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

College Students are Leaders!

When I was in my 6th grade English class, my teacher said to the entire class, “You are the next generation of leaders!” The thing is, this teacher didn’t tell us how to learn how to be a leader or when we were supposed to assume this role. Now, at age 23, I’ve been figuring out the ways I am a leader in my community and the ways that I want to lead in my future. I attribute this awareness of my experiences to the Residential College in the Arts & Humanities at Michigan State University, and my AmeriCorps VISTA term at Michigan Campus Compact.

Michigan Campus Compact (MICC), an affiliate organization of MNA, supports the civic engagement activities of colleges and their students around the state of Michigan. After the 15th year of Service Leadership Camp last fall, the MICC team thought about whether or not the program was meeting the needs of students, and also posed this question to the network of faculty and staff. The result was the decision to begin a new leadership program and I jumped at the opportunity to pioneer this project!

Throughout the last six months, I have worked with my supervisor, Shannon Zoet, and a network planning committee to coordinate the program for MICC’s first Active Leaders Student Conference this October! No participant will leave this one-day conference without recognizing that they are a leader and learning specific steps to accomplish their aspirations through community service, advocacy, and philanthropy.

“It’s exciting to be a part of something as unique as this event, even more so when you are helping to plan it. This event is very grassroots in the way that it is planned by, geared toward, and has presenters all for the same age group. Many of the leadership events at the college level are only for student leaders that belong to a certain group or specific career path. This event is geared toward leaders from every background who are entering career paths that are just as diverse.”

-Zoe K.D. Haynes, Planning Committee Member, Undergraduate Student, Wayne State University

Amber Cruz, program manager of Mobilize.org will be the keynote speaker at the event and she is excited to share Mobilize resources and ideas to organize voter engagement efforts during the 2012 election season.

For more information about the Active Leaders Student Conference, click here.

Submitted by Jessica Johnson,  AmeriCorps*VISTA, Michigan Nonprofit Association 

Mackinac Policy Conference Review

Last week, the Detroit Chamber of Commerce held its annual Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Donna Murray-Brown and I were fortunate enough to attend the conference this year on behalf of MNA. One difference in the conference this year, was the lack of lawmakers. Michigan legislators stayed behind in Lansing to put the finishing touches on the FY’12-13 state budget.

This year’s theme was on making Michigan and Detroit a place for global competitiveness. To help attendees think about Michigan in a global setting, the Detroit Chamber had two very high-profile foreign affairs experts, Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman. Both had very similar messages, Michigan and the United States can no longer think of itself as the sole “super power” on the global stage – both in foreign policy and economic progress. Both Zakaria and Friedman came to the same recommendations, improve US infrastructure (including wireless deployment), open up immigration policy, and invest in K-16 education. Detroit Public Television has both sessions on their website, you can view each of them here.

Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman were not the only ones touting the need for Michigan to invest in the future. Numerous keynote speakers and panelists also reiterated the point: if Michigan is going to succeed, it must invest in the future.

One slightly low point of the conference was the “Fab Five” panel, where the leaders of Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and Washtenaw counties, and Detroit Mayor, David Bing discussed regional collaboration. There was much more of the usual bickering around turf and who should pay for what, instead of broader discussion of a vision of what regionalism looks like for the Detroit area, which would have built upon what the other keynote speakers proposed. There is always next year…

 

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

Nonprofits Ready to Partner

Wednesday night, Governor Snyder gave his second State of the State address. As he talked about how far Michigan has moved forward in 2011, and his Administration’s priorities for 2012, he continually came back to two key ideas: collaboration and innovation. Collaboration brings with it a sense of community, inclusion, and hope for the future. With innovation, Michigan can creatively improve upon what is already great or throw out the bad. These are indeed keys to a successful future in Michigan and keystones to the good governance Gov. Snyder also advocates.

But you can’t talk about collaboration with just these two sectors (business and government) while ignoring the impact of nonprofits on many of the metrics on the MiDashboard. By including nonprofits at the table of this discussion from the beginning, alongside elected officials and businesses, Gov. Snyder would not only see a broader, more complete view of the impacts of his proposals, but also a better solution to the problems he has identified.

While Snyder’s agenda was positive and avoided controversy, he can no longer ignore the growing importance of nonprofits that are integral to achieving many of his goals for 2012. By championing his own values of collaboration and innovation, the state, nonprofits, and other key players can work together to achieve the desired results of a healthy and prosperous Michigan.

Submitted by Michelle Eichhorst, Public Policy Fellow for Michigan Nonprofit Association

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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Peer-to-Peer: Challenges, the Obstacles of Our Generation

Detroit Edison Public School Academy is an advocate for the incorporation of service-learning into their school. The school was originally a K-8 school, which expanded its mission for the 2010-2011 school year by starting a high school with the addition of a 9th grade class. The administration has incorporated many initiatives into the 9th grades’ program to assist students in excelling as they move closer to their next phase in life. One initiative is a leadership group comprised of students who were selected by teachers and administrators who showed great leadership potential. This leadership group, will be created with every incoming 9th grade class, and will continue until their senior year. They are responsible for addressing the non-academic functions of their classmates by developing, not only lucrative social activities, but also opportunities to give back to their community through service projects.

In the planning for their May activity, the 9th grade group completed the “Whose Responsibility Is It?” lesson plan provided through the Learning to Give database. While moving through the different entities of the lesson plan, the leadership team stirred up the issues that surround the many “isms” (i.e. classism, racism, sexism, etc) that their generation faces today. They decided to address these issues by developing a forum that will allow them to discuss and educate their fellow classmates. The students of the leadership group felt the best way to grasp the attention of their peers during the forum was by creating controversial statements, these statements would force the students to have an open dialogue about the issue at hand. They decided to call them “I Am” statements and each of the twenty-two statements addressed one of the many topics selected by the leadership team. For example, an “I AM” statement on education would read, “I am a high school dropout, not because I cannot handle the academics, but because I had to take care of my home.”

The leadership group divided into three teams and developed two hour breakout sessions that included icebreakers, games, videos, pictures, skits, etc. where the overall goal was to have an effective discussion on each “I AM” statement. Everyone was very impressed with the leadership group’s ability to host an all day event for their fellow peers, all while engaging them in serious discussions to help challenge everyone as an individual. The leadership group felt a sense of accomplishment and they are ready to take it on again next year!

Submitted by Onjila Odeneal, The LEAGUE Michigan AmeriCorps*VISTA – Detroit

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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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Why You Should Attend Conferences

There are countless professional development opportunities where we can meet people and develop our skills. Some of these are short one-time local events, while others are large state-wide and national conferences. While I believe strongly that each of us should take advantage of every professional opportunity we can fit in our schedules and budgets, I am partial to attending conferences. Why? Here are my three reasons for attending the 2011 MNA SuperConference and other large state-wide and national conferences:

Inspiration – If you arrive at a conference looking to be inspired, I can guarantee that you won’t be let down. Whether it is by a plenary speaker, a breakout session presenter, or someone you will meet during lunch, there are tons of inspirational stories waiting to be shared at every conference. Inspiration is what drives you to have a big vision and give the most to your work. For me, at the 2010 SuperConference it was John Wood, Founder of Room to Read. His story was inspirational and motivated me to think big, dream bigger and GSD. With a great line up of speakers for 2011 I will have to wait and see which one inspires me the most, but I attend SuperConference, each year, with confidence that I will walk away inspired.

Networking – I’m not talking about your everyday networking where you meet a bunch of people you may never meet again. I’m talking about identifying people you want to meet, finding them and talking with them to build your network. Conferences are where you will find the rockstars of your field. The CEOs, founders, and powerbrokers of the nonprofit sector are most easily accessible at conferences. Once you’ve met the people you want to meet, remember that it takes at least two significant interactions with someone for them to remember you. You can either find that person a second time during the same conference (this may involve going out of your way, but it’s worth it!) or email them afterward. On my way home I always make a list of 4-5 people I want to “reconnect” with when I get home. It can be as simple as emailing them saying how great it was nice to meet them, but you need that second interaction to make your networking count.

3 Great New Ideas – You will be exposed to a large number of ideas at a conference, but not all of them will be new or great. I have discovered that if I can find three great new ideas at a conference it is a successful use of my time and resources. Three core changes to my day-to-day work, my organization at large, or my personal philosophy is a significant amount of improvement. If you bring back many more than three (and aren’t able to prioritize them), you run the risk of not implementing any changes due to being overwhelmed. With specific tracks of programming, the 2011 Super Conference has new ideas waiting for every type of nonprofit professional.

I’m not here to advocate any one particular conference over another, but I will encourage every professional to find a way to attend at least one conference a year. You will be inspired, networked and you’ll have 3 great new ideas to improve your professional and personal life. See you at the 2011 MNA Super Conference in May!

For a further look at why you should attend SuperConference, click here!


Submitted by Mike Goorhouse, Private Foundations Coordinator and Grants Manager for the Council of Michigan Foundations

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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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