By: Dana Johnson

What do community gardens, Pride festivals, doula training, and literacy programming have in common?

All these initiatives (and many more) were supported by community foundations across Michigan as part of our Foundation’s DEI grant program.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned on our diversity, equity, and inclusion journey, it’s that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, lasting change comes from listening to the communities affected by inequities and working to address their unique needs.

That’s why the Consumers Energy Foundation launched a grant program that involves partnering with community foundations across the state that are working hard to make life better for all Michiganders.

In 2022, we awarded $100,000 to support the efforts of five community foundations actively engaged in DEI initiatives in their local communities. Each community foundation received $20,000. And this year, we are excited to take this program to the next level by doubling our investment and expanding our reach by partnering with 10 community foundations.

Check out the map for a snapshot of just some of the programs supported in 2022.

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF) used their $20,000 grant to address the impact of gun violence, an issue that has a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown families.

Funds supported four grassroots organizations, including the North Flint Neighborhood Action Council. These groups focused their efforts on community violence interruption activities in Flint that directly impact families and individuals.

“This grant really helped us to build the local capacity to support organizations and groups that are on the ground doing this violence intervention,” said Sue Peters, vice president of community impact at CFGF. “We’re really making sure that the community is involved in the solutions.”

“Our partnerships are key. There’s no one cookie-cutter solution for these problems,” added Moses Bingham, CFGF’s director of special projects and initiatives. “In philanthropy, we need to do things with community, not to the community. We have to be intentional on listening.”

On the west side of the state, Kalamazoo Community Foundation used their $20,000 grant to boost funding for their Sustaining BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) Leaders Grant initiative.

“Through conversations with nonprofit leaders in our community, we hear stories of burnout, fatigue, and exhaustion. And we recognize that leaders of color often carry the greatest load in advancing racial equity and justice,” said Sandy Barry-Loken, the foundation’s vice president of community impact and investment. “We felt a responsibility to develop an opportunity to directly invest in BIPOC leaders in our communities.”

These grants provided rest, respite, professional development, executive coaching, and wellness opportunities to local nonprofit leaders. Direct feedback from grant recipients indicates the support helped them to return to their important work more energized.

Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, and Jackson Community Foundation each used a similar approach by listening to their communities’ needs, deploying funds for a diverse variety of organizations and programs that are critical to their respective communities. Local disability inclusion efforts, financial literacy training, and programming for at-risk youth all received support through this DEI grant initiative.

When reflecting on the grant CFGF received from the Consumers Energy Foundation, Moses said, “This has been a great opportunity for us, and I think the fruit of this seed is still developing.” Likewise, we’re excited to continue this partnership and watch what grows.