McKnight Foundation




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2019):

Revenue: $102,069,778
Expenses: $127,445,731
Assets: $2,552,879,588

Contact InfluenceWatch with suggested edits or tips for additional profiles.

The McKnight Foundation is a Minnesota-based foundation that funds many programs and organizations, including numerous left-of-center advocacy groups. Among the programs the foundation invests in are the arts, education, environmentalist programs, and international development. Most of the donations to domestic programs are towards programs and initiatives in the Midwest.


The McKnight Foundation is a foundation that funds numerous programs related towards the arts, sciences, and the environment. It is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has a strong Minnesota focus in its giving. The foundation was founded by William L. McKnight, a founder of the 3M Corporation, and his wife, Maude, in 1953. The foundation was endowed independently by the McKnights and has no direct ties to 3M. 1


Career left-of-center nonprofit operative Tonya Allen has led the McKnight Foundation since 2021. 2 Prior to joining McKnight, she led the Skillman Foundation. 3

Kate Wolford was president of the McKnight Foundation from 2006 through 2019. She previously worked as president of Lutheran World Relief for 13 years. 4 Wolford made $429,302 in salary and other compensation as president, according to the Foundation’s 2015 tax return. 5

Kara Carlisle works as vice president of programs. She has held that role since 2017. Before that she worked at the left-of-center W.K Kellogg Foundation, most recently as director of New Mexico programs. 6

Nichol Higdon is McKnight Foundation vice president for finance and operations. Prior to joining McKnight, she worked for various local YMCA organizations in leadership positions. 7

Elizabeth McGeveran has worked as McKnight’s director of investments since 2019. She has developed an impact investing program that the foundation asserts will achieve “net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its entire portfolio by or before 2050.” The foundation credits McGeveran with being “an early actor in developing environmental social and governance (ESG) approaches across the industry.” She is a member of the board of trustees of Boston Trust Walden, an ESG-aligned investment management firm. 8

Programs Funded

The McKnight Foundation’s primary focus is Minnesota and the Midwest United States. Much of its work is based on climate change and the environment. Wolford had praised Minnesota’s adoption of clean energy mandates. 9

The organization has shifted its investment portfolio. It has removed coal companies from most of its portfolios and shifted that investment into green energy companies. In 2014, it announced it would invest $200 million in green energy and other companies moving towards low-carbon technology. 10

It funds arts programs and offers fellowships to artists. It also offers financial support to education efforts in Minnesota. It supports agricultural programs around the world. It also offers an endowment to fight brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 11


According to its 2015 tax returns, McKnight Foundation spent $111 million on expenses and programs. It gave $81 million in grants. The foundation had $2.2 billion in assets. It received a $520,377 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 12

Among the grants the McKnight Foundation made to left-of-center organizations in 2015 were $150,000 to the Bipartisan Policy Center, $75,000 to the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation, $37,000 to the Center for Climate Strategies, $75,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund, $150,000 to the Environmental Working Group, $410,000 to the National Wildlife Federation, $300,000 to the Natural Resources Defense Council, $180,000 to the Sierra Club Foundation, $75,000 to Taxpayers For Common Sense, $50,000 to Teach For America, and $357,500 to the Trust for Public Land. 13

In the past, the foundation has supported the Tides Foundation, the Tides Center, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. 14


  1. McKnight Foundation. “Strategic Framework .” McKnight Foundation. Accessed April 27, 2022.
  2. “Tonya Allen.” McKnight Foundation, March 27, 2022.
  3. “Tonya Allen.” Skillman Foundation, February 15, 2021.
  4. “Kate Wolford Biography.” McKnight Foundation, February 18, 2021.
  5. The McKnight Foundation, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2015, Statement 17
  6. “Kara Inae Carlisle”. 2018. Mcknight Foundation.
  7. “Nichol Higdon.” McKnight Foundation, March 2, 2020.
  8. “Elizabeth McGeveran.” McKnight Foundation, October 15, 2021.
  9. Thiede, Dan. 2018. “Women In Energy: Kate Wolford With The Mcknight Foundation”. Cleanenergyresourceteams.Org.
  10. Beckstrom, Maja. 2016. “Focusing On Their Missions, Minnesota Charities Are Shifting Millions In Spending”. Twin Cities.
  11. “The Mcknight Endowment Fund For Neuroscience”. 2018. Mcknight Foundation.
  12. The McKnight Foundation, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2015, Statement 18
  13. The McKnight Foundation, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2015, Statement 18
  14. “Mcknight Foundation”. 2018. Activist Facts. Accessed October 6.

Donation Recipients

  1. 50CAN (Non-profit)
  2. Bipartisan Policy Center (Non-profit)
  3. BlueGreen Alliance Foundation (Non-profit)
  4. Brookings Institution (Non-profit)
  5. Center for Rural Affairs (Non-profit)
  6. Center for the Next Generation (Non-profit)
  7. ClimateWorks Foundation (Non-profit)
  8. Confluence Philanthropy (Non-profit)
  9. Conservation Minnesota (Non-profit)
  10. Conservative Energy Network (Non-profit)
  11. Ducks Unlimited (Non-profit)
  12. EarthRights International (ERI) (Non-profit)
  13. Energy Foundation (Non-profit)
  14. Environment America Research and Policy Center (Non-profit)
  15. Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) (Non-profit)
  16. Environmental Working Group (EWG) (Non-profit)
  17. Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities (Non-profit)
  18. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (Non-profit)
  19. Institute for Strategic and Equitable Development (Non-profit)
  20. Iowa Interfaith Power and Light (Non-profit)
  21. Iowa Policy Project (Non-profit)
  22. ISAIAH (Non-profit)
  23. Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (Non-profit)
  24. Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (Non-profit)
  25. Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (Non-profit)
  26. Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) (Non-profit)
  27. National Audubon Society (Non-profit)
  28. National Wildlife Federation (Non-profit)
  29. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) (Non-profit)
  30. New America (New America Foundation) (Non-profit)
  31. New Venture Fund (NVF) (Non-profit)
  32. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Non-profit)
  33. Rockefeller Family Fund (Non-profit)
  34. Smart Growth America (Non-profit)
  35. Taxpayers for Common Sense (Non-profit)
  36. Transit for Livable Communities (Move Minnesota) (Non-profit)
  37. World Resources Institute (WRI) (Non-profit)
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1994

  • 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
    2019 Dec Form PF $102,069,778 $127,445,731 $2,552,879,588 $157,950,271 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2015 Dec Form PF $149,898,625 $111,372,797 $2,199,921,758 $157,943,372 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $190,873,531 $94,932,327 $2,262,928,471 $142,059,010 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $198,507,550 $137,763,820 $2,239,101,299 $185,351,599 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $113,171,591 $82,175,813 $2,063,472,860 $202,520,275 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $108,091,343 $105,982,066 $1,982,175,198 $263,456,392 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    McKnight Foundation

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55401-2282