As Detroit Struggles, Foundations Shift Mission
“They’re coming to us because they have nowhere else to go,” said Carol Goss, the chief executive of Skillman.
Foundations like Skillman and Hudson-Webber that are embedded in their communities have a harder time turning away local charities than do large national foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.
“As a local funder, you don’t get to pick the best programs to work with or the problems you work on,” said Tonya Allen, vice president for programs at Skillman. “You have to deal with what you have in your own backyard.”
The decline of the auto industry, which has long been the bedrock of philanthropy here, is increasing the demand for help, even as assets at the local foundations have fallen.
The Ford Motor Company, financially the strongest of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, expects its giving to fall by about 40 percent from last year’s roughly $35 million, about $12 million of which went to organizations here. “We’re not making any long-term commitments at this time, nothing for capital campaigns, no new exhibitions with cultural partners,” said James G. Vella, president of the Ford Motor Company Fund.
The disappearance of donations from car makers, their suppliers and dealers have dealt a particularly hard hit to Detroit’s arts organizations, which Douglas Bitonti Stewart, the executive director of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, called “the venerable and the vulnerable.” The opera canceled one show, and question marks hang over performances and exhibits at other organizations.
And they, too, are turning to foundations to make up the difference. The McGregor Fund, for instance, increased its annual gift to the opera to $150,000, from $125,000. With the General Motors Foundation pulling out, “I knew they were facing some serious challenges,” said the fund’s president, C. David Campbell.
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan
- Carnegie Corporation
- Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
- Detroit Science Center
- Ford Foundation
- Ford Motor Company
- General Motors Foundation
- Hudson-Webber Foundation
- Kresge Foundation
- Matrix Human Services
- Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
- Michigan Opera Theatre
- Skillman Foundation
- Southwest Detroit Weed and Seed
- The McGregor Fund
- The New York Times
- University of Michigan
- Women Arise
- YouthVille Detroit