Council of Michigan Foundations

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
History of Philanthropy
The Council of Michigan Foundations is a community of philanthropists committed to improving outcomes for Michigan, and beyond. Through investing in the state's charitable organizations, convening business, government and nonprofit leaders, collaborating on critical issues, seeking innovative solutions, sharing knowledge and advocating, CMF leverages the collective voice of its members to increase the impact of Michigan philanthropy.

by Kate Luckert, with updates by Bridget McGuiggan



The Council of Michigan Foundations is a community of philanthropists committed to improving outcomes for Michigan, and beyond. The first stop for Michigan philanthropists, CMF connects members to what they need to grow their impact.

Vision: To achieve vibrant communities with great opportunity for all.

Mission: To grow the impact of Michigan philanthropy.


  • Leadership
  • Collaboration
  • Inclusion
  • Integrity
  • Knowledge
  • Effectiveness
  • Continual Improvement
  • Importance of People

Historic Roots

The origin of CMF can be traced back to 1972. A handful of representatives from Michigan foundations including the Kellogg Foundation, the Dow Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Kalamazoo Foundation met to discuss common issues facing foundations. The group reviewed mutual concerns such as the impact of the 1969 tax law change by Congress and the IRS and the effects the change was having on the operations of their foundations. These representatives recognized the benefit of networking and sharing experiences with their colleagues and continued to pursue opportunities to gather. The Conference of Michigan Foundations (as the group was first known) conducted a statewide conference in 1974 that brought together even more representatives. The nucleus of CMF began to take form and the organization was officially incorporated in 1975.

"The Council of Michigan Foundations provides the means for regular sharing of ideas and experiences, thereby helping grantmakers and donors make well-informed philanthropic decisions. We represent Michigan grantmakers' interests and concerns with state and national governments, and inform the public of the important contributions of Michigan grantmakers to the citizens of the state and society at large. We serve as a catalyst for philanthropic responses to critical needs in the state, and provide proactive leadership to increase the grantmaking resources of foundations and corporations in Michigan."


The work of the Council of Michigan Foundations includes the following:

  • Advocacy: Leveraging the collective voice of its membership, CMF works closely with legislators, educating them while advocating for the interests of the Michigan philanthropic community and for the sector.
  • Counsel: Through learning programs, toolkits, one-on-one assistance and other services, CMF equips members with the resources that help them be more effective in their roles.
  • Thought Leadership: CMF continuously monitors trends and activities in the sector, identifying issues of interest to members, working collaboratively to deeply understand those issues and then mobilizing with members to address them.
  • Connection: Partnership is at the root of all of CMF’s activity, leveraging extensive statewide, national and global relationships with grantmakers, thought leaders, think tanks and government officials to get members the resources, support and assistance they need regardless of geographic scope or issue area.


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

CMF provides support for Michigan foundations. "A foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports charitable activities in order to serve the common good" (Minnesota Council on Foundations).

There are primarily three types of foundations:

  • Independent Foundations - As the most common type of private foundation, independent foundations are founded by an individual, a family, or a group of individuals. They may be operated by the donor or members of the donor's family, or by an independent board.
  • Corporate Foundations - Corporate foundations are created and funded by companies as separate legal entities, operated by a board of directors that is usually comprised of company officials. Corporations may establish private foundations with endowments, make periodic contributions from profits, or combine both methods to provide a foundation's resources.
  • Community/Public Foundations: Community and other public foundations are publicly supported foundations operated by, and for the benefit of, a specific community or geographical region. Rather than endowing funds to a single organization, funds are received from individual donors who want to bequest their funds to affect the entire community. The foundation is typically governed by a board of local citizens that decide what is the best use of the resources.

CMF is one of 29 regional associations of grantmakers (RAGs) that exist across the United States. "RAGs are nonprofit membership associations of foundations and related organizations that share a common goal: to strengthen philanthropy in a distinct geographical region" (Forum).

CMF is a member of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. The Forum focuses on supporting RAGs in dealing with issues such as public policy, promoting the growth of new philanthropy, communications/technology, and regional capacity building (Forum). "The Forum of RAGs mission is to promote philanthropy by inspiring and enhancing the leadership capacity of RAGs and their members in promoting the public good" (Ibid).

At present, there are approximately 47,000 foundations in the United States with endowments holding $385 billion. Like other RAGs, CMF assists foundations in its state and represents those foundation members at Forum events.

Key Related Ideas

  • Advocacy
  • Community Foundations
  • Corporate Foundations
  • Donors
  • Family Foundations
  • Grantmakers
  • Independent Foundations
  • Social Welfare
  • Strategic Alliances
  • Trade Associations

Important Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • Conference of Michigan Foundations
  • Council on Foundations
  • Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
  • Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
  • Independent Sector
  • Michigan Nonprofit Association

Related Websites

Council of Michigan Foundations Website:

CMF on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn: @michfoundations

This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Grand Valley State University. It is offered by Learning To Give and Grand Valley State University.