The Mission of The Pokagon Fund is to enhance the lives of the residents in the New Buffalo region through the financial support of local governments, nonprofits, charities and other organizations. We envision a community that is economically strong and socially vibrant, where all residents are enabled to access the resources they need to care for themselves and their families and to have the freedom to shape their future.
The Pokagon Fund vision is that all residents who live in areas surrounding the Pokagon Tribal Lands will thrive.
Our Guiding Principles
The Board of Directors shall use its best efforts to ensure The Pokagon Fund is always viewed in a positive manner, and that it will be a positive influence in the service area to highlight the generosity of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi citizens.
We pursue our vision and mission by awarding grants in three specific funding areas: education, poverty reduction, community vitality.
Our Strategic Focus: 2016 – 2021
The Pokagon Fund strategic planning process grew out of a deep desire on behalf of the Board Members to more directly address the needs of those who struggle on a daily basis in Harbor Country® to put food on their table and provide educational opportunities for their children. According to recent 2014 census tract data, the poverty rate for Three Oaks and New Buffalo Townships is roughly 14%, while the rate for Chikaming is lower at 5%. In February 2016, The Pokagon Fund Board participated in one-on-one interviews as well as a group session led by the Dorothy Johnson School of Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through these conversations, the Board heard:
- Poverty matters: Building a bridge between families and individuals who need federal and state benefits and the service providers who are located outside of Harbor Country. There needs to be a viable safety net for our residents.
- Economic development matters: Local entrepreneurship, job training and adult scholarships will help Harbor Country succeed.
- Education matters: High quality curriculum, well-trained and skilled professional teaching staff and enrichment programming will positively impact student achievement.
Focusing on these aspects of society as well as putting in reserves ample funding to continue supporting our local Harbor Country nonprofits who do not fall into these focus areas would lead to a more vibrant community and greater civic pride.
In June 2016, The Pokagon Fund Board of Directors and staff completed a two-day visioning workshop to determine their direction for the next 5 years. A major factor influencing decision-making was the fact that revenues have declined significantly over the past six years and will continue to do so as additional casinos are built. The outcome of these two sessions was a shift in funding priorities at The Pokagon Fund from seven broad areas to three more focused areas: poverty reduction, education and community vitality.
What do we want to see in place in 3-5 years as a result of our actions?
- Data-driven decision making: we want to use data to define needs, set goals, plan interventions and strategies, and evaluate progress in order to measure our impact to whatever degree is possible.
- Effective and informed community leaders: trained leaders who take responsibility for the well-being of a community and deftly adapt and respond to the complexities of a community including differing values, beliefs, and loyalties are crucial to community health.
- Advocacy for those most in need in our community: a resource and referral service that effectively provides a safety net for those living in poverty to lighten the daily burden of insufficiency. Much longer-term desire: community center to provide both physical and social activities for families as well advocacy for those most in need (federal and state services such as tax relief, utilities, emergency shelter, elder care, child care, preschool, food pantry to help relieve the burden of poverty).
- Long-term road map to financial sustainability: given declining funding over time, research potentially new funding streams to benefit community-based nonprofit organizations. Also ensure the Fund has adequate resources to protect municipal allocations while supporting far-reaching, one-of-kind projects to benefit our residents.
- Well-executed communication strategy: the community has a clear sense of the Fund’s strategic plan, funding priorities, and 3-5 year goals. Grantees understand the need to use declining Pokagon Fund revenues to leverage additional financial support for their organization. Assist partners to build their own capacity through workshops and the sharing of in-kind resources.
Strategic Direction and Initial Priorities for the Next Five Years:
Launch communications and outreach through new web design, face book page, press releases, email updates, constant contact, and workshops: Supply more information online through website. Meet with municipalities to review strategic plan to foster understanding. Offer refresher course for grantees on grant-writing and fundraising. Offer facilitated review of major grantee and stakeholders. Offer to meet with grantees after grant cycle so they understand (not necessarily agree, but understand) why the Board decided against funding for a particular project.
Identify and respond to focus area needs: Prioritize study areas within community in education and poverty reduction. Within education, engage well-respected consultant to work with local school districts to determine needs of students and work in partnership to provide support for strategic, measurable interventions. Attend school board meetings, meet regularly (if possible) to listen to teachers, superintendents, students to increase understanding. Within health and human services, meet regularly with federal and state-funded agencies in Benton Harbor/St. Joe to assess greatest needs in Harbor Country. Determine ability to partner with these social welfare agencies to fund 50% of one FTE to provide case management services for Harbor Country residents to create greater access to services. Begin early research to determine feasibility of a local community center as one-stop-shop, identify local deep pockets who might support such an effort.
Be outstanding stewards of the Fund: Clarify financial opportunities in order to create longer-term reserves to support one-of-a-kind projects. Ensure long-term stability by identifying additional trust models that could provide financial support to nonprofits. Ensure financial security of municipal funds.
Foster leadership in Harbor Country and beyond: Foster civil, business, community, nonprofit, government leadership. Disseminate information to municipalities that funds may be used for training in leadership.