Complementary strategies will emphasize collaboration for long-term change
In direct response to recent, escalating violence in Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation is dedicating an initial investment of $1 million to support urgent healing, community building and violence prevention efforts as the first step in a multi-phase effort to deepen partnerships and support long-term systems change.
The Foundation will build on this immediate round of funding by convening other funders, donors and community leaders later this summer to better address the root causes of violence in Milwaukee and secure investments to support sustained, community-centered solutions.
“The rise in violence is claiming precious lives in the city we love and compounding the trauma caused by over two years of coping with a devastating pandemic – this on top of already deep health, economic and social disparities forged by systemic racism,” said Foundation President and CEO Ellen Gilligan. “Violence affects the entire community, but its disproportionate toll on communities of color is tied directly to these unjust systems. True to our North Star of racial equity and inclusion, the Foundation’s focus will be to support people and places that build relationships, increase belonging, prevent harm, and restore hope for a Milwaukee for all.”
A range of community-based solutions
Plans for the funding include:
• $465,000 to support grassroots organizations engaged in violence prevention, healing and community building through youth programming, violence interruption and other activities that strengthen relationships and address trauma.
• $300,000 for the Violence Prevention Fund, administered by the Foundation with funding advised by the director of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention (OVP). This will support OVP’s intensive summer outreach strategy to employ violence suppression tactics by saturating nine target neighborhoods with resources and other pro-social activities.
• $100,000 for Milwaukee Succeeds’ Youth Forward MKE Coalition to invest in youth-identified violence prevention programming that increases access to mental health supports and creates more equitable and inclusive school environments.
• $100,000 to help families with funeral expenses for victims of violence.
• $35,000 to support mental health and wellness among the Foundation’s own staff as they engage in their community-facing work.
The community is invited to join the Foundation in investing in these interventions through its MKE Responds Fund. Launched to support relief and recovery amid the pandemic, the fund is tailored to address the most pressing community needs in times of crisis. Right now, violence prevention is the issue in Milwaukee most in need of an intentional, collective response. The MKE Responds Fund allows Foundation donors, individuals and funders throughout Milwaukee to contribute directly at any level to support these initiatives.
Meeting people where they are
“It’s going to take all of us working together to make a difference,” said Janel Hines, vice president of community impact for the Foundation. “The solutions have to follow the will and needs of the community, and it’s our job to listen, learn and then act.”
For groups and organizations seeking funding, the Foundation is currently developing criteria and working on a streamlined process for application. Details will be available on the Foundation’s website soon.
The Foundation has a long history of providing compassionate, neighborhood-level support that meets needs and priorities voiced by residents most affected. This experience allowed the Foundation to act rapidly when violence began trending upward this year. Working in concert with the Office of Violence Prevention, the Foundation provided grants of $1,500 each in advance of Memorial Day weekend to support B.R.O.S. 1st Initiative, ComForce MKE, Good Samaritan Westside Community Church, Heal the Hood, Locked in the Game Lifestyle, Milwaukee Christian Center and WestCare. The groups used the funds to provide outreach, canvassing and activities that supported violence prevention and community building over the holiday.
Racial injustice and structural barriers are at the root of much of the economic despair and sense of hopelessness felt by residents and contributing to violence in the city. While addressing the acute issues affecting individual and community well-being today, the Foundation will continue to advance its strategic, communitywide priorities including the ThriveOn Collaboration and comprehensive investments in early childhood education and equitable economic opportunities, which offer lasting solutions to the generational inequities facing greater Milwaukee.
About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is Wisconsin’s largest community foundation and was among the first established in the world. For more than a century, the Foundation has been at the heart of the civic community, helping donors achieve the greatest philanthropic impact, elevating the work of changemakers across neighborhoods, and bringing people and organizations together to help our region thrive. Racial equity is the Foundation’s North Star, guiding its investments and strategies for social and economic change. Leveraging generations of community knowledge, cross-sector partnerships and more than $1 billion in financial assets, the Foundation is committed to reimagining philanthropy, recentering communities and remaking systems to transform our region into a Milwaukee for all.