Outstanding Foundation Award

Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

Outstanding Foundation Award sponsored by Plante Moran

Nominated by Alzheimer’s Association of Michigan Chapter and Playworks Michigan

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a lifelong generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. Based in Detroit, the Foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable, and overseen by those who knew him best. The Foundation’s investments focus on four key areas: active lifestyles, caregivers, entrepreneurship and economic development, and preparing for success.

Active Lifestyles:
Play is an essential part of a child’s social and emotional development and by supporting access to safe spaces and programs that get kids physically active and moving, the Foundation aims to introduce lifelong healthy habits through its Youth Sports and Recreation grantmaking. Spanning all generations, the Foundation’s investments in Parks, Trails and Green Design look to connect people and communities to each other, nature, and recreation.

The Foundation is investing in supporting the journey of family caregivers by elevating the importance of their efforts, strengthening those communities and networks, and by supporting providers whose resources and expertise can make the challenging journey more rewarding and easier to navigate. Family and friends rely on direct care workers to complement their support, provide opportunities for respite and bring expertise to the journey. The Foundation aims to elevate their critical roles by highlighting the often-hidden value and contributions they make to families and communities every day. It does this by investing in efforts to make these jobs more desirable and rewarding with career paths designed to support their success and fill the growing demand.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development:
The Foundation seeks to strengthen the entrepreneurial support system from grassroots to high growth by helping entrepreneurs access critical resources and technical assistance so they can get what they need to start or grow their businesses. Such support can mean better access to capital and business planning resources, capacity-building support, and more. Lack of access to these resources is particularly acute with women and minority entrepreneurs, and the Foundation supports efforts to attain and sustain economic growth that is inclusive and equitable.

Preparing for Success:
This focus area is centered on providing the communication, teamwork and critical-thinking skills that people need to grow and adapt throughout their life and career. This begins with building a strong foundation of social-emotional skills for young children by supporting the capacity and quality of Early Childhood providers and programs. In Afterschool, the Foundation seeks to support activities outside the classroom that play a critical role in allowing children and teens to explore their interests and talents, ultimately preparing them for tomorrow’s workforce. For Young Adults and Working Families, the Foundation looks to create pathways for people to achieve greater economic mobility through honing technical and employability skills that are necessary to access good jobs and that fill current and future skills gaps in the economies of the two regions.