Kate Wolford

Former President at McKnight Foundation

Kate Wolford

Kate Wolford

Former President at 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.

Career Highlights

McKnight Foundation
Lutheran World Relief, Inc.

RelSci Relationships


Number of Boards


Contact Data
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Director at McKnight Foundation

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Secretary, Vice President, Finance & Compliance at McKnight Foundation

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Assistant Secretary & Director at McKnight Foundation

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Former Treasurer at McKnight Foundation

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Former Interim President at McKnight Foundation

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Assistant Treasurer at McKnight Foundation

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Former Athletic Director at Cornelius Boys and Girls Club

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Former Of Counsel at Dorsey & Whitney LLP

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Former General Counsel, Domestic Brokerage Group at AIG

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Partner at CNote Management Company

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In The News
Philanthropy News Digest
December 15, 2020
Tonya Allen selected to lead McKnight Foundation
St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)
December 14, 2020
McKnight Foundation taps Detroit children's advocate for president
Philanthropy News Digest
September 11, 2019
McKnight Foundation Announces Focus on Climate Solutions, Equity
Philanthropy News Digest
September 7, 2019
Jim Denomie Named 2019 McKnight Distinguished Artist
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
June 15, 2019
Xcel CEO: Climate change is bipartisan
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Kate Wolford
Former President at McKnight Foundation
B.A. in History

Gettysburg College has earned its strong academic reputation. Since its founding in 1832, the College has upheld a rigorous commitment to the liberal arts in all their breadth and depth. On a beautiful campus in a world-famous town, 2,600 students discover their intellectual passion through more than majors academic programs.


Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year liberal arts college. The College took its present name in 1867 from Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the American Colonies. The College offers 40 majors in the humanities, fine arts, social sciences and natural sciences, in addition to strong pre-professional programs in such areas as pre-health, pre-law, pre-theology, business and education.

M.A. in Religious Studies

The University of Chicago Divinity School is a graduate institution at the University of Chicago dedicated to the training of academics and clergy across religious boundaries. Formed under Baptist auspices, the school today lacks any sectarian affiliations. It is ranked number one in the field of the study of religion according to the National Research Council's measure of faculty quality in its survey of all doctoral granting programs in religious studies. Along with the departments of religious studies/religion at Harvard, Yale and Columbia University, it is responsible for training the majority of those appointed to tenure track positions in religious studies at American universities. The school offers courses leading to the Ph.D. in history of religions, anthropology and sociology of religion, religion and literature, history of Christianity, history of Judaism, Islamic studies, biblical studies, philosophy of religion, theology, religious ethics, and religion in America.

M.A. in Public Policy

The mission of Chicago Harris is to understand and influence public policies—both through research and by preparing talented individuals to become global leaders and agents of social change. A liaison between academic policy research and practitioners in the field, we equip students to make an impact on the problems facing people and institutions around the globe.

Career History
Prior - 2019

The McKnight Foundation operates as a philanthropic organization. Its services include grantmaking, coalition-building and encouragement of strategic policy reforms. The company was founded by William L. McKnight and Maude L. McKnight in 1953 and is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN

1991 - 2006

Lutheran World Relief, Inc. provides emergency and other services. The firm specializes in international development, disaster response, agricultural development, clean water and sanitation. The company was founded in 1945 and is headquartered in Baltimore, MD.

Boards & Committees

The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent charitable organization established by The McKnight Foundation to carry out the wishes of its founder, William L. McKnight (1887-1979). Currently, the Endowment Fund for Neuroscience administers three awards which support young and established neuroscientists and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration: Memory and Cognitive Disorders Awards Scholar Awards Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards

Member, Board of Directors

Mission: To serve our donors with integrity as together we change lives and spread joy by sharing our blessings with the world.

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