Greater Milwaukee Foundation to direct $30 million for equitable economic recovery in the community

By Lauren Anderson -Jul 28, 2020 11:50 am 

Last updated on July 29th, 2020 at 12:45 pm

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation announced it will dedicate $30 million over the next five years to support equitable economic recovery in the Milwaukee area through impact investing.

The investment includes $15 million of GMF’s existing resources and the remainder will be raised through private fundraising.

“The COVID-19 outbreak coupled with large-scale civil demonstrations for racial justice have only heightened the need for greater action and investment in our local communities,” said Ellen Gilligan, the foundation’s president and CEO. “Philanthropy, in partnership with community, must concentrate now on our long-term economic recovery – not just from the acute needs caused by the current crises but from the chronic disparities that have long kept Milwaukee from reaching its potential.”

GMF said it is concentrating an increased share of resources among “people and places that have been subject to declining or absent investment” over the years.  

“Now is the time to come together to start reversing the devastating effects of systemic racism that have held back families for generations, creating barriers for people of color to participate meaningfully in building wealth and economic growth,” said Jackie Herd-Barber, chair of the GMF board of directors. “For those of you – individuals, families, organizations – who are compelled to create lasting change in our community, for those of who are looking for a tool to leverage investment, for those of you who want to do something tangible to help transform our neighborhoods from the inside out, we invite you to join us, invest with us.”

The foundation said it will build off a $1 million impact investing pilot program it completed last year that supported 47 new small businesses and helped create more than 85 jobs. Its funding priorities include improving job access and wealth creation for Milwaukee residents through job and business growth, creating or enhancing affordable housing options and increasing the supply of quality affordable early childhood education services.

“Thoughtful projects that would bring excellent value to the community but are encountering barriers to traditional financing are often strong candidates for impact investing,” said Kathryn Dunn, senior vice president of community impact for GMF. “We’ve shown how this instrument cancultivate entrepreneurship – particularly in communities of color – increase employment opportunities and support creation of vibrant, mixed-income communities. Such investment is needed now more than ever.”

GMF recently provided more than $620,000 for immediate small business relief and recovery, including a $180,000 grant to the African American Chamber of Commerce, a $150,000 grant to the Latino Entrepreneurial Network, a $150,000 grant to the King Drive Business Improvement District to support small businesses impacted by recent protests, a $100,000 grant for LISC Milwaukee and $42,000 to Sherman Phoenix businesses.

GMF highlighted some of its other recent funding efforts, including:

  • Contributing $100,000 of seed funding to the MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund, which has provided property tax relief to homeowners in the Harambee, Halyard Park, Brewers Hill and Walker’s Point neighborhoods who experienced rising taxes due to nearby development.
  • Providing $350,000 in grants through the Home Grown Child Care Emergency Fund to 140 licensed family and center-based child care providers with the highest concentration of Black and Hispanic children.
  • Investing in the redevelopment of the former Gimbels-Schuster’s department store, along with the Medical College of Wisconsin and Royal Capital Group.
  • Committing more than $8.4 million in coronavirus relief throughout the community.