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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Seasons Greetings!

Seasons greetings from the staff at Michigan Nonprofit Association! Since our office is closed from Dec. 24 – Jan. 4, the blog is going to take a break until we return.

This photo was taken the day MNA staff volunteered with the Greater Lansing Food Bank. To see photos from our staff volunteer day, visit MNA’s flickr page here.

Michigan Nonprofit Association staff

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Welcome to the MNA Blog!

You’ve found it! The official MNA Blog.

If you’re here, you’re probably already familiar with the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA). We specifically represent over 1,000 member nonprofits, as well as the Michigan nonprofit sector at large. MNA is here to work beside you in making the nonprofit sector as effective as possible, and to be your voice at the state and national levels in regards to the issues that impact nonprofits.

In addition to our official website, MNA is now hosting this blog, a fun, informal and interactive way for nonprofits to communicate about the challenges and opportunities being presented to us on a regular basis.

A few posts have already been submitted by our bloggers, so scroll down the page, read the entries and leave a comment. Check out the “Meet-Our-Bloggers” section (via the link at the top of the page) to learn more about the MNA staff members who will be posting here on a regular basis. Guest bloggers and columnists will also appear from time to time. Add this link to your internet favorites and check back daily. Have an idea for a topic you’d like covered? Email one of our bloggers.

We hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. Please take time to leave a comment or send us an email – we’d love to hear your feedback!

Cheers to all our future blog discussions!

Your friends at MNA

The basics are just a starting point…

As one of the staff that answers calls and emails received on our HelpLine, I hear a lot of the same questions over and over. All too often, callers are looking for the same thing: a basic, “quick” answer. A sample or general policy that they can put in place at their organization. Or information about the “bare minimum” – what do they have to do to stay out of trouble? And I can understand why – sometimes it’s all about getting something in place, now, so that an organization can continue to focus on its mission.

The trouble starts, though, when the nonprofit stops with the basics. When leadership doesn’t make the time to really think about the general policy and decide how to make it truly fit with the organization’s structure, mission and vision. If we are convinced that each one of our organizations is unique – that there is something that makes us different from all of the other organizations working to solve the same problems – then we should be equally convinced that our policies and operational practices should be unique (or at least be a good fit!).

This doesn’t mean we all have to start from scratch; there’s no reason to re-invent the wheel. But we should make a commitment to revisit our policies, practices and operations with a critical eye from time to time; do they really help achieve our mission, or are they merely placeholders, taking up space (and energy) but not really moving us in the right direction?

Submitted by Mitzy Sharp Futro

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