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Christy Morse Carries on Margaret Cargill’s Legacy

Christy Morse has devoted the latter portion of her career to carrying out the philanthropic wishes of Margaret Cargill, the granddaughter of the founder of Cargill Inc. and an intensely private and humble person. The heiress repeatedly told Morse, “I just have the money; I don't do the good work.”

“We personally connected before we actually got involved in any business or philanthropy discussions,” Morse recalls of her early relationship with Cargil. Morse’s role became formalized after Cargill’s passing in 2006, when Morse took on the role of CEO of Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies—comprised of the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, the Akaloa Resource Foundation, and Margaret A. Cargill (MAC) Foundation. Together, these three grantmaking organizations pursue a common vision: To provide meaningful assistance and support to society, the arts, the environment, and all living things.

Steered by her deep understanding of Cargill’s philanthropic philosophy, Morse guides MAC philanthropies’ approach to grantmaking so that attention stays on the grantees that are “doing the good work.” Included among Cargill’s values is the importance of candid grantor-grantee relationships. “Honest feedback going in both directions between funder and grantee is critical,” Morse says “to learn what really works.”

To support learning for the Foundation and its grantees, Morse has hired a Director of Evaluation to work closely with program officers. Morse wants measurement to be an early part of conversations with organizations; she reports that efforts such as developing measurement techniques to define success amid changing times represent a recent learning curve that has been both “very steep” and “wonderful.”

Although Morse invested a significant amount of time in helping Margaret Cargill communicate her donor intent before her passing, she is realistic about the difficulty of ensuring that Cargill’s core values outlast both Cargill and her own tenure. “I think that's the big challenge for us here—to create a culture and a group of people that can carry that on,” Morse says.

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