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!


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.


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 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

National Service Member Reflections on MNA SuperConference 2013

Thanks to the generous support of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, MNA was proud to be able to sponsor 15 national service members to attend the 2013 SuperConference. These members, representing both AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps*VISTA programs in West Michigan, brought their passion for fighting poverty and transforming communities to SuperConference, and enriched the experience of all they encountered. In addition, we owe them a big thanks for positioning themselves around the space as human arrows, helping our attendees find their way! As part of the SuperConference national service member fellowships, the members were asked to provide blog content detailing their SuperConference experiences and reflections. Below are some of their thoughts.

KFB5The conference seemed to pass in a whirlwind, but there was one moment where I was able to pause all the action and reflect. I passed by the Kids’ Food Basket table to find people coloring bags with crayons, and I received an explanation about how the organization used the bags to add some food and joy into the day of a hungry child. To decorate my bag, I thought back to my own childhood and thought of a phrase my dad would say to me every school day as I left the house. “Have a great day in great America!” I didn’t think much of it when I was younger but as I got older this phrase became more of a reflection, as I was able to appreciate the opportunity to seize another day in a place that provides for me the chance to do so. I designed the phrase on the bag along with red and blue stripes with hopes of passing on that thought to someone new. This activity provided the opportunity to do something meaningful amongst a whirlwind of other happenings at the MNA SuperConference. I can be thankful for the event and another couple great days in great America.
– Sam Morykwas, Mentoring to Access Corps

As a young professional, I feel some pressure to be a “great” leader and be logical in achieving this. I was pleasantly surprised when multiple sessions at the MNA SuperConference took the weight off my shoulders to be a “perfect leader” and changed how I think of creativity in the workplace. From Rosetta Thurman, I learned how I can use passion, rather than credentials, to change the world. From Paul Schmitz, I learned I can be a great leader without being an expert in all fields. From Frans Johannson I discovered that I can broaden the brainstorming process and include illogical and unpredictable paths. Glen Fayolle taught me that I can brainstorm all ideas that may work, fail a few times (perhaps fail even MORE times), and potentially come across something great. Overall, I found SuperConference to be a great experience! I gained new ways of thinking about leadership and creativity, and left the event a well-rounded leader with a few more tools in my arsenal to spark change in the world.
– Chelsea Leser, MNA Civic Engagement AmeriCorps*VISTA Program

The MNA Super Conference was one of the best professional development experiences that I had during my year of service, and I am beyond excited that I had the opportunity to attend it. The most enlightening portion of the conference was listening to Paul Schmitz of Public Allies. Paul provided a discussion that was both informative and enjoyable regarding cohesion in the nonprofit sector, and how we need to have a full understanding of the mission and the people you work alongside. Paul asked us to split into groups, based on where we felt that we fit in the nonprofit world, and then asked us to make lists of the benefits that we provide, as well as the benefits that the other groups provide. This exercise was helpful in understand that we are all pieces of the puzzle, and when one piece or personality is missing, our vision is harder to complete. As I left Paul’s talk, I felt that I could be an important piece of the nonprofit puzzle while still realizing that the other pieces were crucial as well. I was reminded as he spoke that everyone has a gift or talent to contribute, and sometimes you have to keep your eyes open to see it.
– Kailee Laplander, Mentor Michigan College Coaching Corps – Finlandia University

Thank you to all of the national service members who attended, and thank you to all of our nonprofit partners who host AmeriCorps or AmeriCorps*VISTA members!

Jenny McArdleSubmitted by Jenny McArdle, AmeriCorps*VISTA Program Manager


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