Mott Foundation: ‘We give only because we want to help’

Downtown Flint, Michigan.
Photo: Cristina Wright

The following is a statement from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation regarding a recent article by Jordan Chariton for the Detroit Metro Times:

Because we serve a community where trust has been shattered, and where it’s vitally important for residents to know and be able to trust who is working on their behalf, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is disheartened to be dealing with the resurgence of misinformed comments made by Sheldon Neeley in 2019, when he was a candidate for mayor of Flint. We hope the closer view Mayor Neeley has had of the Mott Foundation since his election has helped him understand who we are and what we do.

Nevertheless, we feel compelled to address the lies being propagated by Jordan Chariton in his article for the Detroit Metro Times and, presumably, his forthcoming book.

The Mott Foundation unequivocally refutes any claim that we “picked” any emergency managers for the city of Flint or pulled strings in the process of a governor appointing an emergency manager. The laws governing foundations such as ours prohibit the exercise of any such influence.

Since 2002, there have been four individuals who have served as emergency managers for Flint under multiple governors, with two of them serving in that role twice. The Mott Foundation never picked any of them. However, we have always endeavored to represent the city’s best interests in any conversations with state officials — for instance, by suggesting that someone who is local and knows the community should hold the position.

What’s more, the Mott Foundation has never believed that the state’s 2012 emergency manager law was in the best interests of local communities — both because it lacked the resources needed to help cities like Flint and because it supplanted the right of citizens to democratically elect their leaders.

With regard to Mott’s grantmaking related to the Flint water crisis, Chariton recorded Neeley saying, “So, they don’t give $100 million dollars to a cause because they just say, ‘Oh, we want to help out.’”

For the record, we give only because we want to help.

In May of 2016, we committed up to $100 million over five years specifically aimed at helping Flint recover and rise from the water crisis. We fulfilled that commitment in four years and went on to exceed it, granting a total of $116.7 million in related grants over the five-year period. You can see how that money was granted by visiting our website.

We made that commitment while government at all levels was still pointing fingers — and not yet applying the necessary resources toward the problem. We did it to help restore hope that help was coming. We did it because Flint is our home, and we care about every resident.

Since our Foundation was established in 1926, we have made more than 5,100 grants totaling nearly $1.6 billion to support our home community. In 2023 alone, we granted more than $80 million — over half of our total annual grantmaking budget — to nonprofits and other organizations doing good work in support of the Flint community.

Today, we respond to requests from the local community to support charitable work in four areas: meeting evolving community needs; restoring community vitality; revitalizing the education continuum; and enriching lives through arts and culture.

Because it has been suggested that the Mott Foundation’s funding is not issued for purely benevolent purposes, it seems important for us to explain that we do not profit from our own grantmaking.

The Mott Foundation is able to support charitable work because of the careful stewardship and investment of assets we first received when our founder endowed the foundation that bears his name with 2,000 shares of General Motors stock, then valued at $320,000. Thanks to nearly a century of that stewardship, the Foundation had year-end assets of approximately $3.6 billion in 2023. It is important to note that we have granted over $4.1 billion since our founding — more than we are currently worth.

The Mott Foundation has been a part of the Flint community since 1926, and it is our plan to always be here to work alongside the community to respond to opportunities and challenges that arise.