8 Revelations from a SuperConference 2012 Participant

What a privilege to be able to attend the MNA CMF SuperConference!  I was inspired and energized, learned a great deal of information and met new people with whom we can build relationships.  That is everything you could ask and more from an intense two day experience.

Revelation 1 came from a workshop led by Kid’s Food Basket from Grand Rapids.  They call themselves a “porous” organization, one that someone can enter from any point and get involved.  Not only do they leverage volunteer time, they have involved their volunteers financially to use their myriad volunteers as an income source.  Arts & Scraps has many common elements in mechanics and volunteer involvement, but we have not to date formalized programs for financial as well as time contributions.

Revelation 2 came from the Prize Foundation session.  Remember to look for unlikely and unknown sources for ideas and expertise.  Don’t be afraid to tackle big issues and throw open the doors to seek help.

Revelation 3 came from the advocacy preconference session.  “Keep laser-like focus on long term goals”.  Involve people around their interests and look for commonalities.

Revelation 4 came from the Impact session.  Keep a “burning patience”, nurture the backbone of your organization with optimism and perseverance to reach the goal of a successful collective effort.  I’ve often thought the best attribute to have is just plain stubbornness.  This is a much more elegant statement.

Revelation 5 also came from the  Impact session.  There is no silver bullet, just silver buckshot.  Again, an elegant phrase.

Revelation 6 on a personal level, from the Investment session, I recognized that  I’m fortunate enough to have a savings account.  I could invest that in causes in which I believe and put that money to work for social good.

Revelation 7 from the Creativity session:  a couple of wonderful tidbits.  “Money never solved a money problem”—enough said.  Don’t save creativity for big problems, rely on group input and repeat priorities often.

Revelation 8 is back from Kid’s Food Basket.  Make your MISSION seem needy without making your ORGANIZATION seem needy.

Add to this list of big ideas 6 viable contacts for serious follow up and a list of 18 items in a to do list generated by ideas.

This was a very successful two days!  Thank you to the Ford Motor Company Fund for the sponsorship.  I was so excited about it that I probably told 20 people that’s how I was able to attend.  It was a good investment in our organization.  We’ve had the first staff meeting with another scheduled next week.

Submitted by Peg Upmeyer, Director of Arts & Scraps and Superconference 2012 Attendee

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

Member Perspective: A voice for children

Story developed for the Michigan Nonprofit Story Bank.

The Weiss Advocacy Center is a voice for vulnerable children in Genesee County. “Our job is to replace a life of hurt with a life of hope” according to one of their volunteers.

Abused children are scared, hurt and confused. Unfortunately, physical exams are conducted and many questions are asked in order for the justice system to prosecute offenders. The Weiss Advocacy Center facilitates a single interview and exam in a child-friendly and safe environment. The agency is a model for coordinating a multidisciplinary team to examine the case and document the findings. The Weiss Advocacy Center works for and with the child to make recommendations to the judge about where that child should live and most importantly, the center is a constant presence for the child, reminding them that someone is watching out for them.

The Weiss Advocacy Center was named in honor of the late Judge Robert E. Weiss of Flint (1940-2009) who loved children and spent much of this life protecting them in his role as Genesee County prosecutor and later, as chief probate judge. Although the significance of their individual work was impactful, the boards of the two organizations knew a strategic alliance would provide an even greater voice for local children.

In the beginning it was unclear what form of strategic alliance the Consortium on Child Abuse and Neglect and the Child Advocacy Center would adopt. With the help of local funding agencies, the two organizations began an intentional look into the various forms of strategic alliances. Recognizing the concept of strategic alliance is vast, MNA was contacted to provide guidance. MNA staff facilitated an intense nine-month negotiation process which ended in a recommendation for the two agencies to merge. MNA was able to provide them with the key foundational pieces to begin a merger, while also connecting them to local attorneys through Community Legal Resources to complete the project.

Together, these agencies now offer a wealth of experience and a continuum of solutions to being the healing power of hope to children who are victims of abuse or neglect. They want to help survivors become children again. In addition to protecting children who are victims today, the Weiss Advocacy Center also focuses on preventing child abuse and neglect in the first place. Children are taught about appropriate touch, and parents are taught non-abusive ways to cope with their frustration. Prevention wears many faces and must occur in many places to be effective.

“Genesee County has one of the highest rates of child abuse and neglect in the entire state, with over two thousand confirmed victims each year,” said Jonquil Bertchi, executive director. “By working together and combining resources, we hope to see those numbers drop. We also hope to increase the services available to children who have already experienced trauma.”

By combining the quality programs and staff of both organizations, the Weiss Advocacy Center has become an even greater source of advocacy for vulnerable children and a consolidated resource for awareness and prevention of child abuse. For more information about these initiatives or to learn more about the efforts of the Weiss Advocacy Center visit www.WeissAdvocacyCenter.org.

Weiss Advocacy Center has been a MNA member since 2008.

All MNA members can feature their story in our online storybank. If your member organization would like to be featured in any upcoming MNA publication, contact Brandon Seng, Director of Member Services at 517-492-2416 or bseng@MNAonline.org.

Brandon SengSubmitted by Brandon Seng, Director of Member Services for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Threatened loss of major nonprofit – what does it mean for nonprofit sector?

Michigan is not known for earthquakes. But the earth moved last week in Detroit when the nonprofit Detroit Medical Center (DMC) announced a deal with for-profit Vanguard. This possible deal to take over one of our region’s largest nonprofit employers shifted the ground.

On the surface, this proposed deal seems to be good for the Metro Detroit region. The large debt load of the DMC can be reduced. Plus, an infusion of cash can fund the needed upgrades the facility has been struggling for years to implement. But when the earth moves as violently as it is from this potential deal, those living in an area need to look beneath the surface to identify possible fissures. So what do we make of the threatened loss of a major nonprofit for our region?

Looking specifically at the DMC, some are concerned that the focus on charity care may not be the same under a for-profit regime. Fortunately, at this time Vanguard seems to be sensitive to DMC’s nonprofit origins as it tries to provide venues to preserve some of the intent of the many donors who have invested in this Detroit institution. Vanguard also has proposed maintaining the current management. However, in this time of increasing needs and diminishing resources, we know that charity care will likely increase, at least in the short term as we work to understand the impact of recent national legislation. Unfortunately, however, some studies have shown that there is little change in the amount of charity care delivered by nonprofit hospitals that have been acquired by for-profits.

As people who live in Michigan, we also need to look more broadly at how this earthquake of a deal will ripple through the ground beneath us but also the integrity of our social safety net. For example, we cannot overlook the invaluable role that DMC has played as one of our region’s – and indeed, one of our nation’s – largest teaching hospitals. The doctors trained here did not all stay in Detroit; many settled elsewhere in Michigan providing quality health care across our state. We need to ask ourselves what in this deal could undermine that vital educational role of this essential institution. The same research referred to earlier showed that of all the hospital transfers studied, the teaching institutions were the least likely to maintain their nonprofit missions of education.

Looking even more broadly at the social safety net nonprofits hold, for more than three decades, society has been calling more on nonprofits to fill a role previously served by government: caring for those in need. Governments, trying to save taxpayers billions of dollars, have turned to nonprofits to deliver services government used to deliver, but providing the same or better service with greater efficiency—doing more with less.

Unfortunately, governments seem to forget that they rely on nonprofits as silent partners in providing public services. As a just released national report reveals, state and local governments across the country have been slashing funds for programs they expect nonprofits to deliver, withholding payments from nonprofits for contracted services already delivered on behalf of government, and seeking revenue from nonprofits through new fees and taxes. These short-sighted actions hurt the community at large.

Equally unfortunate is that local, state and even federal units of government seem to be taking these actions without recognizing that nonprofits are major contributors to our state’s economy. The nonprofit sector is the state’s third largest employer. One of every ten workers in Michigan is hired by a nonprofit organization, and nonprofits generate an additional 161,000 jobs as a result of spending by the organizations. Undercutting nonprofits directly undercuts our economy.

So before we celebrate the proposed transfer of the DMC from one of our region’s most valuable charitable nonprofits into a for-profit entity, we all need to take a deep breath and thoughtfully examine the potential consequences. While this may remove the financial burden of the DMC in the short term, we cannot be certain that its larger philanthropic mission will endure.

We may look back in ten years to the earthquake that moved the ground in Detroit and across Michigan last week and see two things. First, that charity care is expanded or at least maintained in the region. Second, hopefully it wakes us as citizens and the policymakers we elect to the real threat: that we are in danger of losing something of great importance – not only DMC, but also the nonprofits upon which we all rely for Michigan’s quality of life.

Recent articles about the Detroit Medical Center and Vanguard announcement:
+DMC-Vanguard deal likely to receive close scrutiny (Crain’s Detroit Business)
+Vanguard Health plans to buy DMC (WDIV 4)
+ DMC and Vanguard Health Systems release rundown of the partnership (Detroit Free Press)
+ Vanguard, DMC announce sale (Detroit News)

Kyle CaldwellSubmitted by Kyle Caldwell, President and CEO for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Member Perspective: Volunteer Center Positioned to Respond to Disaster

Story developed for the Michigan Nonprofit Story Bank.

In spite of the fact that it is not actually a physical location, the Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) in Montcalm County is a critical resource in the disaster response of their community. This Center is comprised of a pool of trained volunteers who can respond at a moment’s notice should their community be compromised by disaster- natural or otherwise.

The Volunteer Reception Center, which is run through Volunteer Connections of Montcalm County is just one of many organizations convened at the county level for recovery efforts. The primary collaborative for preparedness and emergency response is known as the Emergency Management Advisory Council (EMAC), which brings together the local Health Department, Commission on Aging, Department for Human Services, Road Commission, Public Works, hospitals and several others.

“To be a part of the EMAC means that we’re ready to serve when the need arises,” explains Denise Hubbard, Executive Director of Volunteer Connections of Montcalm County. “Our Volunteer Reception Center is completely mobile, and will partner with a local organization to establish a physical presence when we are activated. Most often this will be at a church or community agency where we provide an outlet for volunteers to assist in disaster relief efforts.”

Because there can be no certainty to where a disaster might be, the VRC has agreements set up with various locations that could serve as their center prior to a disaster. It will not always be in the same place, or with the same people. While this model requires a great amount of coordination and planning, the flexibility it affords is essential to delivering services quickly and efficiently.

“When we were invited to our first EMAC meeting, I noticed that the local Red Cross was in charge of responding to shelter needs, which they are very equipped to handle, and DHS was supposed to handle everything else related to human services,” said Hubbard. “We knew that in a disaster setting DHS becomes quite stretched, and that skilled volunteers could play a role in supporting or delivering services in many cases.”

The VRC works to mobilize volunteers to ensure that the county is ready for a disaster, and is not the only group that Volunteer Connections has convened to assist their community. Recently their Medical Reserve Corps was activated in response to the H1N1 threat. Their volunteers gave over 100 hours in early November to assist the local Health Department in administering 1,800 vaccinations to their community.

“These instances show that all of the training, classes and paperwork have been productive, and that we are equipped to assist in a situation critical for community health,” said Hubbard. “While we often see that individuals volunteer initially because they carry specific skill or knowledge that will benefit their neighbors, it is the spirit of service above self that brings them back again and again.”

Volunteer Connections has witnessed an increase in interest and participation in relief and recovery efforts over the past few years, and encourages those interested in giving of their time to similar causes to connect with their local volunteer center through www.mivolunteers.org or visit www.MIvolunteerregistry.gov to sign up to be mobilized for disaster response on a state-wide basis.

Volunteer Connections of Montcalm County has been a MNA member since 2000. For more information about the Center, or disaster response initiatives, visis http://www.unitedwaymontcalm.org.

Submitted by Brandon Seng, Director of Member Services for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

If you would like to see your organization featured in MNA Links please submit your story idea to the MNA Nonprofit Storybank: www.mnaonline.org/mnalinks_spotlight.asp

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Member Perspective: Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan

For 20 years, Michigan Nonprofit Association has focused on increasing the capacity of Michigan’s nonprofits to serve, strengthen and transform communities. As part of our 20th anniversary, MNA is collecting and publishing interviews and video commitments from our membership and leaders in the nonprofit community. The following interview with Maud Lyon of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan aims to celebrate our collective work as we look ahead to the nonprofit sector’s next 20 years. This is the first of many podcasts we plan to share on our blog. A transcript of Maud’s interview was printed in the January/February 2010 issue of MNA Links.

Click here to listen to Maud’s interview. You will be directed to MNA’s 20th anniversary page and will need to download the “Maud Lyon, Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan” interview from there.

For more information about MNA’s 20th anniversary, visit www.MNAonline.org/20th.asp.

For more information about the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan, visit www.culturalalliancesemi.org.

Submitted by Brandon Seng, Director of Member Services for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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