April 19, 2021

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Power of Partnerships in Responding to the Pandemic

Throughout the pandemic CMF has highlighted Michigan philanthropy’s collaborative responses to the ongoing crises of public health and economic downturn. There are many powerful stories of partnership across our CMF community – some that emerged through new COVID-19 relief efforts and commitments to advance racial justice and others that have been long-standing partnerships, strengthened and in some cases expanded to deepen the impact of support for Michigan communities. 

For more than 30 years the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF) has hosted monthly convenings of West Michigan foundations and nonprofits. What began with a group of two foundations has grown over time to now include more than 30 organizations in the region, including many CMF members.  

This inclusive and collaborative partnership approach created the infrastructure necessary for a timely and comprehensive regional response to the pandemic, focused first on immediate needs in the community, then moving to near-term issues and ultimately working toward long-term recovery and reform. 

In addition to the large group conversations, for the first three months of the pandemic GRCF brought together a smaller core team of foundations with the Heart of West Michigan United Way for daily meetings. Now, more than a year later that smaller group has continued convening at least weekly.  

“Our entire community has faced severe challenges in light of COVID-19. By convening and collaborating with our peers and our local government, Grand Rapids Community Foundation has been able to play an active role in ensuring a more equitable recovery,” Diana Sieger, president of GRCF said. 

Together, the partners were able to quickly mobilize around the immediate crises of the pandemic with the Heart of West Michigan United Way, creating the Kent County Coronavirus Relief Fund to support nonprofits serving vulnerable populations. Housing, emergency food distribution and health care were primary concerns.  

GRCF also initiated its own hosted COVID-19 fund to support the recovery of nonprofits and small businesses serving those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, collaborated with a local nonprofit to provide transportation for vaccination appointments and recently assisted the United Way in their efforts to initiate COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) funding to address housing needs in West Michigan. 

Their partnership has additionally included meetings with county leaders to coordinate funding from the CARES Act focusing on small businesses owned and led by people of color, strongly advocating for the equitable distribution of resources. 

These conversations have continued over the past few months, focusing on the need for equitable distribution of vaccines. 

As we continue through the pandemic and with the anticipated resources from state and federal sources, the large group of West Michigan area foundations is gearing up to work with nonprofits, local government and business leaders to ensure the community is ready to support equitable distribution of incoming federal funding. 

GRCF’s leadership in convening and collaboration in the region was shared with policymakers during the virtual Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) last month, demonstrating how philanthropy can serve as a partner to organizations and government in crisis and beyond.

Want more?

CMF’s COVID-19 Resource Central is continually updated as we share new insights, analysis and emerging trends and leadership to the field. 




Education in a Pandemic: Attendance Challenges and Learning Loss 

The pandemic's impact on Michigan students, teachers and families continues, with data showing how the pandemic has created more barriers to student attendance and created challenges leading to learning loss.

The Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) and CMF hosted a virtual event last week focusing on learning loss amid the pandemic and leveraging federal funding with several education experts. 

During the conversation with our CMF community, the Education Trust-Midwest shared the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on students in Michigan specifically when it comes to digital access: 

•    Digital access is 20% lower in Michigan’s poorest districts compared to its wealthiest districts.

•    Nearly 1 in 4 children, in districts with the highest rates of students of color, lack digital access at home which is 10 percentage points lower than the statewide rate.

The Education Trust-Midwest also cited a recent McKinsey report that analyzed the learning loss disparities associated with COVID-19. According to the report, America’s students could lose five to nine months of learning by June 2021. 

The pandemic has impacted school attendance as well.  

A report by Attendance Works, analyzes attendance policies throughout the country during the pandemic. The report found that Michigan has yet to reinstate daily attendance and only requires districts to make sure an adult interacts with the student twice a week if learning is remote.  

There is also little consensus about what should count as attendance in distance learning.

“The alarming attendance challenge created by COVID-19 means that districts, schools and their partners will need to take a strategic, transformative and long-term approach to engaging students and families. It involves moving beyond individual student case management to taking actions at scale that broadly offer support or pathways to engagement to groups of students,” Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works said. 

Another report by Attendance Works found that chronic absence was already a challenge in Michigan before the pandemic. The report focused on data from the 2017-2018 school year and found that 22.3% of Michigan’s students were chronically absent.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school. According to research, it is a leading indicator and contributor to educational inequities and is directly linked to students being less likely to read by third grade and more likely to drop out of high school.

Chronic Absenteeism in Michigan:

•    About half of Michigan’s chronically absent students are concentrated in about a fourth of schools in Michigan that have extreme levels of chronic absence.

•    Levels of chronic absence were found to be highest in schools where most students live in poverty.

As Attendance Works shares when chronic absence affects large numbers of students, it is typically a sign of systemic failures like unreliable transportation, poor health and housing displacement, or practices that push students out of school settings including biased disciplinary policies and a lack of teachers who reflect cultures, ethnicities and languages of the student population.

“The key to addressing chronic absence is noticing poor attendance as soon as it becomes a problem and then partnering with students and families to find out and determine what are the barriers that needs to be addressed,” Chang said. 

As schools in Michigan engage in more in-person learning, Chang shared that to meaningfully engage students and families, actions should be tailored to recognize the strengths and specific challenges of high priority student groups who experience significant levels of chronic absence.   

Last week, Attendance Works released their Pathways to Engagement: A Toolkit for Covid-19 Recovery Through Attendance, a resource that will offer tools to support engagement and attendance. 

“We are advocating starting now to engage in activities that nurture belonging to school for current and prospective students in the spring, building bridges to school in the summer and creating a welcoming, restorative community at school in the fall,” Chang said. 

Attendance Works recommends adopting the following policies to address chronic absence and learning loss: 

•    Promote tracking daily attendance for all students.

•    Continue to monitor and publish data on how many students are missing 10% of school for any reason across all educational settings.

•    Invest in technology to ensure the availability of meaningful and actionable attendance and participation metrics.

•    Leverage data to inform action and resource allocation.

•    Build capacity to collect, analyze and use data on attendance and absenteeism.

•    Refrain from using chronic absence as an accountability measure for school improvement.

•    Ensure adequate and equitable funding.

Want more?

Read Attendance Works full report on chronic absence. 

Learn more about how the pandemic has impacted attendance. 

Join us on April 21 for a conversation with Michigan's state superintendent Dr. Michael Rice and Megan Schrauben, the executive director of MiSTEM Network during CMF’s event Exploring MI Education Priorities & Opportunities.

Watch the full virtual event: Leveraging Federal Funding to Address Student Learning Loss.




Together on the Journey: Youth Engage in Anti-Racism Work

The Midland Area Community Foundation’s (MACF) Midland County Youth Action Council (MCYAC) created an anti-racist guide, “How to Become an Anti-Racist Superhero,” to be used as an educational resource to empower their Midland County Youth Action Council (MCYAC) to address and respond to racism. 

Sara JacobsCarter, youth impact coordinator at MACF, shared that the guide was created for the Midland Youth Inclusivity Committee. 

According to JacobsCarter, the committee was created after several members of the MCYAC expressed a strong desire to take action in response to the murder of George Floyd.

“We decided to come together to put the killing of innocent Black folks at the hands of police into historical context and to learn how to make changes in our own spheres of influence. We have recruited members from our MCYAC and also from friendship circles,” JacobsCarter told CMF. 

JacobsCarter also reached out to teachers in the area who are engaging in racial equity efforts. 

The guide – filled with bold, colorful cartoon images – lifts up the voices and work of people of color as co-authors of the piece. 

It outlines why everyone should be an “anti-racist superhero,” addressing violence against Black communities, unpacking white privilege and providing tools for navigating conversations when confronted with racism.

“It gives people tools to combat racism in their own lives in at least a small way. Those feelings of helplessness lessen a little when you’re learning about the systematic racism that marginalized populations have to face,” JacobsCarter told CMF. 

The guide explains why we should all “put on our (superhero) cape” and address racism in conversations and beyond: “Know that you will get better at this - if you are consistent, thoughtful, and commit to a habit of interrupting bigotry in your life wherever you encounter it, including within yourself.”

Although made specifically for MCYAC, the guide is intended to be used by anyone and edited to fit their specific needs. The MCYAC plans to continue updating and utilizing the guide, along with amplifying it through their own networks to promote anti-racist work among their peers and the broader community.

Want more?

View a sample of the guide.

Connect with Sara JacobsCarter to learn more about the guide.

Learn more about the Midland County Youth Action Council. 




The Kresge Foundation Supports Vaccine Access to Promote Health Equity in Detroit

Content excerpted and adapted from a Kresge Foundation press release. 

The Kresge Foundation has announced $1 million to bolster vaccine access and health equity through Detroit’s community health centers, community development organizations and human service agencies.

The foundation is also committing to an additional $1 million in vaccination support grants in Detroit in the coming weeks.

The funds announced include $600,000 targeted to federally qualified health centers, community development organizations and human service agencies in northwest and southwest Detroit, where testing shows the city’s highest COVID-19 case rates. 

The funds will support a variety of efforts including vaccine outreach and education and transportation to vaccine sites.  

The funds will also support the organizations in connecting residents with resources for a variety of basic needs, such as food, housing and mental health services.

Additional grants of $1 million promote vaccine access and availability, including partnerships with the city of Detroit and other organizations, will be announced in the near future.

Nationally, including the Detroit grants, The Kresge Foundation will announce at least $4.4 million to support the equitable distribution of vaccines in 2021. In 2020, the foundation committed $19 million in grants and investments to support nonprofits confronting the COVID-19 crisis nationally and in cities across the United States.

“COVID-19 is not over, especially in Black and Brown communities. Community organizations are telling us that there’s more to be done to get out the word in neighborhoods that vaccines are readily available, safe and save lives, and to help connect residents to them,” Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of the Kresge Foundation’s Detroit Program said. 




The Foellinger Foundation Supports Free Rides and Awareness to Promote Vaccines

Content excerpted and adapted from a recent news story.  

The Foellinger Foundation, a CMF member, is supporting vaccine access and education efforts through collaborative partnerships.

The Foellinger Foundation recently matched a donation from Uber to support a program offering free transportation for residents in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

The program was created through a partnership between the Community Transportation Network in Indiana and Uber to provide at least 600 free rides to vaccination sites. 

Residents are able to sign up for the program and upon signing up they will receive four free rides loaded onto their personal accounts.  

The Foellinger Foundation also helped fund an educational video campaign which according to an article, features a series of videos and public service announcements from local leaders and residents.  

The public service announcements are locally produced and according to an article, local leaders and residents will talk about their reasons for and their experiences with getting vaccinated. 

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