Downtown Boxing Gym

The people—and purpose—
Behind The Work

As we hit the ground running to make a difference, we’re simultaneously learning as much as possible about our communities’ needs. It’s an approach that lets us be responsibly aggressive–acting with the urgency required by our spend-down while also taking the time to understand the complexity of the issues at hand.

With these considerations in mind, in 2015 the Foundation committed $60 million in Transitional Legacy grants, reflecting the personal passion of our namesake and providing grants to many of the organizations Mr. Wilson had a connection to in the past.

We recently expanded and added new Field of Interest endowment funds in the areas of Caregiving, Youth Sports, Community Assets, and Design & Access at regional community foundations. Visit these foundations directly to learn more about funding opportunities:

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
Rochester Area Community Foundation

In most case, grants made from these Field of Interest funds will support very localized projects in their respective regions for which a small grant can make all the difference. In some cases, it may also provide an opportunity to test out ideas and programs on a smaller, pilot level.

We have also identified and funded a small amount of “shovel ready” projects in the core funding areas that provide immediate opportunities and align with our mission. To date, these grant recipients include:

New Economy Initiative
(Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan)

Program Area: Healthy Communities: Economic Development

Amount: $5 million

To create jobs and build a more entrepreneurial culture by supporting the New Economy Initiative, an effort to build a network of business support organizations, accelerate the commercialization of intellectual property and create greater inclusion in business ownership.


Program Area: Healthy Communities: Non-profit Productivity

Amount: $225,000

To establish, expand and operate innovative board matching and education programs throughout Western New York, including both Greater Buffalo and Rochester.

Grow Detroit’s Young Talent Initiative
(Detroit Employment Solutions)

Program Area: Young Adults & Working Class Families

Amount: $2 million

To provide work experience, skills training and exposure to career pathways for Detroit youth through the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GYDT) Initiative.

Launch NY

Program Area: Healthy Communities: Economic Development

Amount: $2.5 million

To create jobs and build a more entrepreneurial culture by supporting Launch NY’s efforts to accelerate the commercialization of intellectual property, and execute planning towards building a broader network of coordinated business support in the region.

Playworks Education Energized

Program Area: Children & Youth

Amount: $1.14 million

To grow and expand programs in Western New York and Southeast Michigan in order to increase the social competencies in elementary students that are critical to educational and life outcomes.

(Detroit Employment Solutions)

Program Area: Young Adults & Working Class Families

Amount: $2 million

To support the Detroit Regional TechHire Initiative, and provide the region’s growing IT industry a local, diverse source of talent, while at the same time developing career pathways and employment opportunities of Metro Detroiters of all skill levels.

Midtown Detroit, Inc.

Program Area: Healthy Communities: Access & Design

Amount: $500,000

To fund the implementation of several green infrastructure elements as part of the 6568 Woodward Avenue building redevelopment to serve as a case study and education tool for those doing similar development projects in the city and region. With the Foundation taking the second floor of the building as its headquarters, this will provide staff with a direct learning experience.

Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (Albright-Knox)

Program Area: Special Opportunities

Amount: $6 million

While the arts are not our Foundation’s core funding areas, we could not pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate and leverage a historic gift to the Albright-Knox to advance this valuable community asset, and improve access for all residents.

Head Start Innovation Fund
(Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan)

Program Area: Children & Youth

Amount: $2 million

As a new member of the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, a group of regional and national foundations working to strengthen early childhood development and education, we provided a grant to the Head Start Innovation Fund to expand its good work to the larger region, including Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.

Help Me Grow Western New York
(Niagara University)

Program Area: Children & Youth

Amount: $1.8 million

To support and expand the Help Me Grow Western New York initiative in achieving its goal of helping young children stay on track in meeting developmental milestones and receiving appropriate assistance when they’re not meeting milestones.

GreenLight Fund

Program Area: Healthy Communities: Non-Profit Productivity

Amount: $250,000

To support the inaugural GreenLight Detroit Fund, which will identify non-profit service gaps, and fund and import innovative solutions to fill those gaps to improve community outcomes for low-income and working class families and children in the region.