News & Event
April 12, 2016
The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) just announced a new $1 million-dollar endowed scholarship fund, the Level the Playing Field Fund, created by an anonymous donor new to AAACF. As its name implies, the Level the Playing Field Fund is intended to create a more equitable means for students to succeed. The Fund will be administered under AAACF’s Community Scholarship Program.
The Community Scholarship Program (CSP) supports students from one or more of the following populations in Washtenaw County: (1) students from low-income families; (2) students of color; and/or (3) first-generation college students, meaning neither parent holds a college degree. The Level the Playing Field Fund requires that the students have financial need and gives preference to students from Washtenaw County public school systems.
Included in the gift is a $250,000 challenge grant to encourage the rest of the community to participate in this exciting effort. Every dollar contributed to a scholarship fund that includes financial need as a criterion qualifies for the matching 1:1 funds.
The initial cohort of Community Scholars, made possible largely by the Level the Playing Field Fund, was just announced at AAACF’s Annual Community meeting on April 11, 2016, at Washtenaw Community College. AAACF has provided more than $1M in scholarship support to WCC students, primarily through the Morse Barker Memorial Scholarship, which will also support some Community Scholars. AAACF President & CEO Neel Hajra commends the caliber and potential of the Community Scholars, selected by a volunteer committee of community leaders with extensive experience in higher education.
Hajra shares: “We are proud to announce the initial cohort for the AAACF Community Scholarship Program and are so grateful to a donor who wants to celebrate these student recipients who deserve to have their higher education aspirations supported and validated.” In addition to the scholarship funding, Hajra notes that the Community Scholars will be supported by a “Success Coach” who will help the students to navigate the college experience. AAACF is funding the Success Coach in the inaugural academic year through a partnership with Washtenaw Futures, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College.
The 2016 Community Scholars are Andrew Besford (Skyline High School HS); Savannah Ellington (Pioneer HS); Ray’Jon Williams-Jackson (Ypsilanti Community HS-AC Tech); Nyla Dew (Ypsilanti Community HS); Jeffrey Williams (Pioneer HS); Aazhane Hearon (Huron HS); Chelsea Hollins (Ypsilanti New Tech HS); Cristal Vazquez (Pioneer HS); Diana Bernal-Canseco (Ypsilanti Community HS-STEMM Middle College); Keitra Osler (Ypsilanti Community HS); Salamah Wadi (Pioneer HS).
“The Level the Playing Field Fund provides an important new source of targeted scholarship support for Washtenaw County students, and the incentive for others to contribute through the match makes it a truly community-based program,” Hajra declares. Although AAACF has been awarding scholarships for decades, Hajra says that this new program will “magnify our ability to ensure that students not only attend college, but graduate.”
Read about the announcement in the MLive.com article about the launch of the Challenge Grant & the AAACF Community Scholars awardees at the AAACF 2016 Annual Community Meeting!
June 20, 2017
On June 6th, AAACF held an inaugural event, a Celebration of Scholarships Luncheon, to honor our scholarship donors, committee volunteers, and recipients.
At the luncheon, sponsored by Dykema and held at Washtenaw Community College, we celebrated the continued success of AAACF’s Community Scholarship Program (CSP) and honored the legacies of the many scholarship funds created prior to the establishment of CSP in Fall 2014.
Keynote speaker Dr. Derrick Darby, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan, discussed how to understand and address educational inequities. Dr. Darby’s research for his forthcoming book, The Color of Mind: Why the Origins of the Achievement Gap Matter for Justice, reveals the way in which the US educational system as a whole places youth of color at a disadvantage due to unequal treatment within the classroom.
Dr. Darby exhorted everyone in the room about ways they can help to make a difference, as he urged that ordinary people can live extraordinary lives. This is evidenced by his own story, which began in Queensbridge, New York, home to the largest public housing project in North America. Dr. Darby attributes his success to the support of his family as well as dedicated teachers and mentors.
Encouraging success and providing support are essential components of the Community Scholarship Program. CSP was carefully designed based on research and a close partnership with Washtenaw Futures, the local college access network hosted by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. Local data from Washtenaw Futures confirmed national findings that three groups stand to benefit the most from higher education degrees yet often lack the resources to achieve them: students from low-income families, students of color, and first-generation college students. CSP provides multi-year scholarships for students from these three populations because research also shows that the later years of college are the hardest to find support and multi-year scholarships provide incentive to graduate with a post-secondary degree or certificate. Because our primary goal is degree attainment, CSP also provides a “success coach” for CSP Scholars to encourage successful navigation through their educational journeys.
The current CSP Success Coach, Shawntae Harris, also spoke at the luncheon about the importance of ongoing guidance and resources. Ms. Harris explained: “You see, sometimes it’s not the obvious challenges that can make a difference between a student persisting and achieving or not. Yes, money is important but so is having someone to provide encouragement and to talk through roommate conflicts or a disappointing grade.”
Shawntae will help to train additional success coaches as the CSP program and cohorts of scholars continues to grow. The anonymous new donor who launched the program with a $1M gift last year included a $250,000 challenge match for a Level the Playing Field Fund within CSP to “level the playing field” for students with financial need graduating from Washtenaw County public schools. Thanks to gifts small and large, including new funds created under the CSP umbrella and one conversion of an existing scholarship fund, the quarter-million dollar match was met! The Community Scholarship Program is truly for the community and by the community!
Even better, another donor has been inspired to continue matching new gifts. Certainly ordinary individuals can make extraordinary differences and scholarships can transform lives. We truly do “celebrate scholarships” and thank everyone who makes them possible.
Ann Arbor, MI, November 8, 2017—A packed gathering of private, public, and nonprofit leaders at Eagle Crest Golf Club in Ypsilanti heard announcements of three new collaborations to incentivize educational success for Ypsilanti Community School (YCS) students. First, the Mary Williams Gillenwater Scholarship will now be administered as part of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) Community Scholarship Program so that YCS students can receive the Community Scholarship Program’s multi-year awards and a dedicated “college success coach.” Bank of Ann Arbor is managing the assets of the Gillenwater Trust and partnering with the Community Foundation to administer the funds.
Greg Peoples, a lifelong educator and Ypsilanti Area Community Fund (YACF) Co-Chair, announced that in addition to the management of the Gillenwater Trust through Bank of Ann Arbor, the Gillenwater legacy will also live on because an anonymous donor has created the “YACF Gillenwater Legacy Fund” and seeded it with $10,000. In addition, the donor will match, dollar for dollar, up to $10,000 in new gifts to the fund.
Finally, Nat Alston, National Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR), a 15,000 member strong organization, made a special appearance in advance of the national conference NAAAHR will hold in Washtenaw County next year. Alston announced a memorandum of understanding with YCS to introduce national best practices in public education surrounding educational achievement, parental engagement, and community support.
As YACF’s Peoples concluded of the three announcements: “Our local schools need to have the public, private, and nonprofit sectors collaborating, and we have heard about that this evening!” Through its new grantmaking program, he also explained that YACF will encourage this kind of impact: “Our vision is that every family in the Ypsilanti area will thrive by gaining access to programs and services through collaborative partnerships across sectors that measurably increase health outcomes and educational attainment leading to economic well-being.”
Crowd applauding news.
Leaders from AAACF, Bank of Ann Arbor, CVB, NAAAHR, YACF and YCS.
The Ypsilanti Area Community Fund is an affiliate of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF, which is dedicated to enriching the quality of life in our region through engaged grantmaking, knowledgeable leadership, and creative partnerships with donors. Founded in 1963, AAACF currently manages more than $100 million in total assets administered through more than 500 charitable funds on the community’s behalf.
March 2, 2017
In the fall of 2016, AAACF piloted a new type of community investment, called Bold Ideas, to invest in innovative ideas and projects that generate a significant leap in how our community addresses a long-term or emerging need. Three organizations were asked to pitch their Bold Ideas:
Including $30,000 of support from AAACF's Community Impact funds, this pilot resulted in more than $100,000 total invested in the three Bold Ideas, through the support of local donors & funders and AAACF Donor Advised Funds. Read more below about their Bold Ideas, and stay tuned for updates on their work!
Cultivate Coffee & Tap House has a straightforward mission: to create a social enterprise that exists to do good. For Cultivate, this means, one that creates a rich community environment within the setting of a neighborhood coffee and tap house and uses the resulting profits as funding to support local and global hunger relief programs in addition to innovating new solutions.
Cultivate has chosen to help end hunger in our county by 2030. They have created a social enterprise model and physical space that is solely focused on doing good in the community.
In doing so, their work includes creating a hunger map, hosting community discussions on race, hunger and other poverty-related topics, sourcing local food, building partnerships with Ypsilanti schools, and maintaining open book management.
The Washtenaw ID Project is a public/private partnership of community representatives, advocates, county government staff and elected officials that addresses the denial of the human right to recognition and the exclusion from necessary goods and services of an estimated 42,000 residents who lack a government issued ID. The ID Project made a government-issued ID more accessible by petitioning the County Board of Commissioners to verify the identification of County residents and issue ID Cards through the Office of the County Clerk. Since June 2015 over 1,200 residents have obtained a County ID and over 90% of all applicants received assistance from the ID Support Clinic.
Without a valid government-issued photo-ID, approximately 42,000 members of our community, disproportionately from traditionally stigmatized populations, are denied access to necessary goods and services and excluded from participation in civic life, forcing them to live in the shadows and on the margins of the Washtenaw County community.
Washtenaw ID Project intends to expand their work, including conducting an outreach campaign for businesses encouraging acceptance of the Washtenaw ID, measuring the effectiveness of the ID Program, consulting with local government, creating a toolkit to formalize the model, and coordinating the volunteer-run ID support clinic.
Founded in 2014, SnowBuddy is a free snow removal service maintaining twelve miles of Ann Arbor sidewalk in a pilot neighborhood with the goal of a city-wide sidewalk snow removal program.
Northern cities struggle to maintain safe and accessible sidewalks through the snowy months of winter. They struggle and they fail, and sidewalk transportation becomes a barrier to, rather than a provider of, mobility, pushing dependency on the automobile for transportation even when work, shopping and entertainment are a reasonable walking distance away. A more pedestrian friendly city needs less parking, has less street congestion and has a more active and healthy population.
Refining their operations will allow the organization to promote a community-wide solution to maintaining sidewalks as safe and effective means of environmentally responsible transportation for everyone, everywhere in Ann Arbor, during every season. To that end, SnowBuddy will design and execute a campaign to raise awareness of possible community wide solutions and build consensus towards implementing them.
May 12, 2017
With the creation of a new $500,000 loan fund, Washtenaw County nonprofits will soon have access to a new source of capital. During its 2017 Annual Community Meeting, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) announced an enhanced “impact investing” effort made possible by a social-impact strategist and donor.
Fran Loosen no longer lives locally, yet continues to direct even more family resources into a donor-advised fund (the Revolver Fund) she established at AAACF because of the foundation’s innovative new directions. A former knowledge officer with the Kellogg Foundation holding two Master’s degrees from the University of Michigan, Loosen wants neither her gift nor the impact investing program to focus on her, but rather on the outcomes it will make possible for the local community.
Neel Hajra, AAACF President & CEO, told the more than 400 event attendees that the Community Foundation wants to find additional ways to convert charitable capital and to leverage the power of AAACF’s $80M endowment into local impact. Hajra said, “We view nonprofit loan-making as an enhancement and supplement to our core grantmaking and scholarship work. Following further development this spring and summer—including hearing from nonprofits on where they see opportunities—we’ll be announcing our nonprofit loan program parameters this fall.”
AAACF successfully piloted a loan program with the Ann Arbor Art Center, a partnership that has been well documented and publicized and was also funded by the Revolver Fund. Impact investing has many possible directions, with direct loans to nonprofits at below-market rates (otherwise known as “program-related investments”) being the most conventional and lowest risk. Hajra cautions, “This nonprofit loan program in no way replaces banks and, in fact, AAACF sees this extension beyond its grantmaking as a way to potentially partner with other financial institutions in order to advance the nonprofit sector.” With grants, funds are distributed with no expectation to pay them back; by contrast, nonprofit loans require a low interest repayment of funds. Thanks to Ms. Loosen’s support through the Revolver Fund, AAACF will not be utilizing any of its permanent charitable funds to issue loans.
The unveiling of AAACF’s new nonprofit loan followed announcements of other impact for Washtenaw County, including the completion of a $250,000 matching program for the continued growth of its Community Scholarship Program, which provides multi-year scholarships and a dedicated success coach to local students from low-income families, students of color, and first-generation college students.
The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) is dedicated to enriching the quality of life in our region through its engaged grantmaking, knowledgeable leadership, and creative partnerships with donors. Founded in 1963, AAACF has awarded more than $45 million in grants and scholarships that have changed thousands of lives. AAACF currently manages more than $100 million in total assets and 550 charitable funds on our community’s behalf.
June 22, 2016
Coordinated Funders commit program operating funds to four priority areas.
Washtenaw Coordinated Funders, a consortium of public and private funders, awarded $4.586 million for Human Services Program/Operations to meet the needs of our community’s most vulnerable for the next two years. Funding was awarded in four priority areas: Aging, Housing & Homelessness, Safety-Net Health & Nutrition, and Cradle to Career–Early Childhood & School-Age Youth for both Program Operations and Capacity Building.
Grants are for the next two fiscal years, starting July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018. A total of 67 programs across 38 agencies were funded in the two-year cycle.
“While funding has increased $390,000 since the last funding cycle due to grant funding through the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the addition of St. Joseph Mercy Health Ann Arbor as a funder, we’re still finding that need is outpacing resources,” said Neel Hajra, President & CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. “For this funding cycle, we had $9 million dollars in requests and were able to fund only about half of that.”
“Coordinated Funding fits well with our mission and we have been impressed with the thorough and thoughtful process with a clear focus on outcomes that will support the most vulnerable in our community,” said Michael Miller, Regional Chief Mission Officer for St. Joseph Mercy Health System. “More than 40 volunteers spent over 1,000 hours reviewing grant requests and related documents, showing commitment and care in the selection process. We are proud to be part of it.”
Pam Smith, President & CEO of United Way of Washtenaw County noted that improvements in the application process had positive results in this award cycle. “For the 6th year of Coordinated Funding, we felt it was time to adjust our process by directing additional outreach directed to minority-led or minority-serving non-profit agencies,” Smith said. “Through the outreach and synchronization of both capacity-building and program operations grant applications, we were able to include 17 new programs including new non-profit partners that had not formerly received funding from the Coordinated Funders.”
The Washtenaw Coordinated Funders is a private-public partnership of the City of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Urban County, the United Way of Washtenaw County, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, St Joseph Mercy Health Ann Arbor, and the RNR Foundation.
“The work of the service providers is essential for so many in Washtenaw County,” said Felicia Brabec, Chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. “The more we look into equity in our county, the more that we find geographies and specific groups that need additional support and resources to connect them with opportunity. And that’s much of what Coordinating Funding is working toward.”
Annual program operation investments by funder are listed below:
Questions about the Coordinated Funders can be directed to any of the partner organizations: Pam Smith, President & CEO of United Way of Washtenaw County at email@example.com; Neel Hajra, President & CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org, Michael Miller, Regional Chief Mission Officer for St. Joseph Mercy Health System at email@example.com, and Brett Lenart, Interim Director Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 10, 2016
Talk about a continued commitment to encouraging young people to go to college! Even after careers as educators, Marie Shaffer thought there was something more to be done by her and her late husband Earl W. Shaffer to incentivize college graduation. Thanks to the ongoing Level the Playing Field Fund dollar-per-dollar match—and the benefit of the IRA charitable rollover (see below)—the Earl & Marie Shaffer Scholarship Fund will do just that through the Community Scholarship Program.
Earl and Marie were always committed to helping youth achieve their full potential: Marie was a guidance counselor at Willow Run High School and Earl was Director of Career and Technical Programs for the Ann Arbor Public School system. Both Earl and Marie, who met during graduate study at the University of Michigan, obtained advanced degrees. That Earl eventually received a doctorate is particularly impressive, since he was the first in his family to graduate high school.
The Shaffers lived out their commitment to educational attainment and successful career preparation and were role models to many, including their own two children (Molly Shaffer Van Houweling and Gus Shaffer), during their 70 combined years of public school service. In honoring her husband’s legacy as well as her own commitment, Marie exhibited the same practical planning that she undoubtedly helped to pass on to former students.
Funding the scholarship through her IRA was both smart and simple to accomplish. As Marie explains, “The mission of the Community Scholarship Program made such sense to me, especially as a multi-year award with a college ‘success coach.’ I would encourage others to explore what might be feasible for them to give through an IRA. I’m so proud that my children were fully supportive of this scholarship because of what education means to our family and the education this will provide for others.”
If you are 70½ or older, an IRA rollover gift is a win-win way for you to support AAACF—including the scholarship program and a match through the community challenge.
Some benefits of an IRA charitable rollover include:
The process is simple! Please note that the distribution must be sent directly to us, not first withdrawn by you. Contact us to learn more!