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In Speech to the Nation’s YMCAs, Rip Rapson Outlines Kresge’s Grantmaking Response Given the Economic Crisis

General Foundation News

Kresge’s president says all foundations face a difficult choice between responding to immediate charitable needs and pursuing long-term philanthropic goals.

TROY, MICHIGAN – As the economic crisis batters the nonprofit sector, The Kresge Foundation and other philanthropic organizations face a difficult choice between responding to here-and-now charitable needs and pursuing strategic philanthropy with a more distant horizon, Kresge President Rip Rapson told a gathering of nonprofit administrators in Dallas, Texas.

Speaking before the National Association of YMCAs on April 23, 2009, Rapson predicted “the nonprofit landscape of yesterday or today will not be the nonprofit landscape of tomorrow.”

Nonprofits must find innovative ways to adapt to today’s challenging environment in order to emerge from the economic carnage well-positioned for long-term sustainability, he said. “Foundations like Kresge also need to ask themselves where their uniquely flexible resources can make the greatest difference.”

Read Rip Rapson’s full remarks: “Philanthropy in Times of Economic Turmoil: One Foundation’s Response.”

In his speech, Rapson outlined Kresge’s path, which has been shaped by both short-term and long-term motivations. The foundation’s key strategies include:

  • Flexibility with current grantees: “Kresge needs to be open to providing additional capital infusions if a grantee fits securely within our evolving strategic priorities and if our funds will materially increase a grantee’s stability and long-term outlook for success,” Rapson said.
  • Heightened rigor with new facilities requests: “Fundraising fundamentals clearly need to be in good shape,” Rapson remarked. “We don’t want to be paralyzed by an excess of caution, but neither do we want to be foolish stewards of our resources.”
  • Strengthened field-building efforts: “What has been equally important to our expanded grantmaking has been a focus on four fields in which we hope we can add value – community development in Detroit, the environment, health, and arts and culture,” Rapson said.

While Rapson acknowledged Kresge’s short-term emphasis on funding nonprofits that provide food, shelter, and emergency services to the needy “translates into a tougher road for YMCAs seeking Kresge support,” he praised the organization for being “an essential part of the safety net in every community you work in.”

In closing, Rapson said, “Whether Kresge and this nation’s other foundations can be sufficiently purposeful, enlightened, and skillful to make a dent in the current and upcoming challenges remains to be seen. But we have to believe that we can.”