Kresge Foundation Philamplify Report

For Immediate Release

New Philamplify Report: Kresge Foundation on Path Toward Becoming Next Great Social Justice Philanthropy

National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy urges Kresge to explicitly integrate racial equity across six programs in pursuit of systemic change

Washington, D.C. (10/28/15) – The Kresge Foundation is poised to be the next great social justice funder, according to a new report out today from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). Released through the watchdog group’s Philamplify initiative, which brings honest feedback to grantmakers, “The Kresge Foundation: Will This Bold Grantmaker Become the Next Great Social Justice Foundation?” offers actionable findings and recommendations from a comprehensive assessment to help the foundation reach the next level. 

“The Kresge Foundation has moved 180 degrees from risk-avoidance to risk-pursuit. Few foundations have embraced risk as much,” said principal researcher Elizabeth Myrick, referring to the foundation’s strategic shift in 2006. “In fact, Kresge proves that no foundation is too set in its ways to hit the reset button and try something new.”


Myrick used feedback from Kresge grantees, peer funders and other stakeholders as well as publicly available information to analyze Kresge’s giving. She found that the foundation:

  • Exceeds most of NCRP’s criteria for effective social justice philanthropy by working with low-income communities to address systemic issues like poverty, health and climate resilience.
  • Uses a cross-disciplinary approach, serves as a thought leader and convenes partners to solve problems.
  • Doesn’t often use an overt racial equity lens, weakening its pursuit of opportunity for all.
  • Is sometimes criticized for being too top-down in its approach to helping Detroit and its residents.
  • Invests its endowment in ways that support and undermine its mission.


Myrick and NCRP recommend specific improvements for Kresge to fulfill its potential, such as:

  • Incorporate racial equity explicitly in all operations and strategies.
  • Prioritize collaboration with neighborhood and nontraditional leaders in Detroit.
  • Increase mission investing and divest from fossil fuels.
  • Continue to be a public leader, but also provide a platform to its grantees and partners.



With its $3.5 billion in assets and $242.5 million in grants last year, Kresge has significant impact across its programming in arts and culture, education, environment, health and human services and community development in Detroit. The foundation’s commitment to underserved communities plays out in unique ways such as:

  • The Environment: Kresge was a trailblazer in supporting work to build resilience of communities most affected by climate change. Watch this Philamplify video on Kresge and how its funding of PUSH Buffalo is helping prevent sewage-contaminated water runoff from flowing into the Niagara River.
  • Arts and Culture: Kresge marries arts and cultural programming with community development. For example, it co-founded ArtPlace America, which brings art into community revitalization efforts alongside housing and transportation.
  • Detroit: Kresge was the second largest funder of the “grand bargain” that saved the Detroit Institute of Arts and helped the city resolve its pension obligations to climb out of bankruptcy last year. Some critics cited this as an example of philanthropy’s political agenda, but many noted Kresge’s role as illustrating its leadership and positive impact.

“We were reassured that the NCRP joined our grantees, partners and peers in lauding our approach to address important urban issues – by embracing risk, by working at the intersection of disciplines and by deploying a variety of tools,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, in his statement about the Philamplify assessment. “We have studied [NCRP’s] recommendations and have already made headway on several suggestions. … Thank you for undertaking the Philamplify initiative to maximize the impact of our foundation and our sector as a whole.”

The Kresge Foundation: Will This Bold Grantmaker Become the Next Great Social Justice Foundation?” is available for free on NCRP encourages readers to share their feedback about the assessment and the foundation.

About Philamplify

Philamplify’s foundation assessments provide a comprehensive examination of a foundation’s grantmaking and operations. They incorporate feedback received from key stakeholders and offer recommendations to maximize foundation effectiveness. users can comment on and agree or disagree with these recommendations and nominate foundations they want “philamplified.”

In addition to Kresge, NCRP has released reports on the Hess Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, The California Endowment, Daniels Fund, the Lumina Foundation for Education, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and William Penn Foundation.

It is currently assessing the Knight Foundation, New York Community Trust and Oregon Community Foundation.

About NCRP

Since 1976, NCRP has served as the voice of nonprofits and the communities they serve in philanthropy. Through research and advocacy, NCRP works to ensure that philanthropy contributes in meaningful ways to the creation of a fair, just and equitable world. Visit for more information.


For interviews with Lisa Ranghelli, NCRP director of foundation assessment or Elizabeth Myrick, principal researcher for the Kresge Foundation assessment, please contact Yna Moore at (202) 557-1381 or