Brook, a gift planner, work with nonprofit fundholders to establish, build and grow the funds. With an endowment, organizations are able to offer a planned giving option to donors to extend the donor’s legacy beyond their lifetime.

Funds generated by the endowment will support some of the parks’ biggest projects.

MPF is currently working on a project called River First, near the end of the Stone Arch Bridge and the Great Northern Greenway in North Minneapolis, where these funds will be useful in supporting their goal of making sure Minneapolis Parks are plentiful and equitable. In their work, MPF supports the parks by reclaiming nature—taking areas once owned by public industry, such as the mills near the Mississippi River downtown, and converting them into parkland.

“We realize that parks are great equalizers and they're available for everyone. We want to make sure that they have the resources that they need to meet the community's needs,” said Jennifer Downham, chief development officer with MPF. “There are a lot of ways parks enhance the community, and we want to make sure that they're sustainable, so that they don't fall into disrepair and that they continue to meet the ever-changing needs of our society.”

Tailoring the plan to MPF

Jennifer has been working to add endowments to MPF’s planned giving options for the past four years, and is excited to work with the Foundation to offer this option to trusted Minneapolis Parks supporters.

“We were really impressed by the expertise and the desire to help small nonprofits succeed in growing their endowments,” said Jennifer. “It was not an easy decision to go to that side of the river, but it made a lot of sense in terms of the Foundation's expertise … and the services they provide small nonprofits … we were really excited to be able to start an endowment with the Foundation.”

To establish MPF’s endowment, the Foundation gift planning team worked closely with Jennifer to develop a personalized plan tailored to MPF, providing tools and strategies specifically designed for their goals and the capacity of their team.

“Now we have the ability to work with an individual who may or may not have capacity right now, but will after they are gone,” said Jennifer.

The MPF endowment is one of nearly 400 endowment funds managed by the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

“Every nonprofit has different needs,” added Beth. “For some it’s as basic as us having a conversation with their leadership team or their board of directors to say, ‘This is what planned giving is, this is the power of endowment;’ all the way up to planning a two-year strategy with an organization as to how they can implement planned giving. We’re endowing legacy.”

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