Community Summary Report

To conclude its 2021 A Milwaukee for All community convening series, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation welcomed Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, to address a virtual audience numbering in the hundreds and enthusiastic for change.

Walker joined Foundation President and CEO Ellen Gilligan on Dec. 3 for an exchange of ideas focused on reimagining philanthropy for transformational impact. The discussion challenged the status quo and inspired thinking around strengthening our democracy, leveraging philanthropy for racial equity, and thoughtfully remaking systems that have intentionally excluded communities of color from opportunity throughout American history.

Continuing its year-long commitment to bringing together national experts with local changemakers, the Foundation again paired this signature dialogue with a selection of On the Table MKE conversations that allowed guests to engage directly in the change they want to see in their community. Milwaukee-area leaders hosted six different virtual chat rooms, each considering a unique approach to reimagining philanthropy to realize a Milwaukee for all. 

The convening commenced with an insightful and impactful welcome offered by Foundation Board member Greg Wesley. The event closed with a roundtable reflection hosted by Gilligan and featuring Board members Cecelia Gore and Jacqueline Ward, and committee volunteers José and Jeanne Olivieri.

Supporting a strategic vision

Inspired by and supporting the Foundation’s overall strategic vision of A Milwaukee for All, this series has presented an opportunity to work collectively toward a thriving, inclusive region. With racial equity and inclusion as its North Star, the Foundation serves as a catalyst and connector for advancing community priorities of early childhood education, matters of equitable economic opportunity and the collective work of the ThriveOn Collaboration.

By the numbers


Picturing Change

Key takeaways from the signature dialogue with Darren Walker

In this new era of advancing racial equity and inclusion, what is philanthropy’s role? Themes and ideas we discussed in the context of reimagining philanthropy:

  • Name and frame hard conversations to change the status quo and move forward faster to address root problems that affect racial equity and inclusion. Do this without politicization but with the intent to deepen understanding of issues.
  • Philanthropy is commendable and, as suggested by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we should not allow philanthropists to overlook injustices. Let’s move our generosity to justice. 
  • White people getting uncomfortable is not for the sake of discomfort but to inform and develop deeper understanding of others and issues. Change is uncomfortable, but the goal is to become more empathetic so we can make progress together.
  • We can do more to dismantle racist systems that are designed to exclude and to marginalize lives of Black and Brown people.
  • Community is at the center of democracy, and community means all of us. Philanthropy can be transformational in strengthening our democracy and helping all Americans reach their dreams.

How the Foundation is reimagining philanthropy

  • Bringing together more diverse donors and community voices so we can all shape the direction of philanthropy in greater Milwaukee.
  • Engaging donors in new approaches such as collaborative philanthropy and impact investing, putting more of the Foundation’s assets to bear in ways that yield both social and financial return.
  • Taking on a larger advocacy role for such priorities as early childhood education funding and policy
  • Mobilizing more philanthropy across our region, with an emphasis on flexible funds that enable us to continuously adapt and meet community needs and priorities.
  • Launching the ThriveOn Collaboration, a transformational, community-centered, place-based effort led by the Foundation, the Medical College of Wisconsin and Royal Capital Group, seeking to achieve an equitable, healthy, thriving Milwaukee for all.

Read about the key themes that emerged in On the Table MKE discussions.

Committed to change

Ninety percent of attendees deepened their knowledge of racial equity and inclusion through the event and nearly 36 percent said by a lot or a great deal. Ninety percent reported they will take action to make a difference. Here are some of the ways in which they are following through on that commitment: 

Learn more

“I will increase interactions with community organizations to actively listen and learn of community needs and how my organization might support initiatives which are community driven.”

Invest more 

“We will be reconsidering our current trust to include the Foundation and designating the funds be utilized for small business to investment in Black communities.” 

Do more

"Advocating for philanthropy that provides general operating support, less project-based.”

View our list of resources to learn how you can learn more, invest more and do more to help us reimagine philanthropy in our community.

Read the community summary reports for a recap of the other events in the series.

Equitable economic opportunities

Early childhood care and education

Learn more

Visit the A Milwaukee For All resource page for ideas on how you can learn more, invest more and do more to move our community forward.