Carolyn Foundation



Minneapolis, MN

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $2,560,759
Expenses: $3,654,903
Assets: $35,761,702




Private Foundation


Leslyn Crosby

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The Carolyn Foundation is a family foundation run by the descendants of the sister of founder Carolyn McKnight Christian. The foundation supports nonprofits in Minneapolis, Minnesota and New Haven, Connecticut and statewide environmental grants in Minnesota.

Carolyn McKnight Christian

The Carolyn Foundation was created after the nieces and nephews of Carolyn McKnight Christian, a Minneapolis philanthropist who died childless, decided to create a foundation with their $4.5 million inheritance in 1964. 1 During her lifetime, Christian had been the first president of the Friends of the Institute, the volunteer organization supporting the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Her home is now the Hennepin House Museum, run by the Hennepin County Historical Society. 2

The foundation is run by the great-grandchildren of Christian’s sister, Harriett McKnight Crosby. These descendants say that because Christian left no instructions on her donor intent, they have “built the foundation on a long-standing family tradition of active community involvement and service.” 3

All of Crosby’s great-grandchildren, upon reaching age 18, become “Friends of the Foundation.”  These descendants, who numbered 175 in 2010, regularly hold retreats and education sessions, according to former board member Stewart Crosby, “so that the extended family can be engaged and connected to the foundation’s work.” 4 However, only the 13 members of the board have the right to approve grants. A 2011 analysis in Foundation Review stated that at the time the board decided to base 40 percent of its grants in Minneapolis and 25 percent in New Haven, Connecticut, because those were the two places where Carolyn McKnight Christian lived. 5

Response to George Floyd Protests

In 2020, after the death of George Floyd, Carolyn Foundation chair Leslyn Crosby issued a statement stating that the foundation stood “in solidarity with the protesters” of Floyd’s death “who are demanding action now and we stand against the institutionalized racism that has plagued our nation for far too long.” Crosby stated that the foundation would double its annual payout to 10 percent of its assets “and “invest in advocacy and systemic change so institutions no longer systematically and routinely advantage whites over people of color.’” 6


In 2021 the foundation made grants in five categories.  It granted $1.7 million to nonprofits in Minneapolis to aid individuals who couldn’t work because of COVID-19 and for extra equipment needed to operate classrooms, such as improved air-filtration systems and personal protective equipment for teachers. It donated $360,000 to aid middle schools in Minneapolis, $350,000 for youth organizations in New Haven, and $525,000 to groups in Minnesota dealing with climate change. The foundation said in New Haven it had reoriented its youth development grants to give more money to “BIPOC” (Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color) groups, “with unique program offerings and relationship with BIPOC youth.” It also said that its environmental grants in Minnesota said it would increase grants tin this category to “BIPOC and/or rural community members working to address climate issues within Minnesota and the Indigenous Nations sharing the same geography.” 7
Carolyn Foundation grantees in 2021 include the Archdiocese of Hartford branch of Catholic Charities ($15,000), Children’s Law Center of Minnesota ($35,000), Great Plains Institute ($15,000), Green New Deal Housing ($30,000), Institute for Local Self-Reliance ($30,000), Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy ($60,000), Minnesota Parent Union ($100,000), and Planned Parenthood of Southern New England ($30,000). 8


  1. “Carolyn Foundation—History,”  (accessed August 1, 2022)
  2. “Stepping Back:  The Frist Friends President,” (accessed August 1, 2022)
  3. “Carolyn Foundation—History,”  (accessed August 1, 2022)
  4. Christine Murakami Noonan, “Family Philanthropy:  Deepening Connections, Building Legacies, Strengthening Shared Values, Giving Forum, Minnesota Council on Foundations, Fall 2010
  5. Melissa A. McKittrick and Deborah Hirt, “Challenges and Strategies for Family Foundations with Geographically Dispersed Board Members, Foundation Review, 2011.
  6. “Carolyn Foundation Stands In Solidarity Against Institutionalized Racism,” statement by Carolyn Foundation chair Leslyn Crosby, )accessed August 1, 2022)
  7. “2021 Annual Report,  (accessed August 1, 2022)
  8. “Past Grants,” Carolyn Foundation, (accessed August 1, 2022).
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1965

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form PF $2,560,759 $3,654,903 $35,761,702 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2019 Dec Form PF $1,623,373 $2,213,476 $36,856,082 $236 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form PF $2,632,916 $2,084,375 $34,909,631 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $3,503,575 $2,077,756 $34,361,852 $762 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $3,167,784 $1,765,445 $32,965,271 $30,000 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $4,397,450 $1,800,231 $31,532,932 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $1,007,368 $1,706,170 $28,935,713 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Carolyn Foundation

    1330 Lagoon Avenue, Fourth Floor
    Minneapolis, MN