Time for next generation of donors to step forward

While many have confidence in the resilience of Milwaukee’s nonprofit community, no one can deny the impact that will be felt when several prominent foundations wind down.

“It certainly will have an impact on the nonprofit community,” said Patricia Wyzbinski, executive director of Milwaukee-based BoardStar Inc. and the Milwaukee-based Nonprofit Management Fund. “They’ve contributed tremendously to the resources available in this community. Each have dug deep into the social problems that exist here and left lasting contributions to the community behind.”

The local nonprofit community will need to find additional ways to support their missions and programs. Many are concerned that there seems to be a dearth of next-generation foundations to take the mantle as the older foundations sunset.

“The loss of these organizations is going to be significant for our community because they’ve done so much of the work of identifying problems and investing in the solutions,” said Dan McKinley, president of the nonprofit organization Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE). “They’ve been supporting social innovation, supporting organizations that can have a direct impact on the root cause of some of the social issues facing our community.”

“These foundations have been in a great position to help organizations build innovative programs that might not be able to be funded by government sources,” said Howard Garber, president of the Milwaukee Center for Independence. “For a long time, they’ve been in a position to help organizations do something better, enhance an innovative venture. That’s a great strength of our philanthropic system.”

According to McKinley, all responsible nonprofit organizations should be thinking three to five years into the future anyway.

“We have to be thankful for what these foundations have done for the community, but responsible organizations have strategic plans that are three to five years out, and all of these foundations have given us adequate planning time to consider what we are going to do as their support begins to sunset,” he said.

Mary Lou Young, president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Greater Milwaukee, said the foundations have given organizations adequate time to prepare.

“Most organizations are going to be losing some funding,” she said. “And they need to thoughtfully figure out how they are going to continue supporting their mission effectively.”

Most leaders predict there will be more collaboration among nonprofit organizations, an approach similar to how many organizations coped during the Great Recession.

“Milwaukee is a very generous community,” said Deborah Fugenschuh, president of the Donors Forum of Wisconsin. “Responsible nonprofit organizations have relied not only on foundations, but also the generosity of individual donors and government programs. While no one can deny the positive impact these foundations have had on the nonprofit sector in our community, the nonprofit community is adaptive and innovative and philanthropy will continue to thrive in our community as long as organizations continue to have discussions and plan for the spend down.”

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