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Children’s Foundation Announces $10 Million Partnership for Detroit Youth

The Children’s Foundation, in partnership with Bill and Lisa Ford of the Ford Motor Company, has established the Michigan Central Station Children’s Endowment Campaign to celebrate the reopening of Michigan Central Station.

A group of children outside.

Content excerpted and adapted from an original Children's Foundation press release.

The Children’s Foundation, in partnership with Bill and Lisa Ford of the Ford Motor Company, has established the Michigan Central Station Children’s Endowment Campaign to celebrate the reopening of Michigan Central Station. The campaign aims to raise at least $10 million to establish permanent endowments for Detroit area youth-serving nonprofit organizations.

These organizations will be chosen through a community-led process, and each will receive two years of financial and technical support to help them build, manage and maintain an endowment that will position them to serve children in the community long-term.

The restoration of Michigan Central Station has always been part of a bigger transformation. In 2018, Ford Motor Company executive chair Bill Ford shared his vision for a 30-acre world-class center of innovation in Southeast Michigan that works to solve society’s biggest challenges to make people’s lives better. The station – the centerpiece of the Michigan Central campus – holds the memories of so many and presents an incredible opportunity to look to the future. The Children’s Endowment Campaign celebrates that future by ensuring that youth-serving organizations in the Detroit area can continue their mission.

“The restoration of Michigan Central is about the future. The station is a symbol of opportunity and progress, and its re-opening is a celebration of possibilities. The best investment we can make for the future is in our children. We have long supported youth organizations because we believe in the power of next generations. This endowment campaign, in partnership with the Children’s Foundation, will bring us together in new and unique ways, creating a sustainable commitment to serving the children of Detroit,” Bill and Lisa Ford, chairs, Michigan Central Station Children’s Endowment Campaign, said.

In addition to the seed money to start or grow their endowments, the organizations will receive support to establish fundraising campaigns that will make them eligible for matching funds. This will ultimately provide an opportunity for each organization to establish an endowment of $1.5 million at the Children’s Foundation, giving them sustainable financial resources year-over-year and the space to plan for the future. The long-term support also includes “drop-in” space inside the station so these organizations can be part of Michigan Central’s innovative ecosystem, built on inclusive and collaborative problem solving.

“Michigan Central Station will be an anchor in our city for generations to come,” Andrew Stein, president and CEO, Children’s Foundation, said. “Similarly, youth-serving organizations are critical anchors that also need to be here for the long-term. By creating an endowment, this campaign helps to make sure these organizations have what they need to serve children now and into the future. We are proud to be a partner in this effort that demonstrates a different approach to philanthropy and creates a more equitable landscape for youth-serving organizations.”

Details about the launch of the application and selection process for non-profits will be announced closer to the opening of the station in June.

Endowments Are a Powerful Approach to Philanthropy

Michigan Central Station Children’s Endowment Campaign will help address both the financial and administrative challenges for the youth-facing organizations selected for this effort. The principal amount – $1.5 million – will produce approximately $70,000 of unrestricted, spendable revenue annually. Organizations get grants of similar sizes, but the endowment allows them to spend the funds as they see fit. Endowments become a sustainable source of revenue, in perpetuity, growing over time as the principal is invested. 

Over two years, Children’s Foundation will also take the lead to provide the selected organizations with guidance, training, and support to fundraise, build and utilize their endowment long-term.

Although the Detroit area is one of the most charitable in the nation, very few organizations have meaningful endowments. This is particularly true of youth-serving organizations, which are serving tens of thousands of children each day. These organizations often do not have sufficient cash reserves and their leaders spend a great deal of time on annual fundraising. 

An endowment is a fund that exists in perpetuity and provides long-term support for an organization, enabling it to advance its mission as it sees fit. Endowments empower organizations by allowing the leaders to focus their time on their missions and building lasting trust within the communities they serve, rather than fundraising.

The challenge is that establishing and maintaining an endowment is not so straightforward. Demand often exceeds resources. Not only does starting an endowment mean diverting money from annual funding, but it can also be intimidating for organizations to establish and manage. Adding the necessary finance and fundraising staff expertise creates additional financial and administrative burdens that organizations often cannot afford.

Support Comes in Many Different Forms

Individuals, companies and foundations who believe in the mission and unique approach set out by Bill and Lisa Ford have provided early generous support for the campaign, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“Children are at the heart of everything we do. We know that for children to thrive, they need access to quality care and education, their families need access to well-paying jobs that become career pathways to upward economic mobility and their communities need to be equitable places of opportunity,” La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said. “Growing up on Detroit’s East Side, the countless investments of time, resources and love that my family, neighbors and community made in me filled my earliest years with experiences and opportunities that have helped me build a life I could only imagine. Every child who calls Detroit home deserves to have that kind of chance at success. By ensuring that community members closest to the needs of Detroit’s children and families have a say in where these funds are directed and access to the sustained resources needed to make generational transformation possible, Bill and Lisa Ford are creating a visionary example of community-led philanthropy at its finest, and we’re honored to partner with them.”

Support for the campaign also includes time and resources dedicated by a team that believes the children of Detroit deserve no less than this substantial investment in their future. This includes more than 40 influential Detroiters serving as cabinet members as well as esteemed steering committee members: Lizabeth Ardisana, Tom and Lindsey Buhl, Lauren and Jon Cotton, Mark Davidoff, Tony and Sarah Earley, Luanne Thomas Ewald, Elena Ford, Dr. Herman Gray, Anne Mervenne, Benita Miller, Vivian Pickard, Donna Satterfield, Lois Shaevsky, Gloria Walker-Larkins and Evan and Gwen Weiner.

As Michigan Central Station’s reopening will be an experience of a lifetime for this community, it is only fitting to simultaneously celebrate the culmination of this fundraising campaign and the individuals and organizations who stepped forward to show their strong support for Detroit’s children. Every donor will be recognized in the opening celebration activities that begin on June 6.

Fundraising continues through June. 

Want more?

Read the full press release.