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Mar 11th, 2022

Building a Pathway for High-Potential Grant Partners in Detroit

Widening the net of inclusion is a game changer.


Gohar Chichian

Detroit’s nonprofit community and the people it serves are resilient. Across the city, advocacy and education-focused nonprofits are working with The Skillman Foundation to help children thrive and excel knowing that Detroit’s next generation will lead their city. With over 22,000 nonprofits of all sizes, Detroit is home to a dedicated nonprofit community, yet, historically we know small nonprofits are significantly less likely to apply for or receive grants, and foundations rarely fund operational costs.

The Skillman Foundation partnered with us in 2020 to further strengthen the nonprofit ecosystem in Detroit and provide extra resources for its partners. At the inception of this partnership and moving into 2021, its approach to supporting organizations through Catchafire evolved. Rather than merely providing its partners with access to resources on Catchafire, it widened its net of access and targeted additional youth-serving organizations in Detroit that did not fall within the Foundation's traditional funding guidelines. Catchafire was able to help amplify the Foundation's equity strategy by providing it with a recommended list of youth-focused and resource constrained organizations–ones that The Skillman Foundation would otherwise not be able to give to.


“The nonprofit ecosystem itself is fragile...The strength of our ecosystem is only as strong as the operations that help to drive the programs, so this was a great opportunity to help our grant partners."

Terry Whitfield
Program Officer, The Skillman Foundation



The extension of these resources to non-grant partners was a game changer for the nonprofit organizations who benefitted. Of the 29 top users, 75% have not received grant funding from The Skillman Foundation before, illustrating how the use of Catchafire allowed The Skillman Foundation to reach a wider network of changemakers. These 29 organizations have collectively saved over $785,000.

Rashard Dobbins, CEO and Co-Founder of Class Act Detroit, says, “If it hadn't been for Catchafire, we wouldn't exist. Catchafire has impacted our operational tasks and has allowed us to rally support to help push our mission. Since completing our projects, we are more organized and run like a well-oiled machine when scheduling content, budget planning, and communicating with our staff and volunteers. ”

This targeted and inclusionary approach is a great model for other grantmakers who are looking to support their community beyond what their grant dollars can do. The Skillman Foundation has become a regional catalyst for Detroit, contributing to a state-wide approach to improving the nonprofit ecosystem throughout Michigan.

The Skillman Foundation is part of the One Michigan collaborative, a group that's contributed about $1 million to give invited nonprofits in Michigan access to the skilled volunteers on the Catchafire.org platform. The collaborative includes: the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, both separately and as part of the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders, which also consists of the Office of Community and Economic Development representing the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw and Washtenaw Urban counties, United Way of Washtenaw County and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.



Watch: Interview with Rashard Dobbins, Class Act Detroit






If you’re a grantmaker and would like to learn more about equipping nonprofits in your community with responsive, high-quality operational support, let’s connect. Email us here.