The Download Archive

The Download

September 21, 2020

Monday, September 21, 2020

Photos Left to Right: An individual receiving a food package, people coming together, a lemonade stand to raise money for flood relief (credit: Midland Area Community Foundation), and an individual visiting the Urban Memorial and Racial Healing Garden (credit: WOOD-TV).

Equity at the Center

A Message from Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of CMF

“What does equity mean to Michigan philanthropy?” Nearly a year ago, I invited us all to ask and answer this question. I deliberately did not indicate how I would answer the question, nor did I offer a definition for the word “equity.” My hope was to provide an opportunity for all to explore this question with open minds, giving hearts and enduring courage, to give you a forum and our support. We believed that your answers, your struggles, would let CMF know how we should best lead our community of philanthropy. We did not anticipate navigating this journey in the midst of a pandemic, economic downturn and a reckoning with racial injustice.

Through your responses to these crises, an answer is beginning to emerge. As a start, we’re seeing that equity for our community of philanthropy is about action. In every corner of Michigan there are changemakers working to create positive outcomes, bringing hope and paving paths forward guided by generosity, for the love of humankind.

In Midland, there’s 6-year-old Ellie who set up a socially-distanced lemonade stand for the Midland Area Community Foundation’s (MACF) flood relief fund. She’s raised over $800. MACF calls Ellie their youngest philanthropist and her flourishing fundraising efforts have earned her a branded moniker: Ellie’s Lemonade Stand: For Good. For Ever. For All. 

When disaster strikes, socioeconomic inequities can become even more apparent. As we recover, we also have the opportunity to reform, to re-examine the systems that marginalize underserved communities. Disaster can also bring out the best in each of us, as partnerships rooted in advancing equity form and strengthen, and pure generosity, like that of young Ellie, lifts our spirits.

In a bustling area of Battle Creek, there’s now a green space dotted with flowers that’s a designated racial healing area. The Urban Memorial and Racial Healing Garden was born from a partnership with the Battle Creek Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) collaborative and the Southwest Michigan Urban League. Together they are creating a space for community connections and healing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further crystalized the need for action to address the root causes of racism as we see the notably higher rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths among people of color. We are advancing policy work to create sustainable and equitable change in public health, the economy and other domains. We also have to continue building relationships and trust through critical efforts like the healing-centered components of TRHT.

The Michigan Justice Fund is a funders collaborative led by the Hudson-Webber Foundation in partnership with several other CMF members, working to address racial disparities and inequities in our justice system across several domains including health, economic security and mobility, and community investment and well-being. The fund is currently working with a learning cohort of frontline organizations to develop a strategic roadmap for supporting a thriving environment to advance justice reform initiatives. 

As we have engaged in listening with the field and asked questions to deepen our understanding of your struggles and your successes, one unequivocal conclusion is clear: The need for equity is apparent and its fulfillment will mean everything. The solutions to inequity in race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomics and beyond will remain complicated and may be difficult to recognize, let alone achieve, but for Michigan philanthropy equity must be our imperative and we must take action.

If you believe as I do that philanthropy embodies its literal translation ─ acts for the love of humankind ─ any commitment we make for the future must begin with a commitment to ensuring every Michigander has fair, accessible and barrier-free opportunity for success and well-being. Philanthropy’s role is to identify and advance ways to make this aspiration a reality, recognizing where we have privilege, using that power for equitable change and helping to amplify the voices of others.

Next month, during our Annual Conference, the CMF Board of Trustees will share a new strategic vision for CMF. This new vision clearly defines the path forward for our community of philanthropy, with equity at the center of our work. So that equity is not a “lens” we can take on and off, but rather the way we’ll focus ourselves to see and examine everything, always. 



Equity, COVID-19 and the Social Safety Net

In the coming months, there are potential cliffs ahead in our already-frayed social safety net that could affect supports available for our most vulnerable communities’ basic needs such as food, water, housing and cash assistance. Since the pandemic began billions of federal and state relief dollars have been distributed through existing social safety net programs to support Michiganders. However federal funding through COVID-19 relief packages is limited and temporary policy waivers and moratoriums that provide extensive flexibility, increased benefit amounts and safety measures to prevent families from utility shutoffs and evictions are set to expire.

The Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) has been examining the latest research around these issues and connecting our community of philanthropy with resources on gaps in the social safety net. Last fall the OFL hosted a convening for all members that included examples of effective programs to support economic mobility and has since continued to elevate these concerns. The next convening is a two-part conversation open to all CMF members, slated for September 30 and October 6, that features leading experts on the challenges frontline organizations face as the pandemic rages on and philanthropy’s collective strategies for building toward more equitable and sustainable systems.

We are sharing the OFL’s latest data on the four impending cliffs of our safety net:


  • OFL has monitored food assistance and distribution since the outbreak of COVID-19. The policy guidelines for emergency food during the pandemic allowed for maximum flexibility and maximum payout of benefits as food providers doubled and tripled their normal distribution while adapting to social distancing guidelines. 

  • The food insecurity rate rose to a historic 18.8% at the height of the pandemic, representing nearly 1.4 million food-insecure people in the state. 

  • There are concerns around the drying up of federal emergency food dollars as well as the expiration of temporary policies that vastly improved access to food. As a result of the demand for food through the emergency system, food prices have gone up and thus the state’s return to pre-pandemic funding and policies puts the state in a very difficult position. 

  • The return to school also triggered an end to temporary policies on food distribution that will put additional pressure on families trying to manage the many challenges of education at this time. 

  • The Hamilton Project has shared data that illustrates how food security has disproportionately affected communities of color during the pandemic. Nationally, nearly 1 in 3 African American households with children reported being food insecure in June. 


  • Michigan is currently operating under a moratorium on water-shut offs that is set to expire in December 2020. 

  • As the OFL continues to look for more data and work with state and philanthropic colleagues on solutions to water affordability, there is concern the moratorium only pushes the problem down the road for families. They will likely face large, aggregated costs to catch up on bills in the new year. 

  • According to the ACLU, for the last 10 years, areas of Detroit with 75% or more of their population comprised of African American residents averaged 60% more water shutoffs. During the pandemic, 93% of water shutoffs occurred in areas with 75% or more Black population and these areas also correlated with higher COVID-19 infection rates. 


  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a moratorium on housing evictions that ended on July 31. Most recently the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a national moratorium until December 31, recognizing the connection between evictions and the possibility of increasing the spread of COVID-19. 

  • Michigan reserved $50 million for its eviction diversion program to help support families staying in their homes and nearly all of it has been spent. Again, there is concern that the moratorium only pushes the problem down the road, anticipating families who rent their homes will be faced with significant balances starting in January 2021 with the addition of late fees.  

  • Based on the most recent census data available, one analysis estimates that 457,000 rental households in Michigan are experiencing rent shortfall and potentially facing eviction. This represents approximately $463 million in back rent. 

  • At the same time, 39.2% of African Americans and 45.4% of Latinx reported having no or only slight confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent compared with 24.7% of whites.  


  • The enhanced federal unemployment payments ($600/week) during the height of the pandemic ended on July 31 and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently approved a continuing unemployment supplement at $300/week. The amount is retroactive to August 1 and while this was a promising development, the funding will only cover about 4-5 weeks of additional payments, according to the State Budget Office.

  • In the second quarter of 2020, Michigan had the highest unemployment rate in the country for African Americans at 35.5% compared with 17.5% among whites. Compounding the inequity, 33.2% of white workers and 23.8% of African American workers received unemployment insurance benefits.

In addition to these challenges, OFL shares that the state budget and economic forecasts indicate that recovery will extend into the coming years, and there is a high degree of uncertainty about how the elections in November will impact federal responses to mitigate crises for low-income communities and for communities of color. Winter will also mean additional costs such as home heating, and the pandemic may affect seasonal tourism in popular winter destinations such as northern Michigan.

CMF members interested in a timely and responsive conversation about these pending cliffs are encouraged to attend the two-part series happening on September 30 and October 6 as we explore how our community of philanthropy can work together to meet basic needs in the near term while working to build more equitable systems adapted to the challenges of our new reality. 

Want more?

Join us for Equity, COVID-19 and the Social Safety Net, part one on September 30 and part two on October 6.



An Inside Look at the Work of the Michigan Opioid Partnership

A new report from the Michigan Opioid Partnership (MOP) highlights Michigan’s opioid epidemic and the variety of statewide, cross-sector efforts that are underway to curb the crisis.

The partnership—formed in 2018—is composed of several CMF members including the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation, The Jewish Fund and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, along with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Superior Health Foundation.

According to the partnership’s report, there were 2,036 opioid-related deaths in Michigan in 2018. Racial disparities in treatment access continue to increase, with the overdose mortality rate for white residents decreasing by 5.1% compared to 2017, while the rates for African American residents increased by 19.9%.

The report also showcases the work being done across sectors to provide treatment, build awareness of the epidemic and decrease opioid use. These efforts include $3.8 million in grants to support opioid addiction treatment initiatives in four jails and five hospitals across the state, ensuring access to treatment options for those affected by opioid use and increasing technical assistance to jails, hospitals and other entities serving those needing treatment.

The MOP partnership has given over $280,000 since its inception, dividing its grantmaking into three initiatives:

  • Hospital evaluation to provide qualitative and quantitative data on hospital activities surrounding addiction treatment.

  • COVID-19 response to provide those in the justice system access to treatment through telehealth options.

  • Upper Peninsula technical assistance to assist hospitals in the UP expand care and access to medications to treat opioid use disorder.

MOP plans to expand its grantmaking efforts to include harm reduction services, expand support for jail-based treatments and increase treatment and awareness efforts in the UP.

MOP highlights the need for continued partnership to effectively and equitably support Michiganders living with opioid use disorder.

“As a collective body, the Michigan Opioid Partnership continues to develop its structure, strategic framework and program investments,” the report states. “The process of addressing stigma and overcoming cultural barriers to program implementation will continue for some time to come, but the MOP has laid the groundwork for considerable success in increasing access to [medication for opioid use disorder] and addressing some of the greatest challenges in this crisis.”

This week MDHHS is hosting two virtual townhalls on the opioid epidemic. The events, focusing on Northern Lower Michigan, Flint and the Thumb Region, will allow residents to share how the epidemic has affected their communities, recommend programming to address the crisis and present ideas for both battling the stigma and changing the narratives surrounding opioid use.

“We encourage members of the community and stakeholders to participate in these virtual town halls,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS said in a press release. “We need to hear how the opioid epidemic has impacted each region of the state so we can develop solutions that resonate with all Michiganders. Local input is critical to us being able to turn the tide on this public health crisis.”

Want more?

Learn more about the Michigan Opioid Partnership.

Read the full report.

Read more about the upcoming MDHHS opioid townhalls.




Mott Foundation Partners with National Leaders to Close STEM Gender Gap

Content adapted and excerpted from a foundation press release. Read the full release.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has partnered with the Intel Foundation, the Gordon and Better Moore Foundation and the STEM Next Opportunity Fund to create Million Girls Moonshot, an initiative dedicated to increasing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities for girls.

The initiative aims to engage one million school-aged girls in STEM opportunities—both in and out of school—over the next five years. Programming will encourage young girls to explore and pursue careers in STEM and give them the tools and opportunities necessary to prepare for STEM careers. According to Million Girls Moonshot, only 15% of engineers are women, and Black and Latinx women make up less than 3% of the science and engineering workforce.

“The Million Girls Moonshot harnesses the spirit of innovation—in philanthropy and in afterschool programming—to reimagine our nation’s next generation of engineers, problem-solvers, builders and makers,” Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation and CMF trustee said in a press release.

Million Girls Moonshot will utilize the Mott Foundation’s 50 State Afterschool Network—which engages over 10 million students in 100,000 afterschool programs nationwide—to increase STEM opportunity access. The initiative will host engineering and design showcases to highlight the work of young women in STEM, leverage corporate partners to connect girls to professional mentors, engage families and ensure content is inclusive to all backgrounds, mindsets and career aspirations.

“We’re delighted that the Intel and Moore Foundations will join us in an effort to promote gender equity by empowering girls through STEM learning opportunities,” White said.

Want more?

Learn more about Million Girls Moonshot.

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