MNA President & CEO Donna Murray-Brown on the Impact of the Government Shutdown on Nonprofits

Shutdown Image

When the federal government shut down last Tuesday, no one ever thought it would be shut down for more than a couple of days.  As we go into the second week of the shutdown, there has been great impact to the nonprofit sector’s ability to do their work.  Nonprofits are experiencing increased demand for services, stalled payments on government contracts, inability to conduct routine data inquiries, uncertainty of how to engage with their AmeriCorps members, and difficulty in their continued ability to employ staff.

With nearly 30% of nonprofits receiving revenues from government contracts, stalled payments from government contracts are placing a huge strain on nonprofits to meet the needs of their communities while keeping their doors open.  Additionally, the impact of sequestration, a fragile economy, and now thousands of government employees suddenly without income, nonprofits are becoming further strained in fulfilling their missions.

Simple daily activities such as internet searches for data and information on government websites are now impossible due to the shutdown rendering the websites inoperable. The U.S. Census Bureau, one of the “go to” websites, is no longer available to assist a nonprofit in gathering key demographic information to make decisions on every day work, future planning, and creating strategy.

Many nonprofits leverage national service programs to build capacity or provide direct service to those they serve.  Just last week, the Corporation for National and Community Service informed AmeriCorps members across the country they are required to serve during the shutdown, but without any compensation.  AmeriCorps members already receive a modest stipend for their service and, as a condition of their service commitment, are not able to hold a second job while serving.  This has become problematic for national service members because they find it increasingly difficult with each day of the shutdown to feed themselves and pay for housing.

As the days and weeks of the government shutdown continue, the aforementioned challenges will only become greater.  Nonprofits must brace themselves for additional trials and the reality of making painful decisions that may compromise the quality of their programs and services.  Decisions such as whether to buy much needed supplies and equipment, whether to forego important training and professional development, and ultimately, making decisions pertaining to staffing.

Making a decision regarding staff may become a reality for some nonprofits heavily reliant on government funding.  Understanding your legal options is key to making the best decision during this time of uncertainty.  Nonprofit HR, an organization providing guidance to nonprofits on Human Resources related topics and issues, is a great source for nonprofits faced with making decisions regarding staffing. Visit their website at http://www.nonprofithr.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Legal-Considerations-in-Layoffs_final_2013.pdf.

If you are experiencing challenges linked to the government shutdown either similar or dissimilar to that I have highlighted, I want to hear from you.  Please email me directly at dmurray-brown@mnaonline.org.

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

Students Helping Others Through Service

On March 24, 2012 the Fifth Third Bank and Detroit Red Wings service initiative, Students Helping Others Through Service (SHOTS), came to a close. SHOTS was a program that encouraged southeast Michigan high school students to invest their time, talent and treasure in their communities. Groups of up to 6 students and an adult supervisor registered for the project, committing to at least one service project between October and February. Each month, the groups could submit their project to a panel of judges, and a monthly winner was selected, receiving a pizza party and a chance at the grand prize – iPads and money towards future service projects.

On Saturday, five groups of students gathered from all over Southeast Michigan. Each group had a chance to present their project to the judges. Whenever a group returned to the ‘holding room’, the other groups cheered and greeted them, asking how everything went and learning about new service ideas. Suburban and urban kids, though there to compete with each other, found themselves building new, lasting friendships with students they may not have met otherwise. After all groups presented, the students enjoyed a pizza party, a ride on the Detroit People Mover, and ice cream. Once all the festivities concluded, the groups settled into their seats to watch the Red Wings 5-4 win over Carolina.

Each service project was unique, creative, and led by the students. The Interact Club at Airport High School (Carleton, MI) put together Thanksgiving care baskets for cancer patients. Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Southgate Anderson HS (Southgate, MI) sold colored lanyards to help raise money for breast cancer research, animal cruelty prevention and support for kids with leukemia. Detroit Edison Public School Academy Early College of Excellence (Detroit, MI) collected coloring books and crayons for Children’s Hospital and donated 590 pounds of food to Gleaners Community Food Bank. Students at Davison High School (Davison, MI) handmade 190 Valentine’s Day cards and held a Valentine’s Day party at a local senior residential facility.

But it was a group of young men from Detroit that secured the grand prize. The Loyola Leaders for Others group, based at Loyola High School, baked hundreds of homemade cookies, and distributed them, along with blankets and warm clothing, directly to the homeless in Cass Corridor in Detroit on Christmas Eve. Each student received an iPad, and the group as a whole received at check for $530 to use towards future service endeavors. Congratulations to this great group of young men and future leaders!

To encourage all of the finalists to continue their service efforts, Fifth Third Bank is giving each of the other four groups a check for $253 to help support their next projects. All in all, the 2011-2012 SHOTS program was a great success, and Fifth Third Bank, The Detroit Red Wings and The LEAGUE Michigan are excited to see what wonderful projects happen next year!

Submitted by Heather Jones, AmeriCorps*VISTA, The LEAGUE Michigan

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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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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Lifelong Engagement

Imagine a revitalized Michigan, filled with strong communities through the involvement and investment of active citizens, of all ages, in philanthropy and volunteerism. Currently, as a state, Michigan is uniquely poised and beginning to take strategic and deliberate steps in the development of these invested, involved citizens.

Michigan Nonprofit Association’s (MNA) Civic Engagement team is leading the way with the recent development of the Lifelong Engagement (LLE) Initiative. MNA’s Civic Engagement team is composed of its affiliates Michigan Campus Compact (MCC), Volunteer Centers of Michigan (VCM), and The LEAGUE Michigan. Each of these affiliates and their community partners work to support volunteerism, service as a strategy, and philanthropy for different age groups. The LEAGUE Michigan focuses on K-12, MCC on college student engagement, and Volunteer Centers serve the entire spectrum of ages.

The Lifelong Engagement Initiative was developed with one goal: foster collaboration between K – 12, higher education, and Volunteer Centers to promote civic engagement and volunteerism in such a way that individuals get involved and stay involved throughout their lives. For the first time, these organizations are strategically working together, at both the state and community level, to foster the development of lifelong, community focused, active citizens.

In just eight short months, progress is already being made to connect and develop the relationships, partnerships, and resources for a pipeline for civic engagement in Michigan, moving individuals through the continuum of lifelong service. Michigan Campus Compact’s Best in Class: Service Leadership Camp is, for the first time, being opened to high school seniors, exposing them to service at the college level. Steps are also being taken to build awareness among college students of the benefits (professionally, personally, and for the community) of continuing to be engaged after graduation, and how they can stay engaged by connecting with one of the many volunteer connector organizations spread throughout our state.

Invested and involved citizens are crucial to thriving communities. It is critical that we develop the awareness and systems to get individuals engaged, and keep them engaged. MNA is excited to be pioneering this initiative. If you would like more information, or would like connect with engaged K-12 schools, campuses, or Volunteer Centers in your community, please feel free to contact Geoff Hickox, Lifelong Engagement AmeriCorps*VISTA, at ghickox@micampuscompact.org.


Submitted by Geoff Hickox, Lifelong Engagement AmeriCorps*VISTA

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Romulus Community Schools Partners with Poured-Out

Romulus Community Schools are saving lives through service, service-learning, and philanthropy education. Students from Romulus have partnered with Poured-Out to provide bio-water filters to Haiti and other underdeveloped countries. Poured-Out is a local organization that partners with Michigan-based companies to produce bio-filters, as well as, educate and provide job opportunities to young adults in underdeveloped communities. The U.S. Navy, free of charge, ships the filters to country’s that lack a clean water source. The partnership between Poured-Out, Michigan based companies and the U.S. Navy provides schools and villages with purified drinking water. Individuals in these countries suffer from disease and illnesses caused by water they ingest. One filter, at $115 provides 1,000 gallons of water per day, which helps reduce the number of illnesses and deaths caused by unsafe drinking water.

Josh Baker is an active board member and teacher at Romulus High School. His class spearheaded the initiative and raised money to purchase a water filter for a school in Haiti. Students used research methods and created PowerPoint presentations to spread awareness throughout the community. Romulus High School students are using curriculum content to serve the community by identifying a need and developing plans to make an impact. For example, Loren Adams is a Romulus High School student who helped build a solar purification system, which incorporates mechanical science. The collaboration between Romulus High School and Poured-Out provided more than 200,000 gallons of water for Haitian communities, and the numbers are expected to grow.

On Tuesday, May 24, 2011, Wick Elementary School students are hosting an informative science fair to present experiments and educate the community about water pollution. The event will also raise funds to provide clean water for communities around the world. Funds raised by Romulus Community Schools will further the outreach in foreign countries and also contribute to relief effort s and the water purification process to victims of tornadoes in Alabama. Students in Romulus are using service, service-learning, and philanthropy education to change lives!

For more information about how you can get involved, visit www.poured-out.org. Romulus Community Schools will post project updates on the Poured-Out blog, located on the Poured-Out website.


Submitted by Lianna Taylor, The LEAGUE Michigan AmeriCorps VISTA – Romulus

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BINS “4” TINS


Carson City-Crystal 6th grade students got creative this year when asked what they would like to do for Global Youth Service Day (GYSD). They responded, with great enthusiasm, that it would be nice to start a recycling program that could involve the students and the community. With the help of their teacher, Ann Cunningham and The LEAGUE Michigan AmeriCorps*VISTA, Julie Anderson, the 6th graders developed a plan to collect domestic tin cans at their school and take them to the salvage yard.

During a student led discussion on what they wanted to come out of their recycling project, the students decided they wanted the community to participate and started brainstorming ideas on how they could be involved. From their discussion the students wanted to include the local Hospital by purchasing a couple bins to put in their kitchens to use as collection containers. They also decided that they would set up a recycling day, one day per week, where community members could drop off their cans to the school recycling station throughout the school day. Next the students discussed what they were going to do with the money from the salvage of the tin cans and how they would be able to tie this project to classroom curriculum. The students determined they would set up an account through the school called the environmental initiative account and use the money collected from the salvage to expand the current Bins “4” Tins project and also to help fund future GYSD projects. The project was tied into the classroom by researching the salvage trade and the students invited a guest speaker to come in to teach them about the salvage process and the 6th graders will use that information to educate other students in their school. They then established a tracking system to catalog their efforts by graphing the weight totals of each salvage trip and charting the fluctuating exchange rate in the cash to metal ratio. By doing this they will be able to track how much waste has been collected each year and how much profit they made.

In order to do all of this the students needed to find a way to raise money to purchase the bins for the waste stations and applied and received a, Global Youth Service Day mini grant from The League Michigan, Michigan Community Service Commission and Youth Serve America to support this initiative. In preparation of the launch of this initiative, the students prepared the school grounds for the recycling station by spending the day raking and sweeping the area where the station would be housed and contacted the local newspaper as an avenue to help promote their program to the community. Already, students are bringing in their cans on a daily basis!

To learn more about Bins “4” Tins please contact Julie Anderson at (989) 584-3175, ext. 3286 or janderson@carsoncity.k12.mi.us and check out the article in the Greenville Daily News used to promote Bins “4” Tins at Carson City-Crystal Middle School!

Submitted by Julie Anderson, The LEAGUE Michigan AmeriCorps*VISTA – Carson City-Crystal

The Path of Least Resistance?

What do voters think about the current budget debates at the state and federal levels? If we go by the major headlines, we want cuts to the public budgets and no new taxes. Or do we?

Now that the realities of the proposed cuts are coming into focus, it is unclear if the budgets proposed so far actually meet the expectations of the public that will be impacted by the changes. Such is the nature of major change—it all looks good from afar, but when it comes to our own sacrifices, we see ours as too large and others as too small.

The gridlock at the federal level with the near-federal government shutdown will be amplified as Congress and the White House debate the 2012 budget. But we are now realizing the cuts of the current budget compromises. Included in those, hidden away in the obscure portion of the Labor Health and Human Services budget, is a small dollar amount cut with large implications—the elimination of funding for Learn and Serve America funds. These are important dollars that help young people not only learn experientially (especially important for those “hard to reach” students), but also promote the school climates we all agree are important to quality learning.

At the state level, a small cut of $675,000 in the massive Department of Human Services budget will not only eliminate all support for the Michigan Community Service Commission, but also turn away more than $13 million in federal funding for national service programs all across Michigan.

To balance our state budget, lawmakers are proposing the elimination of tax credits that have leveraged millions to help local communities through community foundations, food pantries, homeless shelters, arts organizations, and colleges and universities.

Do voters really believe that eliminating support for sound, proven, affordable (bordering on cheap) programs that solve problems that government cannot afford to address directly makes any sense? We may never know, because there is little talk about what the voters actually want.

The Center for Michigan has been working hard to identify what Michiganders want to see in a Michigan budget, but few if any of their suggested reforms have received enough support. They have even developed a tool for citizens to identify how they would balance the budget.

A flood of recent polling indicates that voters are not supporting many of the proposed cuts to programs. Slate Magazine reports all political ideologies oppose the cutting of Medicare – 92% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, 75% of Independents, and 70% of Tea Party Members. Regarding revenues, the recent Gallop poll shows that Americans do not want lawmakers to remove charitable incentives.

Clearly there is a strong sense that people know that changes are necessary, but the proposals on the table are largely looking to impose change on those least likely to present strong opposition as opposed to changes the voters are telling pollsters they would like to see.

At no other time is the voice of the nonprofit sector more necessary than now.


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

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