Fourth Generation Fund: A new generation of Minnesota philanthropists


“We are philanthropists at the grass roots level,” said Joe Mosher, chair of the advisory board of Fourth Generation Fund. “Typically when I think about a philanthropist, I picture an old grey-haired retired person with a lot of money, or an inheritance, writing large sum checks to a big organization.” Mosher and his colleagues don’t fit the stereotype.

Joe Mosher is a process improvement project leader at Cargill in his mid-30s and has been an active member of Fourth Generation since 2009, when a friend invited him to join.  Being a part of this organization has given him the opportunity to develop and utilize professional skills that are not a part of his job duties at Cargill, such as developing and executing fundraising and recruitment events.

“I’ve been able to connect with like-minded professionals and learn about what is going on in my community,” said Mosher. Since being a board member, Mosher has also brought his prior knowledge of root cause analysis methods to the group to assist them in decision processes.

The members of the Fourth Generation Fund are professionals in their mid-20s and 30s from companies such as Cargill, Target, and Thrivent Financial, and others. They aim to give more than a check, and gain more than a tax-write off.  Fourth Generation is philanthropy combined with education, volunteering, networking and professional leadership development.  Members play an active role in deciding how and where their funds are used.  

“We are so close to the issue,” said Mosher, “and very hands-on in making sure the changes we fund create lasting impact.”

Each year the group focuses on a single issue affecting our community and invites ten local non-profit organizations to apply for grants.  After reviewing the applications, they then narrow it down to five organizations, which get site visits.  Members of Fourth Generation Fund then vote for winners.   

“After the site visits, there is not one organization that I wouldn’t want my money going to,” said Mosher.

In previous years, they have focused on issues such as financial literacy and healthcare access. This year the group’s focus was on youth homelessness. In May, they awarded a total of $17,000 to two organization, Face to Face in St. Paul, and Full Cycle in Minneapolis.  

Face to Face is a one-stop shop for homeless youth,” said Robyn Schein of the Minneapolis Foundation. “The money awarded to them this year will go to assist with the transportation costs of homeless youth looking for a job, finding housing, getting an high school diploma or GED and securing important documents such as their birth certificate or social security card, which is not easy when you are homeless or in an unstable living environment.”

Full Cycle was awarded money to grow their unique program. They offer a paid internship to at-risk or homeless youth where participants spend three months in class learning business and job skills, and then another three months working directly with customers in the bike shop servicing, refurbishing and selling bikes. All proceeds from the quality bikes sold or serviced at the shop go directly back into the internship program.

Fourth Generation Fund has been making grants to non-profits in the metro area since 1998, said Mosher. He explained that the fund, formerly known as Community Capital Alliance was originally started by a group of General Mills employees. In September of 2010, they became a program of the Minneapolis Foundation after outgrowing their home of eleven years within the General Mills Foundation as a start-up non-profit.  As a part of the Minneapolis Foundation, their donor funds are matched up to two-to-one, and they can do even more. However, their mission has remained the same: to develop young professionals as leaders through engaged philanthropy.