Michigan Nonprofit Association Supports Employers of National Service Initiative

Direct from Donna with Headshot

For nonprofits it is important to recruit talent and create opportunities to help individuals gain valuable skills that will help them today and in the future. That’s why I am so excited about the Employers of National Service Initiative.  For nonprofits it is a way of benefitting from the talent pipeline of AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps Alumni. By recruiting from this valuable pool, nonprofits will have access to dedicated, highly qualified potential employees who already understand the work and value of nonprofits in Michigan and around the country.

Here at MNA we already know the value of the National Service Alumni.  Over the years we have hired a number of alumni including current colleagues Chelsea Martin, Jennifer McArdle, Melissa Steward, and Nellie Tsai.

We also know that many of our member nonprofits have hired employees who are National Service Alumni to become a part of their talented staffs. We have already seen the benefit of National Service Alumni. And in September of 2014, as a part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, President Barack Obama launched the Employers of National Service Initiative.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps, is leading this effort along with its partners, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps Alums, and the Franklin Project. As announced on Sept. 12, 2014, there are two dozen charter Employers of National Service. Any employer that signs up to participate by Dec. 31, 2014, will be considered a charter Employer of National Service.

As you consider hiring skilled, committed talent for your organization, don’t overlook the National Service Alumni. If you would like more information on how to get in on the ground floor of this opportunity and tap into this pool, go to http://www.nationalservice.gov/special-initiatives/employers-national-service.

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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