Our Foundation’s Equity Journey: A Conversation with Saginaw Community Foundation
From the main stage at our 2019 Annual Conference, CMF President and CEO Kyle Caldwell asked the question “What does equity mean to Michigan philanthropy?” He invited the CMF community to explore the question together, a shared journey that’s continued and deepened over the last year. The engagement and conversations that unfolded at our annual gathering resonated with the Saginaw Community Foundation, helping to reaffirm and further ignite their own equity journey.
“Even prior to the CMF conference, my team had inquired about what the community foundation should do in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI),” Reneé Johnston, president and CEO of Saginaw Community Foundation and CMF trustee said. “I felt like we were doing it naturally, but I understood the need to make sure that it was definitely part of our culture.”
On the last day of the conference, CMF trustees facilitated a collaborative dialogue among attendees on our future strategic plan and focus on equity, which inspired Johnston to think further about equity in Saginaw.
“I took the handout from the conference and ran a similar exercise with my staff and board, asking them to list what they think our top priorities should be. Between staff and the board, DEI definitely rose to the top.”
The foundation’s board and staff further inspired Johnston to explore how equity can be at the center of their work.
“At the time, my incoming board chair continued having these generative discussions about where we needed to have an impact,” she said. “We decided that we needed to focus on how to get our population living in poverty out of poverty.”
These conversations led the foundation to focus on education, as its leaders believed that learning, with a particular focus on literacy, was the key to creating better economic opportunities for Saginaw County residents. Working with the president of Saginaw Intermediate School District who is a community foundation board member and the community foundation’s board chair, and led DEI programming at Saginaw Valley State University, the community foundation identified the need to address equity in education.
The community foundation deepened its internal equity work during this time as well. While staff and board members had different experiences and understandings of DEI, Johnston notes that they all saw a need to embrace it as a strategic priority. From there, foundation leadership scheduled unconscious bias training for staff while staff and board members completed DEI assessments and surveys to determine their next steps in engaging in equity.
Just as the community foundation was about to dive even more deeply into their DEI work, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan.
“We weren’t able to do the live training that we had planned,” Johnston said, “But we were able to complete it virtually. [The facilitators] took us through the seven different types of unconscious bias and then gave us some exercises we could do individually then share the results as a staff. This allowed everyone to understand and to be prepared for the next steps.”
The board chair was also approached by the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the local economic development corporation with an interest in starting their own DEI journeys. The chair connected the chamber and economic development corporation with the foundation, which resulted in a community equity-focused book club. All three organizations are reading books focused on DEI and participating in activities to expand their understanding.
“This ties our DEI focus together with our commitment to education and literacy,” Johnston said. “Taking this DEI journey will help that focus become stronger.”
Over the weekend Johnston invited her board to participate in a virtual presentation with Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” hosted by the Midland Center for the Arts. At the community foundation’s board meeting next week, they will continue the conversation on their book club and the virtual presentation.
Johnston said she has also encouraged her board to participate in CMF’s 48th Annual Conference, noting the strong alignment of their internal DEI journey with the conversations and in particular the main stage events in week 2 on unconscious bias and talking about race.
“We all need to embrace these conversations.”
As you consider how to further your own equity journey—personally or within your organization—we encourage you to join action-oriented conversations and deep learning with the CMF community of philanthropy at our 48th Annual Conference - Building Inclusive Environments: Together on the Journey – taking place Oct. 19-22 and Oct. 26-29. Together we will explore the facets of bold leadership through crisis and best practices in our field, centered in equity.
During the Oct. 26th Annual Members Meeting at CMF’s 48th Annual Conference, the CMF Board of Trustees will share a new strategic vision for CMF. This new vision clearly defines the path forward for our community of philanthropy, with equity at the center of our work. Read more in the latest message from CMF President and CEO Kyle Caldwell.
Register for CMF’s 48th Annual Conference.
CMF continues to lift up the internal and external equity work of our members for shared learning. Share your organization’s equity story with us!
Community Foundation Leads Coalition to Spearhead Community Development in Northwest Michigan
A collaborative effort, led by the Grant Traverse Regional Community Foundation (GTRCF), aims to bolster the prosperity and well-being of residents in 10 counties in Northwest Michigan.
Formed in 2019 and launched publicly last week, the Community Development Strategy and Coalition is a partnership between 25 business, nonprofit and government agencies dedicated to improving social, environmental and economic outcomes for Northwest Michigan residents. GTRCF is providing the administrative and facilitation support for the coalition.
“Looking back at other regional community development efforts here and around the state and country it’s easy to put together a coalition,” Dave Mengebier, president and CEO of GTRCF told the Traverse City Record Eagle. “What’s harder is actually moving the needle on these kinds of societal, economic, environmental and development issues.”
The coalition has launched a 10-year community development plan based on a regional scorecard it developed to gauge the region’s economic, societal and environmental outcomes. Based on current scorecard results, the coalition was able to guide its work and focus through 2030.
“Our vision is by creating a coalition of business, government and nonprofit leaders and organizations who agree to work together on a set of measurable and meaningful goals, we will overcome the barriers that are inhibiting our region’s progress,” Mengebier told CMF.
With a particular focus on Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties, the coalition will engage in the following activities to achieve its goals:
Advocate for community projects with elected officials and through ballot initiatives.
Seek out and facilitate joint funding opportunities for community development.
Consult with experts on issues important to the region’s well-being.
Engage the community in the coalition’s work and progress.
Some current coalition member initiatives include the Creative Coast podcast highlighting local art and artists, securing funding for a new Bay Area Transit Authority headquarters and transfer center and working with other authorities from around the Great Lakes to ensure environmental sustainability.
Through this collaborative effort, the coalition hopes to partner and utilize the expertise, resources and leadership of each of its members to improve the quality of life in Northwest Michigan. In particular, Mengebier has seen the impact community foundations can have in bringing together leaders from across sectors to support the well-being of community residents.
“What we’ve learned from the process of pulling together the coalition and scorecard so far is that we, and by extension other community foundations, are well-positioned to lead collaborative efforts like this because we’re seen as objective and neutral partners without a vested interest beyond improving the quality of life for the people and communities we serve,” Mengebier told CMF.
Learn more about the Community Development Strategy and Coalition.
Read about the coalition in the Traverse City Record Eagle.
State: Innovative Programs and Policy Action Needed to Support Aging Population
The Aging and Adult Services Agency (AASA) of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released a new plan detailing how the state hopes to support Michigan’s aging population through the fiscal year 2023.
The 2021-2023 Michigan State Plan on Aging details the goals MDHHS hopes to accomplish for Michigan’s aging population over the next few years, as well as the methods to be utilized to achieve those goals. AASA and MDHHS will work to ensure the well-being of Michiganders aged 60 and over.
“This state plan builds on the strengths of Michigan’s aging network and aligns with its mission to deliver services in a person-centered, cost-effective way that best meets people’s needs,” the report reads.
According to the report, Michigan’s over-60 population totaled 1.8 million people in 2010; since then, that number has grown to 2.4 million, or 24.4% of the state’s overall population. As the aging population continues to grow, new and innovative leadership and policy are needed to best support Michiganders as they advance in age.
The cornerstone of the report is a set of four goals, each designed to address the changing needs of aging residents.
Increase information and awareness of aging services networks to ensure aging residents and caregivers have access to services that are appropriate for their individual needs.
Promote connectivity for seniors through methods such as increased transportation options and internet access.
Increase the number of qualified senior care professionals and ensure they are prepared to work with aging residents with different physical, emotional and cultural needs.
Utilize programs, services and resources to allow older adults to make decisions on their aging, and to age in place when possible.
Strategies for achieving the four goals include increasing and reallocating funding for certain services, improved workforce training and increasing access to health, wellness, transportation and connectivity options for aging adults.
The plan also details some of the challenges that emerged for Michigan’s aging population because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as what the state is doing to help mitigate some of these challenges. CMF members are working to combat these issues, such as social isolation and lack of knowledge of COVID-19 resources for seniors.
The plan provides insights for funders beyond those who are specifically focused on supporting our aging population.
“The pandemic has underscored our senior population's vulnerability and the domino effect it has had on schools, neighborhoods and the workplace,” Vincent Tilford, executive director of the Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation, chair of CMF’s Michigan Grantmakers in Aging affinity group and CMF trustee said. “With nearly one out of every four Michigan residents over the age of 60, the state's new report on aging is a must-read not only for foundations who work in the field of aging but also for philanthropic organizations concerned about community health and well-being.”
Read ASAA’s 2021-2023 Michigan State Plan on Aging.