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Chapter 4: National and Global Engagement

Programs Brought to Michigan and Expanded

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While Michigan has launched many national and international philanthropy projects, the field has been careful to not recreate work that has already been successful in other parts of the world. The first question raised when a new idea has been broached for the state often is, “Who else has done this?” or “Can we find a model that has worked and bring it to Michigan?” The primary focus has always been a pragmatic impulse to make Michigan’s philanthropic infrastructure larger, stronger, and more efficient. Borrowing good ideas from others is not feared – in fact, it is preferred.

In tandem with the research of existing methods to address complex issues is identifying and bringing together a widely representative group of stakeholders (funders/potential funders, individuals with content expertise on the issue of interest, board members, related organization representatives, advocates, and government leaders). Often members of this group can provide, by using their networks of influence and information, advice and resources that are useful to the research. They can also point to models that are working in other places. These initial advisory groups are often large (20-plus individuals), designed to include all perspectives and background in order to effectively tackle a new venture or complex task.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the process of implementing an idea.

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Once the research is complete and the advisory group is established, the question becomes, “What do we want to accomplish?” Rarely is there an intention to create a national model. More often than not, however, the Michigan programs that have grown to national and international scale were originally formulated to meet only the state’s goals. The programs expanded because they were successful, rather than having been created with the intention of building a national program.

As the programs grew, the word spread beyond Michigan’s borders. Through the ethic of sharing new ideas, through the commonly held value that borrowing what works makes more sense than “recreating the wheel,” by bringing together all stake holders to address a problem and find a solution, the programs often spread to new states, even other countries, in a very natural dispersion.

Growing the Umbrella Organizations

Three of the four Michigan philanthropic infrastructure organizations were created solely for the purpose of addressing the needs of the sector in the state. They have grown into national stature; some are involved in international programming as a result of their work to assist the field.

This expanded field of service came about through each organization and its staff simply doing what was needed – not by design. The exception, the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC), was created in anticipation of the passage of the authorizing legislation for the Corporation for National and Community Service. MCSC was created to serve the state of Michigan, but also was founded knowing that it would be a model for how other state commissions might be organized. From the start, the intention was to be a national leader and model.

Council of Michigan Foundations

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The Council of Michigan Foundations was not the first regional association of grantmakers in the United States. The first associations began in the late 1940s. The Conference of Southwest Foundations (an association covering several states in the southwest) began in 1948, while the National Council on Foundations launched in New York in 1949. Currently there are regional associations organized at the metropolitan level, some are state-based, and some are multi-state. There are currently 35 regional associations of grantmakers in the United States.

Many of the regional associations share a similar history. During the 1960s, members of Congress expressed growing concerns regarding the operations of foundations. As the foundation community became aware of congressional interest, regional associations started to form discussion groups to share common interests and to determine how to respond to congressional inquiry. In Michigan, a very informal group of grantmakers began to meet from time to time to discuss and share their mutual concerns. One key topic addressed was how the field of philanthropy might work with government. CMF was then formalized during the period that Congressional concern was growing and with one important focus of its mission to address the issues raised by the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

Read an article that provides a good summary of the effects of the Tax Reform Act and the challenges the Act presented to foundations across the United States.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from the 1968 Conference for Michigan Foundations’ Annual Conference.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the original gatherings that led to the formation of the Council of Michigan Foundations.

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In addition, CMF members committed to ongoing professional development, information exchange, workshops, seminars, and other strategies to improve the operations of individual foundations and the transparency of the field.

The new formal name for the group, adopted at the Annual Meeting September 1975, was the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF). CMF was convened by Leonard White, a vice president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with the participation of major foundation donors such as Stanley Kresge and Charles Stewart Mott. Board members and donors who had created private family foundations and community foundations of various sizes from across the state of Michigan were also included.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from a 1975 Council of Michigan Foundations board meeting, facilitated by Leonard White.

When enough grantmaking foundations in Michigan joined the CMF, the formal organization was established with the leadership of Dr. Russell G. Mawby, then president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Gil Hudson of the Hudson-Webber Foundation was the founding chairman of the board. Dorothy Johnson, then a board member of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, was named as the second director following the part-time leadership of founding director Sophia Gorham Reid.

There is no formal research regarding why the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) developed into such a dynamic organization. Our State of Generosity is an attempt to document the history and stories of CMF’s experience and to offer some ideas about the characteristics of the extraordinary leadership of volunteers, staff, funders, and public policy leaders in creating CMF. CMF, by far, the largest regional association of grantmakers, is home to many collaborative projects and innovative programs.

For first-hand accounts of the development of the Council of Michigan Foundations by the leaders involved over the past 40 years and related background documents, visit their partner profile.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the Council of Michigan Foundations.

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Michigan Nonprofit Association

There are state associations of nonprofits that started decades ago, although the majority were created in the last two decades. The first of the cluster of associations organized in the last 20 years was the Washington Council of Agencies, followed by nonprofit associations in New Jersey and California. The concept for what would one day become the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) started with Dr. Pete Ellis, a program director at the W.K.Kellogg Foundation.

In 1988, Dr. Ellis took a professional study leave from the W.K Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and worked as a visiting executive at the Council of Michigan Foundations to pursue his vision to increase the presence and voice of Michigan’s nonprofit organizations. While there, he created the first formal conference that annually brought together the foundation grantmakers and nonprofit organizations to discuss common issues in the field. It was called the Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conference. The first meetings were held under the auspices of CMF and the successor conference, now named the “SuperConference,” has been held annually as a joint venture between MNA and CMF.

VideoVideo:  Watch Dorothy A. Johnson discuss the Grantmaker/ Grantseeker Conferences.

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Following the first Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conference, Dr. Russell G. Mawby invited the CEOs and board chairs of ten leading nonprofit-serving organizations in Michigan (representing fields such as health, education, the arts, and social services) to a meeting at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to discuss the formation of a new organization – the Michigan Nonprofit Forum. As planning moved forward, Pete Ellis agreed to serve as the Forum’s first CEO when he died unexpectedly.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from the first meeting of the statewide nonprofit organization leaders.

Plans for the Michigan Nonprofit Forum continued in spite of this loss, and Dr. Russell G. Mawby, chairman and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided leadership as its founding board chair in 1990. The first CEO left after a few months of service and the organization was in financial trouble. Dave Egner, Dr. Mawby’s executive assistant at WKKF, was brought in first as the temporary CEO to help solve immediate organizational problems related to the budget, and then became the permanent staff leader. The name was changed to the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) in 1995.

The Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) is similar to other statewide associations of nonprofits across the nation, but also is home to several unusual programs and leadership projects. MNA, through a series of mergers over time, is home to novel programs such as the ConnectMichigan Alliance and the LEAGUE Michigan (composed of the original advisory board and teachers in Michigan who launched Learning to Give). Other large statewide volunteer programs, including Campus Compact and Volunteer Centers of Michigan, also call MNA home.

There also is no formal research regarding why MNA has developed into such a dynamic organization. Our State of Generosity is an attempt to document the history and stories of MNA’s experience and to offer some ideas about the characteristics of the extraordinary leadership of volunteers, staff, funders and public policy leaders in creating this association. MNA is one of the largest state associations in the country, and is home to many collaborative projects and innovative programs.

For first-hand accounts of the development of the Michigan Nonprofit Association by the individuals involved and for more information, visit their partner profile.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

In 1986, the Improving Philanthropy Committee of the Council of Michigan Foundations began exploring the need for higher education in nonprofit management and philanthropy at Michigan colleges and universities. After a series of studies regarding: 1) the current status of university level education in philanthropy; and 2) the interest of the nonprofit sector in higher education opportunities, the committee determined to encourage Michigan universities to extend their offerings and to integrate philanthropy/nonprofit education into their curriculum.

As chairman of the newly constituted CMF Advisory Council (composed of CMF board members who had rotated off of the board of trustees), Dr. Russell G. Mawby also served as chair of the Improving Philanthropy Committee with staff support from Linda Patterson. Both Russ Mawby and Dottie Johnson had been introduced to the activities of Mr. Robert Payton related to the creation of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. It made sense to the members of the Improving Philanthropy Committee that a similar university program, or series of programs, would be helpful for the development and professionalism of the charitable sector in Michigan.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from a 1987 Council of Michigan Foundations board meeting where trustees discussed the formation of the Improving Philanthropy Committee and its function.

After determining that there was a need, Dr. Mawby convened a group of Michigan’s four-year education institutions, both public and private, to discuss the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s interest in launching a higher education program for philanthropy and nonprofits. The Council of Michigan Foundations staffed this effort. One of the requirements for establishing such a center for Michigan was that the university’s financial commitment must be similar to Kellogg’s challenge. This requirement greatly reduced the number of applicant universities. Grand Valley State University President Don Lubbers responded positively. The Grand Rapids community, whose volunteers and donors were the energy behind the creation and development of the university, seemed to be the logical home for Michigan’s center on philanthropy. A 1992 grant from the Kellogg Foundation (Dr. Joel J. Orosz, program director), was matched 1:1 by GVSU, and the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership was launched.

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VideoVideo:  Watch Don Lubbers discuss the origin of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

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Starting with university service-learning (a topic of much interest at the time), the Center developed through the addition of several innovative programs. In 1999, upon the retirement of Dorothy Johnson from her 25 years of service as the president and CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF), her friends worked with GVSU to name the Center in her honor. In addition, CMF donated its philanthropy library to the Center, along with an endowment for its maintenance and upkeep. In 2001, with major leadership and support from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Center added the Community Research Institute to its offerings. In 2004, under the leadership of former Kellogg Foundation Program Director Joel J. Orosz, The Grantmaking School was launched, and in 2009 under the leadership of former Kellogg Foundation Director of Evaluation, Teri Behrens, The Foundation Review was launched.

There also is no formal research regarding why the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (Johnson Center) has developed into such a dynamic organization. Our State of Generosity is an attempt to document the history and stories of the Johnson Center’s experience and to offer some ideas about the characteristics of the extraordinary leadership of volunteers, staff, funders and public policy leaders in creating the Center. The Johnson Center is one of the largest academic centers on philanthropy and is home to many collaborative projects and innovative programs.

For first-hand accounts of the development of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at GVSU by the individuals involved and for more information, visit their partner profile.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the Johnson Center.

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Michigan Community Service Commission

Three nonprofits – one in Minnesota (The National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC)); and two in Washington, D.C. (Youth Service America (YSA) and the National Center for Voluntary Action) – were working hard on proposed legislation to financially support youth volunteering in the United States. Former Michigan Governor George Romney, who chaired the National Center for Voluntary Action, lived in Michigan, and hammered home the inspired message that the state of Michigan should be in the forefront of states encouraging and supporting volunteerism.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the leadership of Governor Romney.

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Note: Governor Romney was a staunch advocate for the bipartisan support of volunteerism in Michigan and established a precedent for lifting the cause above political party considerations. A detailed biography, as well as a collection of Governor Romney’s papers from 1939-1973, can be found at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.

During the time preceding passage of the National and Community Service Act, Michigan continued its efforts to increase and improve philanthropy and volunteering with two futures in mind. If the National and Community Service Act(s) were passed, then Michigan would be positioned to immediately implement the federal programs in support of volunteering. If the federal bills did not pass or were delayed, Michigan would still continue to build a strong infrastructure supporting volunteers in the state.

The Kellogg Foundation’s program director for philanthropy and volunteerism, Joel J. Orosz, provided a series of grants to Youth Service America (YSA) to begin community organizing efforts in Michigan to encourage community youth volunteering and to introduce the concept of service-learning in schools.

Youth Service America started in 1986 with funding from the Ford Foundation. The youth empowerment/youth service movement of the 1990s were congruent with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s interests in encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism, and supporting young people.

Frank Dirks, a staff member of Youth Service America, was brought to Michigan to provide leadership for establishing the Michigan Community Service Commission. In 1991, Dirks convened a group of Dr. Orosz’s statewide grantees in philanthropy at Albion College to discuss how they might advocate for the creation of a statewide commission to distribute federal funds in support of philanthropy and volunteerism programs across Michigan. This was a pivotal meeting that drew together grantees, each representing a statewide system committed to youth and philanthropy, and resulted in a commitment to work together toward the goal of creating a service commission for the state of Michigan.

Michigan launched one of the first state community service commissions in the nation, with the intention that it would be an early participant in the implementation of the National and Community Service Act programs. The launch of this commission was pursued in partnership with Governor John Engler and First Lady of Michigan, Michelle Engler, who served as the Commission’s first chair. Two years before Governor Engler’s term ended, Mrs. Engler stepped down in order to help the Commission transition smoothly into new leadership. Dr. Russell Mawby then stepped in as interim chair before handing the Commission over to the First Gentleman of Michigan, Daniel Mulhern, at the beginning of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s term.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: View the proceedings from the June 10-11, 1991 conference and subsequent planning meetings on youth service in Michigan.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read Governor John Engler’s executive order to create the Michigan Community Service Commission.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: View the 1991 Michigan Community Service Commission meeting that discussed the National Community Service Act.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the leadership of Governor and First Lady Engler.

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The philanthropy and volunteerism grantees funded by the Kellogg Foundation (such as Campus Compact and the Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project) played a central role in the early organizing efforts preparing for the launch of the Michigan Community Service Commission.

Following the passage of the national legislation, Diana Rodriguez-Algra, the first director of the Michigan Community Service Commission, was recruited to Washington, D.C. to help launch the national programs. Dorothy A. Johnson, CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations, was asked to serve as a national commissioner. Mrs. Johnson also subsequently served as chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

VideoVideo:  Watch Dottie Johnson discuss her appointment to the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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Information about the creation of the Corporation for National and Community Service can be found at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), in the Congressional Record of the 108th Congress, and in the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States.

In 2015, Julie Fisher Cummings followed in her father’s footsteps at the national level. Max Fisher (from Detroit, Michigan) served as the first chairman of the National Center for Voluntary Action. Ms. Cummings currently serves as a presidential appointee on the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service. For first-hand accounts and additional information about the development of the Michigan Community Service Commission, visit their partner profile.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the development of the Michigan Community Service Commission.

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Other philanthropic initiatives have been borrowed from national programs and adapted for Michigan’s needs.

The Volunteer Support Organizations

Michigan Campus Compact

John Marshall, former president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation, had been introduced to the national Campus Compact organization and was impressed with their mission. With the assistance of the Council of Michigan Foundations, Marshall used the leveraging power of his position, as well as his personal leadership, to bring Campus Compact to Michigan in 1989 (just four years after the beginning of Campus Compact at the national level).

Michigan’s Campus Compact received an initial grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) in 1989, with Dr. Orosz as the program director. Rather than starting a new program in volunteerism for college students, Michigan simply identified a good idea and sound program, found funding and leadership for the start-up, and integrated this project into the philanthropic resources of the state. Diana Rodriguez-Algra was selected as the first director of Michigan Campus Compact (prior to her leadership of the Michigan Community Service Commission). Over time, Michigan Campus Compact could not financially sustain its operating costs. In 1995, it folded into the Michigan Nonprofit Association as a part of Michigan’s comprehensive support for volunteering and service. Find out more about the Michigan Campus Compact.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Review the history, mission, programs, grants, and services of Michigan Campus Compact.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss Campus Compact.

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Volunteer Centers of Michigan

In 1919, the first volunteer bureau was organized to support community volunteering in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Governors in Washington State started formal statewide volunteer centers in 1989, followed rapidly by the appointment of a Governor’s Office of Volunteerism in Michigan and Illinois.

In the early 1990s, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with Joel J. Orosz as the program director, made an infrastructure grant to fund the creation of the Volunteer Centers of Michigan [project profile] as a freestanding nonprofit. The Volunteer Center’s mission is to provide support to individuals volunteering across the state.

Volunteer Centers of Michigan was housed at Michigan State University from its first planning days in 1989. In 1992, VCM incorporated and in 1993, it became an affiliate program of MNA. In 2001, VCM was invited to become one of the premier programs of the newly created ConnectMichigan Alliance (CMA) under the leadership of Kyle Caldwell.

Through an inspirational fundraising effort, the state of Michigan authorized an endowment challenge grant of $10 million which was matched by private gifts of $10 million to create ConnectMichigan Alliance, an endowed fund of $20 million for ongoing operational support of Volunteer Centers of Michigan and other volunteer efforts.

Michigan did not invent the idea of organized support for volunteerism appointed by a state’s governor; nor did Michigan first conceive of an organized network of community-based centers to promote volunteering. This idea was brought to Michigan and implemented statewide. ConnectMichigan Alliance merged into the Michigan Nonprofit Association in 2007. The programs of ConnectMichigan Alliance are still in force under MNA’s umbrella and the endowment continues to support volunteerism efforts in Michigan. Find out more about the Volunteer Centers of Michigan.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Review the history, mission, purpose, programs, and services of the Volunteer Centers of Michigan.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the Volunteer Centers of Michigan.

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Youth Volunteerism Initiatives

Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL)

The Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL) began in 1984 when Wayne Meisel took a “Walk for Action” from Maine to Washington, D.C., visiting over 70 campuses to engage college students in service to their community. The first of several related organizations started during this same period in history (National Youth Leadership Council began in 1983; Campus Compact began in 1985; Youth Service America began in 1986). COOL was brought to individual university campuses in Michigan through grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with Joel Orosz as program director.

For example, Michigan State University launched COOL in the late 1980s with the organization of Alternative Spring Break and “Into the Streets.” The University of Michigan and other colleges and universities across the nation continue the tradition of supporting students in service during their college spring break.

COOL was a “bottoms up” approach to engaging college students in service that complemented the “top-down” approach of Campus Compact. Both efforts were supported by grants to improve and increase philanthropy by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with Dr. Joel Orosz as program director.

In 2003, COOL merged with Idealist (formerly known as Action Without Borders) where its activities continue across the globe.

National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC)

An early advocate for utilizing the talents of youth and youth volunteering, the National Youth Leadership Council from Minnesota offered the planning, professional expertise, and onsite implementation for Michigan’s early summer camps for youth grantmakers. As formal service-learning was introduced to Michigan educators, NYLC remained a constant champion for the integration of academic service-learning in Michigan schools. NYLC worked closely with the new Michigan Community Service Commission on the first Learn and Serve grants to the state.

The development of resources and the related infrastructure to support youth volunteering was a two-stage effort. First, the Kellogg Foundation funded the Michigan implementation of COOL, Michigan Campus Compact, Youth Service America, and the National Youth Leadership Council organizers to bring model programs and experience to Michigan for the early grassroots mobilization of interest based on the belief in youth as assets. Second, the philanthropic community in Michigan, with W.K. Kellogg Foundation assistance, launched one of the first governor-appointed commissions on service prior to the passage of the national legislation for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Inviting in Campus Compact, COOL, YSA, and NYLC to Michigan was an education and awareness activity, setting the stage for the adoption of these programs in Michigan. Launching the Michigan Community Service Commission built on the work of these pioneering youth volunteerism organizations and became a national model created in Michigan. Dr. Orosz was the program director for all of these projects.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from a 1992 Michigan Community Service Commission meeting that lists Michigan initiatives that supported the state application, including Campus Compact, Youth Service America, and the National Youth Leadership Council.

Other Projects to Increase and Improve Philanthropy

Michigan Nonprofit Caucus

In 1992, the voters of Michigan passed an amendment to the Michigan Constitution, limiting House of Representatives members to three two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms of office. This action resulted in considerable ongoing turnover in the Michigan legislature with little institutional knowledge developing over time. Public policy makers, even those who enjoy long tenure in other state legislatures, do not usually have a depth of background about the nonprofit sector, and frequently do not know about the issues involved in growing and maintaining a charitable sector.

In response to this new reality, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, the Council of Michigan Foundations, and the Michigan Association of United Ways worked together to establish the Michigan Nonprofit Caucus in 2009. This was the second caucus of its kind in the nation, following Pennsylvania.

The Michigan Nonprofit Caucus is a part of three formal joint ventures with state government to facilitate understanding between government and the charitable sector. The three ventures include the Michigan Nonprofit Council for Charitable Trusts (advising the state’s Attorney General); the Michigan Nonprofit Caucus (engaging legislators from the Michigan House and Senate in legislative issues related to philanthropy); and the Governor’s Office of Foundation Liaison (providing opportunities for state government/philanthropic partnerships, led by the governor). Find out more about the Michigan Nonprofit Caucus.

Michigan Philanthropy Oral History Project

The Michigan Philanthropy Oral History Project was modeled after the National Public Radio (NPR) popular series, Story Corps, where people interview one another and the interview is captured on audio or video tape. The NPR Story Corps audio interviews were played on the radio and then archived in the Library of Congress as a part of American history.

In 2006, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) brought this program to Michigan with a focus on interviews between individuals engaged in Michigan’s major philanthropic projects. This joint venture among CMF, Story Corps, Michigan Public Radio, and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy provides a window into many Michigan projects from those directly involved in their creation. 28 Philanthropy Oral History interviews are in the collection, which is one component of the Johnson Center’s Philanthropy Library and Archives at Grand Valley State University.

Foundation Joint Venture Initiatives

Community Foundation Energy Initiative

In 1987, the Michigan community foundations identified their first general opportunity to work together on a statewide, yet locally implemented, initiative to utilize fine money charged against the Exxon Corporation for the purpose of increasing the energy efficiency of buildings used by nonprofit organizations – and the homes of those living in poverty.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from a 1988 Council of Michigan Foundations board meeting, where trustees discussed the Community Foundation Energy Initiative.

One of the outcomes specifically related to increasing and improving philanthropy (and a Michigan innovation) was the utilization of the Council of Michigan Foundations as a vehicle for the individual community foundations to act together. The lessons from the Community Foundation Energy Initiative laid the groundwork for future major joint venture efforts. Find out more about the Community Foundation Energy Initiative.

VideoVideo:  Watch leaders discuss the Community Foundation Energy Initiative.

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Individual Development Accounts and Tobacco Settlement Partnership

Two similar joint ventures that engaged the Michigan foundations as a network were: The Michigan Individual Development Account Program (IDA) and the distribution of Tobacco Settlement Partnership. The Michigan Individual Development Account Program was a public/private partnership to provide assets to low-income families for capital investments such as housing, higher education, or starting a small business.

The Healthy Youth, Healthy Seniors Initiative, formed in 1999, was also a public/private joint venture that provided for the distribution, through community foundations, of interest earnings on a portion of revenue of the state of Michigan from the settlement of lawsuits against the tobacco industry. The local grants provided support for community programs for healthy youth and seniors. These joint ventures leveraged additional funds for local communities. They used the power of an organized statewide philanthropic network to partner with government; and large private foundations to achieve common goals. While the genesis of these programs was outside of Michigan, the implementation in the state utilized Michigan’s philanthropic strengths.

Two companion projects led by CMF members were organized as the Improving Philanthropy Committee and the Increasing Philanthropy Committee. These committees were charged with a goal to strengthen the philanthropic sector in Michigan.

Philanthropic Initiative

As part of the Increasing Philanthropy initiative, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) launched a concerted effort to reach advisors to the wealthy (bankers, estate-planning attorneys, and financial advisors). Contracting with The Philanthropic Initiative, a consulting firm in Boston, CMF first sought to understand the perspective of financial advisors. Then programs and strategies were devised to encourage the advisors to families of means to ask the question: “Do you have an interest in philanthropic giving?” If the answer was “Yes!” the advisor would then discuss options with the donor. Many advisors were reluctant to discuss giving as a part of their consultation. They did not want to be perceived as promoting any one charitable cause over another. Engaging the advisors in promoting philanthropic giving required describing the benefits to the advisors themselves.

The goal was not to direct the philanthropic interests of individual donors, but to encourage families with financial resources to pursue their own passion for giving and service. The products developed for the advisors provided the seeds for what grew into the Community Foundation Venture Products Fund that served as a resource on a national level.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Read notes from a 1995 Council of Michigan Foundations board meeting where trustees discussed The Philanthropic Initiative and Advisors to the Wealthy.

Michigan Association for Evaluation

The American Association for Evaluation (AEA) [external link] started outside of Michigan, but the state was the first to have a local affiliate, called the Michigan Association for Evaluation (MAE). The MAE chapter is unusual because it includes individuals who do evaluation, use evaluation, and fund evaluation with the idea that together the sector could do a better job of learning from their collective work. The joint evaluation conference is an example of reaching outside of the immediate circle of nonprofit and foundation organizations to include as peers those who work in critical related fields such as professional program evaluation.

One of the strengths of participating in national networks is the opportunity to identify projects, organizations, and people who are effectively working to improve the circumstances of others. As Michigan pursued the development of a strong infrastructure to support volunteering and service, model programs were brought to the state and adapted to local conditions. These programs continue to serve the volunteers and communities in Michigan.

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