Community Foundation Celebrates 25 Years of Impact

We live in a country and culture that is remarkably willing to give in ways that benefit our neighbors and causes that matter most to us. We each have a personal narrative or story that motivates our giving or has helped develop our passions.

For some, giving is a family tradition that has been passed from generation to generation. Perhaps others have benefited from, and have been inspired by, the giving of those that came before them. Others still may have had a poignant experience that led them to consider how they give back.

At your Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, we have the honor of partnering with donors, each with a unique, personal narrative as the foundation for their giving. It is our privilege to come alongside these donors, matching their passions with purpose so that, together, we can enrich the quality of life in our communities now, and for generations to come.

As we have spent this year acknowledging our 25th anniversary, it has truly been a celebration of those who have helped to build our community’s foundation, and more importantly, have created an incredible impact on the five-county region.

What has our first 25 years of impact looked like?

  • We were founded in 1992 by visionary leaders who understood that a community foundation for our region could serve as a commitment to future generations. We stand on their shoulders every day.
  • In year one, we had $100,000 in assets and awarded $12,000 in grants. In year 25, we have more than $55 million in assets and award more than $2 million annually.
  • In our earliest years, donors helped build our Community Foundation with $4 million in giving that leveraged a $2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for our Youth Endowment.
  • We’ve served as a giving partner for a number of capital campaigns, supporting efforts that have created or enhanced community assets such as the new YMCA, Point Betsie Lighthouse, Cathedral Barn and Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park and others.
  • We’ve increasingly focused on our core mission of facilitating philanthropy and building endowments that can provide benefit for our communities in perpetuity.
  • More than 16,700 donors have given gifts both large and small to the Community Foundation, contributing to causes that are close to their heart and reflective of their commitment to their home and neighbors.
  • We have awarded a total of more than $50 million in grants to more than 3,000 grantees that do the work every day of delivering meaningful programs, services, and opportunities that enrich lives across our region.


Beyond this, though, there are stories. Every dollar of every grant leads to a story of impact on someone’s life that is as personal and unique as the narrative and motivations of the donors who’ve entrusted their giving to the Community Foundation. The following are a sampling of the hundreds of stories that are part of the fabric of your Community Foundation:

  • Since 2005, the Community Foundation has awarded more than 2,000 scholarships to provide a boost for young people pursuing opportunities for higher education.
  • Each year, we award grants to organizations that are core to the fabric of life in Frankfort – supporting the area’s library, skilled nursing facility, and public school – in the name of a mother and daughter who cared for their community.
  • Hundreds of high school students have participated in our Youth Advisory Council, learning about philanthropy and leadership and awarding more than $1.6 million to support youth programs and services across the region.
  • Individuals in our communities have increased access to environmental education programs and opportunities through Inland Seas, with grant support from an endowment in the name of a gentleman with a love for boating and the water.
  • Annual designated grants to Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources help provide food and other resources to neighbors in need.


Though this year has been about looking back and about celebrating the impact we have been able to support, we know that anniversaries are also a time to look forward. Our commitment to serving donors and our communities has never wavered and is as strong as ever. We look to the future and know that we’re part of something special – our region is blessed by incredibly generous donors that truly want to see our communities thrive and have helped build a community foundation for our region to ensure there are philanthropic resources available now and for the future.

At our 25th anniversary, donors have helped create a $54 million endowment, we have awarded more than $50 million in grants, and we are poised for the next 25 years and beyond.

Philip L. Ellis, Ph.D. is the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation’s executive director, a post he’s held since 2010. The Community Foundation for Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties works to match donor passion with purpose, creating endowments to benefit the areas that matter most to donors, and awarding grants to organizations that are impacting lives and enriching our communities. For more information about the Community Foundation, visit or call (231) 935-4066.