CMF Editorial Correspondent
When you team a major corporation looking to make a significant philanthropic difference in the cities it serves with a group of foundations loaded with incredible grantmaking expertise, the results can be game-changing.
In Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, encompassing cities such as Midland, Saginaw, Bay City, Birch Run, Chesaning and Frankenmuth, that formula for success is making a positive and significant difference in the lives of all its residents.
The Dow Corning Foundation, in partnership with Hemlock Semiconductor Group, found the winning combination in their continuing efforts to forge an alliance of dollars, skill sets and vision by creating Dow Corning Foundation Advised Funds at the Bay Area Community Foundation, the Midland Area Community Foundation and the Saginaw Community Foundation.
“I can’t say enough about how energizing and successful this combined effort in corporate/community giving has been,” says Kathryn Curtiss Spence, executive director of the Dow Corning Foundation. “It shows how impactful strategic partnerships can be when given the chance.”
To date, the Dow Corning Foundation Advised Funds has contributed $1,050,000 for projects throughout the region. The Advised Funds are administered through a team of employees and are guided by Dow’s mission to:
- Improve scientific literacy by increasing access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education at the pre-university level.
- Improve vitality and quality of life in communities where Dow/Hemlock employees work and live.
- Increase awareness and use of innovative technologies designed to make the world more sustainable.
“These funds demonstrates Dow Corning Corporation’s commitment to mutually beneficial growth in society,” says Sharon Mortensen, president/CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation.
“Each foundation administers the grant process while working with an advisory board of Dow Corning employees who make the funding decisions,” she adds.
The employee advisory board meets quarterly to review grant requests and directs the local foundation on how those donor advised funds should be awarded, explains Eileen A. Curtis, president/CEO of the Bay Area Community Foundation.
Grant requests come from many nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, notes Renee Johnston, president/CEO of the Saginaw Community Foundation. “Maximum grants are for $8,000 for a single county or $24,000 for requests that benefit all three counties.
“The Dow Corning Donor Advised funds have been a tremendous benefit to the community and the community foundations,” says Johnston. “This relationship has given us a strong model that is being used as best practice with other potential corporate partners.
In the first quarter of 2014, the Dow Corning Donor Advised Funds provided the community foundations with support a variety of diverse community needs, including:
- Bay City Public Schools Kolb Elementary – construction of a track
- Family and Children’s Services of Mid-Michigan – pregnancy education materials
- Bridgeport Community Schools Atkins Middle School – an after school math program
- Midland County Habitat for Humanity – safety equipment
- Midland Northeast Little League – development of a new baseball field
- One Week One Street – neighborhood park improvement
- Mid-Michigan Society of Women Engineers – summer STEM camp for girls
- Underground Railroad/Girls on the Run – program expansion in Saginaw and Bay Counties
- Hemlock Public School District – development of a science garden
- Saginaw Valley State University – summer math camp
- Bay Area Women’s Center – upgrade kitchen facilities
- The ROCK Center for Youth Development – regional program expansion
- Bangor North Preschool – communication devices for special education classes.
“This is simply a wonderful partnership between community foundations and corporations…bringing together the best of both worlds!” says Mortensen.
“The program was an immediate win-win for the region, the local community foundations and our employees who provide recommendations regarding which projects should be supported,” says the Dow Corning Foundation’s executive director.
“Through this effort, we have established strong relationships with the Bay, Midland and Saginaw Community Foundations. Their expertise has been invaluable in making the initiative a success.”