Message From the Chair and President – July 2020

In REPORT Newsletter,Yearbook

This letter originally appeared in our 2020 Yearbook

In the spring of 2020, as we draft this annual report message, 2019 seems like a century ago. Detroit and Michigan are starting to emerge from the initial COVID-19 crisis. Streets are active with protests calling for change to address racial injustice. Our region is so deeply impacted by the virus and loss of life. First responders and health care providers have been pushed beyond all measures and continue to show total commitment and sacrifice. The systemic inequities and bias to which African Americans are subjected have led to a nationwide outpouring.

We may not know or understand the full depth of the challenges before us, but the Community Foundation will continue to work to deepen our understanding of the needs across our region—and act. As always, we will do so with many partners and with the support of our donors.

At the same time, we owe it to those who support us and work with us to showcase some of what they made possible in 2019 and to recognize the hard work of the hundreds of nonprofit organizations that make this region better each day.

In 2019, we didn’t spend much time looking back.

Instead, the Community Foundation took what it had learned over 35 years and sharpened our skills to move issues and to make significant change. Benefiting from the wisdom of our partners, we tried new approaches to solve problems across the many different communities in the seven-county southeast Michigan region.

There were several notable “firsts” in 2019. The Community Foundation’s assets reached more than $1 billion for the first time, thanks to new contributions of more than $96 million and an 18.8 percent total return on our endowed assets. We also continued to rank in the top 30 in asset value of community foundations nationwide. A total of nearly $87 million was distributed through 4,200 grants, reflecting our commitment to our community.

The Michigan Opioid Partnership was the first Community Foundation statewide grants program and the Foundation’s first financial partnership with the State of Michigan.

This effort is working to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths through prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and sustained recovery. Due to the urgency of the epidemic, the Community Foundation is stepping beyond the boundaries of the region and lending its support and expertise to the statewide effort. To date, more than $4 million has been provided to hospitals and jails across Michigan.

As the 2020 U.S. Census fast approached, the Community Foundation provided more than $1 million to more than 40 organizations in the region working to promote and support a fair and accurate census count. These grants are part of the Southeast Michigan Counts initiative to help nonprofits conduct census outreach in historically undercounted communities. It is estimated that for every person not counted, states lose about $1,800 per year in federal funds.

Providing timely and accurate information helps communities thrive and empowers individuals to make informed decisions in their own lives. The Community Foundation’s Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund was expanded to support media outlets that work with communities to engage and represent citizen stories.

A report commissioned by the Community Foundation outlined the challenges of the estimated 600,000 foreign-born residents living in southeast Michigan. The report charted a course for the philanthropic community to create the Southeast Michigan Immigrant and Refugee Funder Collaborative to address issues such as lack of access to affordable housing, health care, transportation, and others.

The Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, is often overlooked by policymakers. The Community Foundation was pleased to support Dave Dempsey and John Hartig, the authors of two new books about our freshwater resources. These books help us learn from a time when the Great Lakes were filled with pollution and how we should define the region as a global freshwater hub.

The New Economy Initiative’s (NEI) storytelling campaign, broadcast through all types of media, highlighted the experiences of Detroit entrepreneurs. The aim is to inspire individuals who don’t see themselves in that role to realize that they might also be able to start a business.

Our focus on youth sports via the Project Play initiative continues to expand with the support of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. The launching of the SportPort effort created sports equipment lending libraries in 15 locations from Marysville to Detroit to Mount Clemens. Through this program, kids, parents and coaches can try different sports by checking out equipment that may not otherwise be accessible to them. In addition, partnerships with YMCAs, community groups, and others provide training in these sports.

These are just a few of the many diverse activities and partnerships that had an impact over 2019. Our work would not be possible without the thousands of donors who have so generously built the Community Foundation endowment and the donors we work with every day to help them fulfill their charitable goals. We are grateful for the faith and trust they have in the Community Foundation.

As this annual report goes to press, we don’t know what the remainder of 2020 will bring. We are at our best when working with others and we welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

We are honored to serve southeast Michigan and appreciate your support.

Review the 2020 Yearbook