GMF invests $1 million in immediate violence prevention, healing efforts

Complementary strategies emphasize collaboration for long-term change

In direct response to recent, escalating violence in Milwaukee, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation dedicated an initial investment of $1 million to support urgent healing, community building and violence prevention efforts as the first step in a multi-phase effort to deepen partnerships and support long-term systems change.

The Foundation will build on this immediate round of funding by convening other funders, donors and community leaders later this summer to better address the root causes of violence in Milwaukee and secure investments to support sustained, community-centered solutions.

“The rise in violence is claiming precious lives in the city we love and compounding the trauma caused by over two years of coping with a devastating pandemic – this on top of already deep health, economic and social disparities forged by systemic racism,” said Foundation President and CEO Ellen Gilligan. “Violence affects the entire community, but its disproportionate toll on communities of color is tied directly to these unjust systems. True to our North Star of racial equity and inclusion, the Foundation’s focus will be to support people and places that build relationships, increase belonging, prevent harm, and restore hope for a Milwaukee for all.”

A range of community-based solutions

Funding commitments include:

  • $465,000 to support grassroots organizations engaged in violence prevention, healing and community building through youth programming, violence interruption and other activities that strengthen relationships and address trauma.
  • $300,000 for the Violence Prevention Fund, administered by the Foundation with funding advised by the director of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention. This is supporting OVP’s intensive summer outreach strategy to employ violence suppression tactics by saturating nine target neighborhoods with resources and other pro-social activities.
  • $100,000 for Milwaukee Succeeds' Youth Forward MKE Coalition to invest in youth-identified violence prevention programming that increases access to mental health supports and creates more equitable and inclusive school environments.
  • $100,000 to help families with funeral expenses for victims of violence.
  • $35,000 to support mental health and wellness among the Foundation’s own staff as they engage in their community-facing work.

The community is invited to join the Foundation in investing in these interventions through its MKE Responds Fund. Launched to support relief and recovery amid the pandemic, the fund is tailored to address the most pressing community needs in times of crisis. Right now, violence prevention is the issue in Milwaukee most in need of an intentional, collective response. The MKE Responds Fund allows Foundation donors, individuals and funders throughout Milwaukee and beyond to contribute directly at any level to support these initiatives.

Ald. Milele Coggs recognized the Foundation’s contribution and the Office of Violence Prevention’s work in a statement.

“This funding will go to a variety of community-based initiatives, organizations, mental health resources, and youth programs that look to work with residents and community members in their own neighborhoods," Coggs said. “Much of this could not have been achieved if not for the instrumental role played by Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention… While there is still much work to be done in addressing Milwaukee’s racial inequities and injustices, I am thankful for the crucial contributions and community-building work done and supported by organizations like the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and Office of Violence Prevention.”

Meeting people where they are

“It’s going to take all of us working together to make a difference,” said Janel Hines, vice president of community impact for the Foundation. “The solutions have to follow the will and needs of the community, and it’s our job to listen, learn and then act.”

Groups and organizations working to address the root causes of violence can seek funding through the Foundation. Potential projects could include youth and young adult empowerment, mental health, trauma and healing, family support, inclusive economic opportunities, etc. Grant applications can be found on the Foundation's grants portal.

The Foundation is awarding grants up to $25,000. Requests are reviewed weekly by a fund advisory committee. All eligible projects must be started by Sept. 1, 2022. Additional questions can be submitted to Benjamin Porter at bporter@greatermilwaukeefoundation.org.

The Foundation has a long history of providing compassionate, neighborhood-level support that meets needs and priorities voiced by residents most affected. This experience allowed the Foundation to act rapidly when violence began trending upward this year. Working in concert with the Office of Violence Prevention, the Foundation provided grants of $1,500 each in advance of Memorial Day weekend to support B.R.O.S. 1st Initiative, Good Samaritan Westside Community Church, Heal the Hood, Locked in the Game Lifestyle, Milwaukee Christian Center, Program the Parks MKE and WestCare. The groups used the funds to provide outreach, canvassing and activities that supported violence prevention and community building over the holiday.

Racial injustice and structural barriers are at the root of much of the economic despair and sense of hopelessness felt by residents and contributing to violence in the city. While addressing the acute issues affecting individual and community well-being today, the Foundation will continue to advance its strategic, communitywide priorities including the ThriveOn Collaboration and comprehensive investments in early childhood education and equitable economic opportunities, which offer lasting solutions to the generational inequities facing greater Milwaukee.