Trust-Based Philanthropy in Action
Throughout the pandemic Michigan philanthropy has leaned in to a reimagination of what it means to support nonprofits and engage as partners. There’s been an increased focus on trust-based philanthropy across our field, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Trust Based Philanthropy Project, “trust-based philanthropy is about redistributing power in service of a healthier and more equitable nonprofit sector. This includes multi-year unrestricted funding, streamlined applications and reporting and a commitment to building relationships based on transparency, dialogue and mutual learning.”
Our CMF community further explored trust-based philanthropy through conversations at CMF’s 48th Annual Conference last fall in a session that featured Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director, Kresge Foundation and CMF trustee with Philip Li, president and CEO of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and member of Trust Based Philanthropy Project’s steering committee. The conversation was facilitated by Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
Additionally at the 2020 conference we heard from Hub ONE, a trust-based partnership between four Kalamazoo-based nonprofit organizations and the Stryker Johnston Foundation about how they embody trust-based practices, what this work looks like in action.
Now we’re learning about Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s (KZCF) work and how they are transitioning to a trust-based grant model.
KZCF shared with CMF that for many years the community foundation has been working to ensure greater equity in its grantmaking. 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.
The adaptations implemented included using their Letter of Inquiry only to inform funding decisions rather than requiring a full application, supporting all funded partners to convert their grants to flexible, operational dollars and forgoing written final reports.
In the fall of 2020, KZCF contracted Freedom Lifted, a third-party consulting agency, to lead a community engagement process that informed the future of the community foundation’s grantmaking. The engagement process gathered input in three areas:
• The quality of relationships with KZCF.
• The clarity of the foundation’s racial equity strategies.
• The effectiveness of the grantmaking processes.
“The process included administering an anonymous survey, facilitating focus groups, collecting and analyzing data and producing a report that revealed how our partners understand the current relationship with the foundation and what they want to see change,” Sandy Barry-Loken, interim vice president of community investment at KZCF, told CMF.
Barry-Loken shared that efforts were made to ensure participation by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) partners.
According to Barry-Loken, in addition to assessing relationships, KZCF focused on:
• How the foundation communicates their racial equity strategies and how they are perceived by partners.
• How partners interact with KZCF when applying for grants and reporting on progress after receiving a grant.
Barry-Loken shared that through this process, they learned that their nonprofit partners want more interaction outside of the times when they are applying for or reporting on grants.
“They called for more transparency, clarity, and boldness in our communications. Regarding grantmaking, our partners wanted a more streamlined application process and more flexibility in evaluation and reporting on grants,” Barry-Loken said.
This feedback from their partners resulted in some immediate changes to streamline the grant application process:
• A majority of 2020 grants will be considered as renewal grants this year, so partners are not required to submit new applications. To ensure they are still open to new partners, KZCF is considering new requests that advance racial equity and racial justice.
• For all new requests, the grantmaking team is taking responsibility to research prospective grantees and ensure they are eliminating barriers to funding consideration.
• Final reporting will be adapted to a more personal approach, shifting from written reports to conversational reflections.
• KZCF is offering their partners a variety of ways to share the impact of their project, describe what could have gone better and identify how their organization is making a difference in community.
“We already have had some amazing feedback from partners expressing gratitude for the streamlined process and the grant reflection conversations especially,” Barry-Loken said.
According to Barry-Loken, the trust-based philanthropy approach has resulted in more frequent and transparent communication with their partners.
“When we approach partners with curiosity and a focus on learning, we understand their work more. We also recognize our heightened responsibility to ensure clarity and share how we are making decisions. The process calls on us as a funder to seek and respond to frequent feedback along the way,” Barry-Loken said.
Learn more about KZCF’s grantmaking process.
Join CMF on June 23 for Midwest Foundations Webinar, Trust-Based Philanthropy Primer to learn more about how to apply the trust-based philanthropic frame to your work.
Watch the Building a Trust-Based Collaborative to Maximize Impact & Improve Sector Health breakout session from CMF’s 48th Annual Conference.
MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery Released
The Student Recovery Advisory Council (SRAC) released the MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery, guidance to help districts and schools create recovery plans that support Michigan students in returning to school.
The SRAC was created to identify the critical issues facing students and staff that must be addressed, and build resources to help local education leaders in developing and implementing a comprehensive recovery plan that is multi-year, evidence-based and equity-driven.
Two CMF trustees, Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Faye Nelson, director of Michigan programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, serve on the advisory council. White also previously served on the Return to School Advisory Council, along with Tonya Allen, former president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation.
Michigan philanthropy has closely partnered with the state throughout the pandemic in developing an equitable return to school.
The nonpartisan Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) worked with Opportunity Labs, a national nonprofit organization that collaborates with the public sector and philanthropies across education, health, housing and workforce to create equitable opportunities for children. That work, made possible by a grant to CMF from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, resulted in recommendations to the advisory council that ultimately informed the Blueprint.
The MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery was released in SRAC’s final report. The report provides evidence-based recommendations to address challenges across wellness, academics, school culture and climate, family and community engagement, and postsecondary education.
The blueprint frames how districts and schools can start their student recovery plan by:
• Providing 10 steps that districts and schools may follow to implement the student recovery plan.
• Outlining nine guiding principles that may serve as a starting point for consideration of the core elements of a comprehensive student recovery plan.
The blueprint identifies several challenge areas and addresses the root causes and goals for each.
Wellness: The comprehensive wellness needs of student, families and school staff, including physical, mental and social-emotional health.
Academics: The varying experiences of students due to the disruption of in-person learning, including absenteeism and gaps due to unfinished learning.
School Climate: The inequities and disproportionalities that impact a student’s school climate, including systemic racism, classism, sexism and discrimination based on religion.
Family and Community Engagement: The strained school-district-community relationships as a result of COVID-19. This includes the lack of accessible community-based afterschool and summer programming, and ineffective family engagement due to increased stress levels.
Post-Secondary: Enrollment for postsecondary education has decreased significantly due to the pandemic because of unfinished learning and inadequate postsecondary advising within schools.
The blueprint lists five policy recommendations to help implement the recovery plan.
Some of the recommendations include establishing equitable and sustainable funding, adopting a statewide strategy to attract and retain educators especially educators of color, expanding innovation zones and increasing access to high-quality preschool.
In early June, join OFL and CMF’s P-20 Education Affinity Group for a comprehensive debrief on the new blueprint. Stay tuned for additional information and registration details on CMF’s events calendar.
Read the full MI Blueprint for Comprehensive Student Recovery.
Supporting Students: Efforts to Expand Mental Health Services
Throughout the pandemic, students have experienced mental health challenges due to the impacts of trauma, loss, social isolation, stress and more.
According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine, one in three teen girls and one in five teen boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety as a result of the pandemic.
Our CMF community has been supporting new and innovative programs across the state throughout the pandemic to increase access to mental health services, especially in the virtual environment.
As we look ahead to slowly reemerging from the pandemic, the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund are working to expand a program that provides mental health resources to schools statewide.
“Rising rates of child and adolescent mental health concerns have been magnified by the pandemic and documented in terms of increased rates of youth considering suicide and significant increases in pediatric mental health related emergency department visits. The need for youth mental health services is tremendous and schools can play an important part in addressing both prevention and improving access to mental health services,” Becky Cienki director, behavioral health at the Health Fund said.
As CMF reported, 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.
“Schools want to ensure they are implementing high-quality, evidence-based and coordinated models of care and TRAILS provides this for students K-12,” Cienki said.
As students look ahead to returning to school in the fall, the Flinn Foundation and the Health Fund are supporting a statewide implementation of the TRAILS program.
“Implementing TRAILS statewide means bringing standardized Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Curriculum and preventative self-help tools to students, parents and staff. It means providing more equitable access to direct services within schools and strengthening links to community supports and implementing best practice suicide prevention and crisis management policies and procedures that save student lives,” Andrea Cole, executive director and CEO of the Flinn Foundation said.
According to Cole, the Flinn Foundation has brought together education and health foundations, community foundations, family foundations as well as corporate funders to support this work.
Earlier this month, the Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) hosted a convening with the Flinn Foundation, the Health Fund and other CMF members to hear from Elizabeth Koschmann, executive director of TRAILS, about how the program supports students and the potential for statewide reach.
“Last week, the Health Fund board approved a grant to support our commitment to statewide expansion of TRAILS programming. Together, we have an incredible opportunity to leverage federal, state and philanthropic investments in order to support schools throughout the state in ramping up their capacity to meet the needs of students,” Cienki said.
According to Cienki, the Health Fund is actively seeking additional philanthropic partners and encourages anyone interested in learning more to reach out for a conversation.
“This type of collaborative investment will establish Michigan as a leading example across the nation of school-delivered social and emotional learning and student mental health programming,” Cienki said.
“We understand the impact this collaborative will have long term on the young people in the communities we all serve. The significance of this unique statewide collaborative opportunity can be a national model for standardizing best practices and equitable access to student mental wellness supports and the connection to improved academic success,” Cole said.
TRAILS has developed comprehensive manuals and accompanying resources across three tiers of programming designed to meet the mental health care needs of all students through:
• Universal education and awareness for all students and staff.
• Targeted intervention for students experiencing mental health difficulties.
• Suicide risk management protocol for students at risk of suicide.
According to TRAILS, nearly 10,000 people have attended a TRAILS training and an estimated 90,000 students have benefitted from TRAILS programming.
The Flinn Foundation has partnered with TRAILS to support the implementation in Washtenaw County Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD). According to Cole, they have seen tremendous success.
In Washtenaw, TRAILS is implementing evidence-based programs that include “peer-led stigma-reduction campaigns, student skills groups based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness and suicide prevention and intervention training.”
In DPSCD, TRAILS is working to improve professional training programs for staff and student mental health through a needs assessment of student emotional health.
“The need for preventative interventions and self-help tools immediately is critical to helping students adjust and thrive as they transition back to in person learning,” said Cole.
Learn more about TRAILS.
CMF Members and Partners Launch Vaccine Drive and “Why I Got the Vaccine” Video
Michigan philanthropy continues to support vaccine access and administration efforts through partnerships.
The Bay Area Community Foundation and the Bay County Health Department in partnership with several non-profit organizations, joined forces to provide vaccine clinics throughout Bay County.
The Drive to Get Vaccinated events took place last week and in order to increase vaccination rates, giveaways and incentive prizes were offered to residents who were vaccinated.
According to a press release, prizes totaling $18,500 were awarded, including a two-year paid car lease on a 2021 Buick Encore, $500 Best Buy gift card, and more to those vaccinated at the clinics. In addition, everyone vaccinated at a Drive to Get Vaccinated clinic received gifts.
In Shiawassee County, The Shiawassee Community Foundation partnered with local non-profits to support the Shiawassee County Health Department with COVID-19 vaccine messaging.
Each non-profit organization submitted a recording sharing why they decided to get the vaccine. The community foundation created a video highlighting each of their reasons.
“The Raise Up Shiawassee video is just one of the local nonprofit initiatives in our community that help make a difference. The Shiawassee Community Foundation is proud to be a part of this important role with the Health Department and local nonprofits. Together, we can all continue to do our part to stay safe and stay healthy,” Kim Renwick, executive director of the Shiawassee Community Foundation, said in a press release.
Watch the full Why I Got the COVID-19 Vaccine video.
Check out The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services social media assets for vaccine updates.
Insights from the Field: Donor-Advised Funds and Impact-First Investments
According to the National Philanthropic Trust (2020), Donor -Advised Funds (DAFs) represent a significant and growing pool of capital, now totaling $141 billion, a 16.2% increase from the previous year, that is earmarked for charitable purposes. However, approximately 80% of DAF assets (or over $100 billion) are invested passively, largely in public securities that do not directly contribute to charitable purposes.
The CMF Impact Investing Committee is partnering with Social Finance, a mission-driven, impact investing and advisory nonprofit that leverages DAF capital for outcomes-oriented, impact-first investments to host an event this week open to all CMF members to discuss how Michigan DAF sponsors can unlock capital, galvanize donors and accelerate equitable recovery across their communities.
Social Finance shared with CMF toplines from their recent research launched to better understand the demand for impact-first investments among DAF holders in the U.S.
Their findings showed that more than 70% of DAF holders have a strong interest in making impact-first investments through their funds. DAF holders also expressed a willingness to allocate up to 20% of their DAF balance to impact-first investments to augment traditional grantmaking.
As a result of this research, Social Finance partnered with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund to curate place-based, impact-first investment opportunities that allow donors to invest their DAF assets to equitably support low-income communities.
These efforts were recently highlighted by Inside Philanthropy.
“There has never been a more urgent need to reimagine the role that DAFs can play in supporting more equitable access to capital,” Tracy Palandjian, CEO and co-founder of Social Finance, and Danny Grossman, CEO of the Federation said in the article. “As we work to build back better, DAF sponsors and donors must work together to ensure that more DAF capital flows to where it is needed most in this moment to enable entrepreneurs, families, and communities of color to overcome pervasive economic displacement.”
Jennifer Oertel, CMF’s Impact Investing Expert-in-Residence, shared more about DAFs and impact-first investments.
“DAFs present a unique opportunity for impact investing,” Oertel said. “The very nature of DAFs, where the assets of individual accounts are held as part of the foundation’s assets, present a wonderful opportunity to pool capital and intentionally invest it to create positive social impact – especially in the community served by the community foundation.”
Oertel encourages DAF-holding foundations to consider that in addition to the good they create in their communities through grantmaking, they could catalyze those efforts further with their investment dollars.
You can learn more about Social Finance’s lessons learned during our event Mobilizing Donor-Advised Funds Toward Impact-First Investments taking place this Wednesday, May 26.
Explore CMF peers’ work in this space through our video series Impact Investing: Members in Action.
Connect with CMF’s Impact Investing Expert-in-Residence, Jennifer Oertel, to learn more.