Cummings’ leadership in the field of philanthropy began in 1992, with an appointment to the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) by Gov. John Engler. Cummings served until 2001, during which time she served as a member of the executive committee and assisted in establishing the ConnectMichigan Alliance (CMA).
As one of three CMA campaign co-chairs, Cummings helped raise $10 million to support infrastructure development and to match a $10 million public grant from the state of Michigan. CMA began in 2001 with the mission of promoting and strengthening a lifelong ethic of service and civic engagement throughout Michigan. It sought to build and strengthen Michigan communities by supporting existing nonprofits through promotion of volunteerism, advocacy and public policy, training and technical assistance, and direct programming. By housing all statewide volunteer and service-learning initiatives under one administration, CMA aimed to increase capacity and effectiveness while decreasing overall administrative cost and burden to support nonprofits. An innovative and collaborative initiative, it consisted of a partnership between Michigan Campus Compact, MCSC, Michigan Nonprofit Association, and Volunteer Centers of Michigan.
In 2006, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“If there is a need in the community, the community foundation will find it and they’ll convene a meeting of whoever they need to. They bring people together to figure out how they can best address that. Whether it’s this new economy initiative, whatever it is. It’s so funny you say this, because I have this visual of the community foundation sitting right in the center of Detroit having these big arms — this big web of support, and if people really need something, that’s where it’s going to come from.”
In 1992, Cummings co-founded Lovelight Foundation in Detroit, Michigan, dedicated to enhancing the lives of women, children, and families through education, outreach, and funding. Lovelight was critical in improving the Detroit community, helping introduce urban gardening programs in schools, supporting holiday youth programs, providing mobile dental services for children, and creating a school “adoption” program that turned abandoned lots into playgrounds. Lovelight has since been converted to a private women’s foundation, and is now part of the Women Moving Millions campaign.
Cummings served on the Council of Michigan Foundations’ board (1996–2006), and as chair (2005–2006). During that time, Cummings helped to increase activities for the family foundations committee, instituting an annual family foundation retreat that allowed members of family foundations to gather to discuss issues and best practices while making connections with like-minded foundations across the nation.
Since 2005, Cummings has served as the managing trustee for the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, a $250 million endowed family foundation based in Detroit, Michigan, that supports health, culture, Jewish life, and strengthening youth and families. The Fisher Foundation also seeks to support the rebirth of Detroit by focusing on early childhood development efforts and supporting major cultural institutions within the city.
“I really also feel like that spirit of generosity. I look at Michigan as a big heart, the throbbing heart, and look at the worst economic times and they reach out and help each other … perseverance, dedication, loyalty. I mean look at the people that have stayed in here, time after time. Some people go and they fund something and ‘okay, that’s it; I want to move on to the next great thing.’ In Michigan, they don’t do that. They stay in there. They build roots and that’s it.”