The Download

The Download

January 10, 2022

Monday, January 10, 2022

Increasing Transparency Through Trust-Based Grantmaking

For many years the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF) has been working to ensure greater equity in its grantmaking and recently began transitioning to a trust-based grant model.

As CMF has reported, in response to the dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice happening across the country, KZCF implemented new practices within their grantmaking process. 

KZCF began applying the new practices in early 2020 including reducing paperwork and converting grants to support their partners’ greatest needs. 

To ensure increased transparency on their grantmaking process, KZCF created a Grantmaking Guide for their current partners and those looking to partner with the community foundation. 

The guide outlines how KZCF makes funding decisions, how to overcome obstacles to funding and what partners can expect after receiving a grant. 

“Our Grantmaking Guide is just one way we are responding to our partners’ request for more transparency when it comes to our funding process, priorities and how decisions are made,” Sandy Barry-Loken, vice president of grants at KZCF told CMF.

To best serve their grantmaking priorities, KZCF partners with and prioritizes funding for organizations who pursue inclusivity and accessibility, center people and communities of color, collaborate to achieve shared outcomes and are committed to learning and growth.  

Some questions KZCF asks when reviewing grant requests:

•    Does this request demonstrate a strong commitment to racial equity?

•    Is the program or organization accessible to people with multiple oppressed identities including intersections of race, ethnicity, economic status, immigration status, LGBTQ+ identify and disability?

•    Does this request demonstrate lasting change for communities experiencing racial bias and discrimination?

•    Does the organization demonstrate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) competencies at the leadership level?

•    Are multiple identities and perspectives present to lead the work?

KZCF also shared some reasons requests do not advance further in the process:

•    The people and communities most impacted are not involved in significantly informing the work. 

•    Partnerships and collaborations that could strengthen the request are underdeveloped. 

•    The organization does not have a demonstrated commitment to advancing DEI. 

Included in the guide are step-by-step directions on how nonprofit partners can  apply through their updated grantmaking process. KZCF simplified the application to a single Letter of Inquiry only to inform funding decisions rather than requiring a full application.

When the application is approved and an organization is selected for funding, KZCF’s newly streamlined reflection process begins. The final reporting process is an informal one-hour conversation between the selected organization and a KZCF community investment liaison. 

The community investment liaison guides the conversation by asking questions like: 

•    What successes and challenges has your organization experienced over the past year while implementing this program/project?

•    What have you learned, and how are you incorporating learnings into your work going forward?

•    How could KZCF better support your wok moving forward?

This process replaces a formal written report that KZCF has used in the past, with the goal to reduce the amount of time, stress and paperwork their partners shoulder during the reporting process. 

“We hope this clarity deepens our current relationships and attracts even more partners who align with our vision of making Kalamazoo County the most equitable place to live,” Barry-Loken said. 

Want more?

Read the full KZCF Grantmaking Guide.

Learn more about KZCF’s trust-based philanthropy journey.  





Supporting Rural Communities in Michigan

The state is working to boost economic opportunities for Michiganders in rural areas of the state. Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed an executive directive to establish the Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). 

The office will focus on providing guidance on issues in rural Michigan and offer insight on how the Whitmer-Gilchrist administration can invest in these communities. 

"Rural Michigan is a fundamental part of Michigan's economy," Whitmer said in a press release. "By creating the Office of Rural Development, we are recognizing the unique challenges and opportunities in our rural communities and implementing policies and making investments to put Michiganders first. This new office will play a crucial role in supporting MDARD's efforts and leading new ones as we all work together to build a more prosperous rural economy." 

The Office of Rural Development’s responsibilities will include:

•    Collaborating with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other stakeholders on rural economic development. 

•    Collaborating with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to facilitate rural affordable housing development. 

•    Promoting sustainability, environmental preservation and green energy development. 

•    Addressing the ramifications of population and demographic trends in rural Michigan. 

•    Analyzing and providing guidance on education-related issues affecting rural communities.

•    Collaborating with the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office to facilitate expansion of high-speed internet connections in rural communities. 

•    Coordinating with tribal leaders in this state on issues facing rural Michigan. 

Sharon Mortensen, president and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation told CMF that the foundation is pleased to see that the voices of rural residents will be elevated through the Office of Rural Development.

“The issues that rural communities face including economic development, affordable housing, education, talent attraction and retention, and high-speed internet will be elevated through this office. We are excited to see the development of more public/private/philanthropic partnerships to build greater opportunity and prosperity in our rural communities,” Mortensen said.

Bonnie Gettys, president and CEO of the Barry Community Foundation and chair of Rural Partners of Michigan (RPM) believes the office can support the work RPM is leading.

“RPM’s mission is to connect and educate community leaders, provide expertise and advocate for policy and projects to impact rural Michigan,” Gettys told CMF. “This office can bridge the work that will increase economic and social opportunities for rural citizens and increase rural communities’ viability with private, public and philanthropic partnerships in a very cohesive way.” 

Midland Area Community Foundation, Barry Community Foundation and many other rural serving foundations across the state are deeply engaged in work around the areas of housing, economic development, bridging the digital divide and much more.

The Community Foundation of Marquette County is a part of a collaborative effort with the goal of improving housing, education, recreation and more. The Marquette County 2040 Master Plan includes 10 goals and 100 strategies to guide the county into 2040 and address challenges faced by the community. 

In St. Joseph County, Sturgis Area Community Foundation and their partners have worked to address housing needs through the Sturgis Neighborhood Program (SNP). SNP was formed in 1991 and has since completed nearly 60 projects including home renovations and blight elimination aimed at improving Sturgis neighborhoods.

Pennies from Heaven Foundation and United Way of Mason County teamed up to support workforce development through the Lakeshore Employer Resource Network of Mason County, aimed at breaking down barriers for employees to be successful in the workplace.

According to the state’s press release, a new senior leader at MDARD will run the office and be the state's point of contact for community leaders on urgent rural issues. 

Want more?

Read the state’s full press release.

Learn more about CMF’s Rural Philanthropy Affinity Group. 

Learn more about the Strugis Neighborhood Program and Lakeshore Employer Resource Network featured in CMF’s 2019 rural philanthropy video series.





Empowering Youth Voices Enacts Powerful Change

The Skillman Foundation not only supports Detroit youth but also empowers them to make grantmaking decisions through the foundation’s President’s Youth Council. The insights of the council members help guide the foundation’s priorities and strategies. 

Skillman’s first-ever President’s Youth Council is led by 13 Detroit youth members. The council recently announced $105,000 in grants to several Detroit nonprofits, which were chosen based on the members own research.

“We did not do this to teach them how to make grants. We did this to learn from them,” Angelique Power, president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation recently shared. 

The Skillman Foundation set aside $100,000 for the council to direct to organizations of their choice, and ultimately council members advocated for $5,000 more in grants. 

“Ask young people for their thoughts, and they will let you know some things. They will tell you they are ready. Ready to do more than talk, they want to act. Ready to do more than listen and learn how it has been done. They want to roll up their sleeves, put in the hours and re-create what might even be possible,” Power said.  

The council was launched in early 2021. Council members work with foundation leadership to discuss issues that are important to them and advise how the foundation and its partners can better support the needs and aspirations of Detroit youth.

Each member serves a two-year term and is compensated for their time and reimbursed for any transportation expenses incurred during their service to the foundation.

Council members surprised organizational leaders by calling them directly to inform them of their awards.

Bringing Hope Back Home, an educational organization that aims to provide a smooth transition to college for high school students in Detroit, was awarded a grant. 

“Bringing Hope Back Home is completely student run and led; we are dedicated to bringing public high school students the resources necessary to succeed in college,” Mosammad Jahan, member, President’s Youth Council said. 

Another organization, Covenant House Michigan, provides shelter and resources to youth who are unhoused.

“I think Covenant House Michigan is important to Detroit’s young people because it just shows that there is still hope and that nothing is impossible,” Timarra Davis, member, President’s Youth Council said. 

A sampling of organizations that were selected by council members for funding include:

•    Detroit Heals Detroit fosters healing justice for Detroit youth with a goal to combat trauma and work to dismantle oppressive systems for marginalized Detroit youth.

•    SDM2 Project Education cultivates educational development in the community through utilizing outdoor recreational activities.

•    Warrior Women Against Poverty transforms the lives of women and their children through mentorship, resources and educational experiences. 

•    Afrofuture Youth is a Detroit-based, Black youth-led organization using Black Futurist and healing-centered frameworks to co-create equitable and pleasurable futures.

•    Alternatives for Girls helps girls and young women who are or may experience homelessness avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, through support, resources and opportunities.

You can view the full list of selected organizations via The Skillman Foundation’s announcement.

Want more?

Read The Skillman Foundation’s full announcement.

Learn more about the President’s Youth Council. 


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