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Chapter 4: National & Global Engagement

Programs Created and Located in Michigan

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Several initiatives resulted in the creation of organizations and programs that continue to serve citizens of the state.

Due to their history of crafting to fit Michigan’s specific situation, these initiatives have not grown beyond the state nor have they been replicated in other states. This chapter provides an overview of some of these organizations and their impact on Michigan’s philanthropy.

Projects and organizations discussed in this chapter include:

Michigan CARES

Michigan CARES (MiCARES) was a joint venture project of the Michigan Community Service Commission and the Council of Michigan Foundations. The project began in 1994, first staffed by Kyle Caldwell and followed by Paula Kaiser VanDam. The focus of MiCARES was to work in six different communities to build local coalitions that would support centers for volunteering and service. A purpose of the six communities was to test the creation of volunteer centers in a variety of settings and in differing configurations of partnerships – as free-standing organizations, or as component programs of local United Ways. MiCARES ended shortly before the turn of the century.

While the specific program was dependent upon outside funding, the lessons learned in working at the community level were applied to future volunteer center endeavors. The individuals involved went on to lead major Michigan institutions responsible for implementing the lessons they had learned. Michigan CARES was a time and funding-limited project that built a foundation for the future work in establishing volunteer centers in the state. Find out more about Michigan CARES.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Notes from a Michigan Community Service Commission meeting when Michigan CARES was launched.

VideoVideo: Leaders discuss the mission and development of Michigan CARES.


ConnectMichigan Alliance

Michigan had powerful champions in former Governors Romney and Engler, who advocated for the development of programs to encourage and support life-long volunteering and service. Both governors cheered for Campus Compact and pushed for expansion of Volunteer Centers of Michigan. Governors Romney and Engler were instrumental in encouraging the state of Michigan to form one of the first community service commissions.

VideoVideo: Leaders discuss the leadership of Governors Romney and Engler.


By the year 2000, there was concern that the financial needs of these state organizations that support volunteerism would become a burden, requiring constant fundraising. An exciting new joint venture called the ConnectMichigan Alliance was formed to house and fund the volunteer-related entities – Michigan Campus Compact, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, and the Governor’s Service Awards. A commitment was made to raise a $20 million permanent endowment to provide ongoing operating support. The $20 million fund was a public/private partnership with a $10 million challenge allocated from the state of Michigan, matched by $10 million raised in private funding (foundations, corporations, individuals).

The partners involved in the creation of ConnectMichigan Alliance were the Michigan Community Service Commission, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, and the state of Michigan. The Council of Michigan Foundations, while not a formal partner, provided substantial energy and support, especially in fundraising. As the community foundation serving the state capital, the Capital Region Community Foundation was selected to manage the endowment.

A surprising fact about the ConnectMichigan Alliance is that this substantial endowed fund was raised before the organization existed. Gifts were given based on the level of confidence, respect, and trust the funders held for the leaders involved and the power of the idea of permanent financial support for encouraging volunteering in Michigan.

In 2007, ConnectMichigan Alliance and the Michigan Nonprofit Association merged. CMA is now a part of MNA, and the endowment continues to support Campus Compact, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, and the Governor’s Service Awards. The fund now also provides financial assistance to Michigan’s implementation of Learning to Give (at MNA, Learning to Give is named the LEAGUE Michigan). Find out more about ConnectMichigan Alliance.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Overview of the ConnectMichigan Alliance programming and services.

VideoVideo: Leaders discuss the history and development of the ConnectMichigan Alliance.


Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conference

In April 1990, the Council of Michigan Foundations and the Michigan Nonprofit Forum (later to be renamed the Michigan Nonprofit Association) collaborated to sponsor the first conference that brought together grantmaking foundations and grantseekers (nonprofit charitable groups that request funding) for the first Grantmaker/Grantseeker (G/G) Conference. Because of their experience in hosting major statewide conferences,  CMF staff provided the leadership for the early G/G conferences.

GG Conference v 2

Prior to this time, the Council of Michigan Foundations had considered adding nonprofit organizations to their membership. There was a need for nonprofits to speak with one voice on public policy and management issues. While this would have increased the size of CMF (and some would argue, its influence), the decision was made to create and support a separate umbrella association that could focus on the needs of nonprofits. Then partnerships were developed between the grantmakers and the grantseekers. Find out more about the Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conference. The G/G conference has continued as the annual Michigan Nonprofit Association’s SuperConference.

VideoVideo: Dottie Johnson discusses the Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conferences.


Michigan Nonprofit Council for Charitable Trusts

In another partnership between the Council of Michigan Foundations and the Michigan Nonprofit Association related to public policy, the Michigan Nonprofit Council for Charitable Trusts was established in 2004 as a means of communication with the state’s attorney general. The attorney general has regulatory authority over the charitable field. CMF and MNA sought to build a constructive working relationship toward the common goal of a strong, healthy, and legal nonprofit sector.

The Michigan Nonprofit Council for Charitable Trusts offers Give Wisely, designed to help individuals act on their charitable interests to achieve the results they desire in a legal and ethical manner. Find out more about the Michigan Nonprofit Council for Charitable Trusts.

VideoVideo: Rob Collier discusses the relationship between nonprofit infrastructure and the office of the attorney general.


2003 Grantmakers/Grantseekers Conference, co-hosted by the Michigan Association for Evaluation, “Evaluating Impact – Delivering Results”

The 8th annual conference of the Michigan Association for Evaluation was held in 2003, in partnership with the Council of Michigan Foundations and the Michigan Nonprofit Association during the annual Grantmaker/Grantseeker Conference. While evaluation is a vital component for capturing what is learned by nonprofits as they do their work, rarely is the evaluation community engaged in professional development and sector discussion with their grantmaking and nonprofit constituents.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Notes from a Michigan Nonprofit Association board meeting about the 2003 Grantmakers/Grantseekers Conference.

Examples of Community Foundation/Private Foundation Joint Ventures

Michigan’s community foundations have been successful in joining together through the vehicle of their membership in the Council of Michigan Foundations to achieve statewide goals that have had a lasting effect in the individual communities they serve. In addition, a few major large private foundations have discovered that they can use this community foundation network as a ladder to responsibly achieve their grantmaking goals. Often the partnership between the community foundations and the major private funders has leveraged additional funds and creative ideas that would not have emerged if either of the partners had acted alone.

One of the Michigan-focused partnerships was the $15 million “Access to Recreation” grant. This initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided funding to assure that local parks and play areas would be modified to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act so that all children can enjoy outdoor recreation.

While the “Access to Recreation” project did not, in and of itself, improve or increase philanthropy in Michigan, it is an excellent example of how the existence of a strong, statewide network of community foundations can be used to achieve philanthropic goals and leverage additional resources for any number of charitable projects.

State Public Policy Initiatives

The Council of Michigan Foundations was energized in its early years by public policy – the Tax Reform Act of 1969*. Since its founding, CMF has been actively engaged in legislative policy related to both the functioning of the charitable sector and to common grantmaking interests.

*While the linked document was released in 1976, it provides a strong summary of the effects of the Tax Reform Act and the challenges it presented to foundations across the United States.

Many Michigan projects demonstrate CMF’s legislative leadership. Two examples are highlighted.

The Land Use Leadership Council 

The Council of Michigan Foundations has been trusted to serve as the fiscal agent for joint venture partnerships with government. The Land Use Leadership Council is one model. Through a bi-partisan group created in 2002 by then Governor Jennifer Granholm, CMF and its interested members worked with government to “minimize the impact of current land use trends in Michigan.”

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Notes from the Council of Michigan Foundations’ 2002-2003 annual report about the Land Use Leadership Council.

The Low-Profit Limited Liability Corporation

Observing the growth in business commitment to the “triple bottom line” and seeking to assist foundations in actively promoting economic development, CMF advocated for a new type of hybrid organization that would harness the efficiencies of the business world with the values of the philanthropic sector. A new form of organization, the Low-Profit Limited Liability Corporation was enacted in the state of Michigan in 2009 for the purpose of improving the economic environment.

The “triple bottom line” looks at three sustainability performance measurements for corporations:

  1. the social or effect on people;
  2. environmental effects on the natural world; and
  3. the traditional financial measurements.

Historical_DocsHistorical Document: Notes from the Council of Michigan Foundations’ 2007-2008 annual report about the Low-Profit Limited Liability Corporation.

The Direction Center and the Community Research Institute

In 1991, organizations in Grand Rapids, Michigan, founded the Direction Center to provide technical assistance to nonprofits and increase their understanding of the groups serving the community. The Direction Center was a 1990s era collaboration among the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Heart of West Michigan United Way, and Grand Valley State University. These three organizations continued as partners of the Direction Center, along with the Frey Foundation, Herman Miller, Inc., The Wege Foundation and Western Michigan University. The Direction Center delivered its services, in large part, through the use of professionals who volunteered their time, as well as through university faculty and student support. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation also provided substantial financial start-up support of the Direction Center. The Direction Center completed its mission and closed in 1999.

To continue support for the nonprofit community, media services transitioned to the Community Media Center and technical assistance, professional development, and the compensation and benefit survey moved to the Johnson Center’s Nonprofit Services Program. These two services are focused on providing essential tools for effective nonprofit leadership and management.

In 2000, under the leadership of Diana Sieger from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Donna Van Iwaarden at the Johnson Center, the Community Research Institute was created and housed at the Johnson Center to provide access to sound data for decision making for nonprofit leadership and management. An example of CRI’s work is VoiceGR, a project to survey the Grand Rapids community in order to provide demographic data on the most pressing matters in that area, to which grantmakers can then effectively respond.

VideoVideo: Leaders discuss the Community Research Institute.


Nonprofit Good Practice Guide

The Nonprofit Good Practice Guide, an idea of Joel J. Orosz, distinguished professor of philanthropic studies at Grand Valley State University, was created in 2002 by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy. In 2012, these comprehensive online resources were given to the Nonprofit Network where additional interactive features were added.

The creation of the NGPG at the Johnson Center and then its transfer to the Nonprofit Network serves as a good example of Michigan’s culture, moving tangible resources from one organization to another until the appropriate “home” is found.

Classic Text: Establishing a Charitable Foundation in Michigan

The book, “Establishing a Charitable Foundation in Michigan,” is an example of an original publication that is now a classic resource for Michigan’s philanthropists (the guide is being revised in 2015). The guidebook, written in 1987 by Attorney Duane Tarnacki provides concrete advice to encourage the creation of foundations to serve the state of Michigan. Revised over time as the field has matured and changed, this publication is focused on the rules and regulations specific to Michigan.

VideoVideo: Duane Tarnacki discusses the book, “Establishing a Charitable Foundation in Michigan.”


Michigan’s philanthropic community, both foundations and nonprofits, focus on increasing and improving the charitable sector for the benefit of all citizens of the state of Michigan. A number of the projects, organizations, and initiatives launched over the past 40 years in Michigan continue to only – or mainly – serve Michigan. In some cases, this was because the project was very Michigan-specific in its design or effects; in others, because it was not so successful in Michigan that it inspired replication elsewhere.  In any case, however, these projects all provided building blocks for Michigan’s philanthropic infrastructure, and lessons learned to inform future activities.

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