The Wisconsin city of Milwaukee is a major hub for philanthropy in the Great Lakes States, with numerous wealthy donors here who keep their money close to home. One such funder is the Zilber Charitable Foundation (ZCF), which recently awarded 23 new grants totaling over $3 million to Milwaukee groups.

Here’s an overview of the Zilber Charitable Foundation, including what ZCF prioritizes in its grantmaking, who receives ZCF grants, and how to secure funding in the future.

History of ZCF

ZCF is the foundation of Joseph and Vera Zilber, a successful local couple who lived and raised a family in Milwaukee. Joseph made his wealth in commercial real estate. Today, his legacy foundation focuses primarily on three neighborhoods in Milwaukee: Lindsay Heights, Clarke Square, and Layton Boulevard West. ZCF has been on the local grantmaking scene since 1961.

ZCF Giving Priorities

Last year, the foundation wrapped up a 10-year initiative aimed at improving the quality of life in neighborhoods in Milwaukee. From 2008 to 2018, the funder focused $50 million on neighborhood revitalization in Lindsay Heights, Clarke Square, and Layton Boulevard West. What emerged from this initiative was a deeper, long-term commitment to housing and community development. This is where the funder’s renewed focus currently lies.

In the past, ZCF also funded the following grantmaking areas: basic human needs, youth development, and higher education. These were interests of the Zilbers, which is why ZCF still provides legacy grants to selected groups working in these fields. However, these opportunities are really for existing grantees and long-term partners, rather than new organizations that haven’t received ZCF grants before.

Recent ZCF Grants

ZCF’s most recent round of giving demonstrates its renewed commitment to affordable housing and community economic development services in its three targeted neighborhoods. These grants include a $200,000 one to Financial Opportunity Centers at Journey House, Milwaukee JobsWork and Riverworks Development Corporation. ACTS Housing also received a $200,000 ZCF grant to support affordable homeownership, and the Fondry Food Center received $80,000 to improve food access. Legacy grants were awarded to Guest House of Milwaukee for homelessness services and to Neu-Life Community Development for youth programming.

Applying for a ZCF Grant

Local grantseekers should know that ZCF is a highly targeted funder, but one that could potentially see a time of transition in the near future now that the recent 10-year initiative has come to a close. At this time, however, the foundation does not accept unsolicited grant proposals and only invites grant applications based upon its priorities. In general, the funder typically accepts grant applications three times per year, and it posts information about future grant cycles on the grantseekers page of its website.

Learn more about the Zilber Charitable Foundation and other Wisconsin-focused funders in IP’s Great Lakes guide.

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