Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Salvation Army Florida hosts Knight volunteers

March 27, 2013, 2:29 p.m., Posted by Lauren Rothstein

I had a chance last week, along with a dozen of my Knight Foundation colleagues, to volunteer at the Salvation Army in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood. The center houses as many as 400 residents every night.

Miami is one of the communities where Knight invests and our Miami Program Director, Matt Haggman, was on hand to help prepare and serve lunch to residents and guests. Knight has previously supported the Salvation Army for post-Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Harrison County, Miss. and for a child literacy program in Lexington, Ky.

Sharing oral histories from Minnesota's immigrant population

March 27, 2013, 12:52 p.m., Posted by Annie Schutte

The following is part of a series that looks at The Digital Public Library of America  - the first national effort to aggregate existing records in state and regional digital libraries so that they are searchable from a single portal. It is written by Annie Schutte, a librarian, teacher and consultant for Knight Foundation.

The Minnesota Digital Library currently serves as a hub for more than 150 libraries and cultural heritage organizations around the state, and aspires to "expand that dramatically" working with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Associate University Librarian at the University of Minnesota and service hub Director John Butler describes the Minnesota Digital Library' s current partners as spanning "from academia to Main Street." He is particularly interested in trying to partner with urban community groups to reach into new content areas, such as bringing oral histories from Minnesota's immigrant and refugee population including the Hmong and Somali communities, into the archive.

The Minnesota Digital Library first online exhibit for the DPLA will showcase its impressive collections of images and documents from its Native American cultures and populations. But the collaboration will, as a whole, bring a wealth of diverse materials to DPLA—more than 130,000 items spanning topics as far ranging as Vaudeville, ice palaces and the historic Twin Cities’ streetcars.

In this interview, Butler talks about the DPLA's data-related challenges in this massive undertaking, such as record duplication and record disparities. But more importantly, he speaks of the immense possibilities this data aggregation presents for understanding our cultural history; and the way that DPLA could change how to do research.

Could you tell me about your organization and how you became involved with the Digital Public Library of America?

J.B: My affiliation with the DPLA primarily comes through the Minnesota Digital Library, which is a statewide collaboration consisting of Minitex, a library resource-sharing network in our region (Minnesota and the Dakotas), the University of MinnesotaMinnesota Historical Society, and other key institutions large and small throughout the state of Minnesota, such as academic and public libraries, art and historical museums, clubs, and others. We have numerous religious and non-profit organizations, genealogists, history hobbyists—spanning academia down to Main Street. The participating organizations are represented in the management and advisory functions at the Minnesota Digital Library, as well as in the collections that we have built over the past eight or so years.

I think it was the Minnesota Digital Library’s tremendous diversity and sheer number of contributors that attracted DPLA’s interest in our prospects as an initial participant. We have over 150 content contributors to Minnesota Digital Library that on Day One of DPLA launch will be represented at the national level, and by means of the project, we hope to expand the number of contributors dramatically.

Could you tell me about the types of contributors you're looking to reach out to?

Webinar: Best practices for funders in financial oversight

March 26, 2013, 10:51 a.m., Posted by Juan J. Martinez


Archive: GEM Webinar (39 min., archived event)

Financial Oversight Lessons about Grant Expenditure Monitoring

At Knight Foundation, we value working with grantees who are willing to take big risks and experiment in smart, well thought out ways. Equally as valuable to us are the tools that help effectively manage and evaluate the impact of those risks on the implementation of grants. That’s why in 2006, when the foundation had distributed nearly $1 billion and was supporting increasingly complex, multi-year grants, Knight began to develop a tool for real-time expenditure monitoring called the Grant Expenditure Monitoring Guide (GEM).

Now, we are eager to share the GEM tool in an April 5 webinar, where funders can learn how to improve fiscal oversight and strengthen relationships with grantees.

The foundation started the GEM program in collaboration with specialists at accounting firm KPMG. In the last five years, KPMG has reviewed more than 230 grants valued at over $482 million. As a result, we've helped recover $8.2 million, funds grantees were able to use toward their original objectives. 

How GEM Program has evolved

At the start of the program, the GEM review was done on any new grant over $1 million. Those reviews were mainly “one-size-fits-all” solutions where a team from KPMG visited the grantee’s offices to review their books and records.

In 2011, Knight conducted independent assessments on the impact and operations of the GEM program. Based on the feedback we received from grantees and staff as well as the evaluators, Knight now uses a risk-based approach. The program starts with program staff completing an assessment of business risks during the development of a grant. This review follows a standard form that assigns a risk score to a number of factors.

We see the risk scoring sheet as a tool to assist program staff in standardizing how they analyze the implementation risk of a grant. Since it is shared on Knight’s internal grant management system, it also allows other staff with similar grants to learn from another program director’s analysis. The results of completing the sheet are two-fold: we get a quantified risk score and a thoughtful and documented analysis of implementation risk.

We’ve designed the form to be relatively short (less than 20 questions) and simple to complete (taking about 15 minutes) in order to reduce the administrative burden on staff.

Based on the risk score and program staff’s judgment, one of three types of GEMs can be scheduled: