Fast Forward

Fast Forward is the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s (MCF) audio program that features conversations with big thinkers in the field of philanthropy. Through these interviews, listeners learn about the latest trends in Minnesota grantmaking, gain insights on strategies behind important philanthropic efforts, learn about new resources from their peers, and come away inspired with ideas and approaches they can take back to your organization.
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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 19, 2016

"Some foundations deal with disruptions well and some don't."

Bruce Thao talks about coming into F.R. Bigelow and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners as a Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow. He shares his excitement about the new Linking Leaders initiative, talks about building relationships with his cohort of fellows and with his philanthropic colleagues. Bruce also shares thoughts on the state of philanthropy under a new federal administration and the importance of having genuine relationships within the communities you're trying to build and work beside.


As a Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellow through the Minnesota Council on Foundations, Bruce serves as a Program Associate at the F. R. Bigelow Foundation.

At the Foundation, Bruce directs leadership initiatives for communities of color in Saint Paul's East Metro area, spearheads funding initiatives to support innovation in leadership development, and supports the Foundation’s grantmaking to address a variety of human service and capacity needs.

Bruce holds a master's in psychology from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as well as a master's in social welfare from the University of Chicago.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Bruce founded his own consulting business, providing leadership coaching and diversity training to individuals and institutions, and served as Director of Programs for Hmong American Partnership and Hmong National Development. Bruce was also a 2013 Bush Leadership Fellow and a 2014 White House Champion of Change. 

He was selected as 2016 “Young Professional of the Year” by the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. Bruce is also a Board Member of the St. Paul Children’s Collaborative. 

Outside of work, Bruce enjoys running, tennis, meditation and traveling.

Email  or call 651.325.4268

Dec 14, 2016

On this episode, Katie Troyer talks about working on an international team connecting employees with their own personal philanthropic goals and she talks about the relationship she shares with her fellow Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows

Katie Troyer is an Employee Engagement Associate with the Medtronic foundation and part of the 2016 cohort of Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows. Katie has dedicated her career to connecting community members with resources and opportunities. Prior to joining the Medtronic foundation, Katie served as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Governor Mark Dayton. In this role, she worked to develop and implement strategies for Minnesotans from communities of color, the LGBTQ community, and the disabilities community to gain employment, contracting, and engagement opportunities within state government and to create an organizational environment of inclusivity. Previous to this role, Katie worked with adults with developmental disabilities to provide support of their personal growth and success.

Dec 6, 2016

On this episode, Sonja Moore talks about the Grotto Foundation’s ongoing strategic planning process, rethinking program focus and having realistic conversations about equity in philanthropy.

Sonja Moore became the Grotto Foundation’s fourth Executive Director in 2014. Previously, she served as Director of Partner Relations at MN Philanthropy Partners, helping fund holders at The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation achieve their philanthropic goals. Sonja also has nearly a decade of fundraising experience working for Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota and the Blake School in Hopkins. Earlier in her career, she was an educator, teaching both Spanish and English to a multitude of age groups ranging from preschool children in a bilingual elementary school to octogenarians at a Community College. She received her Bachelor of Arts in international relations from The American University in Washington, D.C. She also received a Master of Arts in education from Chapman University.

Sonja can be reached at 651-209-8011 or

Aug 15, 2016

The Bush Foundation is accepting applications for the 2017 Bush Fellowship from August 30 through September 29, 2016, so Bush Leadership Programs director Anita Patel sat down with MCF to talk about the goals of the program, share ideas on how to approach applying for the fellowship and discuss the work that's been coming from current and past fellows. As Leadership Programs director, Patel works with a team to equip, inspire and connect leaders to strengthen our region. As someone who grew up in greater Minnesota and went to high school in Granite Falls (Archibald Bush’s hometown), Patel believes in the talent that lives across the Bush Foundation region and is excited to invest in the success of our communities.

Aug 10, 2016

“We’re going to stay here. But we want to get bigger impact.” On this episode of Fast Forward, Tawanna Black talks about what it takes to build a partnership with the public sector like she has done between the Northside Funders Group and the City of Minneapolis. She discusses how to get at changing the way philanthropy works inside public sector institutions beyond policy change but also helping reshape their grantmaking. She shares the four levers of the work of the Northside Funders Group, dives into the very real challenges of sustainability and speaks openly about how to keep fear of failing from preventing risk taking. Tawanna is the executive director for the Northside Funders Group, a collaborative of 19 corporate, community and private foundations and public sector investors committed to aligning investments to catalyze comprehensive, sustainable change in North Minneapolis.

Jul 29, 2016

“Trying to put band aids on things will never work," says John Schwartz, director and founder of the Voqal Companies. Here Schwartz talks about the work of Voqal to address the “Homework Gap.” He also addresses civic engagement and why political change is vital in making sure everyone has access to good schooling. A public media advocate for 40 years, Schwartz has founded community radio and television stations and brought wireless broadband services to cities throughout the U.S. In 1983, he started what is now called Voqal—five nonprofit organizations that have licenses in the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) band. Using the organizations’ spectrum, commercial operator Clearwire (a Sprint subsidiary) delivers 4G wireless broadband to most major U.S. cities. In exchange for use of the spectrum, Clearwire provides Voqal with royalties, which they allocate to their operations and grantmaking efforts. 

Jul 11, 2016

“There are aggressive attacks on voting rights that we did not see in the 1990s," says Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project. Dianis has an extensive background in civil rights litigation and advocacy in the areas of voting, education, housing and employment. She has protected the rights of people of color in the midst of some of the greatest civil rights crises of our modern times, including in Florida after the 2000 election and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In this episode, she talks about voting rights today and why she believes the trend of making it harder to vote is something that will continue. She discusses her work on the ground in Florida during the 2000 election, what that tells us about today and how she started a voting protection program as a result. She also covers communities’ relationships to voter rights laws and shares opinions on potential structural change to voting in the U.S.

Jun 24, 2016

Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at both The Century Foundation and American Progress. He is also co-director of States of Change: Demographics and Democracy project, a collaboration that brings together American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute and demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including America’s New Swing Region: Changing Politics and Demographics in the Mountain West; Red, Blue and Purple America: The Future of Election Demographics; The Emerging Democratic Majority; America’s Forgotten Majority: Why the White Working Class Still Matters; and The Disappearing American Voter, as well as hundreds of articles, both scholarly and popular.

Jun 8, 2016

“Impact investing is a practice and it’s something you get better at or you get more comfortable with," says Elizabeth McGeveran who joined The McKnight Foundation in 2014 as director of impact investing. She is responsible for the foundation’s $200 million investment in businesses and funds that are building the low-carbon economy, improving the water quality of the Mississippi River and contributing to a thriving, sustainable Minnesota. This portfolio represents 10 percent of the foundation’s $2 billion endowment. McGeveran also provides environmental, social and governance expertise and evaluation across the entire endowment. On this episode, McGeveran talks about how the foundation looked at ways to leverage its assets and came to view its endowment's market earnings as an underused resource. She talks about the process the board went through to assess potential shifts in alignment, describes the Midwest Climate and Energy Program and the Carbon Efficiency Fund.

May 31, 2016

Susan Voigt is program manager at the Medica Foundation. Before joining Medica, she was employed by several nonprofits, start-ups and IBM. As someone who has been on the grantee end of incorporating evaluation into the work and is now on the funder side, Voigt has real insights about how evaluation tools can and should be used as tools for learning rather than just accountability. In this episode, she also talks about common shared metrics as a big picture idea and explains the idea of field of practice evaluation.

May 20, 2016

"We're trying to get the funding closest to the people who are most impacted by these social and economic issues," says Carolyn Link, executive director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation. In her role, Link oversees all operations and strategic direction for the foundation. On this episode, she talks about changes to a grant application process and how it can alter who you're welcoming in, and how funder/fundee collaborations are perceived. 

Apr 26, 2016

With decades of experience in the civic sector, Marcia Ballinger and Lars Leafblad work with foundations, nonprofits and institutions of higher education to help them make important decisions about leadership hires. In this episode of the podcast, Ballinger and Leafblad talk about what organizations must think about when recruiting new leadership and how they can include stakeholders.

Mar 18, 2016

“One of the best signs of a financially healthy nonprofit is a nonprofit that ends its operating year with a surplus," says Kate Barr, executive director of Nonprofits Assistance Fund. Barr has been making meaning out of financial information and strategies for decades, with stints as an arts administrator and a bank executive. Her goal is “to help people connect the dots between mission and business model.” In this episode, Barr talks about how funders consider which organizations they elect to collaborate with or support. She also explains the challenges of a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating whether an organization qualifies for funding, and she breaks down the idea of core mission support.

Mar 2, 2016

Bush Foundation communications director Dominick Washington joins us to explain what he calls “Whole Pig” philanthropy, a way of trying to have an impact at every level and part of an organization. He also talks about how his political and nonprofit background informs his philanthropic work and the ways he thinks about partnerships and cross-sector relationships. He also covers the use of budgetary systems as models for other operations and how to encourage a culture of collaboration within an organization.

Feb 11, 2016

MCF President Trista Harris shares her take-aways from a training at the Institute for the Future and provides a look at where philanthropy is headed. She also talks about what hover boards mean to philanthropy.

Feb 5, 2016

Ho Nguyen is a program officer at PFund Foundation. Formerly, she was the grassroots advocacy coordinator with Pro-Choice Resources, and she has been actively engaged in anti-racist work and social justice strategies for over a decade. Her background is in housing, homelessness, poverty, and ensuring that all people and families have access to safe and affordable housing. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the MN Coalition for the Homeless.

Jan 14, 2016

Leah Goldstein Moses founded The Improve Group in 2000 with a vision to improve programs and organizations that impact the world. In this conversation, we talk with Moses and The Improve Group’s research and evaluation director Jennifer Obinna about how grantmakers can and should be using evaluation in their work. They address best practices in evaluation, the importance of thinking through how evaluation aligns with your identity as a foundation, building evaluation capacity, how to decide when to bring in outside help for evaluation and what to do with evaluation data once you’ve captured it. They also talk about setting realistic expectation for the outcomes of investing in evaluation and share why they are personally passionate about their work.