Kate Wolford

Kate Wolford

President, McKnight Foundation

Kate Wolford is president of the McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation that seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, collaboration, impact investing, and strategic policy reform.

Wolford has led the McKnight Foundation since 2006. During her tenure, she has spearheaded the development of the Foundation’s climate mitigation and sustainability efforts. She has also led its impact investing program, work that has included earmarking $200 million for higher impact investments, developing a new lower carbon investment product, and promoting impact investing as a tool for learning among grantmakers. Wolford has also embraced greater transparency to share what McKnight is learning with the broader philanthropic and civic sector.

In 2017, McKnight had assets of $2.3 billion and granted about $90 million in these areas: arts, education equity, Midwest climate and energy, Mississippi River water quality, the Minneapolis-St. Paul region and communities, agricultural research, and neuroscience research. Prior to joining McKnight, Wolford spent 13 years as president of Lutheran World Relief (LWR), a global grantmaking and policy advocacy organization.

Before that, she was program director for Latin America at LWR. Wolford has a BA in history from Gettysburg College, an MA in public policy from the University of Chicago, and an MA from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Wolford serves on the board of directors of Greater MSP, The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, and the Meridian Institute. She also serves on the Community Advisory Board for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute.

Putting it Together: What Effective Philanthropy Looks Like Right Now

Minneapolis Ballroom ABCD

A moment of political divisiveness and threats to democratic institutions requires philanthropy to be at its best. Drawing on CEP’s nearly 18 years of research and experience, a new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count lays out an argument about what is required for impact and about the need, once and for all, to reject the analogies to business that have framed so much guidance about philanthropy over the past two decades. This session will respond to the arguments made by the book’s author, Phil Buchanan, as a launching point to debate the elements of […]


Making Every Dollar Count: Impact Investing

Marquette Ballroom IX

Foundations and major donors are increasingly looking beyond traditional grantmaking and support for nonprofits to strategically deploy their assets in pursuit of impact. One such example is impact investing. What are the best approaches and current efforts worth emulating? What are the challenges and pitfalls of these efforts? This session will explore the notion that every investment has impact and feature a panel with foundation leaders and expert advisors. Sponsored by McKnight Foundation

Breakout session