The MNA*VISTA Program and MLK Day Impact

The Michigan Nonprofit Association houses a Civic Engagement AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program through which 30 VISTAs throughout the state of Michigan build the capacity of local organizations in efforts to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.  Our MNA*VISTAs work in conjunction with Michigan Campus Compact, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, and The LEAGUE Michigan to promote and facilitate lifelong civic engagement.

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Civic engagement can look different for everyone. Our VISTAs focus on engaging community members through service-learning, student engagement, college access and success, financial literacy, and employability skills. All of these are goals within the areas of education and economic opportunity, two areas which, if improved within the state of Michigan, can help eliminate poverty.

One way in which MNA*VISTAs engage community members is organizing and facilitating service projects for well-known and important national days of service. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service is one of these widespread service days, and was held in 2014 on January 20, 2014. On MLK Day, our VISTAs were out in their communities in full force facilitating and managing service projects to raise awareness of this day and rally communities together to unite and serve.

Through service projects held on and around MLK Day, our VISTA cohort completed 29 independent projects (including some large multi-site projects), and recruited 1,368 volunteers! These volunteers served a combined 2,460 hours of their time completing projects addressing hunger & homelessness, animals, environment, health & wellness, veterans, literacy & education, food access and more.

MNA*VISTAs Rachelle Rice and Michael Januzzi, who are serving at Delta College in University Center, Michigan, facilitated a service project in which Bridgeport High School and Ruben Daniels Middle School students created a mosaic of Martin Luther King, Jr. The “Dr. King Mosaic” is comprised of 216 tiles, each of which has special meaning to a Bridgeport or Ruben Daniels student.

Dr King Mosaic

MNA*VISTA Matthew Vargo who is serving at Volunteer Kalamazoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan, organized and facilitated a march in remembrance of MLK Jr. which began at Western Michigan University, ran through the city of Kalamazoo, and ended at MLK Memorial Park. Participants then released biodegradable balloons after hearing speeches from community leaders. This was part of a large day of service in which 275 volunteers gave their time at 19 project sites throughout the Kalamazoo area.

MLK Day Kalamazoo

As you can see from these two examples, our MNA*VISTAs are doing fantastic work! Since most of our members began their service terms in August 2013, they will wrap up their terms in August 2014, and we’re looking for new members to continue the great work our current VISTAs have started. If you’re interested in becoming an AmeriCorps*VISTA starting in August 2014, please contact our program staff at mnavista@gmail.com!

Chelsea Leser2Submitted by Chelsea Leser, AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader, Michigan Nonprofit Association

Donna Murray-Brown: State of the State & State of the Sector

Friends and Partners of Michigan Nonprofit Association,

I am certain many of you, like me, were listening intently to the Governor’s State of the State.  Governor Snyder described Michigan as the “Comeback State” as he provided the many accomplishments over his term.  He provided a solid list of priorities for the state that no doubt will require partnership with the nonprofit sector, such as services to seniors, K-12 education (early education), workforce development (attracting immigrants) and overall quality of life for those living with mental illness, and for working families finding it difficult to make ends meet.

No matter your political persuasion, and whether you agree or disagree with the progress Michigan has made over the last few years, one thing is certain: all sectors must all work together to realize the hopes and dreams we have for the residents of Michigan.  There are many areas across the state that are doing well or at least better than before; and there are those that still are in dire need of investment, innovation, and intentional commitment to becoming thriving.

I think this is a defining moment in the history of Michigan for the nonprofit sector.  It is a time where the contributions of the sector will be recognized and lifted up for the great impact those contributions have had on the overall quality of life of residents in our state.  We’ve seen this play out in recent headlines regarding the $330 million investment by the philanthropic community to preserve the assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts while creating a path for the City of Detroit to honor its pension obligations.  It is becoming clearer and clearer that real progress is inextricably connected with the work nonprofits do every day to meet the needs of the community.

The State of the Nonprofit Sector is also quite a great story to tell.  The nonprofit sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.  It provides $805 billion to the country’s economy, representing 5.5% of the country’s GDP.  Here in the great State of Michigan, more than 1 out of every 11 Michiganders are employed by a nonprofit.  The sector’s contribution to Michigan’s economy is nearly $140 billion.  These statistics underscore the contributions of the sector, yet are not often the narrative you hear from those serving in the sector.  It is high time we embrace the collective impact we are making to make our state the “Comeback State.”  We must enhance our narrative of our work beyond “it’s the right thing to do,” to “our work is imperative to creating a thriving state, and we too have proven results!”

While we have a great story to tell regarding our collective work, there are also some opportunities we should consider to amplify our work and increase our impact:

  1. Continue to collaborate.  The pressing concerns and the innovation required to meet the needs of communities across the state require collaboration.  While many of us have honed our skills by working with one another, responding to the 21st century’s challenges requires cross-sector collaboration.
  2. Subscribe to High Performance as an imperative.  Now is the time to move beyond passion being the only factor that fuels our work.  The continued scarcity of resources is calling for investment in organizations with evidence of achievement.  Our current environment demands great leadership within the organizations and the boards that govern them.  Continue to spend time and resources to provide professional development for your staff and board development for your nonprofit’s board.
  3. Leverage Technology as a strategy for mission attainment.  Consider leveraging the tools available to provide more mobility for your teams and to connect with your stakeholders in real time.  Nonprofits that prioritize leveraging tools like the cloud, social media, and creating enticing and user-friendly engagement through technology will be ahead.  Research suggests nearly 50% of emails are read on a smart phone or other smart handheld device.  How nonprofits embrace the environment of technology to meet mission should continue to be top of mind.Additionally, the ability to move from collection of data through various electronic formats and platforms to analyzing data will also lead to improved outcomes.
  4. Positioning volunteerism as a strategy for mission attainment.  It is clear the challenges we face may require expertise and experience not necessarily housed within our organization, nor are there necessarily resources to hire the expertise needed.  Using volunteers to meet mission is not only a way to make additional expertise available, it is also a way to introduce a diverse group of individuals to the work that you do. When you deliberately choose volunteerism as a strategy to meet mission, it requires a thoughtful approach and commitment to a sound volunteer program.  The results, if done correctly, can yield improved outcomes, a broader awareness of your work in the community via volunteers, and a way to cultivate new donors.Board members of nonprofits are also volunteers. They come with varied expertise, experience and passion for the work you do.  Creating a generative environment for board members creates an opportunity to gain even more than the traditional governance and oversight required.
  5. Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity are key principles to meeting mission. DI&E is a strategy that recognizes that improved outcomes can be attained by intentionally having diverse colleagues to meet the needs of their diverse communities (Diversity).  Nonprofits should incorporate program delivery methods that include those they serve, as well as other stakeholders that provide greater insight beyond that, within the organization (Inclusion). Lastly, it is important for nonprofits to understand there are systems that create barriers for their clients, thus adversely impacting success in mission attainment (Equity).  Finding smart ways to break down or find ways around existing systems to create new systems of service will be key to meeting the needs of those we serve.
  6. Hone our public policy and advocacy skills to block threats to our work.  If there is one thing that can cause real change to the work we do, it is a policy that threatens our ability to serve, or creates barriers to services for those we serve. It is imperative for nonprofits to dispel the myths that surround active lobbying and advocating for our work and those we serve.If you are wondering where to start and if you can make a difference, research done by Nonprofit VOTE in partnership with Michigan Nonprofit Association revealed nonprofits have great influence on the voting engagement of those they serve.  Nonprofits that engaged in very basic voter engagement activities like voter education, and Get Out the Vote, saw favorable response from their clients.  What if there were a policy impacting your ability to serve your community?  Would you have the ability to leverage your community to advocate? There are many tools to get you started.  MNA, in partnership with Council of Michigan Foundations, has a Nonprofit Advocacy primer providing easy to understand concepts to get you on your way.

These are exciting times in the state of Michigan.  It will require much to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves, yet we can and will succeed.  We are truly the change we have been looking for!  Now, let’s get to work!

Donna Murray-BrownSubmitted by Donna Murray-Brown, President & CEO, Michigan Nonprofit Association

Donna Murray-Brown: Federal Grant Policies Overhaul

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful holiday season! It seems our year is off to a great start , due in part to a wonderful development occurring late last year during the holiday season.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed an overhaul of federal grant policies and procedures titled “Uniform Administrative Requirement, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.”

Please read below regarding the highlights and specifics of the new OMB guidance:

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its long-anticipated overhaul of federal grants policies and procedures, and charitable nonprofits achieved several important goals that will strengthen organizations performing work in communities on behalf of governments and the nonprofit community as a whole.

Titled “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards,” the final guidance will require state and local governments using federal funds to reimburse nonprofit contractors and grantees for reasonable indirect costs, sometimes called administrative or overhead expenses. The guidance will allow nonprofits to focus more on delivering services in their communities, and spend less money on wasteful paperwork by raising the Single Audit threshold to $750,000, eliminating duplicative and unnecessary audit criteria, and clarifying cost allocation rules.

In a statement, the National Council of Nonprofits summarized the significance of the new OMB guidance this way:

“The new guidance means that nonprofits should be able to focus more on their missions and should be under less pressure to raise additional funds to essentially subsidize governments. In turn, charities with no government contracts or grants could see less competition for scarce philanthropic dollars. This is a major win for the entire charitable nonprofit community.”

Highlights from the Grants Guidance

  • Indirect Costs: The OMB Guidance explicitly requires pass-through entities (typically states and local governments receiving federal funding) to either honor a nonprofit’s negotiated indirect cost rate if one already exists or negotiate a rate in accordance with federal guidelines. Nonprofits will be empowered to elect an automatic indirect cost rate of 10 percent of modified total direct costs (MTDC) – which can be used indefinitely if they so choose – or negotiate a higher rate.
  • Direct Costs: The guidance makes clear that, in certain circumstances, program administration (e.g., secretarial staff dedicated to a specific program) can be reported as direct, rather than as indirect, costs.
  • Audit Rules: The new guidance also raises the threshold for a single audit (A-133) requirement from $500,000 to $750,000, thus reducing costs for smaller contracts and grants.
  • Streamlining Federal Guidance: The new guidance consolidates and streamlines eight OMB circulars, including OMB Circulars 110 and 122 that relate to charitable nonprofits. As a result, applications and reporting will be standardized and streamlined to provide more consistency across various federal agencies.
  • Effective Date: Unclear, but presumably a year after publication in the Federal Register on December 26, 2013.

Donna Murray-BrownSubmitted by Donna Murray-Brown, President & CEO, Michigan Nonprofit Association

Introducing: Mike Rafferty, Director, Metro Detroit Partnership

Michael Rafferty - Director, Metro Detroit Partnership

Michael Rafferty

MNA is happy to welcome Mike Rafferty as the new Director, Metro Detroit Partnership. Mike started his new role with MNA in October.

Mike, a Detroit native and accomplished development professional, comes to MNA from the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), where he was responsible for the development of a retention program and the attraction of more than $50M of private sector investment. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of Warren Conner Development Coalition, The 8 Mile Boulevard Association, The Villages CDC, and is the Chair of the Board of LAND Inc. His prior Detroit experience also includes work for the Detroit office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), in 2006.

In 2007, following his time at LISC, Mike was employed with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) in New York. In these roles, Mike was responsible for several neighborhood, community, and economic development initiatives, including the successful completion of a $10M public plaza and streetscape redevelopment, and the administration of a $500,000 community development financing institution.

Mike holds a BA in Organizational Communications from St. Mary’s College and a Masters of Urban Planning from Wayne State University.

#GivingTuesday is December 3, 2013!

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We all know about the rush for rock-bottom prices on “Black Friday,” the growing movement to support “Small Business Saturday,” and the online shopping frenzy on “Cyber Monday.” But did you know that the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as Giving Tuesday? It’s a great chance for people to come together to make a charitable impact during a season of need for many.

#GivingTuesday is in its second year, but has already gained the support of individuals and organizations in all 50 states, The White House, tons of celebrities, and the mayors of many major US cities. In 2012, the effort helped create a 50% increase in online giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Imagine what it can do this year!

There are so many ways to participate. Whether you’re volunteering with a local charity, making a donation to your favorite nonprofit organization, spreading the word on social media, or taking and sharing your own #UNselfie, everyone can be a part of Giving Tuesday.

UNselfie

What’s an #UNselfie? Glad you asked!

Some organizations have challenge or matching campaigns set up for Giving Tuesday. Even if they don’t, your employer may have an employee match program, which could double the impact of your donation!

Want to learn more about Giving Tuesday and how to empower your supporters to participate? Visit GivingTuesday.org to sign up as a partner, share your story, or to get ideas, resources, toolkits, and more. Be sure to let us know how you’re participating by commenting here, or sharing or tweeting your #UNselfies at MNA on Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for an organization to get involved with? MNA’s member directory is a great place to start!

Terry StreetmanSubmitted by Terry Streetman, Membership & Advocacy Coordinator, Michigan Nonprofit Association

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