Nelly Fuentes, Kalamazoo County ID Task Force & Advisory Board Member

In 2017, KZCF expanded its public policy efforts on issues related to equity and education in Kalamazoo County. Philanthropic dollars alone cannot sufficiently support all of the changes needed for everyone in our community to reach their full potential. So our involvement in public policy works hand-in-hand with philanthropy to create positive change.

KZCF has committed to an approach that includes a continuum of activities from education and building awareness to advocacy for specific legislation. Our efforts are coordinated with local nonprofits to determine how proposed and current public policies affect them and the clients they serve. Our goal is to help amplify the nonprofits’ voices when educating and advocating with elected officials.

During 2017, one of the major public policy efforts KZCF involved itself in was the development of the Kalamazoo County ID program. This program ensures that all residents — especially the most vulnerable populations — have access to civic, public safety and commercial services, such as filling prescriptions and using financial institutions.

Nelly Fuentes, Task Force & Advisory Board member for the program, says, "Kalamazoo County ID facilitates means of identification, but it also defines us as a caring, inclusive and welcoming community. It speaks of the commitment that Kalamazoo residents have to our community."

KZCF staff played an active role in task force meetings, outreach for community endorsements, marketing campaigns and provided financial support for the program. In addition, KZCF is actively involved in early childhood education and advocacy to reinstate the Michigan Community Foundation Tax Credit.

Research shows that 80 percent of a child’s development occurs in the first five years of life. Access to high-quality prekindergarten affects kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading and other key measures of success. Seeking funding and support at a public policy level for equitable access to preschool programs is critically important to Kalamazoo’s future.

KZCF had 89 percent fewer first-time $200 to $400 donors in 2013 than we did in 2010 due to the repeal of the Michigan Charitable Tax Credit in 2012. While the $200 and $400 gifts we received were wonderful, it was the relationships we started as a result of these tax credit gifts that is the greatest loss. We won’t ever know the amount of permanent resources our community has lost since the repeal of the tax credit. We have an incredibly generous community and we know that tax policy is not the primary reason people give. While we do not believe that changes at the federal level will stop people from giving to charity, we are concerned that people will give later and less. We will be advocating for this tax credit to be reinstated to help fuel KZCF’s efforts in building permanent resources.

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Click here to read the next 2017 Annual Report article "Creating Equity Through TRHT"

Note: This article was originally published in the Kalamazoo Community Foundation 2017 Annual Report. To view the complete 2017 Annual Report, click here.