January 26, 2024

Things I Learned in 2023 

by Tom Linfield, Vice President of Community Impact

Tom Linfield, VP of Community Impact

Each year MCF staff review hundreds of grant proposals. Apart from funding some wonderful projects and investing in the work of great nonprofits, we learn a huge amount from the expertise of the applying organizations. Here are a few things that raised my eyebrows as I read through many, many grant proposals.

  1. Only two of Madison Metropolitan School District’s 12 middle schools offer a theater program. Overture Center for the Arts is working on a project to increase this number, seeding new, sustainable musical theater programs at schools across the city.
  2. Similarly, less than 1% of public-school students in Wisconsin participate in a dance curriculum and less than 4% have any exposure to theater. Madison Ballet is increasing its outreach, teaching and performance with young people to help address this gap.
  3. Community Centers today are offering wrap-around services for all ages. The new Bayview Community Center will double the number of children and teens participating in academic support, recreation, wellness and employment programs. It also will increase adult participation in wealth building, parent programs and language literacy; provide frontline mental health and wellness programming and resources for all ages; offer regular play-and-learn programming for children ages birth to five; create a dedicated, properly equipped food pantry; and double older adult participation in daily opportunities for connection, self-expression, fitness and healthy meals.
  4. Libraries also offer far more diverse services than just checking out books. In the City of Sun Prairie, which has grown by 80% since 1999, the Sun Prairie Public Library is expanding to meet this need. Currently serving 180,000 visitors each year, the library anticipates the new building will increase users by 20%. The new facility also will provide room to expand programming for all ages, offer an artist-in-residence program, teach cooking classes, begin a lending library of specialized equipment and tools, and build a makerspace that includes audio and video recording studio spaces.
  5. Since their founding six years ago, Bikes for Kids Wisconsin (formerly Free Bikes 4 Kidz) has given away 10,000 refurbished bicycles. These bikes provide a great recreation opportunity, but also serve as transportation for many people. This year, Bikes for Kids is purchasing a dedicated vehicle for collection, allowing them to pick up 150 bikes at a time from a wide geographic area.
  6. Of the 400 students involved in Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) programs, 137 of the families speak a language other than English in their homes. WYSO students speak 32 languages. (Can you even name 32 languages?!) WYSO has built an extraordinary, 40,000 square foot building to house its own 30+ music groups and provide rehearsal space for a wide variety of diverse users.
  7. According to the Trevor Project’s Youth Mental Health Survey, one in three LGBTQ+ young people said their mental health was poor “most of the time or always,” due to anti-LGBTQ+ policies and legislation. GSAFE is expanding its organizational capacity to serve Madison’s LGBTQ+ youth, train educators, and advance education and social justice in the schools.
  8. One in five students in Wisconsin have experience sexual assault or coercion, and 61% of them say it has happened more than once.1 The Rape Crisis Center is hiring an Education Specialist to double its reach to middle and high school students enrolled in MMSD and Dane County schools, providing education on consent, rape culture, media literacy and healthy relationships.
  9. In December 2023, the median listing home price in Madison was $419.900, trending up 9.8% year-over-year. These prices have tripled since 1991. Madison Area Community Land Trust is building multi-generational, affordable housing at almost half this price, helping low-to-moderate income families enter the housing market.
  10. Only 39 of Dane County’s 9,755 employers2 are Black-owned businesses. That’s less than half a percent. And working-age white people are seven times more likely to own companies than their African American counterparts. These same patterns are true when it comes to access to capital and other culturally relevant small business development services. The Urban League of Greater Madison’s Black Business Hub, opening this year on Park Street, will address those disparities. The Hub is a four-story, 76,000 square foot, state-of-the-art enterprise center led by Black business owners and entrepreneurs, devoted to incubating and accelerating Black- and BIPOC-owned businesses.

Learn more about these programs and about the other organizations that received Community Impact grants in 2023. 

1 According to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

2 According to American Community Survey data of businesses with more than one employee.

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