8 Revelations from a SuperConference 2012 Participant

What a privilege to be able to attend the MNA CMF SuperConference!  I was inspired and energized, learned a great deal of information and met new people with whom we can build relationships.  That is everything you could ask and more from an intense two day experience.

Revelation 1 came from a workshop led by Kid’s Food Basket from Grand Rapids.  They call themselves a “porous” organization, one that someone can enter from any point and get involved.  Not only do they leverage volunteer time, they have involved their volunteers financially to use their myriad volunteers as an income source.  Arts & Scraps has many common elements in mechanics and volunteer involvement, but we have not to date formalized programs for financial as well as time contributions.

Revelation 2 came from the Prize Foundation session.  Remember to look for unlikely and unknown sources for ideas and expertise.  Don’t be afraid to tackle big issues and throw open the doors to seek help.

Revelation 3 came from the advocacy preconference session.  “Keep laser-like focus on long term goals”.  Involve people around their interests and look for commonalities.

Revelation 4 came from the Impact session.  Keep a “burning patience”, nurture the backbone of your organization with optimism and perseverance to reach the goal of a successful collective effort.  I’ve often thought the best attribute to have is just plain stubbornness.  This is a much more elegant statement.

Revelation 5 also came from the  Impact session.  There is no silver bullet, just silver buckshot.  Again, an elegant phrase.

Revelation 6 on a personal level, from the Investment session, I recognized that  I’m fortunate enough to have a savings account.  I could invest that in causes in which I believe and put that money to work for social good.

Revelation 7 from the Creativity session:  a couple of wonderful tidbits.  “Money never solved a money problem”—enough said.  Don’t save creativity for big problems, rely on group input and repeat priorities often.

Revelation 8 is back from Kid’s Food Basket.  Make your MISSION seem needy without making your ORGANIZATION seem needy.

Add to this list of big ideas 6 viable contacts for serious follow up and a list of 18 items in a to do list generated by ideas.

This was a very successful two days!  Thank you to the Ford Motor Company Fund for the sponsorship.  I was so excited about it that I probably told 20 people that’s how I was able to attend.  It was a good investment in our organization.  We’ve had the first staff meeting with another scheduled next week.

Submitted by Peg Upmeyer, Director of Arts & Scraps and Superconference 2012 Attendee

New Year, New Language

Going through my Twitter timeline after Christmas and before New Year’s Day, I found every single list imaginable for “year-in-review” or “what-to-expect in the coming year.” One that I actually read was #nonprofitresolutions that the Chronicles of Philanthropy was running, here is the link ow.ly/8e3O4.

Two things struck me about this list: 1) the nonprofit resolution from the executive director of the The Evergreen Group, Howard Kucher. He believes that nonprofits should call themselves “social benefit organizations,” instead of by their tax status. 2) That out of the 20 nonprofit leaders that were quoted, only three called for more advocacy and organizing! I kind of feel like these two things are somehow related.

My professional background (nonprofit lobbying and advocacy, and electoral campaigns) really identified with what Mr. Kucher was getting at! A change of language can change perception, both by those who adopt the label and by those hearing it. Maybe if organizations start calling themselves “social benefit” orgs, then it will force us to think of the things we CAN and SHOULD do, i.e advocacy and lobbying, instead of the things we can’t do based on the regulations we have to follow.

By changing the labels, it also allows organizations to think beyond their charitable missions, to ones that include the economic value and contribution of the organization beyond the direct benefit to their constituents and clients. Nonprofts Social benefit organizations need to show more than how many people go through their programs; they need to also show their greater value to society. Yes, I know you fed 200K families last year, but what does that mean? How does that impact the community that I live in?

Maybe by changing the language we use, the sector will finally start advocating and lobbying. It is a new year, so a girl can dream…

Submitted by Christina Kuo, Senior Director of Public Policy and Public Affairs for Michigan Nonprofit Association

What is in a mission?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

What’s in a mission? That which we describe the work of a nonprofit by any other would “do good” just the same, right? Shakespeare might agree, but those in the sector know that a nonprofit’s mission is unique to the organization and the cause that it is designed to serve.

This is why strategic planning should always include a hard look at an organization’s mission and how that mission fits with the long-term outcome the work should accomplish.

The Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) invested more than 18 months exploring our mission, our vision, and our unique role in the nonprofit sector so that we might better understand ourselves, our community, and our future. Our journey included taking on a new way of thinking built around David LaPiana’s model of “Real-Time Strategic Planning” that forces an organization to continually understand and examine its identity, strategy, and advantages.

At MNA, we are proud of the work that we have accomplished in understanding ourselves and our work and invite others to explore our new vision, mission, and values and ask that you help us understand how we can better serve nonprofits to achieve their missions.


Submitted by Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO, for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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End of an Era, or The Start of Something New

It is unbelievable that 4,000 people from around the country descended on New Orleans to either memorialize an era of remarkable achievement for volunteering and national service or to look to the future growth of this movement. I say unbelievable because this year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service provided great content, great speakers, and untold opportunities to learn, serve and network with people who know and understand the power of service. This conference has been a bold joint convening hosted by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Points of Light Institute (POLI) – a relationship that has given rise to a number of highly successful mobilizing efforts including this, the largest gathering of leaders and practitioners in our sector.

Yet this relationship also leads to some strange scenarios like the one we witnessed last week in the Big Easy. While we celebrated the great work of thousands of volunteers who responded to the natural and man-made disasters that have plagued the Gulf Coast region, there was an underlying concern that a storm of a different kind waited just around the corner. And like the BP oil spill and levee failures that taxed the resources and spirit of the Gulf residents, the appropriations for the CNCS (or potential lack thereof) could be a tragic failure of our commitment and ingenuity.

Despite the dark cloud on the horizon that CNCS funding cuts represented, the thousands gathered were not, and could not, be empowered to have a robust dialogue on how to overcome this challenge. Why? Because the CNCS cannot be in a position to lobby its own constituencies in support of their own existence. Strange, yet true. So, while conservative icon and successful Governor Haley Barbour thanks the national service field for coming to the rescue of Mississippi, participants are left to say, you’re welcome and not, you’re welcome and please tell your friends. As a POLI board member, I felt somewhat like the married couple that doesn’t talk about the challenges brought on by the in-laws. On the one hand they can be troubling and meddlesome, and on the other, without them, neither of us would be here.

Next year’s conference will be held in Chicago, and will not be in partnership with the CNCS. Correctly, in my opinion, the CNCS has decided not to renew its contract with the POLI and seek other means to provide professional development opportunities for grantees that may or may not involve the Chicago gathering. I concur with their decision because it will allow them to demonstrate that they are making prudent and careful future decisions on their resources that a national conference with high profile champions could give lawmakers a chance to call into question.

We have to convince our support network to communicate the tremendous value of our mutual work and the need for financial support of our cause. This summer is an excellent time to engage elected officials in their districts and educate and explain the power, impact, and genuine need for national service, especially as we seek to make every public dollar go further. If we don’t, we may well have celebrated the end of an era in the Crescent City rather than realizing the dawn of a new beginning.


Submitted by Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO, for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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There is Danger in Not Raising Our Voice

As nonprofit leaders we live by the old farmer’s adage of, “Fix it up, use it up, wear it out, or do without.” Our adoption of this philosophy is what empowers nonprofits to gain trust and develop partnerships that further our mission. It works well, except in one area—expressing our voice.

Nonprofit voice is shorthand for our sector’s role in sharing what it knows, speaking for those unable to express their needs, and informing and influencing decision makers so that they do the right thing. In short, our voice is our right and responsibility to exercise our political capital for the common good. Yet it is often too hard to express our voice with so many pressures bearing down on our organizations, our work and our constituents.

Given all these pressures, we have to examine how we use our voice. Some might argue that like elected officials, we need to look at our voice as political capital—a resource we spend thriftily and only when absolutely necessary. In this case we might look at the Governor’s proposal to eliminate charitable giving incentives as $50 million that we could offer up as sacrifice to gain government goodwill. In other words, we shouldn’t expend our capital on this matter when so many other larger issues could come up later. Several sector leaders have come to me with this very concern. They worry that if they shout now, they won’t be heard later. Or they worry that they could jeopardize their friendly relationship with their elected officials.

These concerns are certainly understandable, but extremely dangerous. Here’s why.

First, nonprofit voice, unlike our own vocal chords, is a muscle that only works if exercised. Granted you want to be sure that you pick your battles. However, in my 15 plus years of experience in government/nonprofit interactions, I have never witnessed an elected or unelected government official respect and support an organization that stayed quiet during a hard political decision. Granted, some have been burned when they have handled their advocacy improperly and did not follow the rules, but there are none that I can think of that are respected for their complete silence. I know that some will dispute my conclusion on this, so I’ll explain why in my next point.

Second, the depth and length of the memory of goodwill in our political system is directly proportional to our term limits. No elected official today in Michigan has to worry about the long-term (15-20 years) consequences of their actions. Term limits guarantee that they will not be in office when the day of reckoning comes for their decisions. In addition, our state political bodies are largely controlled by the leadership rather than the caucuses. Large decisions are made by roughly six leaders in the House and Senate and the Governor. All the rest are waiting for direction and support.

Third, nonprofits have the privilege and responsibility to advocate for those unable to speak for themselves. This characteristic cuts across all 501(c)(3) nonprofits—we are charted with a charitable purpose to serve the common good. We are also constrained to be nonpartisan in our expression of voice. This makes for a power combination of benevolence and neutrality as we address Michigan’s most challenging issues. We all have to hold up these powerful characteristics whether a community foundation or a college, whether a food pantry or a hospital, whether a museum or a child daycare center, whether a senior living center or a land conservancy, we all have the responsibility and privilege to exercise our voice and advocate for the issues important to our constituents and the sector.

MNA recognizes that this is hard work and that little support exists to underwrite the time, talent and treasure it takes to advocate appropriately and effectively. That is why we give you the tools you need to make it easier and integrate it into your daily activities. Be sure to check out our website for our public policy & advocacy tools as well as our nonprofit resources that help you stay legal and ensure that your organization can effectively and legally share its voice. MNA has a platform you can use for your own organization to give a framework to your advocacy. You can also participate in our events including the Nonprofit SuperConference where we will be joined by Governor Rick Snyder. Finally, be sure to sign up for our Advocacy Alerts. These will give you the most current information on how you can exercise your voice.

Nonprofit leaders must advocate for their missions and the people they serve. Our organizations have to exercise our voice to be heard, understood and respected. I hope you will exercise your voice as a nonprofit leader and help elected officials make the right choices in these challenging and transformative times


Submitted by Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO, for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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SuperConference 2011, Not Your Ordinary Workshops

This year the SuperConference planning committee has hand selected presenters for the 30+ workshops that will be taking place at SuperConference on May 10th and 11th. Presenters include speakers from our plenary sessions as well as speakers from across the U.S. Not only that, workshops are divided into six topic-based tracks that appeal to those at both an intermediate and advanced level.

Below, is a sneak peek at some of the workshops and presenters from each track that are being featured this year.

Planned Giving Strategies to Meet Donor Expectations and Current Funding Goals
Advanced Fund Development Course
Facilitated By: Christopher L. Kelly, Vice President/Senior Philanthropic Advisor – Comerica Charitable Services Group

“Opportunities and Options” are the requirement of today’s donor. Our donors would like to see multiple ways to meet current gifting goals for their beloved organization, as well as paths toward leaving a lasting legacy. In this workshop we will discuss various planned giving vehicles; how they function traditionally, but more importantly, how they can function to meet the challenges presented by today’s sophisticated donor base. The result will provide opportunities for donors to gift from their accumulated wealth, rather than their disposable income, which translates into potentially larger and concrete financial commitments, and the opportunity to generate new relationships with the next generations of your current donor base.

The Game Plan
Intermediate Public Policy and Advocacy Course
Facilitated By: Abby Levine, Legal Director of Advocacy Programs – Alliance for Justice.

This interactive session helps organizations strategize how best to employ the advocacy tools at their disposal. It includes a discussion of advocacy fundamentals that help participants define their goals and objectives, appropriate targets, and effective advocacy tools, as well as assessing advocacy capacity and evaluating advocacy activities and planning for future campaigns.

Communications & Collaborations
Cross Track Communication Course
Facilitated By: David Stillman and Debra (Fiterman) Arbit, BridgeWorks

Join our Keynote Speakers, David & Debra, as they take you on a deeper dive of working through generational issues to keep your organization relevant in today’s changing world!

Five Crazy Habits
Intermediate Governance/Professional Development Course
Facilitated By: Robin Lynn Grinnell, Program Officer – Cook Family Foundation

Is your board agenda chock full of lengthy (ugh) program reports? Are you stuck in a perpetual cycle of fundraising events that are “just fine”? Do you sometimes sit at your desk and wonder if your board and/or staff will ever really get it together? If you answered ‘yes’ to any (or all) of these questions, don’t dismay… Many nonprofits have adopted Five Crazy Habits that simply trip us up. None of them are blatantly obvious and they’re certainly not illegal – they just make our work harder. Join us for a fast-paced session in which we’ll laugh (and groan) at our collective goofs and we’ll share some simple fixes that – with a little dedication – will get you back on the right path!

Google Grant & Apps!
Cross Track Planning Course
Facilitated By: Elyse Guilfoyle, AdWords Account Strategist – Google, Mary Elizabeth Ulliman, AdWords Account Manager – Google, and Jon Fraiser, Google

You are changing the world, and we want to help! Google employees from the Ann Arbor office will introduce you to Google’s free product offerings for nonprofits. They will touch on a wide variety of products that can help you: Reach and engage your supporters, improve your organization’s operations, Raise awareness for your cause .This session will focus specifically on the Google Grants program and Google Apps for Nonprofits. The Google Grants program empowers select nonprofit organizations to achieve their goals by helping them promote their websites via advertising on Google.com. As a Google Grants recipient, your organization can solicit donations, recruit volunteers, promote events and programs, and much more through Google Grants ads.

Catch the Spirit of Service
Intermediate Civic Engagement Course
Facilitated By: Jeanine Yard, Program Officer – Michigan Community Service Commission and Evan Albert, State Program Director – Corporation for National & Community Service

Is your organization interested in making connections with National Service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve? Do you wonder what a strong national service program looks like and how you might become that strong program effectively utilizing national service members. Join us for this interactive workshop and get answers to all your National Service questions. Learn how to ready your organization to apply for a grant or to host a member, identify opportunities for collaboration with other service programs, and find out how national service can add value to your organization.

For more information on SuperConference 2011, the workshops, keynote speakers, and other conference features, visit www.MNAonline.org/superconference.aspx .

Submitted by Ashley Branoff, Communications Coordinator for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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SuperConference 2011 Keynotes – Taking us Forward

SuperConference 2011 is quickly upon us, and as you can imagine MNA staff has been busy searching for the perfect keynote speakers. We knew that we had a lot to live up to after last year’s speakers, Andy Goodman and John Wood, and we also knew we wanted to bring in innovative speakers who would help drive home the theme of this year’s conference: Michigan’s Transformation: Nonprofits Leading the Way.

Our workgroup spent hours searching, reviewing, debating…until finally, we narrowed it down to four, outstanding, keynote presentations.

Being Effective in Today’s Changing World
To kick off SuperConference this year, we have David Stillman and Debra Fiterman from BridgeWorks. The energy and expertise from this team is remarkable. They will be speaking to address generational issues and how they plague today’s workplace. Just think of all the generations you have working together, from employees to volunteers! This team speaks to all generations, no one is left out and everyone will learn not only about their own generation, but the other generations around them.

Engaging Our Creativity for Powerful Impact
For the closing plenary, we want people to walk away feeling inspired, creative, and refreshed to go back to their organizations and continue to lead the way. Doc Hendley, was just like any of us when he was inspired to take action against the lack of clean drinking water in the developing world and founded Wine to Water in 2004. Because of his courage and social entrepreneurial drive, he was named as a CNN Hero in 2009. It is for those same reasons, plus his ability to quickly adapt to social and economic crisis, that we knew he was the perfect fit for our closing keynote. (I also must note that while speaking to Doc, he told us he spent several summers in the U.P. while growing up. That definitely sealed the deal!)

Understanding the Past for a Relevant Future
Nonprofits are truly leading the transformation in Michigan and we wanted to honor that by bringing in a speaker who is local and taking the lead on social innovation. Insert Steve Tobocman. He is the author of the Global Detroit study which is an effort to understand the role and impact foreign-born residents have on a region’s economy and to define strategies to enhance their role in revitalizing older neighborhoods and transitioning the region to a new economy. Steve truly understands Michigan’s history and how it can be used to build a prominent future for our state.

Steve Tobocman of Global Detroit

Tuesday Evening Dinner Plenary – Celebration of Service
This year MNA is switching things up and making what is usually a short evening event, into a dinner plenary. Volunteers have long been involved with the work and success of nonprofits, and our speaker, Brian Williams, has a modern take on volunteer mobilization. Brian is the Executive Director of Hands On Nashville and his efforts helped revitalize the devastated city of Nashville after the floods in 2010. This is going to be an exciting night to help celebrate Volunteer Center’s of Michigan’s 20th Anniversary and the future of service in the nonprofit sector.

Brian Williams of Hands On Nashville

So, there you have it! The four keynotes for SuperConference 2011. I hope this “sneak peek” has you excited for this year’s conference. We will be featuring blog posts dedicated to SuperConference 2011 throughout the next few months, stay tuned for more details!

Submitted by Ashley Branoff, Communications Coordinator for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Know Your Sector

Think you know the nonprofit sector? Did you know:

• Michigan’s nonprofit sector employs nearly 1 out of every 10 workers in the state.
• There are more than 47,000 nonprofit organizations in Michigan.
• The 374,537 nonprofit employees in Michigan earned nearly $14.5 billion in wages in 2009. This translates into an estimated $90 million of personal income tax revenues for Michigan’s state and local governments.

The nonprofit sector has been one of the few engines of economic growth in Michigan in the past decade, and it has sustained this record during the recent recession, according to a new Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies report.

While the staff at MNA was busy working with Johns Hopkins to prepare this report, another organization was busy preparing the following video to demonstrate the size and impact of the nonprofit sector across the nation. If you work for, volunteer with or donate to a nonprofit, I hope this video is a great reminder of the impact all of us make every day, not just to the organization’s mission, but to the entire nonprofit sector.

Thank you to Philanthropy Reports and Ben Klasky for creating this video and helping the nonprofit sector tell its story! If you want to know more about Michigan’s nonprofit sector, visit our website at www.MNAonline.org.

Submitted by Lisa Sommer, public relations manager for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Email Service Provider Comparison

While researching a couple of email marketing options for an organization I was working with recently, I came upon a new report produced by the nonprofit consulting firm Groundwire (formerly ONE/Northwest) that did an excellent job breaking down ten email service providers.

These ten providers represent the top options for nonprofits when considering an email communication service. The report breaks down each provider by features, integration with other platforms (such as Salesforce), and pricing. After you have mapped out your email marketing requirements (email volume, frequency, budget, integration needs, scheduled delivery, etc.) the report makes it wicked easy to narrow down your options. Some of the service providers profiled in the report are MailChimp, VerticalResponse, and CampaignMonitor.

The full report can be downloaded for free at: http://groundwire.org/support/articles/email-service-provider-comparison-report-2010

Submitted by Adam King, consultant with Highway T for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Resource Friday: Website Welcome Mat for Journalist

Journalist contact MNA on a regular basis, not only to learn more about our organization, but to learn more about the nonprofit sector and what nonprofits in Michigan are experiencing. Since you can never predict when the media will reach out to your organization as a resource and expert for a story, it’s important you make it easy for a journalist to find your organization, who to contact and how best your organization can serve their needs.

Flickr member: miggslives

As I read Hannah Brazee Gregory’s recent article with the Philanthropy Journal, I was reminded how something as simple as providing a press room on your organization’s website can save journalist time when researching for a story. Consider it your website welcome mat.

You can check out Hannah’s article, Is your nonprofit’s website media friendly? here. Review her check list and make a plan of how and when to accomplish each.

Here are some great examples of press rooms from nonprofits in Michigan:
+Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
+Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM)
+Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp
+Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit

Questions about what to share in your organization’s online press room? Drop me an email at lsommer@mnaonline.org or call 517-492-2412.

Lisa SommerSubmitted by Lisa Sommer, Public Relations Manager for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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