Foundation Friday: Case study from Detroit

This account from Sunday’s New York Times gives the flavor of life in a community where the supports are all crumbling at once.  N.B. the emphasis on the possibility that agencies will have to merge or collaborate to secure support from strapped philanthropies.

Historically, mergers and collaborations driven by funders (the United Way was an early champion of the technique) have been less successful than those initiated by the relevant agencies.  But it’s understandable at a time of crisis that philanthropists can’t wait for agency executives to get their egos out of the way, and must press for quick action.

The article also makes a point it may not have intended: that charities reliant on organized philanthropy are at the mercy of same.  Only an agency’s own individual donors–who are persuaded of the essential irreplaceability of its particular approach to issues, whether social-service, arts, advocacy or environmental–can sustain it through these tough times.

So if you’re not already raising money from individuals, time to start.


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One Response to “Foundation Friday: Case study from Detroit”

  1. William Hanson Says:

    Everybody knows about Detroit ’s troubles. Less well-known is that several Detroit foundations are collaborating and innovating in ways they have not done before to address the desperate needs of the community. Stephanie Strom’s piece, while not sugarcoating the situation, clearly suggests that these foundations are an important component of a Detroit recovery that everyone hopes comes sooner than later.

    The Skillman Foundation is committed to providing resources to improve the lives of children in Detroit by improving their schools and neighborhoods. Created in 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation that is a charitable, tax-exempt organization.

    Our focus is on developing good schools and good neighborhoods for the children in Detroit . Though we make grants throughout Detroit , the bulk of our support is in six Detroit neighborhoods — Brightmoor, Cody/Rouge, the Northend, Osborn, and Southwest Detroit — and on innovative and successful schools throughout the city of Detroit .

    It’s true nonprofits should have a diverse funding base to support themselves through difficult times but we aren’t going to turn our backs on the organizations that need our help the most and who are doing the most for Detroit Kids. We recognize that local organizations need our support now, more than ever, so we are working hard to be innovative and collaborative to ensure that we can continue to support our grantees during these tough times.

    There is hope for Detroit . The foundations mentioned in the story are committed to doing whatever it takes to support the nonprofit community and the children of Detroit .

    William Hanson
    Director of Communications & Technology
    The Skillman Foundation

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