GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF FOUNDATION LIAISON
FORGING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
Created in 2003 at the suggestion of Michigan philanthropic leaders, the Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) currently operates with the support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer and is located in the governor's administrative offices. The Foundation Liaison is a cabinet-level position and helps to identify and broker innovative funding partnerships and strategic collaborations between the executive branch of state government and foundations to encourage programs or policy reforms that would improve the lives of all Michigan children, families and residents.
At a glance:
The Michigan OFL is the first cabinet-level position in the nation designed to help identify and broker innovative funding partnerships and strategic collaborations between the executive branch of state government and foundations.
The creation of this nonpartisan position marked the state's first formal partnership with the foundation community.
The executive office of the Governor, OFL, CMF and the OFL Advisory Committee work together to address statewide issues affecting Michigan. The OFL is the unifying piece that connects government and philanthropic partners in service of Michigan’s children and families.
The OFL was initiated and is supported by members of CMF and the state.
Karen Aldridge-Eason, a loaned executive from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, serves as the foundation liaison where she works with the governor, the executive branch of state government, foundations and the nonprofit community to help bring about positive, effective change.
Since its inception in 2003, the OFL has brokered investments in initiatives to increase Michigan's economic competitiveness through reforms in early childhood development and education, K-12 education, college and career readiness, health and well-being and workforce development, with an emphasis on equity and safety net issues.
In a recent case study, state officials and CMF members shared how the OFL is instrumental to the governor's office:
- The OFL's longevity and relative stability allow it to function as a "long-term policy advisor" for the new executive office personnel.
- The OFL's unique status as an outsider situated within the governor's office affords it the privilege of serving as an equity activist with insider status.
- OFL's immediate access to the governor's policy advisors and funders statewide opens a dialogue between the drivers of statewide initiatives and the organizations that can incubate those initiatives, evaluate them and promote them at the local level.
"Karen is a wealth of knowledge. Oftentimes as I was developing policy, I would talk with her about pitfalls of ways to think about this. And she would sometimes connect me with foundations ahead of the finished product to think through what the policy could achieve in order to make sure it was successful." -Policy advisor, Michigan's Executive Office
The OFL is governed by an advisory committee that includes representatives from its funding foundations, the CMF president and CEO, Michigan Nonprofit Association's president and CEO and a senior representative from the governor's staff. The OFL Advisory Committee sets the OFL's responsibilities and objectives and helps guide its work. Priority issue areas for the OFL are aligned with both foundation and state government priorities and these currently include early childhood education and development, K-12 education, college and career readiness, health and well-being and workforce development, with an emphasis on equity and safety net issues.
OFL Advisory Committee
- Neal Hegarty – Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (chair)
- Faye Alexander Nelson – W.K. Kellogg Foundation (co-chair)
- Diana Sieger – Grand Rapids Community Foundation (co-chair)
- Kyle Caldwell – Council of Michigan Foundations
- Melanca Clark – Hudson-Webber Foundation
- David Egner – Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
- Kate Levin Markel – McGregor Fund
- Wendy Lewis Jackson – The Kresge Foundation
- Kelley Kuhn – Michigan Nonprofit Association
- Angelique Power – The Skillman Foundation
- Marc Rehmann – Executive Office of the Governor
- Virginia Romano – Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation
- Cindy Rowell – Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
Along with the funders who are represented on the OFL Advisory Committee, the following foundations are either past or present funders of the OFL:
Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation
Battle Creek Community Foundation
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Community Foundation of Greater Flint
Community Foundation for Muskegon County
Community Foundation of St. Clair County
Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
Fremont Area Community Foundation
Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
The Kresge Foundation
The Skillman Foundation
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
A Case Study of Michigan During Crisis
"A Case Study of Michigan During Crisis" documents the experience of the Office of Foundation Liaison in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic through a compilation of a dozen interviews with state officials and foundation leaders conducted from December 2020 to February 2021.
Foundation Liaison, Governor's Office of Foundation Liaison
Director of Research & Planning, Governor's Office of Foundation Liaison