January 23, 2011; Source: Star-Tribune | The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation is on its way to becoming one of the nation's largest foundations. The Minneapolis-based grantmaker will benefit from a deal agreed to last week under which shares it owns in the privately held food and agriculture giant, Cargill Inc., are being swapped for publicly traded stock in Mosaic, a local fertilizer maker.

According to the Star-Tribune, that move will provide the foundation with about $4 billion, making it "one of the nation's 15 biggest foundations by assets and makes it at least twice the size of Minnesota's next-largest foundation, the McKnight Foundation."

Although Cargill died in 2006, the foundation has not been able to tap into the value of her stock holdings in the private company started by her grandfather. The stock swap, and ability to convert its holdings to cash, will finally answer a question on the minds of many for years, says foundation spokesperson Sallie Gaines: "'When can we actually start making grants? Just knowing we will be able to burst forth from the starting line is really exciting."

As excited as the foundation is over the prospects of making grants, so are potential beneficiaries. "People have been waiting with great anticipation," said Kate Barr, executive director of the Nonprofit Assistance Fund of Minneapolis. "There's been a sense of, 'Come on. There are so many needs in the community. This is an opportune time for some bold new leadership."

The foundation will initially focus on three areas: the environment, arts and culture, and international relief, recovery and development.—Bruce Trachtenberg