This nine-panel mural, a joint project between NACD and West Michigan Class Arts Center, was designed by artist Conrad Kaufman and made by area children.

Kalamazoo Community Foundation continues its work connecting resources throughout Kalamazoo County, which is critical to our vision of this being the most equitable place to live.

Examples of our ongoing work include matching prospective volunteers with nonprofits at the annual Find Your Cause event; KZCF sponsorships of selected community events, and the annual Giving Tuesday event to engage younger donors.

Three additional examples illustrate this work in the past year: our Community Meeting, multi-year funding, and the power of giving.

Community Meeting
Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke to a crowd of 1,000 on "Race and Education in America" for KZCF's 2018 Community Meeting.

An award-winning journalist and New York Times writer, Hannah-Jones specializes in racial justice reporting, including civil rights, fair housing, school segregation and discrimination.

Hannah-Jones came to Kalamazoo at this free event at Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium, thanks to sponsor PNC Bank, and in partnership with WMU's University Center for the Humanities and the Black Arts Cultural Center.

According to Hannah-Jones, "There isn’t a beat you can cover in America where race is not a factor. Education and housing are the two most intimate areas of American life, and they’re the areas where we’ve made the least progress."

KZCF President/CEO Carrie Pickett-Erway says, "Her work explains the systemic barriers that prevent many children from accessing high-quality education, an important message that is reshaping local conversations about education reform."

Hannah-Jones is writing a book on school segregation, "The Problem We All Live With," scheduled for release in 2019.

Multi-Year Funding

2018 saw the piloting of multi-year funding, a response to nonprofit feedback to stabilize their delivery of services.

During the two grant rounds of 2018, multi-year grants (for three consecutive years) went to Douglass Community Association, Kalamazoo Literacy Council, Open Doors Kalamazoo's Housing Without Borders program, and YWCA Kalamazoo’s infant mortality initiative, Cradle Kalamazoo.

According to KZCF Vice President of Community Investment Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, "We were proud to launch this pilot effort knowing the impact that stable, multi-year funding can have on grantees. We were also pleased to support a broad range of organizations impacting our community from the neighborhood to the county level."

In addition to encouraging KZCF to introduce multi-year funding, nonprofit leaders also asked for changes in grant request turn-around. As a result, adjustments were made for 2019 to decrease the amount of time between a Letter of Inquiry (the first step in asking for a grant) and funding approval.

"We’re benefiting from nonprofit feedback," says Gonzalez-Cortes. "With these suggestions, we’re improving efficiencies on both our end and theirs."

During 2018, 93 awards were made to local nonprofits during two grant rounds totaling $3.5 million.

Northside Neighborhood
The Thomas Brothers have a compelling story about the power of giving.

Established in 1998 as a Donor Advised Fund, and switched to a Field-of-Interest Fund in 2018, the Thomas-Klepper Family Fund is dedicated to Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood.

Donor Advised Funds are convenient, flexible tools for donors who want to personally suggest grant awards from a fund they've established, while Field-of-Interest Funds enable donors to focus their giving on the community needs they care most about.

The Northside, in fact, is where many generations of the Thomas-Klepper family have lived. Tom, Stephen, Donald and Gregory Thomas are the third generation involved in the locally-owned Consumers Concrete, which celebrated its 85th anniversary in 2018. All four of them are shareholders of the company founded by their maternal grandfather, who was a Klepper.

The family of Dutch immigrants settled in what is now the Northside in the 1870s, at the northwest corner of Alamo and Douglas. Their ancestors lived on North West Street before it was renamed in honor of Kalamazoo’s Colonel Joseph Westnedge.

Before automobiles, family members didn’t stray too far from their neighborhood. Now, the four brothers have fond memories of attending Woodward School, going to church at 3rd Reformed Church and North Park Reformed Church, and playing at LaCrone Park.

While there is no restriction on the fund beyond investing in the Northside, the brothers, now all in their seventies, do have a vision for their donation and say they’re committed to growing the fund.

"It’s comforting that our fund will grow in perpetuity, making life better in our old neighborhood whether it goes toward housing or libraries or development for the common good," says Tom. "We’re confident the Community Foundation will direct the money to the right causes – all for the care and maintenance of the neighborhood."

The brothers fondly say how "part of our hearts" will always be in our old neighborhood and now their fund will ensure that forever.

Click here to read the next 2018 Annual Report article "Scholarship Impact"

Note: This article was originally published in the Kalamazoo Community Foundation 2018 Annual Report. To view the complete 2018 Annual Report, click here.