A community where every person can reach full potential. In September, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation’s board of trustees approved this new vision statement and a new strategic plan for 2015 and 2016. This was the culmination of two years spent exploring the Community Foundation’s work, its purpose and how it is viewed in the community.

The new plan contains three strategic objectives we call The Big Three:

  • Equity We want to increase equity in Kalamazoo County by building the community’s capacity in diversity, equity, inclusion and intercultural competency, while improving our own ability to understand and engage in equity work.
  • Education We want Kalamazoo County to achieve a five percent increase in high school graduation rates by 2017, in part by supporting expansion of The Learning Network of Greater Kalamazoo and promoting community engagement and equity.
  • Engagement Our plan is to strategically align internal and external resources — human and financial — to develop a comprehensive approach to community engagement, leverage financial assets to maximize community outcomes and increase unrestricted giving.

"We’re in the midst of an evolution at the Community Foundation," notes Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh, vice president, Community Investment. "We’re refining what we think it means for Kalamazoo County to be a great place to live.

"For example, the concept of equality describes a certain approach to developing the full potential in everybody," he says. "But people are at different starting points in their lives.

"With the concept of equity, rather than equality, we ask, ‘What does this individual need to achieve a desired outcome? What assets does this person have? What are the environmental factors? And how do we develop this person’s full potential?’ Over time, those questions call for a different approach to our work."

According to Stotz-Ghosh, the Community Foundation is working with all of its stakeholders to define how to achieve the new vision and strategic plan. "Our board wants us to take a more active leadership role in the community," he explains. "With donors and the nonprofits we support as our partners, we’re redefining what we can do together. People have told us they want us to be more active — to serve as an ‘honest broker’ around deeply rooted problems, convene diverse stakeholders and open dialogue across the community about tough issues."

Since it was founded, the Community Foundation has had a "30,000-foot view" of the community. "Because of our relationships with so many different organizations in the community, we see things others can’t," says Joanna Donnelly Dales, vice president, Donor Relations.

"This means we are much more than just a financial pass-through service," she continues. "We can offer a broad perspective, leadership and unique possibilities for collaboration that can improve conditions for everyone. That is a significant part of the value we add."

According to Dales, education will remain one of the Community Foundation’s key strategies for moving Kalamazoo County’s people toward their full potential. The second strategic objective — increase graduation rates — is seen by the Community Foundation’s board as a specific way to promote equity and achieve the vision.

"Education is not our only focus," explains Dales. "We’ll continue to support the issues we always have, including economic development, families, health, housing and youth development. But we believe education is, and always will be, at the core of Kalamazoo County’s growth and evolution."