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

Capacity Building: Detroit Sub-Grant Award Program for Culturally Diverse and Inclusive Arts and Culture Organizations

In September 2010, the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center in Boston began delivering a local program called Capacity Building: Detroit. The program will run for 2 years and supports arts and culture organizations located in Southeast Michigan by providing seminars, web-chat discussions and one-on-one coaching for the 52 participating organizations. The goal of the Capacity Building: Detroit program is to equip arts and culture organizations with the tools necessary to become more efficient and effective in the day-to-day organizational management of their organizations, helping them to better meet their missions.

Thanks to support from the Ford Foundation, Michigan Nonprofit Association in partnership with Cultural Alliance for Southeastern Michigan has been able to offer a special sub-grant program to augment the work of the Capacity Building: Detroit program and extend further resources to participating arts and culture organizations that are culturally diverse and inclusive or are serving culturally diverse communities in Southeast Michigan.  The goal of the sub-grant program is to provide these culturally diverse and inclusive organizations with the additional resources needed to increase their capacity to deliver services to culturally diverse and inclusive audiences by implementing the skills learned through the Capacity Building: Detroit program.

MNA is committed to infusing the principles of diversity in all facets of its work and recognizes that gaps in access to capacity building opportunities exist more frequently for culturally diverse organizations: this sub-grant program seeks to address that gap. For the purposes of this awards program, participating organizations deemed to be eligible as culturally diverse and inclusive were asked to meet the following two criteria: 1) The board or leadership staff of the organization is more than 50% culturally diverse; and 2) The audience/participants of the organization are 80% or more culturally diverse, and the organization has a proven track record of serving the needs of one or more of the targeted cultural groups.*

In February, facilitated by the Metro Detroit Partnership and MNA’s Capacity Building team, the sub-granting scheme awarded 15 participating organizations with grants of up to $15,000. Successful applications were awarded funding to develop projects that focus on implementing organizational capacity building initiatives, including: institutional and programmatic marketing strategies, fundraising, strategic planning, season planning, and board development and training opportunities.

Congratulations to the successful organizations!

Heritage Works

Living Arts

MSU Community Music School Detroit

Matrix Theatre Company

Sphinx Organization

Arts League of Michigan

Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit

Music Hall

Michigan Youth Arts

Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation

PuppetART Theater

Stagecrafters

Heidelberg Project

Arab American National Museum

*Targeted Cultural Groups: African American, Asian American, Latin/Hispanic, and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered) groups.

Submitted by Annie McGuigan Fenton, Capacity Building Manager, 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

Despite differences, education is central to both State and Federal Budgets

These past few weeks have demonstrated the challenges of creating sound, effective budgets at the state and national level. The Michigan and federal budgets, however, paint two very different pictures of the health of their constituents.

The recession over the past four years has not been kind, but there seems to be a glimmer of hope in Michigan. After several consecutive years of painful cuts, it appears the financial outlook is more optimistic with 2012’s budget surplus. Education funding increased by 0.2%, public safety funding is also set to increase, and the “Rainy Day” fund will grow by an additional $130 million, according to the State Budget Office. At the Federal level, by contrast, the deficit still weighs heavily on programs most Americans take for granted, but rely on – the President offered a 52% decrease in Education, a 35% decrease in Labor, and slight increases for Health and Human Services (3.7%) and the Corporation of National and Community Service (1.3%).

Still, there are some common commitments between the two budgets, such as improving performance and affordability of education. President Obama promotes a ‘Race to the Top’ and links financial aid to universities that keep their tuition under control. Governor Rick Snyder also wants to link increased spending in education to improved performance, best practices, and college tuition restraint. And they are politicians from two different parties.

Despite the other differing priorities of the two budgets, it is clear that superior education for future generations must be a priority for education beyond high school. Whether it is community college, traditional four-year, or vocational – higher education has become increasingly important to achieve personal financial security.

Submitted by Michelle Eichhorst, Public Policy Fellow for 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

I WILL: Part Two

This year for 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance MNA and its affiliates will be taking part in service projects on September 9, 2011. Although we know many are taking their own personal time to volunteer and remember, it is important to us as an organization to give back and remember in three distinct ways:

1. Purchase and collect supplies to include in care packages to send to our troops overseas. MNA is doing this through U.S. Troop Care Package and calling upon its affiliates, partners, and other organizations to take part in this collection.
2. MNA staff will be leading and participating in a Community Conversation specifically designed for 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.
3. Each employee will be given the opportunity to fill out an “I WILL” card. Here they can pledge the number of hours they plan to volunteer in the coming year.

Has your organization registered their project yet? If not, head to www.911day.org to register and find useful resources such as toolkits, logos, and teaching tools to help make your project a success!

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I WILL: Part One

It is hard to believe, but on September 11, 2011, it will have been ten years since the attacks.

I remember the events like it was yesterday… It was my senior year in high school, and I was in Mr. Christner’s Amercia in the World Today class. In the middle of our lesson someone popped their head into the classroom, said what had happened (at that time only one plane that had crashed into one of the towers), and left. Mr. Christner quickly turned the television on and we watched as events unfolded for the rest of class.

Now, I am sure many of you are gawking at the fact my teacher let us watch what was happening, but I was (and still am) thankful he did. I am also thankful that I was taking that exact class, that exact year, at that exact time because the next day Mr. Christner dived into teaching about the different religions, countries, thoughts, perspectives and how they brought us to where America was at that time; it truly was America in the World Today. He provided information that was enlightening and he helped us fully grasp what had happened. His curriculum around September 11 also taught us not to stereotype, judge, or discriminate people who were Muslim or of Middle Eastern decent. The teachings and insight he provided were a steady ship amongst the unknown and panic that was happening around us. He taught us to be informed, knowledgeable citizens.

Now, ten years later September 11 is the National Day of Service and Remembrance. The website, 911day.org, is providing a way for people to pledge what they will do this year on September 11, whether it be a good deed, charitable activity, or other plans, to honor the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those that rose in service.

After thinking of all the different activities I could put into action for my 9/11 pledge, it all came back to Mr. Christner’s class. I will: continue to learn from those around me, seek the truth, and keep myself and others educated to help dispel stereotypes and prejudice.

As you think to the past and the future, what will you do on 9/11 in Tribute? Visit www.911day.org to post your commitment.

For more information: 911day.org, michigan.gov/volunteer

Submitted by Ashley Branoff, Communications Coordinator for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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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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Small Steps

Many advocates wonder if their efforts are making a difference. Those of us in the engagement business often measure success by the number of individuals who take action or by the various laws or policies that are changed as a result of our mobilization efforts. Then there are times when success is measured by what doesn’t happen or by extremely small, but extremely important, steps.

Making changes to Michigan’s redistricting process is one of those difficult mobilization efforts for which successful actions may be difficult to realize. The Michigan Redistricting Collaborative has been working hard to ensure that lawmakers seek the input of the public as the lines for voting districts are redrawn. A decade ago, lawmakers were working in private conference rooms to cut deals and draw maps to secretly preserve incumbencies among both Republicans and Democrats. Once finished, the maps were hastily passed through both chambers of the Michigan Legislature, quickly signed into law, and even debated in court filings before the entire process and map formulas became public.

Ten years later the overall process remains the same. The Legislature gets to draw its own maps provided it remains within the general rules laid forth by the Michigan Constitution, Michigan Supreme Court cases and those requirements provided for by the Voting Rights Act. Within these boundaries, demographers are helping politicians privately pick their constituents. Members of both parties are working behind the scenes to ensure they are not drawn out of their own district or pitted against a challenger in their own party.

And yet, we know this prior to the final decisions on the district lines, albeit barely before the critical votes. Many of my colleagues involved in the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative are frustrated by the lack of change in the system, the haste with which the Legislature and the Governor are moving to dispense this “insider’s game,” and the general lack of interest by the public in the dysfunctional nature of our Redistricting process in Michigan. So you ask, what did all our work accomplish? We accomplished what we asked our lawmakers to do: we increased the transparency of one of the most covert, public processes in Michigan.

At www.DrawtheLineMichigan.org you can see the media traffic over the past two months as lawmakers were asked how the maps would be drawn, what input the public would have on the process, which lawmakers would be making the decisions, and what the impact would be on vulnerable populations. Read the quotes from the leadership in the House and Senate where Senate Majority Leader Richardville and House Speaker Bolger were asked to explain how public comment would be sought and how this time, the process would be different. Look at the work that individual citizens did to draw their own maps using the common electronic media and public information tools available to anyone.

This week we will see quick passage of the legislation that will define the voting boundaries for Michiganders for the next ten years. While many may not like either the outcome or the process used, we can take solace in knowing that we brought the process into the light and injected the important principles of transparency, citizen engagement, competitive districts, and fairness into the debate over redistricting. These small victories may not be what many had hoped for in helping to form our more perfect union, but it’s an important start.


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

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