Key Points

This case study challenges us to redefine our definitions of community and philanthropic practice as we tackle global climate change — one of the most Wicked Problems facing our planet and our people. Driven by a deep commitment to “walk the talk,” CEO Kate Wolford and McKnight Foundation leadership committed $100M of the foundation’s endowment to find solutions to global warming. This bold step required building a new type of partnership with McKnight’s team of financial advisors — Mellon Capital Management, Mercer, and Imprint Capital (now Goldman Sachs). McKnight and Mellon Capital had to build a new cross sector partnership that would change the roles of philanthropy and the private sector to develop new market-driven solutions — specifically, a Carbon Efficiency Strategy.

Using a Deliberate Leadership framework, the case follows the partners’ journey as they seek to build community and find collaborative solutions. We witness their tensions and evolution in their thinking and relationships.

While the case seems unusual, it is represents future trends in which impact investing is a drawing a new pool of funders — beyond traditional grantmakers — into innovative social change solutions to address global Wicked Problems. In addition, next-generation family funders are moving away from geography-based communities to issue-based communities.

Open Access