Though Constellation is months away from a full launch, our guess is that Dayton is already succeeding. Word that the 35-year-old son of Gov. Mark Dayton and grandson of the late department store executive Bruce Dayton is following their lead in community service is already warming Minnesota hearts. It’s gratifying to see the next generation of one of this state’s best-known families continue its commitment to this state.
It’s in keeping with the storied philanthropy of the old Dayton Company that Andrew Dayton is launching Constellation with a $1 million gift from his own funds and a promise to take no salary as the project’s CEO. Further, Dayton says, Constellation’s board will cover its overhead costs, so that gifts from other donors can be fully spent on anti-poverty work.
Meanwhile, Dayton’s meetings with nonprofit agencies on the front lines of anti-poverty work have likely already prompted some to think more deeply about how to demonstrate a return on donated “investments,” and how to increase it. And the buzz around Dayton’s plans may already have some givers thinking about how they can get more bang from their donated bucks. Constellation expects to begin accepting donations early next year.
More such salutary responses are bound to come in the spring as Constellation makes its pilot round of grants to nonprofit agencies, all chosen for their proven strong performances. That’s why this newcomer to the local philanthropic scene should be met with encouragement and cooperation from the veterans in the field. By bringing performance metrics to the fore, Constellation has the potential to boost the effectiveness of every local philanthropic player.
Whether that boost will be great or small is not clear. Constellation may discover that Minnesotans already direct the bulk of their donations to effective programs and that new money is hard to attract, even with the inducement of data-based results. But even that finding would be welcome as a spur to innovation.
As the Constellation website notes, Minnesotans are renowned for their generosity, yet the proportion of this region’s population that lives in poverty has risen 70 percent in the past two decades. Those facts point to a need for new approaches to the anti-poverty work performed by both the public and the philanthropic sectors. Constellation’s data analysis could guide both.
As former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak of the Minneapolis Foundation put it, “This community needs to continually disrupt conventional thinking for the sake of helping more people.” It speaks well of Dayton’s effort that Rybak has been an early adviser and booster.
It’s also worth noting that Dayton serves on the Minneapolis Foundation’s governing board. That tie should assuage any fear that the young entrepreneur and former aide to San Francisco’s mayor has returned to his hometown to supplant existing philanthropic efforts. He hopes to enhance them. If he also inspires more community stewardship from a new generation that’s accustomed to using predictive analytics to make financial decisions, more’s the better.
“This is where the puck is going” in philanthropy, Dayton told us. (We thought his dad would appreciate the metaphor.)