News & Event
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.
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!
Savannah Ellington, a 2016 Community Scholar, and Shawntae Harris, College Success Coach, shared their experiences with the Community Scholarship Program at the 2016 Founders Society Luncheon.
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.
AAACF is pleased to announce that we are
now accepting applications! Available grant programs include:
Bach Fund for Seniors Grant Program: This grant program prioritizes funding for organizations, programs, and services that support and serve caregivers of seniors. The Fund also provides grant support to organizations, programs, and services that serve seniors in our community. We will distribute $130,000 in competitive grants to local nonprofits delivering program and services in Washtenaw County. Staff Contact: Christopher Lemon.
Youth Council Grant Program: Youth Council grants are available for programs that serve area youth between the ages of 5-18. The Youth Council will be directing funds toward programs that focus on the following issues: Mental Health, College Preparedness, Teen Employment, and Discrimination. This year, the Youth Council will distribute $80,000 in competitive grants in a single grant cycle to local nonprofits delivering program and services in Washtenaw County. Staff Contact: Maryellen Ferro.
Application Submission Process:
November 17, 2016
At our Annual Community Meeting this past May, we asked the community to take part in a new activity that put them in the driver’s seat as grantmakers, while also giving them a chance to let us know how they thought our resources should be divided up between our priorities. This "Crowd-Granting" activity asked each participant to take an imaginary $100 and divide it up between AAACF’s four strategic priorities: Cultural Economic Development, our new Community Scholarship Program, Coordinated Funding, and Rewarding Success.
You could choose any way of distributing your dollars – you could throw it all in one of our priorities, divide it evenly between all four, do a 70-30 split between two and leave none for the rest…it was yours to decide. Once we had tallied everyone's responses, we shared with the community that we would actually be distributing $10,000 (generously donated by donor advised fundholders) across the four priorities according to how they had voted. The results were as follows:
We also promised an update on the efforts that these funds had helped support. We are happy to share the great work that has been enabled through the crowd-granting and want to extend profound thanks to our community for contributing their voice.
Cultural Economic Development – The $2,100 helped support a $5,000 “Participating Grantmaker” membership with DataArts, a powerful online management tool designed to strengthen arts and cultural organizations. DataArts gathers reliable, longitudinal data on the sector that can be accessed by funders to better understand the health of the sector as well as inform individual grant decision making.
Community Scholarship Program – A crucial element of our Community Scholarship Program that sets it apart from other, similar efforts is the inclusion of a Success Coach paired with each recipient in addition to the scholarship award. The coach helps students navigate all of the non-academic challenges of attending college, as well as connect with campus resources that can help them succeed. The $2,300 from the Annual Meeting will support this transformative approach to scholarships.
Coordinated Funding – Proceeds from the Crowd-Granting exercise went to support our capacity building efforts in partnership with ZingTrain and Nonprofit Enterprise at Work. This year we offered Program Operations grantees the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Deli, a leadership development and organizational capacity building program originally piloted in 2014.
Rewarding Success – In June, a new cohort of Rewarding Success grantees were announced to the public. These organizations demonstrated that they are operating on the highest levels of financial health, leadership and governance, and impactful programming – the “gold standard” of our local nonprofit sector. The $2,100 from the Crowd-Granting activity was evenly distributed across each of the grantees.
February 17, 2016
Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Announces $250,000 Grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.
Thanks to the generosity of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and its 2015 Transitional Legacy Grant Program, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation will receive a $250,000 grant to establish The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Fund for Sustainability, as well as a new gift annuities program and other key initiatives.
With this generous support the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation will establish The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Fund for Sustainability to build and increase the capacity and sustainability of the Community Foundation to continue its mission of creating real impact locally. AAACF President CEO Neel Hajra believes, “The Wilson Foundation investment in our work comes at a critical juncture in the Community Foundation’s growth as we build upon a 50-year history and are seeking ways to expand our impact in the community and invite even more individuals and organizations to partner with us in continuing to make the Washtenaw County region such a dynamic place to live and work.”
AAACF has invested nearly $40 million into its community and is a long-established philanthropic partner. The Wilson Foundation grant will allow AAACF to continue its work as a leader in finding innovative solutions to the region’s most challenging problems and creating even broader impact on quality of life.
As AAACF advances its community investments, it will also expand the philanthropic services available to donors and professional advisors in the region. To this end, AAACF will use a portion of the grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to launch a gift annuities program to create more effective resources for donors and professional advisors. “The support from the Wilson Foundation will help enhance AAACF’s role as Washtenaw County’s center of philanthropy by developing capacity for even more charitable programs over time and providing a new set of long-term tools for engaging even more donors,” shares Shelley Strickland, AAACF Vice President for Development & Donor Services AAACF also plans to use a portion of the grant to expand and enhance its meeting facilities to allow for community convenings that allow nonprofits, business leaders, philanthropists and other local leaders to meet, collaborate and connect for greater impact in the region.
Trustees of The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced this grant to AAACF on November 18, 2015, as part of more than $17.4 million in support to 20 organizations throughout the greater Detroit region. “We are proud to announce these grants in collaboration with charitable organizations throughout Southeastern Michigan,” said Mary Wilson, Life Trustee of The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and wife of Ralph Wilson. “I know Ralph would be eternally grateful to see his passion for his hometown continue in this way, and it is wonderful to know his legacy will endure through the tireless efforts of so many organizations and people.”
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York, reflecting Mr. Wilson’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and the people of greater Buffalo, home of his Bills franchise. The Foundation was funded by the $1.2 billion irrevocable trust created by Mr. Wilson, who passed away on March 25, 2014. While long-term grant cycles will begin in 2016, this year’s one-time legacy grant program was created to help establish the Foundation and begin to share the societal gift left by Mr. Wilson. Per Mr. Wilson’s directive, the Foundation’s $1.2 billion corpus will be spent over the course of 20 years, in the hopes that its impact will be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best.
The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is dedicated to enriching the quality of life in our region through its engaged grantmaking, knowledgeable leadership, and creative partnerships with donors to make philanthropic investments and build endowment. Founded in 1963, AAACF has awarded nearly $40 million in grants and scholarships that have changed thousands of lives. AAACF currently manages more than $77 million in total assets and more than 550 charitable funds on behalf of the greater Ann Arbor area. As Washtenaw County’s center of philanthropy, AAACF provides individuals, families and corporations with simple and effective ways to make an impact.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a newly funded private foundation headquartered in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. The Foundation was established in 2011 by Mr. Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. to eventually become the vehicle to receive a substantial amount of his Estate’s proceeds which are to be used exclusively for charitable purposes. Mr. Wilson passed away on March 25, 2014 after which the Trustees liquidated the majority of his Estate’s assets and funded the Foundation with $1.2 Billion in early 2015. It measures in the top five of Michigan based private foundations and has a 20 year lifespan. The same four individuals who served as trustees for Mr. Wilson’s Estate are designated as Life Trustees of the Foundation. An additional three trustees will be added in the near future.