The Office of Foundation Liaison: Serving as Conduit Between Philanthropy and the State
Michigan’s Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL), the first office of its kind, operates in a nonpartisan position in the Governor’s administrative offices and works to identify and broker innovative funding partnerships and strategic collaborations between the state and philanthropy.
Since it was created in 2003 at the suggestion of Michigan philanthropic leaders, OFL has worked in close partnership with CMF members to advance Michigan’s economic prosperity through reforms in the areas of P-20 education, economic and workforce development and health.
In 2020, OFL’s work pivoted through the challenges of the pandemic and national reckoning for racial justice.
The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy worked with OFL to document how the office served as a critical resource to philanthropy during the pandemic, capturing shared learning that emerged through almost a dozen virtual interviews with state officials and funders from December 2020 to February 2021.
As the pandemic unfolded, OFL quickly adapted to offer real-time virtual briefings for CMF members with Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the department and agency directors from the State Budget Office, Housing Development Authority, Health and Human Services, Labor and Economic Opportunity and Education, serving as a direct conduit for policy updates from the executive branch to Michigan philanthropy.
Neal Hegarty, vice president of programs for the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and chair of the OFL Advisory Committee (FLAC), shared that OFL was essential in keeping the state and philanthropy connected amid the pandemic, efforts that will continue beyond the pandemic.
“More briefings and more dialogue sessions with state leaders will continue around strategy and about how we can align and strategically leverage each other so that state government and philanthropy are working on the same page,” Hegarty said.
OFL also helped to ensure philanthropy’s voice was represented in several key areas of the state’s work, especially around advancing racial equity. OFL made the connection for a representative from the philanthropic sector to sit on the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities.
Hegarty shared that this was a different role for OFL.
“The support OFL gave in helping to stand up committees and some of the working groups in the executive office regarding racial disparities and COVID response by reaching into a network within philanthropy was a little different than work in the past,” Hegarty said. “The matchmaking role was different, and I think OFL may continue to serve that role.”
In addition to ensuring philanthropy’s representation in the state’s racial equity work, OFL, in partnership with CMF, worked with foundations that wanted to align their priorities and focus on racial equity.
OFL designed and hosted a series of virtual informational sessions for CMF members centered on racial equity within safety net programs. Through the sessions, CMF members were given actionable roadmaps to infuse key principles of equity into their work and encouraging the state to do the same in its work across departments.
Not only does OFL leverage relationships between philanthropy and the state, OFL can also create connections and opportunities for collaboration among philanthropy.
“The ability for philanthropy to work collectively on an issue with government, as a group of foundations, really unleashes intellectual capital that otherwise might have been isolated. OFL can help collect the common agendas among foundations and to enter the public sector realm with that group of agendas,” Dave Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, CMF trustee and founding FLAC chair said.
Hegarty underscored that OFL is here to serve as a resource for all within our community of philanthropy.
“Anyone who is active in Michigan philanthropy can and should feel comfortable connecting with OFL," Hegarty said. "OFL helps build relationships across foundations and within state government. There are a lot of things that OFL brings to the field but it’s also a place for us (foundations) to bring things to OFL to help navigate state government.”
“The case study should serve as a reminder to philanthropy that OFL plays an important role as translator and broker between the state and philanthropy,” Egner said.
Join OFL and CMF’s P-20 Education Affinity Group for “Reevaluating Early Childhood Education in Michigan” on August 4 as we discuss the state of early childhood in Michigan and how philanthropy can support the system for the future.
OFL is continuing to support learning opportunities and convenings for CMF members engaged in the safety net work and will also host a session on income support and narrative change during CMF’s 49th Annual Conference this October.
Learn more about the Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison.
Food Support Increases Reach During Pandemic
The Fair Food Network has released the 2020 impact reports on its Fair Food Fund and Double Up Food Bucks programs, offering a glimpse into how these programs adapted and supported communities and businesses in Michigan and around the country amid growing food insecurity.
The Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks Program, which was facilitated by the Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL), and supported by over 25 CMF members, provides $1 to $1 matches on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars to give recipients better access to healthy, fresh produce at farmers markets and grocery stores in Michigan and around the U.S.
The Fair Food Fund, also supported by CMF members, utilizes impact investing to support food entrepreneurs and “presents an opportunity for investors to catalyze change at the entrepreneur, community and system levels.”
The Fair Food Network administers both programs.
In 2015, Fair Food Network helped launch a first-of-its-kind statewide healthy food financing initiative in Michigan, the Michigan Good Food Fund which has collectively deployed $17 million in loans and grants supporting 300+ enterprises.
According to the Fair Food Network, nearly 1 in 4 households experienced food insecurity in 2020.
Key takeaways from the Double Up Impact 2020 report:
• In Michigan, Double Up use doubled from $2.4 million in 2019 to $4.9 million in spending in 2020.
• Double Up reached an estimated 200,000 Michigan households in 2020.
• In total, Double Up impacted 882,726 individuals and 4,708 farmers.
• In April 2020 alone, the Michigan Double Up website saw a 3,500% increase in unique visitors compared to the same period in 2019.
• Nationally, Double Up shoppers redeemed a total of $11.74 million on healthy food, a 98.9% increase from 2019.
• Double Up partners around the country spent 60.4% of program budgets on incentives.
• Double Up partners expanded programming around the country. In New Mexico, expansion led to 17 new grocery sites mostly in rural areas.
The Fair Food Fund Impact 2020 report highlights four investments in businesses across Michigan and the Northeastern United States as well as examples of their business assistance training.
Some highlights from the report include:
• Five Detroit-based businesses participated in multi-week training through the fund’s Food Finance Essential training that works to grow financial knowledge and provides free accounting services.
• Through the Michigan Good Food Fund, the fund brought 13 early-stage grocers together for a three-day virtual training to learn how to elevate local food in the grocery setting.
• The fund provided a black woman-owned Detroit-based café, Cooking with Que, with “pre-financing brand accelerator and post-financing customized support focusing on financial operations and marketing” which resulted in four new employees and a 75% increase in sales in 2020.
• A Black-owned business in Grand Rapids, Forty Acres Soul Kitchen, received business assistance and a loan which helped the business pivot to provide delivery and curbside pickup in addition to expanding its catering operations amid the pandemic.
Both programs have a vision for 2021 to continue supporting communities and businesses.
According to the Double Up report, partners plan to add 285 new sites including an additional 201 farm direct and 84 grocery and corner store sites.
The Fair Food Fund plans to continue their partnerships and begin a new partnership with Black Farmer Fund, a community-governed investment fund that connects Black farmers and food business entrepreneurs in New York state to non-extractive capital.
Read the full Double Up Impact 2020 report.
Read the full Fair Food Fund Impact 2020 report.
The Fair Food Network is supported by several CMF members including the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the Wege Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation as well as our partners at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
New State Mental Health Supports and Services
The state is working to improve mental health support and services across Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently announced a series of summer webinars to support Michiganders in their emotional recovery from the pandemic through MDHHS Stay Well Crisis Counseling Program.
The Stay Well Program is managed by an emergency behavioral health task force within MDHHS and uses federal disaster grant funding to provide mental health services to Michiganders who are struggling to cope with the ongoing pandemic.
The Summer Resilience Series features a diverse group of guest speakers from around Michigan and is open to anyone with access to Zoom.
According to the press release, the webinars will explore practices that can help people find hope, tranquility and optimism.
The Summer Resilience webinars begin on July 20 and will continue once a week through August 31.
MDHHS is providing another webinar series aimed at supporting parents and their young children ages 2-10. The Draw Your Feelings webinars are weekly, led by a licensed clinical mental health counselor and are designed to help children build emotional intelligence through guided drawing activities.
A new 24/7 mental health crisis support line is now available with the goal of improving mental health services in the state.
The Michigan Crisis and Access Line (MiCAL) provides phone, chat and text support for residents in Oakland County and the Upper Peninsula, with plans to expand statewide by fall 2022.
MiCAL supports people in crises or distress and it is also a warmline for people who need someone to listen.
The warmline will connect individuals with certified peer support specialists and/or recovery coaches who are trained to support callers and who have lived experiences of behavioral health issues, trauma or personal crises.
MiCAL crisis specialists share resources with callers that can be accessed in their own communities and after the call, MiCAL can connect the caller with mental health providers if continued care is needed.
Our CMF community has been supporting improved mental health services and supports, especially throughout the pandemic.
As CMF reported, The Ethel & James Flinn Foundation which is focused on improving the quality, scope and delivery of mental health services in Michigan allocated its entire grantmaking budget in 2020 to COVID-19 emergency response efforts to meet the increased need.
The Flinn Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund partnered to support a virtual mental health therapy program.
Several CMF members have engaged in work that supports the mental health of students.
CMF reported that the Michigan Health Endowment Fund is among several CMF members that have supported the University of Michigan’s Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students (TRAILS) program, which provides mental health resources statewide.
The Flinn Foundation has partnered with TRAILS to support the implementation in Washtenaw County Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD).
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan partnered with CMF members the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Foundation, the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Children’s Foundation and the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation to establish the Suicide Prevention Support for Health Care Clinics Working with Michigan’s Health-Disparate Populations initiative.
Learn more about the webinars.
Learn more about Michigan Crisis and Access Line.
Ford Foundation Announces Commitment to Dismantling Barriers to Employment for Individuals Exiting the Justice System
The Ford Foundation announced last week a $250 million commitment to support organizations that work to dismantle the barriers to the job market for people exiting the justice system.
This work is through the Justice and Mobility Fund, a partnership between the Ford Foundation, Blue Meridian Partners and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.
The fund brings “significant resources to the field in order to achieve criminal justice reforms that boost economic mobility, advance racial equity, and scale the most effective solutions.”
According to a Washington Post article, foundation dollars also will go to advocacy groups working to change policy, such as enacting laws that automatically expunge some criminal records as well as supporting and establishing programs that work directly with formerly incarcerated people to help them rejoin the labor force.
The fund will also help fund the Vera Institute of Justice’s advocacy, which recently led to Congress lifting a 30-year-old ban on incarcerated people receiving Pell grants to attend college while in prison.
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, shared in the article that one of the central goals of the fund is to bring philanthropic funds to this aspect of justice reform, helping those already affected by mass incarceration.
“The biggest challenge is changing the attitude and policies of the private sector,” Walker said. “It’s about getting employers to see that this is a population of humans with human potential.”
Read the full article.