In the last decade, metro Milwaukee has benefited from rising opportunities, powered by generosity and inspired by the vision that the community and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation share for a thriving, equitable region.

The Foundation has helped lead change through intentional and effective grantmaking strategies, by commissioning research for data-informed decisions and by convening the community to listen, understand and partner on solutions that strengthen the region – all while helping donors achieve the greatest possible philanthropic benefit.

Driving significant impact in areas such as education, youth engagement and neighborhood economic development, the Foundation’s strategic investments from 2008-2017 continued a century-long commitment to strengthening greater Milwaukee through philanthropy.

Of the $800 million granted by the Foundation since 1915, $420 million was awarded in the last 10 years, a sustained surge of generosity elevating the region’s quality of life. Since 2008, the Foundation’s assets more than doubled – growing ever closer to $1 billion – increasing its capacity to serve donors and the community. A defining moment in an extraordinary decade was the Foundation’s leadership in forming Milwaukee Succeeds, a landmark, cross-sector partnership to improve education outcomes for every child, cradle to career.

Data and stories reflecting the investment and impact of the last 10 years illustrate the shared success that is achieved through partnership among donors, community stakeholders and the Foundation.


Greater Milwaukee Foundation Growth 2008–2017

Average Fund Size Graph

Total assets

Over the last 10 years, Greater Milwaukee Foundation has grown from the 29th largest community foundation in the country by total asset size to the 23rd largest, according to data compiled by CF Insights. The Foundation has more than doubled its assets during that time and increased its average fund size by 67 percent. Since the transfer of $100 million in assets to construct a new NBA arena in Milwaukee in 2014, the Foundation saw two consecutive years of asset growth to reach a new high of $917 million in 2017.


Gifts Per Capita

Total gifts

Over the last 10 years, the Foundation has received nearly $450 million in contributions, seeing steady increases in gift totals in all but two of the last 10 years.

Grants Per Capita

Total grants

The Foundation is an active grantmaker, moving more dollars into the community than the Foundation received in gifts during eight out of these 10 years.

*Gifts and grants per capita are calculated by dividing the Foundation's total gifts received and grants given by the population of its service area.

Compound Annual Growth Rate of Total Assets, 2008–2017

Compound Graph

Assets Over Time for Midwest and Peer Community Foundations, 2008–2017*

The Foundation recovered from the economic recession more swiftly than peers in this cohort of community foundations, experiencing 21 percent asset growth from 2008-2009. Following the asset transfer in 2014 to support the construction of a new NBA arena, the Foundation continued to experience steady asset growth, most recently growing by just under 9 percent from 2016-20.

Assets Over Time Graph

*Peer community foundations serve areas defined as the Foundation's Benchmarking Metro Areas. The Foundation for the Carolinas, the Chicago Community Trust, the Cleveland Foundation, the Columbus Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, among the 10 largest community foundations in the country by asset size, are not included in this visual to maintain scale.

**As defined by the 100 Community Foundations with the highest asset totals in FY 2017, according to CF Insights Columbus Survey.



Mobilizing Assets for Positive Change


Assets by Fund Type

Assets by Fund Type


Total Grants and Assets for Midwest and Peer Community Foundations, 2017

Greater Kansas City Community Foundation $396,463,611 $3,148,672,721
Foundation for The Carolinas $319,209,730 $2,483,470,250
The Chicago Community Trust $309,079,405 $2,828,248,897
The Columbus Foundation $223,516,297 $2,266,199,489
The Cleveland Foundation $141,016,535 $2,451,438,785
Greater Milwaukee Foundation $95,509,564 $913,447,125
Greater Cincinnati Foundation $78,922,000 $650,000,000
St. Louis Community Foundation $77,026,424 $505,604,828
Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan $74,027,782 $912,062,338
The Denver Foundation $66,000,000 $842,000,000
The Pittsburgh Foundation $64,240,000 $1,249,000,000
The Minneapolis Foundation $57,890,453 $761,188,506
Community Foundation of Louisville $52,808,653 $494,612,437
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee $47,162,074 $448,006,457
Central Indiana Community Foundation $40,593,348 $811,453,251
The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida $40,460,094 $398,034,676


Sharing a Vision for Education

Broadening educational opportunities for students of all ages has inspired donors of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation for generations. Donor passion, combined with Foundation expertise, has helped prepare young people to enter school, improve academic performance, expand experiential learning, increase access to higher education, award scholarships and much more.

The Foundation is often the first to seed and support game-changing initiatives in the region’s education space. This was the case for two programs that entered Milwaukee in 2009 and 2010, respectively, focused on developing the skills of teachers and mentors. Teach for America has gone on to train and recruit 530 new teachers for placement in local, high-needs schools. City Year Milwaukee, meanwhile, has trained 683 young adult AmeriCorps members to serve as embedded tutors and mentors. Together they’ve touched the lives of 292,200 students. And in 2018 the Foundation provided establishing support to the Leading Men Fellowship, designed to bring more men of color into the teaching profession.

In every stage of a child’s learning and development, the Foundation is making a difference. In the last decade, over 100 Foundation funds provided higher education scholarships to students through more than 68 high schools and colleges. This includes $1.6 million for students who graduated from the college access program Sponsor-A-Scholar. Extensive grant support and advocacy has been dedicated to strategies that improve students’ academic success in key subject areas, such as reading and math. And an emerging body of work is focused on enhancing the quality, accessibility and affordability of early childhood care and education, so children in metro Milwaukee start their learning careers on the best possible foot.

The effort that best embodies the Foundation’s core commitment to education is Milwaukee Succeeds.

The Collective Impact of Milwaukee Succeeds

Milwaukee Succeeds is a collaboration of more than 300 organizations focused on creating intentional, data-driven strategies improve education and outcomes for young people, cradle to career. The Foundation led the launch of Milwaukee Succeeds in 2011 and continues to advance this communitywide partnership in championing common goals and systems change to ensure that all children benefit from an equitable educational experience.

Milwaukee Succeeds Pie Chart


The percentage of children in high-quality child care more than doubled.

MKES Outcomes

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates have increased, helping more Milwaukee students afford college.

FSHA Graph

Positive Results

  • ALIGNED RESOURCES: More than $2 million in private funding was mobilized to support early literacy improvements
  • CAPACITY BUILDING FOR PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS: Skills development in process improvement, business practices, and social learning were provided
  • POLICYMAKER BUY-IN: $1 million in state funds have gone to support the Wisconsin Reading Corps
  • ATTENTION FROM NATIONAL FUNDERS: The initiative received more than $1.6 million in national funding commitments (and counting) since 2016


Boosting Neighborhood & Economic Development

Volunteer working on porch with purple shirtFor greater Milwaukee to excel as a region, all people need access to opportunity and a high quality of life. The Foundation invests deeply in people and place to accelerate progress toward a more equitable community. The Foundation works directly in neighborhoods throughout the city to support the priorities and ideas of residents for improving lives and livelihood in the community, building on relationships and growth fostered during the last 10 years.

Investing in neighborhood and community leaders not only benefits an individual’s development, it leads to a ripple effect that can positively influence others for generations to come. Through pivotal programs such as the African American Leadership Program and the Neighborhood Leadership Institute – in partnership with Cardinal Stritch University and others – the Foundation has championed effective and inclusive leadership across Milwaukee communities throughout the last decade.

Sidewalk Chalk Drawings and artistsSupporting people where they live fosters relationships among neighbors, strengthens housing and economic conditions, and improves health and safety. Through its Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, the Foundation invested more than $5 million in 19 neighborhoods in Milwaukee and Waukesha while aligned partners helped residents improve more than 1,300 properties, representing more than $25 million in reinvestment. Moving forward, the Foundation is joining with residents of Milwaukee to create positive change in places that historically have faced barriers to revitalization.

Driving regional economic opportunity is a development renaissance in downtown Milwaukee catalyzed by philanthropy. Former Sen. Herb Kohl chose the Greater Milwaukee Foundation in 2014 to steward his $100 million gift – the largest in the Foundation’s history – to support a new downtown arena now known as Fiserv Forum. Through a partnership called MKE United, community leaders including the Foundation, are working today to ensure the downtown development invigorates investment and shared prosperity in adjacent neighborhoods and beyond.

Jones Island Project

Accruing Impact Together

Here are just a few examples from the last decade.

A community’s quality of life is influenced by a wide range of conditions, amenities and experiences. Through partnership and investment, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation supports bold impact across the region.


The Foundation, recognizing that a strong arts sector is crucial for a vibrant metro Milwaukee, helps strengthen art and natural history museums, symphonies and theaters, dance companies and arts education programs, public sculptures and murals, and more. A key focus on increasing access and supporting artists and their creations is further supported by many donors past and present, including iconic artist, the late Mary Nohl.


Working families in Wisconsin have received a combined average of $104 million per year in tax credits and refunds through the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. This program that was threatened in the 2013–15 state budget until the Foundation convened a coalition that successfully advocated for its preservation. The Foundation’s support of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Super Sites, meanwhile, has ensured that thousands of low-income residents in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties can access the credit.


Milwaukee is on pace to become the largest county in the United States to end chronic homelessness. The City has seen overall homelessness drop 40 percent since 2015, buoyed by Foundation support for initiatives such as Housing First, conversion of the Milwaukee Soldiers Home to affordable housing for veterans and capital improvements to emergency shelters.


With a focus on pushing innovative research, the Foundation’s prestigious Shaw Scientist Program funds high-risk, high-reward work of young faculty investigators in biochemistry, biological sciences and cancer. The program has granted roughly $4 million in the last 10 years and more than $14 million since its inception, launching the careers of more than 75 researchers.


Reversing an entrenched, negative trend in teen pregnancy, the Foundation helped bring Milwaukee’s teen birth rate to a historic low in 2017, particularly through its early support and partnership in a collaborative led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.

Building community knowledge

Recognizing the critical role of data in making sound community decisions, the Foundation has conducted or commissioned a variety of studies to inform strategies, practices and overall understanding of the greater Milwaukee region. Over the last decade, the Foundation has produced three editions of its Vital Signs report, which compares metro Milwaukee to peer regions across a variety of indicators.

Data collected through Vital Signs, especially key indicators disaggregated by race, have revealed the extent of racial disparities in the region and point to the need for focused investment to improve opportunities in areas such as homeownership, educational attainment and income. In 2016, the Foundation commissioned “Latino Milwaukee: A Statistical Portrait,” which confirmed the assets of the region’s growing Hispanic community while also revealing barriers to income, employment and economic development. The Foundation’s latest case of leadership through research is an exploration of Milwaukee issues in early childhood education conducted by IFF, a national nonprofit community developer. The study revealed that there are not enough seats available nor is affordable access available to families and children needing early childhood education and care.


Investing in People and Places

Grantmaking by Top Interest Area, 2008-2017

Grantmaking by Top Interest Area, 2008-2017

Changes in Giving to Top Areas

Changes in Giving to Top Areas

Top areas are defined by most grant dollars given in 2017. Based on grants for which category information is available. Some grants are counted in multiple areas.

*Includes $52M to support development of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Fiserv Forum, as part of former Sen. Herb Kohl’s $100M contribution in 2014.

Celebrating 100 Years of Generosity

The Foundation honored its centennial in 2015 by bringing community together for positive, shared experiences. Gifts to the Community allowed 275,000 people to connect all year through monthly activities and free admission to special destinations throughout the region – from museums to nature centers to the symphony. Four legacy gifts from the Foundation supporting the Greater Cedarburg Foundation, Oconomowoc Area Foundation, West Bend Community Foundation and City of Milwaukee also created permanent, public gathering places befitting the characteristics and needs of each community and instilling civic pride.

Cedarburg Band Shell Concert

Rebuild of Cedarburg’s band shell

MKE Plays Spokane

Replacement of three neighborhood playgrounds identified through the MKE Plays initiative

Oconomowoc Boardwalk

Reconstruction and enhancement of downtown Oconomowoc’s boardwalk

West Bend Settlers Park

Renovation of West Bend’s Old Settlers Park




Payton PriceGirl doing yoga in parkIn the arc of its history spanning over a century, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation has experienced considerable change – within the organization and throughout the community – but the last 10 years stand out for their remarkable growth and significant impact.

The path forward is charted by amplified partnership and investment where greatest community need, opportunity and impact intersect. This includes supporting and connecting young people to high-quality early childhood, K-12 and continuing education and employment opportunities, leading to economic stability. It includes place-based work, supporting residents to foster neighborhoods where businesses want to locate and where people want to live, work and play. It includes the wide range of donor passions that ensure our region is vibrant, healthy and equitable.

By using data to make wise decisions, by encouraging partners to align resources and talent, and by listening to the community, the Foundation will continue to advance the quality of life in greater Milwaukee. The Foundation enters its next decade with gratitude for this inspiring community’s collaborative and philanthropic spirit.

About the Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Greater Milwaukee Foundation Logo

Greater Milwaukee Foundation is Wisconsin’s largest community foundation and was among the first established in the world. For more than a century, the Foundation has inspired philanthropy by connecting generous people to community needs that align with their interests. The Foundation was founded on the premise that generosity can unlock an individual’s potential and strengthen the community for everyone who lives here. We work in partnership with those who are committed to ensuring that greater Milwaukee is a vibrant, economically thriving region with welcoming and inclusive communities providing opportunity, prosperity and a high quality of life for all. The Foundation today manages more than $875 million in assets and has awarded nearly $800 million in grants. Named one of “America’s 10 Best Community Foundations” by Charity Navigator in 2018, the Foundation also maintains a top, 4-star rating from the independent charity evaluator.

About Candid

CF Insights by Candid Logo

Foundation Center and GuideStar joined forces in 2019 to become Candid, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Every year, millions of nonprofits spend trillions of dollars around the world. Candid finds out where that money comes from, where it goes and why it matters. Through research, collaboration and training, Candid connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to do it. Candid’s data tools on nonprofits, foundations and grants are the most comprehensive in the world. Find out more at