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Agency endowment helps cancer support nonprofit Gilda’s Club secure its future 

April 12th, 2024 Back to Browse Stories

Photo: The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has made grants to support Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, a nonprofit that works to uplift and strengthen people impacted by cancer. Past grants have helped Gilda’s Club expand its programming, including its offerings for children. Recently, Gilda’s Club established an agency endowment fund with the Community Foundation to build its long-term sustainability.   

This story was first published in the Spring 2024 REPORT newsletter.

Nonprofit partners throughout southeast Michigan work tirelessly to transform our region into a place where everyone can thrive. They paint the murals, plant the flowers, repair the trails, make the music, uplift the youth and support the caregivers. They protect our health, nurture new businesses, tell our stories, fight for justice and so much more.    

One way the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan supports these organizations is by helping them create a sustainable funding source through agency endowment.  

What is agency endowment? 

Agency endowment works like this: A nonprofit makes an initial financial contribution to establish a fund, and then the Community Foundation nurtures it over time. A portion of the fund is made available annually to the nonprofit and the remaining assets are reinvested for growth in perpetuity. The Community Foundation offers marketing support and handles all of the agency endowment fund’s administration, including gift processing, audit letters and investment management.  

This frees up the nonprofit to focus on its work in the community, with the peace of mind that comes from knowing it will have funds to depend on in the future. More than 240 nonprofits throughout southeast Michigan benefit from agency endowment funds at the Community Foundation, including the cancer support organization Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit. 

Endowment in action at Gilda’s Club 

Gilda’s Club works to uplift and strengthen people impacted by cancer by providing support, fostering compassionate communities, and breaking down barriers to care. The Royal Oak-based nonprofit, which also has locations in Detroit and St. Clair Shores, provides free services to thousands of people each year.  

Gilda’s Club Executive Director and CEO Laura Varon Brown says the 2008 economic crisis, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired the nonprofit to build its long-term sustainability so it can continue to serve clients and expand its services regardless of what the future brings. 

“When we had the downturn in 2008, we had to slow down our operating. We closed on Fridays and had to lay off several staff members. We don’t ever want to do that again,” Varon Brown says. “During COVID we got lucky with some of the emergency funds that helped keep nonprofits afloat — but, as you know, a lot of nonprofits didn’t stay afloat. We’re fortunate, but that may look very different if we had another issue.” 

When Gilda’s Club regained its financial footing after the crises, its board of directors decided to pursue a multifaceted approach to sustainability. This included launching a capital campaign and developing multiple income streams, including endowment.  

Longtime board member Randy Book, a cancer survivor with a deep personal commitment to the organization’s vision, advocated for Gilda’s Club to establish an agency endowment fund at the Community Foundation and generously contributed the seed money. 

“Establishing the fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan stems from a strategic vision to enhance Gilda’s Club’s presence and efficacy within the local area. By partnering with a well-established, community-focused organization like the Community Foundation, you aim to leverage their expertise, networks and resources to amplify the impact of Gilda’s Club,” Book says. “This collaboration not only increases visibility, but also potentially opens up new avenues for growth, funding and community engagement, ensuring the support Gilda’s Club offers can reach a wider audience and be more deeply integrated within the community fabric.” 

Visit or contact Donor Services Coordinator Jen Femlee at or 313-961-6675 to learn more about how the Community Foundation can help nonprofits develop a sustainable funding source through agency endowment. 

Learn More about Agency Endowment

This story was first published in the Spring 2024 REPORT Newsletter