Learning Communities

CMF’s Learning Communities are opportunities for members to come together to learn, explore or test ideas around a specific topic or project.  

Learning communities can be short-term or long-term, depending on the needs of the members or duration of the project. Interested in joining a CMF learning community? Looking to form a new learning community? Contact Andrea Judd-Shurmur, Director, Learning Services.

Each Learning Community also has an associated Online Community that CMF members can join and communicate with colleagues.



The Green and Blue Network is an action-oriented learning community comprised of all CMF foundation member types. Members come together to learn from experts and each other about leading environmental issues and how to make more effective and intentional environmental grants, impact environmental policy and leverage grant dollars.

By bringing like-minded people and organizations together to learn and network, the group believes that funders will find it easier to work together and make grants together for greater impact than they could achieve by working independently.

  • Purpose

    The purpose of the Council of Michigan Foundations' Green and Blue Learning Community is for CMF members and philanthropists to come together to learn from experts and each other about leading environmental issues and how to make more effective and intentional environmental grants, impact environmental policy and leverage grant dollars. Environment is defined broadly recognizing that a sustainable environment will require complex and interrelated systems, organizations, and geographies to work together.

    The underlying assumption for this affinity group is that foundations can have a larger impact working together to make change than they can on their own. The Green & Blue Network will help its members understand the underlying issues, best practices, and the public policy required to effect change. It also serves as a model of collaboration, bringing together like-minded foundations to get to know each other, establish trust and common goals which will foster collaboration and learning together. It will serve as a source of funding opportunities for its members and attendees as well as a conduit for its members to get involved in other state and regional affinity groups and collaboratives such as the Healing Our Waters Coalition, Michigan Land Use Funders, Great Lakes Funders and Environmental Grantmakers Association.

  • Meetings

    The Green & Blue Network generally meets three or four times a year:

    • - A summer meeting that will include a field experience
    • - A winter meeting that is more of an educational and networking meeting and may not include a field experience
    • - A meeting in conjunction with CMF’s Annual Conference in the fall
    • - When needed, meetings with legislators or state officials to help our members learn about new or changed state programs and policies.
    • - Meetings generally will include presentations from one or more environmental experts and may also include discussions about lessons learned, policy implications, volunteer and grantmaking opportunities and personal reflections.
  • Leadership

    Green and Blue Network Co-chairs: Tom Cook, executive director, Cook Family Foundation and director of the Nature Conservancy, Michigan; and Tom Porter, president, Porter Family Foundation.

  • Green and Blue Action Fund

    The Green and Blue Network Action Fund provides a pooled funding vehicle for foundations interested in Great Lakes land and water issues.

    Why a Green & Blue Action Fund?

    The idea for the fund came out of the group’s field trip meetings where topics are explored with the assistance of local experts at the site of the environmental issue. The more our members got to know each other and develop the trust that is essential for collaboration, the more they became interested in collaborating on grants to support issues of interest to the Network.

    By pooling funds to be able to make jointly funded grants, the Fund serves to:

    • Allow participants to pool resources to make larger and more impactful grants than often very small foundations can make on their own
    • Demonstrate support for projects that need evidence of private and/or community support to qualify for government grant funding that is often available for important environmental projects
    • Help foundations respond when urgent support is needed to meet an environmental threat

    How Does It Work?

    The Fund’s initial funding has been on a project-by-project basis. At each of the Network’s field trip meetings, grant opportunities will be presented to the Network at the end of the meeting.

    CMF serves as the administrator for the Network’s grants so participating foundations simply send their funds to CMF specifying the name of the grantee when making their grant. CMF then makes the grant to the grantee on behalf of the Network’s Action Fund.

    What has been funded?

    Grants to date have included the Grand Traverse Conservation District, to Replace culvert obstructing fish travel in an impaired Boardman River tributary and replace it with a fish friendly bridge, the Nature Conservancy, to support efforts by the Michigan Dune Alliance to prevent and remove invasive species from the shores of Lake Michigan.

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  • Purpose

    The purpose of the Council of Michigan Foundations' Scholarship Learning Community is to provide the opportunity for CMF members who grant academic scholarships to individuals to come together to learn from experts and each other about effective strategies for granting scholarships. This group discusses legal issues related to scholarship programs, ways to increase the effectiveness of the application process, how to increase the impact scholarships make on their communities, and many other relevant topics. This learning community is open to all CMF members working in this area.

  • Meetings

    The Scholarship Learning Community meets in-person once per year, typically in August. During this meeting the most relevant topics and challenges which attendees faced over the last year are discussed.

    There is also a Scholarship Listserv available to CMF Members where learning community members may stay in touch over the year to ask questions and seek advice or share resources.


    Each year, a small committee is formed to help plan the topics to be covered during the annual meeting, if you are interested in serving on this planning committee please contact Andrea Judd.

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  • Purpose

    CMF members who currently have, or are interested in developing, an LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) Fund at their foundation are invited to participate in the LGBTQ Funders Learning Community. Participants can learn from experts and each other about effective strategies for launching or growing LGBTQ Funds, current trends in the LGBTQ community, how to effectively build local LGBTQ philanthropy, what it takes to establish a strong LGBTQ Fund and more.

  • Meetings

    There will be an annual meeting held in the fall.

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The Great Lakes Funder Collaboration (Collaboration) is comprised of more than 50 funders that annually grant more than $50 million to advance work on Great Lakes issues in the United States and Canada. Member funders work to improve their individual effectiveness and to identify ways they can work together to protect and improve the quality of the Great Lakes and its communities.

  • Purpose

    The purpose of the Collaboration is bring together funders across the United States and Canada interested in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. These funders are faced with many challenges and opportunities both in understanding and addressing this critical and complex system and the role they play, individually and collectively, in protecting and restoring it.

    The Collaboration identifies issues and goals for the coming year at its annual meeting. In 2018, the issues the Collaboration will be following include:

    • - water infrastructure
    • - nutrient pollution, with a particular emphasis on Lake Erie
    • - environmental education and behavior change
    • - Great Lakes grant data

    Funders interested in joining are enthusiastically encouraged to complete this membership application. If you have questions about the Collaboration, please contact Diane Schrauth, Coordinator, [email protected].

  • Meetings

    The Collaboration meets annually. The Collaboration periodically holds webinars and conference calls on topics of interest for funders. There are quarterly work group calls on water infrastructure, nutrient pollution, and environmental education and behavior change.

    By connecting, sharing, listening, and learning, we hope to help catalyze new thinking about how grantmakers might address pressing issues of equity and collaboration. Detroit continues to face major challenges with high poverty, unemployment and large swaths of vacant land, blighted structures, and aging infrastructure. However, post-bankruptcy, new investment, building on Detroit’s great legacy of entrepreneurial spirit and resilience, has the potential to create a truly sustainable city—balancing equity, economy and environment by restoring its binational riverfront for public rather than private use, converting abandoned railways into new greenways, revitalizing commercial districts and affordable housing, and even exploring community land trusts and community benefits agreements. The issues and efforts in Detroit, while in many ways unique, can inform—and be informed—by experiences in other Great Lakes communities.

    Please reach out to Diane Schrauth, Coordinator, for more details: [email protected].

  • Leadership

    The Great Lakes Funder Collaboration steering committee is comprised of funders from the United States and Canada. The 2018 steering committee includes:

    • - Julie Metty Bennett, Great Lakes Fishery Trust
    • - Elizabeth Cisar, Joyce Foundation (co-chair)
    • - Melissa Damaschke, Erb Family Foundation
    • - Pegi Dover, Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network
    • - Tim Eder, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
    • - Vicki Elkin, Fund for Lake Michigan
    • - Stephen Love, Cleveland Foundation
    • - Michelle Parker, Crown Family Philanthropies
    • - Thea Silver, Ontario Trillium Foundation (co-chair)
    • - Allie Urbanski, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

    Funders interested in joining are enthusiastically encouraged to complete this membership application. If you have questions about the Collaboration, please contact Diane Schrauth, Coordinator, [email protected].


  • Purpose

    CMF members who are supporting the Michigan Nonprofits Count Campaign are invited to participate in the CMF Michigan Census Funders Learning Community. Participants will discuss progress on campaign implementation, Michigan's work in the context of national efforts, stories from the field and strategies to amplify the outcomes. Learn from each other and with experts working in this area.

  • Meetings

    The Census Funders Learning Community will meet via webinar in 2019. Dates and details are available in the CMF events calendar.