After serving for nearly a decade as the CEO of YWCA Kalamazoo, Grace Lubwama is leaving the organization in the coming months to take on a new role as president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
The two organizations, which both work to advance racial and economic justice, have a strong history of collaborating. The Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF) is a longtime funder of YWCA Kalamazoo’s early childhood education programs, as well as the Cradle Kalamazoo initiative to reduce Black infant mortality.
Lubwama said equity has been a central focus of her career and drew her to the KZCF position.
“Equity is a core value of mine,” Lubwama said via email. “I love my current work in the public health sector, and I was ready to be on the other side pushing additional resources into the community. The president and CEO position presented a promising opportunity to bring together my extensive community leadership experience in public health, system change work, community-centered strategies and interventions, social justice advocacy and intersectionality with the philanthropy field for community impact and innovation.”’
During her tenure at YWCA Kalamazoo, Lubwama helped create the Cradle Kalamazoo initiative and established the Edison Children’s Center, Michigan’s only comprehensive 24-hour early childhood center.
Under Lubwama’s leadership, YWCA Kalamazoo grew to more than 200 employees with net assets of $30 million.
The transition into her new role will take place over several months ahead of her official start in July.
“I love that both organizations are working together to support me and my leadership in this way,” Lubwama said. “We have so much more work to do together to realize our shared vision of Kalamazoo County as the most equitable place to live.”
In her new role, Lubwama will tackle similar issues that she worked on while serving as CEO of YWCA Kalamazoo, including addressing racial disparities, gender equity and social justice through new programming and with a much larger budget.
According to recent financial statements, KZCF’s net assets in 2021 totaled just under $650 million, $614 million of which came from endowment funds. Lubwama says she has a clear vision for what she hopes to achieve while leading KZCF.
“I want to focus on impact-driven philanthropy embedded in community-based transformation that advances equity, effectiveness, and systems change for the overall well-being of all Kalamazoo County residents,” Lubwama said.
With the new role, Lubwama remains embedded in a relatively outsized philanthropy sector in Kalamazoo, which includes the Foundation for Excellence, which was founded in 2017 to provide direct financial support to the city of Kalamazoo for maintaining or improving services without raising taxes. The Foundation for Excellence received an anonymous $400 million donation in 2021 to support this plan. That donation came only months after Western Michigan University received $550 million from anonymous donors.
Lubwama views these large endowments as a steady source of income for critical community programs.
“A large endowment can provide the much-needed resources to fuel innovation and can be a lifeline in difficult times,” Lubwama said. “Donors have many choices about where to give. When philanthropists give back to the place they call home, they are not only supporting specific programs but they are also boosting the local economy, which benefits all who live here.”
Lubwama is a native of Uganda who has lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. She has several degrees, including a master’s in public health from Boston University and a doctorate in policy, planning, and development from the University of Southern California. Her career also included positions at Boston University, Antelope Valley Partners for Health in California, and World Vision.
She currently lives in Kalamazoo and views it as a place where the philanthropic spirit is alive and well.
“Kalamazoo is filled with people who love where they live and want to give back to a place that has given them so much,” Lubwama said. “We are lucky that people want to keep it local.”
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