Our team of experts is here to answer your questions, track down research and get you where you need to go.

Doing great philanthropic work can be challenging, but Ask CMF makes it easy for members to find help for your most pressing questions. Ask CMF is a technical assistance service offered to all CMF members. We leverage our extensive internal knowledge and collaborate with external partners to respond to your needs, whether you’re interested in best practices, research or sample documents. Led by Brittany Kienker, Ph.D., Ask CMF brings the best of CMF’s expertise to your organization.

We respond to hundreds of Ask CMF questions throughout the year, ranging in scope and issue area.

  • Conflict of interest scenarios
  • Board governance and term limits
  • Family foundation succession planning
  • Giving trends within specific funding areas
  • Legal requirements
  • Performance evaluations for staff
  • Salaries based on region, foundation type and staff role
  • Community needs assessment practices
  • Corporate giving
  • Giving and volunteering in Michigan

CMF is committed to growing the impact of Michigan philanthropy through service to its members. Through Ask CMF, your questions have led to new ideas, solutions and resources that have become a valued part of foundations’ work across the state. We look forward to helping you with your current questions and challenges.

How it works:

  • After logging into the CMF website, access the online Ask CMF form.
  • Tell us your name and email address, then briefly describe your question or request for assistance.
  • We will respond within one business day to confirm receipt of your message and answer your question. If the request requires more extensive research or data gathering, we’ll let you know.

Common Ask CMF Request Topics

  • How do I find salary data for my foundation’s staff?

    Salary survey data is one of the most popular questions for Ask CMF! We frequently recommend that members look at Exponent Philanthropy’s “Foundation Operations and Management Report,” Michigan Nonprofit Association’s “Compensation and Benefits Report,” and the Council on Foundation’s “Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report.” Members also have access to a free copy of the Midwest Grantmaker Salary, Benefits, & Demographics Report. Feel free to reach out to Ask CMF to learn more about personalized salary reports available to all member foundations.

  • How do I decide if my foundation should have term limits for board members?

    Foundations frequently contact Ask CMF with a variety of board member-related questions, ranging from “What do I do about inactive board members?” to “How long should board members sit on a board?” To address these and other board-related questions, we created an easy-to-use document on the topic of board term limits, including the pros and cons of term limits, as well as industry best practice for determining the length of board terms, available here.

  • My community just experienced a natural or manmade disaster. Where do I find resources to plan the foundation’s response?

    Member foundations frequently contact Ask CMF and CMF staff soon after disaster strikes, whether a community-wide weather event or an unexpected situation related to foundations’ staff, board, or operations. For a community-related crisis, CMF has a curated set of materials available here. This webpage brings together sources from our national and regional partners that have been most useful to CMF members facing unexpected situations in their area. If your foundation is experiencing a crisis or preparing for such a situation, please contact Ask CMF for assistance and additional resources.

  • How do I find out about national benchmarking for corporate foundations and workplace giving programs?

    The go-to resource for most data related to corporate philanthropy is CECP’s Giving in Numbers Report. Ask CMF’s most frequent question related to corporate data is in regard to annual corporate contributions as a percentage of pre-tax income. According to CECP’s 2019 report (including 2018 data), total giving in 2018 reached $25.7 million, with total giving as a percentage of pre-tax profits reaching 0.94%. This represented an increase from 0.83% in 2016.

  • I’m attempting to orient our CEO to the grantmaking process and the idea of implementing due diligence and best practices seems overwhelming to our small staff. Help!

    Through Ask CMF, we regularly receive questions about the grantmaking process and how to create a due diligence system that works, especially for small-staffed or volunteer-based grantmaking teams. Whether you are looking for rubrics to assist in making grant decisions or you want sample grant applications, Ask CMF can help! We also created a document specifically for CMF members entitled, “The Basics of the Grantmaking Process and Due Diligence,” which may be the perfect resource to understand grantmaking or explain it to your staff or board members. To receive your own copy of this resource, you can request it using the Ask CMF form.

  • Do most foundations compensate their board members?


    The topic of board compensation has emerged as a frequently asked question among CMF members and foundations nationally over the last year or so. The most useful data on this topic originates from Exponent Philanthropy’s “Foundation Operations and Management Report” and the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s “Trends 2020” report. According to NCFP’s report, 35% of respondents’ foundations provided board members with modest stipends, 30% reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses only, and 35% did not pay fees or reimburse expenses. Stipend amounts and likelihood of compensating board members vary by foundation type and asset size.

  • How do I find out about other grantmakers and potential funding partners working in the same region or field of interest as my foundation?

    CMF does not maintain a public directory of grantmaking foundations. Instead, we highly recommend that you visit Foundation Directory to learn more about other funders active in your area. If you have a specific question about how to find information on foundations or navigate other data sources related to the field, please contact Ask CMF.

  • How can I learn more about the size and scope of Michigan philanthropy?

    According to Foundation Center, Michigan philanthropy is comprised of 2,181 foundations. In 2015 (the most recent data from Foundation Stats), total giving in Michigan reached over $1.66 billion from grantmakers with total assets of over $31 billion. For more facts and figures about Michigan philanthropy, please visit our Facts and Figures webpage.

  • How can I make a financial contribution to my community through philanthropy?

    Individuals, families and companies regularly reach out to CMF to learn how they can give back to their communities through philanthropy. CMF has compiled two reports "Options for Your Financial Giving," a resource for individuals and families, and "Choosing a Corporate Approach," a resource for companies.

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