Earlier this month, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation went public with a multi-year $700 million philanthropic campaign aimed at addressing systemic racial disparities related to housing, health, education and economic opportunity in the community.
Foundation leaders, who have quietly raised $500 million over the past five years, hope to complete the campaign next year. The foundation plans to dedicate $50 million in campaign funds to five priority areas: its effort with the Medical College of Wisconsin and Royal Capital Group to redevelop the former Gimbel & Schuster’s building in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville district into a center that will focus on addressing social determinants of health, early childhood care and education, affordable housing, its impact investing model, and flexible funding to meet pressing needs in the community.
BizTimes associate editor Lauren Anderson recently spoke with Ellen Gilligan, the foundation’s president and chief executive officer, to get more details on the campaign.
Why go public now?
“We think this is exactly the right moment, not only because we’ve demonstrated that people really want to support our vision and this is an important strategic mission for the broader community, but (it’s an) opportunity to invite a much broader cross-section of the community to join us. … The last several years – with the pandemic, with the related economic crisis and certainly the cry for racial justice – underscore the vision that we have identified and the need that, if we don’t do it now, we will miss the opportunity.
“If you look at the recent history of the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009 and 2010, communities of color were hardest hit. They were the last to recover, and we are deepening the disparities in this community if we don’t focus in a laser-like way on communities of color and what we know are strategic opportunities to advance all people.”
With many philanthropic campaigns underway in Milwaukee, what’s your outlook on raising the final $200 million?
“While there are many campaigns underway that our donors are very engaged in, … we are trying to elevate the priorities that the community has helped elevate for us and invite donors to join us in this. I have every confidence that we are going to be more than successful in this effort because the initial response to our vision and our invitation to join has been tremendous.”
What’s the latest on the ThriveOn King building project?
“We are making great progress. We hope to be underway shortly with regard to construction. But most of the time we have spent over the last year (has been) listening to the community.
“… First of all, health equity is, obviously, at the core of our partnership with the Medical College. And health equity is about more than health care. It’s about where people live, how they live, education, food, and all the other elements that impact people’s lives. That is embedded in our project. We will have an early childhood education center on the first floor that we think will be a world-class model for early childhood care and education. … And we’re also investing in early care and education throughout the neighborhood as well.
“Arts and culture are an enormous component, because we are going to be in Bronzeville, the center of arts and culture of the African American community. So, we want to honor that, lift it up and engage the broader community in celebrating what Bronzeville has been and will continue to be.”