The 2014 Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Compensation and Benefits Report Sheds Light on the Competitive Edge

Michigan nonprofits prove their value time and time again but it goes without saying that any organization whether it is a Fortune 500 corporation, foundation or nonprofit, is only as solid as the talent it is able to attract and retain. The environment for Michigan nonprofits requires that they create appropriate compensation packages if they want to stay competitive in the pool of employers who are looking for quality talent.

Last December MNA released the 2014 Michigan Nonprofit Compensation & Benefits Report that was conducted by the Community Research Institute at Grand Valley State University’s Johnson Center for Philanthropy. The report is designed to share data on salaries and benefits packages for 70 job titles and 400 nonprofits. The report also shares demographics and compensation in the executive offices of Michigan nonprofits.

I also want to draw your attention to an exciting new feature within the report – diversity and inclusion. As you know, MNA believes in diversity and inclusion as an integral part of the work we all do.  Included in the current information on salaries and benefits is information on health coverage for domestic partners and compensation relative to gender.  One of the many things that I find significant and noteworthy about the report is that more than 50 percent of respondents to the survey said they have a formal diversity and inclusion policy. Nonprofits have come a long way in terms of reflecting the diversity of the people and demographics we serve.

Our report is a terrific tool for all nonprofits as well as other sectors to help them gauge their own policies and practices. At MNA we work hard to provide timely information on issues that contribute to the running of a strong organization that is primed for the sustainability. I encourage you to purchase and review a copy of the Compensation and Benefits Report by going to:

Murray-Brown_9 2014 smallDonna Murray-Brown is the President & CEO of Michigan Nonprofit Association

How Safe is Your Organization’s Information?

Protect against today’s threats while promoting future growth

The headlines are full of stories of information breaches and other hacks in the corporate sector. These incidents cost companies millions of dollars, and in the case of retailers like Target and Home Depot, they chip away at consumer confidence. Breaches in IT security are also very real for nonprofits. Not having a system for managing your IT security is like not having a plan to secure the financial data of your organization. The truth is that all organizations, both big and small, are at risk. The key is to create and monitor your systems in order to reduce and minimize the risks.

With all the ways that technology can be a tool to help nonprofits manage data, operations, and membership, it can also create challenges if it is not managed properly. If your organization doesn’t have a solid IT security strategy, developing one needs to be a top priority.

Highway T is a program of the Michigan Nonprofit Association and has been providing IT advice, planning, and support to Michigan’s nonprofit sector since 2001.

Join us on Tuesday, April 14th from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM for a free and open session to ask a Highway T consultant any IT question. You will get straightforward advice aimed at making your IT easier to manage. Register for this FREE event here.

In the meantime, here are some basic tips that all nonprofit organizations need to put in place today:

  • Institute a company password policy for your organization. Set up guidelines for changing the passwords every 30, 60, or 90 days. Require strong passwords that use a mix of words, capital letters, numeric, and special characters. And never use the same passwords more than once in a calendar year.
  • Stay away from recording the passwords by any method that is easily accessible. This means sharing passwords, writing them down, or even saving them in personal cloud storage systems like Google Drive or Dropbox.
  • Keep your anti-virus and your anti-malware software up-to-date on all computers and devices in your organization.
  • Don’t leave your laptop or device in your car for an extended period of time. If you must do this, leave it in the trunk of the car. This is important because if your car were stolen or if your computer were stolen from your car, your data and other important information would be vulnerable to theft.
  • Be mindful of who is around you when using your laptop or device in public spaces, such as coffee shops or hotel lobbies.
  • Remove access to the organization network and passwords of ex-employees immediately.
  • Don’t open email attachments from unknown sources. One of the easiest ways to pass on a malicious computer virus is through an email attachment.
  • Keep control of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices); that is, personal device access within your organization.
  • Use organization-managed cloud storage for your information. Consumer versions of cloud storage systems such as Google Drive or Dropbox can keep your secure organization information out of your reach and easy to access.
  • Encourage employees to create a passcode for any smart devices that sync up with work emails.
  • Avoid using the “remember me” buttons on sites. Entering your password each time may be time consuming, but it is a good way to help protect your information.

Protect your organization against today’s threats while enabling future growth with security solutions from Highway T.

For more information or to schedule a free technology assessment, contact us at

Leon Wilson Leon Wilson is the Senior Director, Technology and Data Engagement at Michigan Nonprofit Association

New Rules Can Help You Increase Your Government Overhead Reimbursement

Direct from Donna with Headshot

Happy New Year!

2015 is already proving to be a significant one for nonprofits. In case you missed the big news that Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) announced earlier this month, governments at all levels are now required to reimburse nonprofits for the reasonable indirect costs (sometimes called “overhead” or “administrative” costs) they incur to deliver services.

As you know, entering into a contract for services with a government agency has often meant that we had to accept low limits on the amount of reimbursement for indirect costs. Essentially, government agencies were asking us to lose money in order to do the work.

A recent study by Charity Navigator says that the average American does not understand the indirect costs of the nonprofit sector. In fact, the study says that 62 percent of the people surveyed believe the typical nonprofit spends more than what is reasonable on overhead expenses such as fundraising and administration.

The new federal Office of Management and Budget Uniform Guidance rules are setting a precedent for the way that foundations and other funding sources view the indirect expenses that nonprofits incur. By instituting these new rules and paying their fair share of the costs that we incur in providing services and supports, the federal government is setting an example.

The Uniform Guidance rules now call for more costs to be directly reimbursable. They also raise the threshold for single audits to $750,000. It is estimated that this change alone will reduce the administrative costs for approximately 5,000 nonprofits across the country. Specifically it will help to ease the administrative costs and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of federal and state contract awards.

I urge you and your team to do a deep dive into what these new rules mean to your organization and your current and future contracts. You can start by registering for this free webinar presented by MNA and the National Council of Nonprofits:

Stop Losing Money: New Grant Rules You Need to Know
New OMB Uniform Guidance: Find out how new reforms can save you money
3-4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24

If you receive federal funds, either directly or through pass-through funding, this webinar is a must. Are you unsure if your organization receives federal funding? Check your most recent audit.

MNA will continue to educate Michigan nonprofits, foundations, funders and other donors on our indirect costs and what they support.

We will continue to share information on the OMB rules, as well as how nonprofits can prepare for and take full advantage of the changes.

Learning your rights will help support a successful year for the good work you do throughout 2015!

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

Michigan Nonprofits – Do you know your economic impact?

Direct from Donna with Headshot

As the business community and policymakers talk about the road to economic recovery coming up to the election and beyond, our sector must remember that we too are key players and contributors to building a stronger Michigan. So often our work and its significance flies under the radar.

If you have not read the MNA-commissioned, Economic Benefits of Michigan’s Nonprofit Sector Report , produced by Public Sector Consultants and released this year, I urge you to do so. It is a tremendous tool to help us all understand the value that our sector provides to the economy.

The report bears out that nonprofits have held their own under some very tough economic circumstances, and employment in our sector has actually increased. The nonprofit sector now employs about the same number of people as durable goods manufacturing, which includes the auto industry. More than 438,000 individuals, or 11 percent of the state’s workforce, were employed by nonprofits in 2013.As nonprofits come to the table with government, business and communities, it is important that we understand our impact. We have had to be nimble and proactive so that we can contribute in innovative ways. While filling in gaps and providing services to address the needs of residents remains a primary focus for nonprofits, our sector has the resources to effect change on a much broader scale. It is time for Michigan nonprofits to really see our influence and embrace our ability to be change-agents and great partners in this state.

Together, we need to continue to educate ourselves on our collective contributions to the economic wellbeing of the state, and we need to continually reinforce those messages to other sectors. The Michigan nonprofit sector provides innovation and stability to the most vulnerable in uncertain times. We are major employers in the state, as well as major service providers. We see trends, often before other sectors. And we often feel the impacts of times of crisis before others.

Armed with the data, we all have the opportunity to reframe the discussion on the value of Michigan nonprofits. So often we are about doing the work, securing the funding, and looking at our individual organization’s bottom lines, and we forget the successes and strengths that collectively we offer.

Take some time to review the report. In addition, I am excited to announce that MNA is hosting regional trainings on how to use the data.

Jeff Williams, CEO of Public Sector Consultants will present two regional workshops this year. These workshops will highlight interesting data and trends as well as demonstrate the powerful web-based tool that allows users to drill down into this data set.  These interactive, interesting and educational workshops will give you the tools you need to communicate the influence of the sector to your stakeholders.

Events are free but registration is required.

Economic Impact of Nonprofits in West Michigan

Wednesday, November 19, 9:00-10:30 a.m., Johnson Center for Philanthropy, Grand Rapids

Economic Impact of Michigan’s Nonprofit Sector

Tuesday, November 25, 10:00-11:30 a.m., Michigan Nonprofit Association-Armory Building, Lansing

Donna Murray-Brown
President & CEO
Michigan Nonprofit Association

Complete MNA’s 2014 Compensation & Benefits Survey – the Quality of Your Team Depends on It!

We work for the cause and not for the money, but even in the nonprofit sector we want a fair wage.

But how do you figure that out? How do you make sure you aren’t underpaying your employees just because their focus is on making a difference, not making a paycheck?

The Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Compensation and Benefits Survey is our tool. It gives us rich data on wages, broken down by geographic region, budget size, and organization type. It helps us understand the market for talent in the nonprofit sector and provides honest benchmarks for us to measure our wages against. It gives us the confidence that we’re asking for the right personnel support in grant proposals and that we’re treating our employees with the care and dignity they earn every day.

But it doesn’t work unless you and I participate.

There are thousands of nonprofits in Michigan, but only a fraction provide this salary data every other year. To make the survey a truly valuable tool, we need all of us to weigh in. It does take a little bit of time to fill out — I spent about 30 minutes on ours — but you get access to the data in return. And you help ensure that the whole nonprofit community has a valuable tool to use in setting salaries.

Please, take the time to fill out the Compensation and Benefits Survey this week. A fair wage is everyone’s business, and together we can help ensure Michigan nonprofits are giving their employees the right return for an almost immeasurable investment.

Your appropriate HR person may complete the survey at Deadline extended to 9/26/2014.

Conan SmithConan Smith is the Executive Director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and a Washtenaw County Commissioner representing Ann Arbor. He chairs the board of Michigan Saves and is a member of the Michigan Utility Consumer Protection Board and the Michigan Works Association board.

Succession and Leadership Planning Are Key to Nonprofits

Succession planning is key to all organizations if they are going to remain sustainable. But so many times nonprofits forget or put off the decisions that go into creating a solid and actionable succession plan. This is a critical time for Michigan’s nonprofit sector to take a long hard look at succession planning. It should be an important part of each organization’s strategic planning, now and in the future.

Admittedly, succession planning is not easy. In fact, it can be uncomfortable and hard for boards and staffs to grapple with over time. The notion of who will take over the ship is not only important within an organization, it is something that funders look at when they consider investments and support of your organization. Having a succession plan in place shows that your board and staff leaders are paying attention to leadership transition.

Carve Out Time to Plan and Execute

Leadership succession is most often not an emergency – it’s not the fire that needs to be put out today, so it gets put off until tomorrow. The current demands that are placed on nonprofits can be overwhelming. This work requires some quiet, thoughtful time that organizations don’t often have, because they are constantly running as fast as they can. But we all have to carve out the time. [Nonprofits are facing increased demands for their services with increasingly fewer resources to accomplish them. See Nonprofit Finance Fund’s findings from 2014 State of the Sector survey: 80% of respondents reported increased demand, the 6th straight year of this finding.]

Where’s Your Back-Up Person?

In any organization, leadership transition is a destabilizing time; especially when an unexpected /emergency transition occurs. At Michigan Nonprofit Association we have seen this create a situation of great vulnerability for nonprofits, especially when there is not a deep bench of CEOs-in-waiting already on staff who are the logical next leaders. Start building a strong staff of future leaders and cultivate that talent.

You May Need a Consultant to Help Navigate the Discussion

Succession and leadership planning discussions can be emotional and often uncomfortable. Your board members may dance around this issue, not wanting to bring it up for fear of damaging their relationship with the current leader. Often using a 3rd party/consultant is the best way to approach transition planning in order to provide more objectivity. Bringing in a consultant requires a financial investment in the process, which could mean culling extra and unplanned expenses. Planning ahead is critical.

It’s Complicated

Choosing the next leader for your organization is a big deal. It requires knowing where the organization is going and what the future needs will be. This is fundamentally the role of the board, yet board members may be new or inexperienced.  The planning process and an executive search process are time-consuming and generally infrequent events that only a few board members have experience with, so it’s not uncommon that everyone ‘puts it off’ until there’s a crisis. It may be common, but it isn’t prudent!

Similarly, CEOs/executive directors find it awkward to initiate the discussion – because they don’t want to unintentionally or prematurely signal to the board that they want to leave – so a strong relationship with the board chair can help. A candid conversation between the board chair and staff helps get many succession planning issues out in the open early.

At MNA, we continue to study the issues and challenges that our member organizations face. As you tackle succession and leadership planning and transitions, know that we are here to help you. You too can help us share this important issue with the field. If you have stories and best practices that you’d like to share, please send your stories me at


Donna Murray-Brown
President & CEO
Michigan Nonprofit Association 


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