Case Study

Ruth Mott Foundation

The Ruth Mott Foundation is based in its home community of Flint, Michigan, with a mission to advocate, stimulate, and support community vitality.

Foundation Background and Mission

The Ruth Mott Foundation is based in its home community of Flint, Michigan, with a mission to advocate, stimulate, and support community vitality. The foundation’s grantmaking efforts focus on youth, public safety, economic opportunity, and neighborhoods, which were areas identified by residents through a series of community forums. 

Starting with its 2016-2020 strategic plan, the Ruth Mott Foundation began to focus its work on north Flint to address decades of disinvestment and invest their foundation resources to create safe neighborhoods and opportunities for north Flint residents to contribute and thrive. As part of the extension of their strategic plan through 2025, the foundation has recommitted to this place-based focus, adding in policy and advocacy as pillars of their work in north Flint. 

Quote: Efforts to increase civic participation, particularly voter efficacy, are critical across the state and our nation—and especially here in Flint. Neighborhood conditions will only become better if residents are engaged in the solutions.

Raquel R. Robinson, Vice President of Programs.

The Approach

As part of the foundation’s commitment to north Flint, the foundation identified that one of the greatest impacts would be to specify regions where voting and civic participation work would be most impactful. Year over year, there were six wards in north Flint with city elections in which only 7.7% of registered voters turned out to the primaries. The foundation saw it as an opportunity to partner with the community to find a way to elevate voices and engage residents in the civic process, including providing information so residents can be more informed on who they’re voting for and how it could impact their lives. 

As a response, in 2021, the Ruth Mott Foundation supported the following organizations in their civic engagement efforts:

  • The Flint Area League of Women Voters conducted a survey on voter education and participation. The foundation worked with the League to identify an advisory group to help inform the survey questions and found space at a north Flint neighborhood center that served as a community office where the League could engage with residents, identify the reasons for low voter turnout in the city, and develop voter education for youth and adults in response their findings. 
  • The North Flint Neighborhood Action Council created a Civic Leadership Academy, an engaging 8-week program for youth and adults. The sessions included discussions on civic engagement and how the voting process works, and an in-depth look at government with an intense focus on city government. 
  • Nation Outside works within the jail system to support people who are incarcerated to vote. The funds supported the creation of a Flint chapter to expand the civic engagement work into Genesee County and were leveraged to generate more investment in their program. 

The Ruth Mott Foundation, in partnership with United Way of Genesee County and Community Foundation of Greater Flint, launched a Civic Participation Fund at the community foundation. The Ruth Mott Foundation has invested $30,000 through the fund to support civic engagement. The fund has supported 13 organizations, including: 

  • Communication Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing invited residents to informative and educational meetings regarding redistricting and voting. ASL interpretation was provided on site and posted on social media.
  • Crim Fitness Foundation launched a social media and email marketing campaign to educate county residents on the importance of redistricting and voting. Moreover, members of the Safe & Active Genesee for Everyone group disseminated redistricting and voting fact sheets and mailed postcards. 
  • El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil contacted local and state agencies to access redistricting and voting materials. When information was not available in Spanish, the organization developed PSAs and voter education and awareness materials.
  • Harris Memorial COGIC incorporated voter education and discussions into parent meetings at two Flint public schools that included mock voting.

The foundation intends to invest again in the Civic Participation Fund, which has a goal of growing and attracting contributions from outside of the local community to support voter education and voter participation in Flint.