Minnesota is the most charitable state in America. But despite our generosity, there are 650,000 residents of the Twin Cities living in poverty, a number that has risen by 60% over the past two decades. Our communities of color have borne the brunt of this trend: for example, you are nearly six times more likely to be poor in the Twin Cities if you are black than if you are white, the largest such disparity of any major metropolitan area in the country. This all adds up to a startling reality: one-in-five residents of the Twin Cities is currently living in poverty.
How can the country’s most generous state also be home to some of the country’s worst inequities? This startling juxtaposition compelled us to rethink our approach as a philanthropic community.
The philanthropic landscape is a marketplace of ideas filled with committed organizations offering many different types of poverty-fighting interventions. In the commercial world, the goods that sell in a market are sorted and ranked by the interaction of supply and demand, and with key indicators like profits and losses. In the philanthropic world, by contrast, competitive forces cannot be relied upon to select the interventions having the largest impacts. The task of sorting is left to the judgment of the funder. At Constellation, we believe that this judgment should be informed by the best possible information, and that smart philanthropy is kind philanthropy.
Here’s how we do it.