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Published in Nonprofits

Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence receives ‘transformational’ $400M donation

BY Wednesday, July 28, 2021 03:30pm

KALAMAZOO — City officials announced today that the Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence has received an anonymous $400 million donation to support the nonprofit’s mission to continue providing key city services without increasing local taxes.

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Since 2017, the Foundation for Excellence has invested $120 million to collectively decrease property taxes in the city for all residents, fund various neighborhood projects and stabilize the city’s budget.

COURTESY PHOTO

The $400 million gift to the foundation’s endowment will continue these activities “in perpetuity,” officials announced today.

“This is a transformational day for the city of Kalamazoo,” Mayor David Anderson said at a press conference. “We are putting a stake in the ground for our children and our children’s children by creating and funding this endowment that will put us in a position to literally have a fund that will last in perpetuity. … This gives us an opportunity to dream big.”

In 2017, the city reduced its property tax rate for all city residents, who have since saved more than $60 million, an amount covered by the foundation’s endowment. The city has also used $44.8 million for various community projects and $16.8 million for budget stabilization from the fund.

City Manager Jim Ritsema said the latest donation would be spread over 10 years.

“This remarkable gift is like none other. To our knowledge, it’s the largest gift in history to support a municipality,” Ristema said during the press conference. “We’re able to support and lift up all residents by this work.”

The Foundation for Excellence was formed in 2017 as a sort of “laboratory” creating a bridge between philanthropy and municipal finance. The fund was formed with an initial $70.3 million donation from billionaires Bill Johnston and Bill Parfet, each of whom has deep ties to the Kalamazoo area.

The latest $400 million donation also comes less than two months after anonymous donors gifted $550 million to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. The Empowering Futures Gift to support the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMED), various WMU initiatives and its athletics program was the largest private gift ever bestowed on a public university.

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