Most of Michigan’s top foundations fall short on giving to underserved communities

Written by: Kristina ("Yna") C. Moore

Date: January 19, 2017

Michigan has some of the country’s largest and well-known foundations. A number helped Detroit climb out of bankruptcy through the “Grand Bargain.”

So I asked my colleague, Ryan Schlegel to look at Foundation Center’s FC1000 data that was the basis of NCRP’s Pennies for Progress report to identify which of Michigan’s largest foundations gave most to underserved communities and social justice. (Last week, we looked at New York’s largest foundations.)

Underserved communities and finding long-term systemic solutions were not priorities

Michigan’s 66 foundations that are considered among the country’s largest gave more than $10.3 billion in total grants for U.S.-based programs from 2003-2013.

Only 31 percent of this amount went towards programs that directly benefit the lower-income people, people of color or other underserved populations hit hard by the recession. Less than a handful of the state’s largest foundations gave 50 percent or more of their grant dollars during the period.

Support for advocacy, community organizing and other efforts that engage citizens to come up with long-term solutions to systemic injustices and inequities were even lower, with only two foundations giving 25 percent or more.

Which Michigan-based foundation gave the most in support of underserved communities, 2003-2013?
Foundation Name Share of grant dollars for underserved
Manoogian Simone Foundation 79%
The Skillman Foundation 60%
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation 57%
W. K. Kellogg Foundation 55%
McGregor Fund 43%
Fremont Area Community Foundation 35%
The Kresge Foundation 34%
Kalamazoo Community Foundation 33%
Comerica Charitable Foundation 33%
Ruth Mott Foundation 31%
Based on Foundation Center’s FC1000 data.


Which Michigan-based foundation gave most to find long-term solutions to social inequities and injustice, 2003-2013
Foundation Name  Share of grant dollars for systems change strategies
The Skillman Foundation 36%
W. K. Kellogg Foundation 32%
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation 18%
Earhart Foundation 10%
The Kresge Foundation 9%
General Motors Foundation, Inc. 8%
Ford Motor Company Fund 8%
DTE Energy Foundation 7%
The Chrysler Foundation 7%
McGregor Fund 6%
Based on Foundation Center’s FC100 data.

However, there were some improvements during the period studied. The Kresge Foundation “has moved 180 degrees from risk avoidance to risk pursuit,” which has put it on “a path toward achieving significant impact in underserved communities,” according to our 2015 Philamplify report on the foundation.

The big picture

Don’t forget to check out Pennies for Progress: A decade of boom for philanthropy, a bust for social justice for national-level findings and analyses.

What do you think of our findings? Are you surprised (or not) by any of the foundations on this list?

Yna C. Moore is senior director of communications at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Follow @ynamoore and @NCRP on Twitter.


Are New York’s largest foundations committed to helping the most vulnerable in our communities?


Philanthropic Landscape 2016

Pennies for Progress