Michigan Foundations Feel Effects of Economic Downturn

Against the backdrop of a souring economy, the Saginaw Community Foundation has seen its assets fall by almost 35 percent, while the Midland-based Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation has announced that it will reduce its grantmaking by some $6 million to $8 million in 2009, the Saginaw News reports.

With more than three hundred endowment funds, the Saginaw Community Foundation had assets that totaled approximately $42 million at the end of 2007. Although investment advisors have urged the foundation not to make any drastic changes, the organization may eliminate one of its grant cycles in 2009. "We're still putting back into the community," said SCF president and CEO Renee S. Johnston, "but maybe not as often as we typically do."

About half of the Dow Foundation's endowment is comprised of Dow Chemical Company stock, which closed at $20.08 on December 19, down from an average share price of $41.25 last December. While the foundation has awarded about $28 million in grants every year since 2005, primarily to educational institutions in the state, it expects to announce giving of about $20 million for 2008. Nevertheless, the foundation — which has seen an increase in requests for support from food pantries and homeless shelters — has announced that it will fulfill its current commitments and reevaluate its grantmaking over the long term after the New Year.

"Philanthropy is different than charity," said Dow Foundation executive director Jenee L. Velasquez. "Charity is giving a man a fish. Philanthropy is teaching that man to fish. We're looking long term."