A Detroit Foundation Recommits to Safety Net Funding

Groceries” by Tasha

March 8, 2017; Crain’s Detroit

Detroit arts and cultural organizations looking for support from the McGregor Fund might need to look elsewhere. Crain’s Detroit reported that the fund’s president Kate Levin Markel unveiled a new grant framework last week. Taking a fresh look at the needs of the city, the fund will move away from broad funding of arts and culture and education.

“The concentration of poverty is not moving in the city and other parts of the region. Government supports for the social safety net are going down, not up, and there hasn’t been an influx of other foundation and other charitable support for these issues,” Markel said. “We are at a moment in our long life where we feel we need to 100 percent commit our work in support of our poorest neighbors.”

The board’s strategic decision came after looking at what spaces other major funders were in. Markel noted that several powerhouse funders are engaged in funding early childhood education initiatives. Big commitments have come from the Kresge Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and, soon, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. Nationally, many United Ways have been leaders in doubling down on investing in early childhood education, from preschool to nutrition and early reading.

The foundation reported that the move is on point with the founders Tracy and Katherine McGregor’s legacy of supporting basic needs and allows the foundation to respond to the disconnection that many vulnerable people feel from the progress Detroit is making, The funding areas will be:

  • Basic needs, such as food, shelter, and access to primary medical care, building on earlier support
  • Recovery and restorative services for people who have experienced abuse or trauma and/or have substance abuse problems, expanding earlier support
  • Proven skill-building programs that lead to broader personal and career choices for teens and adults living in poverty, a new area of funding for McGregor, aimed at helping them develop essential soft and hard skills, a network of trusting relationships, self-confidence, a positive view of the future and a broader sense of possibilities

According to its website, the McGregor Fund is a private foundation established in 1925 by Tracy and Katherine McGregor to “relieve the misfortunes and promote the well-being of mankind.” Crain’s Detroit reported that it has granted nearly $242 million to nonprofits in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties in the nearly 100 years since it has been functioning and has total assets of $162 million as of 2016.—Carrie Collins-Fadell