David Nicholson

Vibrant & Equitable Communities Program Director, McKnight Foundation

David Nicholson joined McKnight in September 2020 as Vibrant & Equitable Communities (V&EC) program director. The V&EC program aims to build a vibrant future for all Minnesotans with shared power, prosperity, and participation.

Over the past three decades, Nicholson has worked to create systemic change through community leadership and grassroots movement building. He has served in leadership roles in a number of nonprofit and collaborative philanthropy settings.

As executive director for Headwaters Foundation for Justice, Minnesota’s premier social justice community foundation, he focused on building people-powered democracy and finding points of intersection between different groups and interests. He introduced the Giving Project into Minnesota, an innovative philanthropic model that brings multiracial, cross-class groups of people together to participate in community-centered grantmaking.

Earlier in his career, Nicholson served as director of programs at the Ain Dah Yung (Our Home) Center, a culture-based resource center serving Native families and youth. He also spent five years crafting policies in state government as director of the Children’s Trust Fund, a program that partners with local communities to end child abuse.

Nicholson has served on nonprofit boards for more than 20 years, 10 of them in board leadership roles. He has also served on national philanthropic boards, most notably for the former Funding Exchange, a national collaborative of 17 social justice foundations.


Voices from the Field

Making Systems Changes for Equity: A Conversation with McKnight’s David Nicholson

Posted on March 2, 2021 by David Nicholson

Courtesy of the McKnight Foundation The McKnight Foundation has implemented a new program devoted to equity and inclusion in our state. David Nicholson, program director of the Vibrant & Equitable Communities program, shares how that team is thinking about systems change and what they’ve learned so far. Q: As a family philanthropy, how do you see your role in moving… Read More