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

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 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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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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There is Danger in Not Raising Our Voice

As nonprofit leaders we live by the old farmer’s adage of, “Fix it up, use it up, wear it out, or do without.” Our adoption of this philosophy is what empowers nonprofits to gain trust and develop partnerships that further our mission. It works well, except in one area—expressing our voice.

Nonprofit voice is shorthand for our sector’s role in sharing what it knows, speaking for those unable to express their needs, and informing and influencing decision makers so that they do the right thing. In short, our voice is our right and responsibility to exercise our political capital for the common good. Yet it is often too hard to express our voice with so many pressures bearing down on our organizations, our work and our constituents.

Given all these pressures, we have to examine how we use our voice. Some might argue that like elected officials, we need to look at our voice as political capital—a resource we spend thriftily and only when absolutely necessary. In this case we might look at the Governor’s proposal to eliminate charitable giving incentives as $50 million that we could offer up as sacrifice to gain government goodwill. In other words, we shouldn’t expend our capital on this matter when so many other larger issues could come up later. Several sector leaders have come to me with this very concern. They worry that if they shout now, they won’t be heard later. Or they worry that they could jeopardize their friendly relationship with their elected officials.

These concerns are certainly understandable, but extremely dangerous. Here’s why.

First, nonprofit voice, unlike our own vocal chords, is a muscle that only works if exercised. Granted you want to be sure that you pick your battles. However, in my 15 plus years of experience in government/nonprofit interactions, I have never witnessed an elected or unelected government official respect and support an organization that stayed quiet during a hard political decision. Granted, some have been burned when they have handled their advocacy improperly and did not follow the rules, but there are none that I can think of that are respected for their complete silence. I know that some will dispute my conclusion on this, so I’ll explain why in my next point.

Second, the depth and length of the memory of goodwill in our political system is directly proportional to our term limits. No elected official today in Michigan has to worry about the long-term (15-20 years) consequences of their actions. Term limits guarantee that they will not be in office when the day of reckoning comes for their decisions. In addition, our state political bodies are largely controlled by the leadership rather than the caucuses. Large decisions are made by roughly six leaders in the House and Senate and the Governor. All the rest are waiting for direction and support.

Third, nonprofits have the privilege and responsibility to advocate for those unable to speak for themselves. This characteristic cuts across all 501(c)(3) nonprofits—we are charted with a charitable purpose to serve the common good. We are also constrained to be nonpartisan in our expression of voice. This makes for a power combination of benevolence and neutrality as we address Michigan’s most challenging issues. We all have to hold up these powerful characteristics whether a community foundation or a college, whether a food pantry or a hospital, whether a museum or a child daycare center, whether a senior living center or a land conservancy, we all have the responsibility and privilege to exercise our voice and advocate for the issues important to our constituents and the sector.

MNA recognizes that this is hard work and that little support exists to underwrite the time, talent and treasure it takes to advocate appropriately and effectively. That is why we give you the tools you need to make it easier and integrate it into your daily activities. Be sure to check out our website for our public policy & advocacy tools as well as our nonprofit resources that help you stay legal and ensure that your organization can effectively and legally share its voice. MNA has a platform you can use for your own organization to give a framework to your advocacy. You can also participate in our events including the Nonprofit SuperConference where we will be joined by Governor Rick Snyder. Finally, be sure to sign up for our Advocacy Alerts. These will give you the most current information on how you can exercise your voice.

Nonprofit leaders must advocate for their missions and the people they serve. Our organizations have to exercise our voice to be heard, understood and respected. I hope you will exercise your voice as a nonprofit leader and help elected officials make the right choices in these challenging and transformative times


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

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Draw the Line

The data is out and the direction is clear, Michigan is losing population at an alarming rate. We are smaller, with Flint down 18%, Detroit down 25% (the largest non-natural disaster caused drop of any city above 100,000-ever), Grand Rapids down 5%, and even booming Ann Arbor was down. Only small rural communities in the UP and other northern Michigan regions saw any growth.

Despite a large turnout of early respondents and hosting the top early reporting city in the country, Michigan’s Census count shows a huge population shift. With that shift come very serious consequences including a drop in federal funding and loss of congressional representation.

A consequence we often overlook is the role of Census data in redistricting—the lines drawn for politicians to represent our interests and communities. With the release of the final Census numbers, the clock is now ticking for congressional, state and county redistricting. How much input will you have in determining who represents you in Congress, the Michigan Legislature and County Commissions? The answer is very little if we repeat the mistakes of the past.

Redistricting, a process that takes place just once every 10 years, can keep our communities together or split them apart—changing whether we have representatives who feel responsible for our concerns.

Instead of drawing districts that accurately represent our communities, in many cases the parties engaged will put their own interests first – creating “safe districts.” This is something both parties do frequently, giving undue power to political insiders, lobbyists and PACs. It needs to stop.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s a Michigan issue. Michigan’s weak redistricting laws are unacceptable and an embarrassment. As long as there are similar numbers of people in each district, lawmakers have nearly free reign to draw lines as they see fit – and that usually means that districts are solidly held by one party and voters have little meaningful choice on Election Day. Voters’ voices are being lost and their choices limited.

MNA is leading a coalition of organizations interested in ensuring Michigan citizens have an open and transparent redistricting process. Be sure to check out www.drawthelinemichigan.org and see how your nonprofit can help ensure that Michigan voters pick their representatives and not the other way around.

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

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Why You Should Attend Conferences

There are countless professional development opportunities where we can meet people and develop our skills. Some of these are short one-time local events, while others are large state-wide and national conferences. While I believe strongly that each of us should take advantage of every professional opportunity we can fit in our schedules and budgets, I am partial to attending conferences. Why? Here are my three reasons for attending the 2011 MNA SuperConference and other large state-wide and national conferences:

Inspiration – If you arrive at a conference looking to be inspired, I can guarantee that you won’t be let down. Whether it is by a plenary speaker, a breakout session presenter, or someone you will meet during lunch, there are tons of inspirational stories waiting to be shared at every conference. Inspiration is what drives you to have a big vision and give the most to your work. For me, at the 2010 SuperConference it was John Wood, Founder of Room to Read. His story was inspirational and motivated me to think big, dream bigger and GSD. With a great line up of speakers for 2011 I will have to wait and see which one inspires me the most, but I attend SuperConference, each year, with confidence that I will walk away inspired.

Networking – I’m not talking about your everyday networking where you meet a bunch of people you may never meet again. I’m talking about identifying people you want to meet, finding them and talking with them to build your network. Conferences are where you will find the rockstars of your field. The CEOs, founders, and powerbrokers of the nonprofit sector are most easily accessible at conferences. Once you’ve met the people you want to meet, remember that it takes at least two significant interactions with someone for them to remember you. You can either find that person a second time during the same conference (this may involve going out of your way, but it’s worth it!) or email them afterward. On my way home I always make a list of 4-5 people I want to “reconnect” with when I get home. It can be as simple as emailing them saying how great it was nice to meet them, but you need that second interaction to make your networking count.

3 Great New Ideas – You will be exposed to a large number of ideas at a conference, but not all of them will be new or great. I have discovered that if I can find three great new ideas at a conference it is a successful use of my time and resources. Three core changes to my day-to-day work, my organization at large, or my personal philosophy is a significant amount of improvement. If you bring back many more than three (and aren’t able to prioritize them), you run the risk of not implementing any changes due to being overwhelmed. With specific tracks of programming, the 2011 Super Conference has new ideas waiting for every type of nonprofit professional.

I’m not here to advocate any one particular conference over another, but I will encourage every professional to find a way to attend at least one conference a year. You will be inspired, networked and you’ll have 3 great new ideas to improve your professional and personal life. See you at the 2011 MNA Super Conference in May!

For a further look at why you should attend SuperConference, click here!


Submitted by Mike Goorhouse, Private Foundations Coordinator and Grants Manager for the Council of Michigan Foundations

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SuperConference 2011, Not Your Ordinary Workshops

This year the SuperConference planning committee has hand selected presenters for the 30+ workshops that will be taking place at SuperConference on May 10th and 11th. Presenters include speakers from our plenary sessions as well as speakers from across the U.S. Not only that, workshops are divided into six topic-based tracks that appeal to those at both an intermediate and advanced level.

Below, is a sneak peek at some of the workshops and presenters from each track that are being featured this year.

Planned Giving Strategies to Meet Donor Expectations and Current Funding Goals
Advanced Fund Development Course
Facilitated By: Christopher L. Kelly, Vice President/Senior Philanthropic Advisor – Comerica Charitable Services Group

“Opportunities and Options” are the requirement of today’s donor. Our donors would like to see multiple ways to meet current gifting goals for their beloved organization, as well as paths toward leaving a lasting legacy. In this workshop we will discuss various planned giving vehicles; how they function traditionally, but more importantly, how they can function to meet the challenges presented by today’s sophisticated donor base. The result will provide opportunities for donors to gift from their accumulated wealth, rather than their disposable income, which translates into potentially larger and concrete financial commitments, and the opportunity to generate new relationships with the next generations of your current donor base.

The Game Plan
Intermediate Public Policy and Advocacy Course
Facilitated By: Abby Levine, Legal Director of Advocacy Programs – Alliance for Justice.

This interactive session helps organizations strategize how best to employ the advocacy tools at their disposal. It includes a discussion of advocacy fundamentals that help participants define their goals and objectives, appropriate targets, and effective advocacy tools, as well as assessing advocacy capacity and evaluating advocacy activities and planning for future campaigns.

Communications & Collaborations
Cross Track Communication Course
Facilitated By: David Stillman and Debra (Fiterman) Arbit, BridgeWorks

Join our Keynote Speakers, David & Debra, as they take you on a deeper dive of working through generational issues to keep your organization relevant in today’s changing world!

Five Crazy Habits
Intermediate Governance/Professional Development Course
Facilitated By: Robin Lynn Grinnell, Program Officer – Cook Family Foundation

Is your board agenda chock full of lengthy (ugh) program reports? Are you stuck in a perpetual cycle of fundraising events that are “just fine”? Do you sometimes sit at your desk and wonder if your board and/or staff will ever really get it together? If you answered ‘yes’ to any (or all) of these questions, don’t dismay… Many nonprofits have adopted Five Crazy Habits that simply trip us up. None of them are blatantly obvious and they’re certainly not illegal – they just make our work harder. Join us for a fast-paced session in which we’ll laugh (and groan) at our collective goofs and we’ll share some simple fixes that – with a little dedication – will get you back on the right path!

Google Grant & Apps!
Cross Track Planning Course
Facilitated By: Elyse Guilfoyle, AdWords Account Strategist – Google, Mary Elizabeth Ulliman, AdWords Account Manager – Google, and Jon Fraiser, Google

You are changing the world, and we want to help! Google employees from the Ann Arbor office will introduce you to Google’s free product offerings for nonprofits. They will touch on a wide variety of products that can help you: Reach and engage your supporters, improve your organization’s operations, Raise awareness for your cause .This session will focus specifically on the Google Grants program and Google Apps for Nonprofits. The Google Grants program empowers select nonprofit organizations to achieve their goals by helping them promote their websites via advertising on Google.com. As a Google Grants recipient, your organization can solicit donations, recruit volunteers, promote events and programs, and much more through Google Grants ads.

Catch the Spirit of Service
Intermediate Civic Engagement Course
Facilitated By: Jeanine Yard, Program Officer – Michigan Community Service Commission and Evan Albert, State Program Director – Corporation for National & Community Service

Is your organization interested in making connections with National Service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve? Do you wonder what a strong national service program looks like and how you might become that strong program effectively utilizing national service members. Join us for this interactive workshop and get answers to all your National Service questions. Learn how to ready your organization to apply for a grant or to host a member, identify opportunities for collaboration with other service programs, and find out how national service can add value to your organization.

For more information on SuperConference 2011, the workshops, keynote speakers, and other conference features, visit www.MNAonline.org/superconference.aspx .

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

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