Ralph Wilson Foundation to Open $5 Million Nonprofit Center in Detroit

Ralph Wilson Foundation to Open $5 Million Nonprofit Center in Detroit

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation has announced grants totaling more than $5 million to develop a center in the New Center/North End neighborhood of Detroit that supports nonprofits in the city and surrounding region.

Located on the ground floor of the foundation's headquarters, the center will provide a physical space where nonprofit leaders and practitioners can convene and access resources designed to accelerate solutions to mission-related challenges.

To that end, the foundation awarded a grant of $4.75 million over three years to Detroit-based services provider TechTown to recruit and hire staff to manage the 7,500-square-foot center. TechTown also will coordinate a networked system of strategic services and resources for nonprofits in the region, leveraging its close partnership with Wayne State University, where TechTown president and CEO Ned Staebler serves as vice president for economic development.

In addition, the foundation awarded a grant of $315,000 to the Michigan Nonprofit Association to assist with the center's capacity-building services, including nonprofit assessments, resource referrals, and case management. As part of that work, the association's staff will schedule "office hours" and serve as a strategic partner in the overall effort as the center's service concept evolves.

"Nonprofits, like entrepreneurs, need support to grow strategically and try new things," said Staebler. "[TechTown's] job will be to help connect them to the right people and the right resources so they can deepen their impact, building a stronger regional nonprofit network in the process."

Expected to begin operations in mid- to late-2018, the center initially will focus on grantees and potential grantees of the Wilson Foundation as its "first clients" while offering a limited selection of services, activities, and events to other nonprofits and foundations. The Wilson Foundation is in the early stages of talking with partners in western New York, its other region of focus, to determine the best approach for providing nonprofit support based on existing assets and activities already happening there.

"It's our vision that the center will build greater capacity and enhance capabilities within the organizations that we work with," said Wilson Foundation president and CEO David Egner. "Over time, we also plan to add innovative problem-solving practices in the center to assist nonprofits and social innovators in developing new approaches and delivery systems to address challenges in our region."