Family Foundations Join Together to Support Innovative Watershed Initiative

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Helping lead a groundbreaking, pilot watershed research project in Michigan is a small group of family foundations – and one major grantmaker – which are providing funding to the Ann Arbor-based Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) for its initiative entitled: “Making Climate Resilient Communities through a Watershed Approach.” 

In a unique collaborative effort, the Esperance Family Foundation, Frederick S. Upton Foundation, Friedman Family Foundation, Porter Family Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation are teaming up to provide approximately $100,000 in grants in support of the initiative.    

“This is an exciting project with far-reaching implications,” says Laura Rubin, executive director of the Huron River Watershed Council. “We are seeing major changes in climate that are impacting various aspects of the environment, including watersheds that are not being dealt with in any other arena."            

Credited with suggesting – and bringing together – family foundation funders to help facilitate this work is Tom Porter, president of the Porter Family Foundation.

 “Given Michigan’s governance structure with all these townships, cities and villages along our rivers, and then getting everyone in lockstep to protect and treat these great treasures, one thing the Huron River Watershed Council wanted to do was create an educational series for people who operate public utilities along the rivers.”     

Additionally, he says, the initiative aims to layout various climate scenarios; discuss best practices and case studies on adaptation strategies; and get commitment for action from local stakeholders.      

The HRWC’s goal was to raise between $80,000 and $100,000 to fund this initiative.  Enter the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.      

 “As part of our foundation’s environmental program, there is interest in fresh water conservation,” says Samuel Passmore, Mott Foundation program officer for environment program.      

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation agreed to provide a $50,000 matching grant to the HRWC if it could secure another $50,000 to meet the initiative’s funding needs from smaller foundations.  Rallying his troops, Porter joined together with fellow family foundations to secure the matching funds.         

Passmore says that this project also opens the door for other future, great collaboratives with Michigan’s family foundations and CMF’s Green and Blue Network.       

“This is a great story about collaboration within our own foundation funding community and what can be done when we all work together on an important issue such as climate change adaptation.”                  

“We were very impressed with what the Huron River Watershed Council wanted to do as it relates to studying the impact of climate change on our local watersheds and what steps can be taken to protect them,” says Susan Cameron, of the Friedman Family Foundation. “We learned of this initiative through our attending the Green and Blue Network meetings…and we were interested in collaborating.”


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