“I’m always interested in how a grant from the Community Foundation will have a broad impact. That kind of thing is important to me as I think about the way the dollars within the Community Foundation are being used. I try to think about the greatest number of people, as well as the areas that have the greatest need,” Dr. Glenda Price says of her philanthropic philosophy.
Price is a longtime supporter of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, who has served on the Board of Trustees since 2008, established two donor-advised funds and regularly gives to the organization’s operating endowment.
She is a distinguished community member who served as the president of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation from 2012 to 2016 and was president of Marygrove College from 1998 to 2006. She was the first African American to hold the position. Price has been retired since 2016 and continues to volunteer on several boards throughout the city of Detroit. Her focus is on programs related to education, the arts, and health care.
Price recently took the time to answer a few questions about her commitment to philanthropy and her ongoing collaboration with the Community Foundation.
Question: What or who inspired you as you began your philanthropic journey? Are there people or events that continue to inspire you?
Answer: There are quite a few people I would say who inspire me, both friends and local people. But I can identify two people I think are the sort of philanthropists that I would love to be if I had the resources they have.
One is Oprah Winfrey. I think what she has done in the educational space has been remarkable with historically black colleges and universities as well as with individuals. I find that very inspiring because of my educational background and having been involved with higher education institutions.
The other person is (novelist and philanthropist) MacKenzie Scott. She has given across the board and has demonstrated a level of caring and philanthropy that is unusual.
Question: In addition to being a Community Foundation donor, you serve on the Board of Trustees. How do you use your voice as a member of this body?
Answer: As a member of the board, my involvement is at the committee level.
I am a member of the Program and Distribution Committee. That is where I think I have the greatest impact to speak to the various proposals that are presented and to look at the arenas in which the Community Foundation is funding, such as education and health care. I also think about my other connections in the arts and culture space and all the other things that I do. I bring to those discussions at the Program and Distribution Committee some insight into how the dollars of the Community Foundation can make an impact.
The other committee that I serve with is the Governance Committee (which is responsible, in part, for nominating new board members). There again, it is knowing people in the community that I think are consistent with the values of the Community Foundation and would be good board members and committee members.
Question: Can you talk about your vision for the two donor-advised funds you established at the Community Foundation – the Glenda Price Endowed Fund (an endowed fund that eventually will roll into the Southeast Michigan Forever Fund and make an impact in perpetuity) and the Price Family Fund (an expendable fund that will be spent down)?
Answer: I want to have the greatest possible impact where I think that it will truly make a difference. My funds are modest, but they still have impact. I want to make sure that the giving that I direct from those funds is going to really matter to the organizations that I give it to.
A recent example I had an interaction with was Heritage Works (a Detroit-based nonprofit). They do community projects in the arts and culture space. I made a grant to them. They have been so grateful because it came out of the blue. They didn’t know it was coming. I think I’ve gotten half a dozen thank-yous from students who are in their program and from the CEO. It was so unexpected that that $1,000 would have that level of impact. You think of $1,000 as being a modest grant. But, for Heritage Works, it had a significant impact. I find that kind of thing very rewarding and appreciate the fact that I can have that kind of an impact with the modest dollars I have.
Question: Why do you think building endowment is important for southeast Michigan?
Answer: You really do need to think about the future. Even with the modest funds that I have, they can go on into the future and will support individuals, programs and ideas that I can’t conceive of right now. To think that I’m going to have an impact long beyond me is certainly intriguing and I think is something that most people appreciate.
Question: In addition to your two named donor-advised funds, you also have made donations to support Community Foundation operations throughout the years. Why is this important to you?
Answer: The work has to get done, it’s as simple as that. You need to make sure that the funding for that work does not come out of the dollars that you want to give to the community. So, it’s a natural expectation that those of us who are involved would support the work. It just is a straightforward expectation: The staff at the Community Foundation is working on my behalf and, as a result, I then have to contribute to ensuring that that work continues.
Question: Why did you choose to build your philanthropic legacy with the Community Foundation instead of a more traditional investment firm?
Answer: I can have a very personal sort of engagement in the process, which would simply not be true with one of the large national firms that handle philanthropic giving. That’s very transactional. You can get money into organizations. But it does not have the kind of personal reward that knowing the organizations you’re giving to, knowing the people who are being supported, knowing the ideas that are emanating out of the collective giving by individuals who are supporters of the Community Foundation does. That has a kind of reward that just writing a check and sending it to someone does not have.
Question: What advice would you give to aspiring philanthropists in southeast Michigan?
Answer: Simply think of what you care about and start giving. I have said that to any number of people who have said, “I can’t even think about being a philanthropist because I don’t have a lot of money.” I say, “If you have a dollar and you’re willing to give 10 cents, you’re a philanthropist.”
Simply start giving and think about other ways of giving. Sometimes you don’t have all the money that you would like to give, but you might have time, you might have the ability to influence someone else with your words, you might have the ability to provide a service that the organization does not need to pay someone else to do. That saving on their part is philanthropic on your part. I try to say to young people, particularly, that they have things of value and they should not dismiss that. They will be able to see themselves as philanthropists by using the talents that they have, using the time they have, using the treasure they have. All three are important. Then, when you do have the (financial) resources, you’re going to use those resources in ways that continue to support the things you care about.
Question: Can you tell us a story of positive change that you’ve seen come about thanks to the support from the Community Foundation?
Answer: One of the things I was very pleased by was during Covid when the Community Foundation made a grant to (nonprofit cultural alliance) CultureSource so they could regrant those dollars to arts and culture organizations. (The funds were) used for not the typical grants that the Community Foundation gives, but to simply support the organizations. That helped the arts and culture sector to survive what was a devasting period for them. They’re still recovering. But that kind of creativity is something I think is very indicative of the Community Foundation and how it thinks broadly about community, the way in which it thinks broadly about how to have the greatest impact on the largest number of people and how to stay true to its mandate but at the same time say, “Here’s a need that we had not anticipated.”
I also think the ongoing way in which the Community Foundation has been creative in supporting some communities through the New Economy Initiative (is an example of positive change). A lot of the organizations that NEI supports and the individuals that are engaged there would not receive typical grants from the Community Foundation. But, because of the initiative, because of the work of the Community Foundation in helping to garner funds for NEI, it again has a very broad impact in the community.
Question: August is Black Philanthropy Month. This year’s theme was “Love in Action,” “inspired by the times and the late scholar-activist bell hooks’ writings on love as a necessary foundation for true social change.” Can you reflect on this question organizers posed to the community: “What would philanthropy look like if it were driven by love of all humanity including Black people?”
Answer: I think philanthropy would do what it is purported to and that is help all vulnerable people, no matter their background, no matter how they became in need. The idea is that you help people simply because they need the help. You don’t say, “Well, it’s their own fault,” even though it may be that they find themselves in a difficult position simply because they were not very responsible, or they didn’t take advantage of other opportunities. But philanthropy, in my mind, should always be about: There is a need. Let us ask the question of how to fill that need. If that were the way in which philanthropy worked all the time for everyone, the African American community as well as the Asian community and the Arab American community and the Native American community and everyone would benefit.
Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Answer: I have truly enjoyed my service on the Community Foundation board and feel that I have made a contribution, but I also have learned a lot. I have benefited personally from being a member and appreciate the inclusiveness of the board with respect to the opportunity to raise questions, to participate in conversations, to be a contributing member. Any number of boards that you sit on, you go to a meeting and you hear reports and it’s all fine. But, with the Community Foundation, I have found that, for me personally, I’ve been able to be engaged at a level that I find rewarding. So, I would hope that’s true for everyone who sits on the board.
Read more stories of those dedicated to creating permeant, positive change in southeast Michigan at TheVoicesOfChange.com.