Video: Watch leaders discuss “playing well with others.”[videocluster tag="play-well"] A specific example of this culture is the lack of concern about copyright and the open sharing of materials. One of the great compliments felt by professionals in Michigan is to see something the person wrote for their organization “cut and pasted” into a document of one of the other partners. Because the work is supported by philanthropic dollars, the culture in Michigan is that all of the products should be shared openly. They are gifts! The lack of concern for “ownership” or pride of authorship results in a multiplier effect for philanthropic dollars. Work does not need to be repeated because it is shared.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the value of sharing in philanthropic leadership.[videocluster tag="dont-care"] There are many examples of how the collegiality of the four partner organizations led to successful initiatives across the state. Initiatives such as joint funding programs, collective branding initiatives, shared committees, and discussions of program locations helped these organizations build a holistic infrastructure to support all of Michigan’s foundations, nonprofits, and volunteers.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the Michigan Community Foundation Tax Credit.[videocluster tag="tax-credit"] The community foundations experimented with the first endowed funds for the environment, specifically to support the health of the Great Lakes.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the Great Lakes Community Foundation Environmental Collaborative.[videocluster tag="great-lakes"] They agreed on a common branding and marketing initiative, and created quality standards that assume every community foundation will grow toward excellence.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the Branding Project.[videocluster tag="branding-project"] When foundations became concerned about the AIDS epidemic, they realized that none of their staff members had adequate expertise to address an obvious and critically important public health issue. In response, program officers from interested foundations got together to form the Michigan AIDS Fund. Grants of various sizes were made to the fund from a variety of foundations with different levels of assets. But the Michigan AIDS Fund board operated as a group of equals and all received the credit for their leadership.
“The fund changed and evolved and grew and changed, just as the epidemic changed and evolved and grew and changed, and I think that was the beauty of the collaborative effort that we put together. . . We had all kinds of participants. We had Rotary Charities which was a public charitable entity. We had private foundations. We had corporate foundations. Whirlpool was an early supporter and eventually the state of Michigan was a huge supporter.” – Barbara Getz
Video: See leaders discuss the Michigan AIDS Fund.[videocluster tag="aids-fund"]
Historical Document: Read notes about the formation of the Michigan AIDS Fund from the Council of Michigan Foundation’s board meeting in 1990.Michigan is home to four of the nation’s larger grantmaking foundations: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Kellogg and Mott have international grantmaking interests. Michigan is also home to private family foundations, independent private foundations, organized corporate giving programs, and community foundations. Each foundation has its own grantmaking interests, but they also have joint interests that combine in different ways on different projects over time. Looking at any list of funders for major projects in Michigan will find various combinations of investors – more often than not, it is difficult to tell which foundation first had the idea. All, however, share in the credit.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the value of collaboration.[videocluster tag="collaborating, overlapping-boards"]
Video: Watch leaders discuss the importance of being a good listener.[videocluster tag="listening"] Second, by being engaged at the beginning, the foundation leaders could anticipate any duplication or competition among the infrastructure organizations and deftly guide the program design. Early in the process, care was given to be sure that a project had a distinctive focus and a viable purpose. Third, the foundation leaders, at the time, were particularly skilled at diminishing the natural power imbalance that occurs between those who have the money to fund projects and those who need the money to achieve their goals. This ability to reduce the barriers between grantee and funder appears to be based in the culture of sincere respect that the foundation leaders had for the nonprofit managers who were responsible for implementing any project ideas. There was a sense of “team.” Dr. Russell G. Mawby, CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at the time, often described this dimension as the partnership between the “funders” and the “doers,” each needing one another to succeed. Fourth, the foundation leaders could both participate and observe. This duality of function provided them the opportunity for a deeper understanding of a complex statewide project – before they ever read the formal grant request. By the time the proposal was drafted, the individuals and organizations involved were no longer strangers. The foundation leader had a good understanding of the capabilities and experience of both the people involved in implementing the project and the strengths of their organization. The final outcome from the engagement of foundation leaders as members of the design committee was to solidify the sense of being on the same “team.” Credit for ideas, credit for actions, credit for leadership, and credit for active participation was spread widely among the committee members. Group leaders publicly recognized members of the group for their contributions. Committee members’ names were listed on documents related to the projects. Everyone involved had a significant role to play in the project.
Historical Document: Read highlights about the first Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conference in the Council of Michigan Foundation’s 1989/1990 Annual Report.When the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) was formed, CMF gave the Grantmaker-Grantseeker Conference to MNA as an income source and state leadership project. In 2000, the Learning to Give Board of CMF decided they would like to scale the K-12 educational project to a national level; CMF then gave the Michigan component to the Michigan Nonprofit Association, knowing that LTG would be protected and expanded in ways that met the original goals of the program. The LTG Board was then free to expend its energy on going to national scale.
Video: Watch leaders discuss Learning to Give.[videocluster tag="learning-to-give-mission"] The ConnectMichigan Alliance (CMA), a joint venture of the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) and the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), was formed to promote and fund volunteerism and service projects across the state. Over time, leaders of CMA and MNA realized that they had overlapping missions and some role confusion. The leadership of CMA and MNA worked through a merger that brought the two organizations together as one entity, retaining the missions of both.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the history and development of the ConnectMichigan Alliance.[videocluster tag="cma"]
Historical Document: Read the case for support of the ConnectMichigan Alliance from the Michigan Nonprofit Association.When the ConnectMichigan Alliance (CMA) was being organized, Volunteer Centers of Michigan (VCM) and Campus Compact already had substantial footprints in the state. Through a process of listening and conversation, the board composition of CMA was developed in a way that made it comfortable for VCM and Campus Compact to come under the organizational umbrella of CMA, while still keeping their distinctive focus and board leadership. This was a win/win because while both VCM and Campus Compact were tremendously important support organizations for volunteerism, neither had found a way to become financially self-sustaining. CMA, with its $20 million endowment, was able to provide financial stability for VCM and Campus compact, thus assuring their continued viability and first-rate service to volunteers. Over time, the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and the Michigan Nonprofit Association found themselves both providing technical assistance for nonprofit organizations. Through analysis, experimentation, and based on trust, the two organizations designed a joint venture nonprofit development program that is a model for collaboration. The joint venture extends the resources of both organizations in service to the nonprofit community by sharing the expertise that each organization brings to the table, making it possible to offer more workshops and trainings across the state. The important lesson is that organizational boundaries are somewhat fluid. When Michigan’s philanthropic leaders feel there is competition for work to be done, or when a program grows to the point that it no longer fits the original organizational framework – programs and projects are handed off or spun out to become their own freestanding entities to assure that the work continues. The relationships and commitment to the new entity is ongoing. The “family” gets bigger rather than splintering apart.
Video: Watch leaders discuss wearing “multiple hats” in philanthropic leadership.[videocluster tag="multiple-hats"] Operating in this complexity requires a mature understanding that there is a distinction between a person and the organizational role they fulfill, and that an individual might need to play multiple roles in differing circumstances. On the personal level, the culture of Michigan developed strong bonds of professional friendship, trust, and respect among the individuals involved. They liked each other. They trusted that there was no hidden agenda. They looked out for one another’s organizations because they shared a common goal of improving and increasing philanthropy for the benefit of Michigan’s citizens. Nonprofit leaders frequently became grantmakers, and grantmakers routinely became nonprofit leaders. Everyone was “in it” together. “Community capital,” or bonds of relationships, were proactively nurtured through: deliberate overlapping of relationships; sharing common experiences; exposure to ideas; spending time together; and an unspoken expectation by the top funders and organizational leaders that this was the culture in Michigan. These relationship bonds helped to form a common statewide agenda, and to support collaborative efforts when divisive issues arose.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the value of relationships and trust.[videocluster tag="relationships-and-trust"] Participants also understood that they had the responsibility to fulfill the role they were hired to play by their organization. This meant foundation staff would “switch gears” and play out their formal grantmaker role related to performing due diligence of grant proposals, monitoring the work, requiring outside evaluation of progress, auditing financial reports and systems, and similar fiduciary tasks. The grantee staff members would shift to their “grantee” roles and follow through by implementing the project, providing regular reporting, participating in evaluation, and discussing any changes with the foundation staff member. Committee members of the projects often operated as informal (and sometimes were incorporated into formal) boards of either advisors or trustees with a duty to assist and monitor the project progress. Because they had developed the project together and engaged with one another as professional friends, the people involved found that this way of operating enhanced rather than diminished the professional vigor with which participants pursued their formal roles. Thus the culture in the state of Michigan that nurtured the development of a strong philanthropic community, supported by key infrastructure organizations, was one of inclusion, energy, and sharing the credit. Everyone was invited. Everyone created. Everyone played their part in implementation. Each person understood that they were part of a “winning team,” and the team got the credit; the team changed Michigan; and they had the privilege to fulfill their position(s) with a high energy, effective group for the achievement of large and aspirational goals.