Here's What You Missed – Achieving Greater Heights through Community Support

Hands holding wrist of others making a weaved circle with image of Wisconsin counties map in the backgroundCreating Partnerships with Donor Advised Funds

May Educational Online Panel & Discussion:

As our world faces current challenges it is important to know that, due to thoughtful partnerships, our community is “Greater Together”. That phrase, for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF), is the core of their philosophy, embracing the need for strong partnerships in order to diligently spread hope to the community. Their focus is “connecting generous people to community needs.”

GMF’s VP of Development & Philanthropic Services, Kristen Mekemson, shares the commitment of GMF to provide long-term support to local non-profits. Since GMF’s inception, in 1915, as one of the country’s first established community foundations, their drive is to focus on longevity and fiscal responsibility. This is achieved through their donor-supported endowment model, in which “assets are invested for preservation and growth” allowing a ”percentage to be allocated each year” to support local needs. This means that they are able to provide much-needed support even when “times are tough.” This is evident in their COVID-19 Community Response.

GMF’s Philanthropic Adviser, Mark Maurice, and Major Gifts Officer, Fiesha Lynn Bell continued the conversation to share the importance of community support through Donor Advised Funds (DAF). Making connections and relationship building is a significant component to their strategy to help “donors reach their own passions and philanthropic goals” while serving the needs of the community. Mark shared that GMF’s success is due to the endowment model, allowing larger grants as endowment grow. He cited the example of GMF’s first fund, Patrick Cudahy fund. The century-old gift of $25,000 has resulted in 146 grants totaling $457,000 in funding.

The GMF donor-centric approach includes advisers that work closely with donors to assist in building DAFs. Fiesha shared the importance of talking with donors about leaving a legacy, educating the next generation, and making an impact in the local community. Additionally, donors are informed of tax incentives, particularly those seen in the 2020 CARES Act. This includes the $300 deduction allowance for charitable giving and the fact that a taxpayer may deduct up to 100% of their adjusted gross income in cash gifts in the year 2020.

GMF works with fundraisers to learn about non-profits. Two ways in which this occurs by sharing non-profit one-pagers and the GMF exchange program, which welcomes a non-profit in weekly to share information about their organization and current campaigns. These types of efforts help GMF act as a partner for both their donors and non-profits.

COVID-19 Community Response – For Grantees

Contributed by Leona Knobloch, Development Director, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

Have a topic idea for future professional development opportunities?  Contact Julie Cordero from the AFPSEWI Education Committee at