Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund Gets $2.5 Million in Philanthropic Support

Detroit's revitalization is being supported by gifts from the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Detroit’s revitalization is being supported by gifts from the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Photo: Shutterstock

On June 1, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced that they are investing $1.5 million in Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund.

The Strategic Neighborhood Fund is a public-private partnership between the City of Detroit and Invest Detroit whose goal is to show that neighborhood redevelopment can be done in financially sound, sustainable, and inclusive ways.

The Ford Foundation, as part of its larger commitment to addressing inequality in all its forms, has also awarded $1 million to the Strategic Neighborhood Fund.

The investment will be focused initially on three areas of the city: the West Village on the city’s lower east side, the Vernor Highway corridor east of Clark Park in southwest Detroit, and the Livernois-McNichols area of northwestern Detroit. Development in these neighborhoods includes a mix of new commercial and residential projects and rehabilitation of existing residential properties. In the Fitzgerald Neighborhood on the northwest side, the Strategic Neighborhood Fund plans to develop a quarter-square-mile of blight-free residential homes with new green recreation space, community gardens, orchards, and a walking path connecting the University of Detroit Mercy to Marygrove College.

“We are deeply appreciative of the commitment of the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation to Detroit’s strategic plans for revitalizing neighborhoods that suffered disinvestment for too long,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “The foundations’ leaders understand, as Invest Detroit does, that for the city’s recovery to be sustained and inclusive, it must focus on the needs of longtime residents who never gave up on the city. We’re making the case that neighborhood reinvestment works in Detroit.”

The Strategic Neighborhood Fund is a more than $30 million public-private partnership that is part of a broader vision for stabilizing Detroit neighborhoods with targeted reinvestment including new and rehabilitated mixed-income housing and new commercial developments designed to enhance neighborhoods and draw new residents and businesses. The fund’s redevelopment efforts are driven by the needs of neighborhood residents who participate in community meetings that guide the city’s planning.

“Building a network of thriving neighborhoods in Detroit is essential to attracting and keeping talent in the city, and creating new economic opportunities for all, said Katy Locker, Knight Foundation program director for Detroit. “The Strategic Neighborhood Fund will help support the growth of more small businesses in Detroit, bring people of different backgrounds and income levels together, and create more of the kind of places where people want to live.”

“We are pleased to partner in this potentially game-changing initiative to ensure the revitalization of the city of Detroit is shared across neighborhoods and to all those committed to the continued ascension of this great city,” said Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. “I commend the mayor and his team for understanding the importance of capital flowing to all corners of the city for a true resurgence and equitable recovery.”

Ultimately, Detroit wants to expand neighborhood redevelopment and community planning to seven more areas, spanning more than 50 neighborhoods, over the next three years.

The investments by the Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation build on $10 million previously awarded to the Strategic Neighborhood Fund by JP Morgan Chase and the Hudson-Webber Foundation. It also allows the City of Detroit to implement the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, a partnership between the Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the JPB Foundation that aims to counter economic and social fragmentation by revitalizing and connecting public spaces such as parks, plazas, trails, and libraries.

Successful Grad Gives Back, Makes Hefty Donation to Alma Mater

The Mehlman Talent Initiative is one generous donor's way of giving back to his alma mater

The Mehlman Talent Initiative is one generous donor’s way of giving back to his alma mater. Photo: Shutterstock

When Ken Mehlman graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 1988, nobody knew who he was. At the time, he was just another college grad trying to make something of his life. But in the years since then, Mehlman has made quite the name for himself. He is now a distinguished political figure, lawyer, and businessman.

It’s no secret that education played a big role in Mehlman’s career, which is why he is funding a new program at Franklin & Marshall College designed to teach students how to lead successful lives. It’s called the Mehlman Talent Initiative. But here’s the key differentiator: the program doesn’t focus on intellect or success alone. Rather, it focuses on developing the personal characteristics associated with success.

Scholars and researchers are finding that there’s more to success than just being book smart. This concept is best illustrated in the classic “rags to riches” stories, where a severely disadvantaged person overcomes nearly impossible odds. Researchers think they have finally identified the key trait behind some of the world’s most successful people: grit.

Those unfamiliar with the term can think of it as perseverance, tenacity, or determination. It’s that ever-so-rare quality that makes a person never give up, and it’s commonly found in underserved communities.

Mehlman believes that studying the ways in which high-achieving, disadvantaged students have overcome adversity will bring forth insights about how a person can develop grit. If grit can be cultivated, taught, and developed, then students will be better equipped to conquer the challenges that come their way. And that’s the goal of the Mehlman Talent Initiative.

“At a time of increased global competition, accelerating technological evolution, and rapidly-shifting business, political, and social environments, resilience and the ability to rebound and reinvent are critical,” Mehlman stated. “Young men and women who have already overcome adversity bring different life experiences and are well positioned for 21st century success, but they need practical tools to flourish. This initiative will support these students and provide a framework for the rest of us to learn from them.”

The Mehlman Talent Initiative was just launched this past April, so it remains to be seen whether the program yields any results. But it’s certainly a revolutionary idea that is worth exploring.

Millennials’ Activities Indicate They Will Likely Give More As They Age

Millennials' current activities indicate they are likely to become very generous donors.

Image via Pixabay

It’s not surprising that Millennials aren’t busy giving copious amounts of money to charity. Saddled with student debt and low-paying jobs, many of them have all they can do to meet their basic needs. But according to a new study, there are signs that Millennials are poised to become very generous donors as they age.

Although in financial terms Millennials are currently giving less than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and Matures (born in 1945 or earlier), when it comes to volunteerism and attendance at religious services, they’re right on par with earlier generations. These metrics are two of the key indicators of a person’s willingness to give to charity.

To break it down by numbers, of the Millennials surveyed in the U.S.:

  • Millennials gave $580 to charity in the past year, compared to $799 for Gen Xers, $1,365 for Baby Boomers, and $1,093 for Matures.
  • Millennials averaged 40 volunteer hours over the past year. Gen Xers averaged 34, Baby Boomers 41, and Matures 70.
  • 25 percent of Millennials attend religious services once a week or more, compared to 27 percent of Gen Xers, 28 percent of Baby Boomers, and 36 percent of Matures.

As a group, Millennials tend to agree that charities are more effective than government in providing important services. They also gave an average of $416 to places of worship and $96 to faith-based charities in the past year. Twenty-two percent of Millennials said they planned to give more to places of worship in the coming year.

“With census data showing that Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation, it’s more important than ever that we understand their giving habits,” said Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company, the nonprofit consulting firm that commissioned the study.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand how important technology and the ability to give online is to Millennials. Of those surveyed, 51 percent had given a gift through a nonprofit’s website, 37 percent had used a smartphone to give through a charity’s website, and 36 percent had been motivated to give by something they saw on a nonprofit’s website.

“A growing body of research shows that Millennials are more engaged in philanthropy than we thought. Our new study seems to indicate that Millennials will give more to charity as they mature,” Dunham said. “Anecdotally, we know that factors like job status and student debt can limit how much they give at this stage of their lives.”

The study was conducted in November 2016 by Campbell Rinker. Data was gathered by means of a 15-minute online survey of 1,391 U.S. donors who were screened to ensure that they had given at least $20 to a charity in the past year.

“Millennial donors aren’t who we thought they were,” said Dunham. “Our research showed they are bullish on charities and are likely to give more to charities as they mature.”

Tax Reform Proposals Could Cost Nonprofits

The current tax reform proposals could hurt charitable giving, unless the charitable donation credit extends to people who don't itemize their deductions.

According to a new report commissioned by Independent Sector, the tax reforms being proposed by Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration could decrease charitable giving by up to $13.1 billion.

The report, Tax Policy and Charitable Giving, estimates that current proposals to lower the top marginal tax rate and raise the standard deduction could reduce charitable giving by between $4.9 billion and $13.1 billion. Giving to religious institutions would fall 4.7 percent, and giving to other types of charities would decline by 4.4 percent.

The study used the 2014 Tax Reform Act as the basis for its research, as the Trump administration’s proposal very closely mirrors that act. The reforms include reducing the top marginal tax rate and increasing the standard deduction.

Currently, the White House proposal and the House Republican proposal for tax reform doesn’t include making the charitable deduction to non-itemizers. But if it included extending the charitable deduction to all taxpayers, including those who don’t itemize their deductions, that could make up for some of the losses provided by tax reductions for the wealthiest Americans—and therefore, the loss of incentive to donate.

If the reforms were to include an expanded charitable deduction, charitable revenue could increase by between $1.1 billion and $4.8 billion.

“On the face of it, the tax reform blueprint from the Administration and Republican lawmakers appears to preserve the charitable tax deduction, which is good news,” said Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. “However, there are unintended consequences of reducing the incentive for charitable giving, according to this new research.”

Fortunately, Dreyfuss added, there is a simple fix: Making the charitable deduction to all, including non-itemizers, the incentive to give will be preserved even in the face of a reduction of the top marginal tax rate.

“We took the position last year that expanding the charitable deduction to 100 percent of taxpayers would encourage all Americans to give more and ensure that more dollars were being put back into communities for local, effective solutions,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “We are encouraged that the research shows that expanding the deduction has the potential to more than offset the estimated loss in charitable dollars resulting from current reform proposals. Those charitable dollars improve lives and the natural world for all Americans.”

Food Banks Are Working to Serve Healthier Food

The food available to food bank clients often has low nutritional value and high levels of sodium and "empty calories." But some food banks are working to change that.

The food available to food bank clients often has low nutritional value and high levels of sodium and “empty calories.” But some food banks are working to change that. Photo: Shutterstock

In a long-overdue moment of clarity, food security charities are starting to realize that poor people actually deserve to eat healthy food.

And in doing so, they are starting to quietly revolutionize food banks.

Probably since the beginning of food banks’ existence, these organizations have become a repository for well-meaning families’ unused canned goods and peanut butter, and day-old sheet cakes and other foods of questionable nutritional value from grocery stores.

While it could be argued that any food is better than no food at all, the fact of the matter is that the food provided by food banks is generally of lower nutritional value than the food eaten by more affluent families.

Feeding America, the national organization that represents most of the United States’ food banks, recently announced a plan to increase the nutritional value of food available at food pantries and other charities.

The Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., is one of a number of Feeding America’s members that is not only committing to providing food but to teaching clients how to choose and cook nutritious foods.

“The old way was to collect cans and pass them out,” Nancy Roman, chief executive of CAFB, told The Washington Post. “Now we realize we have a moral imperative not only to provide food, but to provide food that helps prevent diseases.”

Roman said that her “a-ha” moment came after a 2015 study showed that almost 50 percent of the households it was serving included people with high blood pressure, and almost a quarter had a family member with heart disease.

As a result of the study’s findings, CAFB launched cooking classes and a mobile market that brings fresh produce to “food desert” neighborhoods, among other initiatives to teach clients about nutrition.

While CAFB and similarly situated food banks may have more resources available to pursue nutritional education and nutritious foods, small food banks still struggle to find fresh produce, meat, and dairy, and often lack the cool storage needed for perishable products.

Food banks also worry about upsetting corporate donors—some of the largest contributors to food banks are companies like Walmart, Kellogg’s, and Pepsi—by changing their “ask” to include healthier food.

But, said Roman, since consumers are asking these retailers to provide healthier products, she doesn’t see any reason food banks shouldn’t do the same.

Town & Country Names Top 50 Philanthropists of 2017

Town & Country has named its top 50 philanthropists of 2017. Here are a few of them.

On May 8, the editors of Town & Country magazine shared the names of 50 men and women who are committed to changing the world through their philanthropy. Most of them are not household names, although a few are. Here are some of the people—with a combined giving power of $321 billion—who are making their mark through their generosity.

Henry Timms

The director of the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side in Manhattan was the creator of Giving Tuesday. This day, falling after Black Friday and Cyber Monday during the holiday shopping season, reminds people that part of the reason for the season is generosity to those in need. In 2016, Giving Tuesday raised $177 million online in 24 hours.

Mike Porath

Porath’s goal is to create a community for people affected by disease, disability, and mental illness. To do so, he launched The Mighty in 2014. Now boasting 100 million views per month, The Mighty has become an indispensable part of the web for people dealing with these issues, and the people who love and support them.

Roxanne Quimby

The co-founder of Burt’s Bees works hard to preserve wildlife, particularly in her home state of Maine. In August of 2016, Quimby donated 87,000 acres of the Quimby Family Foundation’s 120,000 acres of wilderness to the federal government. The result was the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Quimby also funds youth art programs.

Robert F. Smith

Private equity billionaire Smith’s philanthropic goal is to support education, the arts, African-American causes, and combat children’s abuse. Last year, he made the second-largest donation to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and is now the first African-American chairman of Carnegie Hall.

Bill and Melinda Gates

The Microsoft billionaire and his wife founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help them achieve their goal of wiping out malaria, malnutrition, and poverty, and supporting quality education. Last year they launched the Gates Open Research Initiative to fund a free-access publishing site for their researchers.

Elaine Wynn

The Las Vegas business mogul is using her money for quality education and keeping the arts vibrant. Last year she pledged $50 million for a building project at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Alvin Ailey is in the process of building the Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation Education Wing. Wynn has also donated millions of dollars to educational charities and to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas.

NASCAR Puts Philanthropy In High Gear

NASCAR CEO Brian France and his wife, Amy, have set the pace for the sport’s philanthropy. With a recent million-dollar partnership with Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital of New York at NYU Langone, the family has helped many children who otherwise may not have received medical care.

“We don’t charge patients for our services, so we rely on philanthropies, corporate, and personal support,” Chris Brown, Director of Therapeutic Recreation/Child Life at Hassenfeld, told Fox News. “This was our first gift that has allowed us to expand our programming for patients. We are really grateful for the ability to work with [the NASCAR Foundation] to enhance and expand our relationship with kids.”

The donation came through the NASCAR Foundation’s Speediatrics Children’s Fund, which was founded by France’s mother, the late Betty Jane France. In its first decade, the organization gave $30 million to help a million children in need.

The Frances’ donation will help fund additional positions in the hospital’s child-life program, which makes sure kids have access to play, arts and crafts, and holiday parties throughout the year. The child-life program also helps to teach coping and relaxation skills.

But the Frances aren’t the only generous NASCAR celebrities. Many drivers have their own personal foundations as well. Here are some of them.

  • Kyle Busch’s the Kyle Busch Foundation empowers children, families, and communities to overcome hardship by providing essential tools to allow them to live their best lives possible by helping to meet their day-to-day needs while they learn and challenge themselves.
  • NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. operates the Dale Jr. Foundation, a charity dedicated to giving underprivileged individuals the resources to improve their confidence and education.
  • Denny Hamlin founded the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for the specific needs of children with cystic fibrosis, including research, treatment advances, and overall quality of life care.
  • The Jimmie Johnson Foundation focuses on funding K-12 public education, primarily through the Jimmie Johnson Foundation Champions Grant Program. Grants through this program are awarded to school projects in California, Oklahoma, and North Carolina, where the Johnsons grew up and currently reside.
  • Kasey Kahne’s Kasey Kahne Foundation raises awareness and funds for charities supporting chronically ill children and their families.
  • Brad Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation strives to support those who have sacrificed for the United States, including military members, first responders, and others.
  • The Joey Logano Foundation inspires and assembles the NASCAR community to assist those across the U.S. who are in need of a second chance due to natural or human disaster.
  • Ryan Newman supports Rescue Ranch, which promotes humane education by focusing on rescuing on a fundamental level through hands-on learning and care for animals.
  • Elliott Sadler founded the Hermie & Elliott Sadler Foundation, dedicated to raising autism awareness and promoting research for a cure while also supporting initiatives that improve educational opportunities for children and their families.
  • Martin Truex Jr.’s The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation raises awareness and funding for childhood and ovarian cancer initiatives.

$5 Million Gift Will Create Native American Artifact Museum

Jim and Vanita Oelschlager's $5 million gift to the University of Akron will support the creation of a Native American artifact museum.

The University of Akron is the beneficiary of a new $5 million gift from long-time UA benefactors Jim and Vanita Oelschlager. The gift will be used to create the Oak Native American Museum as part of the Institute for Human Science and Culture. The museum will provide research opportunities and community access to the Oelschlagers’ collection of 800 rare Native American artifacts.

The university’s Cummings Center for the History of Psychology will house the museum. The Oelschlagers’ gift will be used to renovate the building’s third and fourth floors to feature galleries, a reading room, classrooms, and a workshop.

“The Institute for Human Science and Culture is devoted to education and research in the history, preservation, documentation, and interpretation of the human experience,” said UA President Matthew J. Wilson. “This gift will become an asset to the entire community, offering hands-on learning experiences involving the museum’s collection.

The Oelschlagers decided that the University of Akron would be the best place to house, display, and study their Native American collection.

“It will provide students an opportunity to learn how to manage, research, and display these historical items from different parts of the continent, thus preparing them to be able to work on other collections,” said Jim Oelschlager.

“We are taking a private collection and making it available to the students for study and to the general public for viewing,” said Vanita Oelschlager.

David Baker, executive director of the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, said the collection will “promote the examination of humanity from multiple perspectives—psychological, anthropological, artistic, and historical.”

The Oelschlagers’ gift, along with the Lynn Rodeman Metzger Endowed Curatorship in Anthropology, will support a full-time curator to manage the collection of Native American artifacts.

Jim and Vanita Oelschlager have long supported the University of Akron, most notably through the Oelschlager Summer Leadership Institute, which allows area high school students to participate in a seven-day workshop on UA’s campus, introducing them to the skills, attitudes, and resources necessary for success in college. The Oelschlagers have also supported a number of scholarships for UA students.

EBay Founder Pledges $100M to Fight Fake News and Hate Speech

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar has committed $100 million to fight fake news and hate speech.

A Forbes article about eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Photo: GongTo /

Taken aback by the way “fake news” has wormed itself into mainstream political discourse, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar is pledging to fight misinformation and hate speech.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) will be among the independent and investigative media outlets that will receive funding from Omidyar’s coffers over the next three years.

According to CNBC, the ICIJ will receive up to $4.5 million to expand its investigative reporting. Other organizations that will receive funding are the Anti-Defamation League, the world’s leading organization speaking out about anti-Semitism; and the Alianza Latinoamericana para la Tecnologia Civica (ALTEC), designed to promote civic engagement and transparency in Latin America.

The funds will be provide through the Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm founded by Omidyar and his wife, which has so far committed more than $1 billion to nonprofit organizations, including a $220 million gift toward a government and citizen engagement initiative which aims to drive accountability and transparency in government.

“Across the world, we see a worrying resurgence of authoritarian politics that is undermining progress towards a more open and inclusive society,” said Omidyar Network Managing Partner Matt Bannick. “A lack of government responsiveness and a growing distrust in institutions, especially the media, are eroding trust. Increasingly, facts are being devalued, misinformation spread, accountability ignored, and channels that give citizens a voice withdrawn. These trends cannot become the norm.”

But the United States isn’t alone in these problems. Corruption scandals have rocked governments in Brazil and France, among other places, which have led to growing accusations against the mainstream media by politicians. As a result, fewer people than ever trust their country’s mainstream institutions.

“At a time when autocrats, demagogues, criminals, dodgy businessmen, and other shady characters are seeking to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of society, it is more important than ever that journalists can remain the world’s independent eyes and ears, and root out corruption and wrongdoing,” said ICIJ Director Gerald Ryle.

2017 Guggenheim Fellowship Winners Announced

The 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship winners have been announced.

Simon Guggenheim (1867-1941) worked in the family mining and smelting business and served as Senator of Colorado from 1907-1912. He established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925.

On April 6, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced its 2017 class of fellows. The 173 Guggenheim fellows were appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, and were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants.

The Guggenheim Fellowships are unique for the great variety of backgrounds, fields of study, and accomplishments of the program. Forty-nine scholarly disciplines and artistic fields, 64 different academic institutions, 27 states and the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces are represented in this year’s class of fellows. Sixty-eight of the fellows have no academic affiliation or hold adjunct or part-time positions at universities.

The Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation is underwriting the Fellowship in Constitutional Studies.

This year’s fellows include astrophysicist Eric Agol; filmmaker and artist Signe Baumane; writer Deborah Rudacille; intellectual historian Margaret Cohen; composer Oscar Bettison; sculptor, photographer, and performance artist Lesley Dill; journalist and author Masha Gessen; linguist Brian Gick; law professor and author Heidi Kitrosser; cultural historian Cheryl Misak; and education scholar Natasha Warikoo.

“It’s exciting to name 173 new Guggenheim Fellows. These artists and writers, scholars, and scientists, represent the best of the best,” said foundation President Edward Hirsch. “Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

Since its establishment in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $350 million in fellowships to more than 18,000 individuals, among whom are Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Turing Award winners, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, and other important, internationally recognized honors. The Guggenheim Fellowship program remains a significant source of support for artists, scholars in the humanities and social sciences, and scientific researchers.

For a complete list of the 2017 Guggenheim Fellows, see the Guggenheim Foundation website.