Greater Milwaukee Foundation gave out record $60 million in grants in 2016

Foundation beat previous record by more than $15 million

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation offices, located in the Schlitz Park office complex.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation gave out $60 million in grants in 2016, shattering the foundation’s previous grant-making record of $44.9 million set in 2015.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation offices, located in the Schlitz Park office complex.
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation offices, located in the Schlitz Park office complex.

“Looking back at 2016, our community’s generosity is on full display,” said GMF president and CEO Ellen M. Gilligan in a statement announcing the organization’s year-end totals. “While their specific interests vary, all of our donors want to make this region a better place to live, and together, we are supporting the strategies and strengthening the organizations most effective at moving the needle on our community’s urgent issues and opportunities.”

The GMF grants supported programs and initiatives in nine categories. Here’s a breakdown of how the grant money was awarded:

  • Community development: $21.46 million
  • Education: $8.27 million
  • Human services: $6.46 million
  • Health: $6.39 million
  • Arts & culture: $5.46 million
  • Environment: $4.27 million
  • Child/youth/family: $2.47 million
  • Employment & training: $1.62 million
  • Other: $3.72 million

GMF spokesman Jeremy Podolski said a major factor in the foundation’s year-over-year grant-funding increase was its decision to award around $17.4 million to the Wisconsin Center District toward construction of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. In 2014, the GMF was selected by former Sen. Herb Kohl to manage his $100 million contribution toward the new arena.

“2016 would have been a fantastic year regardless, but the main factor in the increase was that some dollars from Sen. Herb Kohl’s gift were awarded in support of the arena project,” Podolski said. “Although the historic gift was received a couple of years ago, the philanthropic purpose is now beginning to be fulfilled.”

Prior to 2015, the largest grant total the GMF had reached in a given year was $39 million in 2013. More than 87 percent of the $60 million in grants awarded by the GMF in 2016 was issued through donor-advised funds and other mechanisms that rely on donor-recommendations. The remaining money was directed by the foundation’s board.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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