It must be so much fun to give away money!
April 2nd, 2007One of the most common comments I receive from people in our community is that it must be so great to be able to just give away money. Frankly it is a privilege and an honor. It is an enormous job to make grant decisions and it is hard work to go through the right steps of due diligence. And sometimes it feels like people don't place too much value on actually how serious the job is of making grant decisions. . . "It just must be so much fun"!
In the past fifteen years or so the Grand Rapids Community Foundation has become much more active in taking stands on key community issues and the board and staff find that it is much more important to not back off of taking positions.
One of our key strategies guiding the direction of the Foundation is: Lead significant social change. In order to do that, we must immerse ourselves with information and map out how we plan to address an issue. Here are just some of the areas we have taken action on in the past few years:
* Taking a strong prevention focus relating to child abuse and neglect in spite of forces that would have preferred us to stand back.
* Raising the awareness to the fact that Kent County has seen a
disproportionate percentage of children of color being removed from their homes and placed with families who are caring but not reflective of the background of the child being placed.
* Turning our attention to building strong neighborhoods by partnering with effective nonprofit organizations who are providing affordable housing and who can encourage small businesses to locate in many areas of the core city.
* Addressing the achievement levels of students in the schools within the city of Grand Rapids. It is this challenge that has been the most contentious and met with suspicion consistently with each administration of the Grand Rapids Public Schools.
* Anticipating the needs of aging baby boomers and trying to build a "Community for a Lifetime".
* And much, much more.
Bold leadership is needed now and in the future. Having had my hands slapped a few times has only taught me that I must be tireless in following through on the key issues that the Foundation has determined to be critical. It is our and my responsibility.
Yes we do make grants - giving away money. While raising the money to ensure a positive future along with providing donors with impeccable service are important, so is raising our voice to address the most complicated problems facing our community.
We are also a part of a strong statewide network of philanthropic organizations making decisions as to the leadership role that we need to play to address Michigan's economy. The Governor has asked foundations to play a role - increasingly economic development organizations are asking us to play a role - many community foundations like GRCF have been playing active and engaged roles for years. We just need to coalesce and work together to make a stronger impact.
We never run out of areas of concern and it takes unlimited brain power, courage and leadership to determine how our dollars are spent and what issues we need to address.