The Download Archive

The Download

November 21, 2016

Monday, November 21, 2016

Public Policy: An Advocacy Update

Throughout the social sector it’s apparent there are still more questions than answers when it comes to legislation and policy in the lame duck session and in 2017.

CMF’s Public Policy Committee received a briefing last week about how 2016 may wrap up with legislation that’s of interest to philanthropy, and what legislation and issues we’ll be watching for in 2017. The Public Policy Committee learned that legislation in the State Senate dealing with nonprofit property tax exemption, and previously reported on in the Weekly Download, will not be considered by the State House in the lame duck session and will thus need to be reintroduced in 2017.

Children and Families
The Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) facilitated the briefing where Public Sector Consultants provided next steps for the committee on ways funders can help reduce the early childhood development gap. In September, CMF reported on the gap and areas of need that were highlighted in the study, Building a Better Childcare System, that was funded by the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.

Public Sector Consultants' research revealed the highest leverage priorities for philanthropy in ensuring all children have access to high-quality early childcare, they include:

  • Improve access by increasing financial assistance for families, increasing the income eligibility threshold and support capital expansion and program expansion
  • Improve quality by providing funding for training and supplies and providing support for tracking and monitoring quality
  • Improve workforce through supporting research aimed at ways to improve wages and benefits and support professional development opportunities for licensed providers
  • Raise awareness through supporting the development of a hotline to answer questions from parents, providers and caseworkers and support a public awareness campaign about the importance of a quality early childhood experience for every child

Another area affecting children and families is the state’s use of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Funds (TANF). Michigan is among the states that spends the least on core welfare services, and research has shown TANF dollars have gone to plug other budget holes in areas that align with TANF, such as education, but do not fulfill families’ greatest basic needs. The Public Policy Committee will be looking deeper into this issue and mapping out a course of action for CMF members. 

Community Violence Prevention
The committee received an update on CMF’s public policy fellow’s research of community violence prevention, that was requested by CMF members. The committee plans to release the findings of the research in a report that will highlight the role foundations can play in addressing community violence and help their communities prevent and respond to violence. We will update you once the report becomes available.

The report from the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission will be made public on December 5 and CMF will look for the opportunities it offers for philanthropy to partner with government at all levels in addressing critical infrastructure needs in Michigan. The report will include an up-to-date assessment of transportation, water, sewer, energy, wastewater, infrastructure, and telecommunications as well as recommendations to build a 21st century infrastructure in Michigan over the next 30 to 50 years.

This report holds significance for many reasons; Michigan spends less on capital investment (as a percentage of state spending) than almost every other state and the Flint water crisis highlighted the lack of investment.

CMF plans to examine the infrastructure report and look for opportunities for funders to advocate and partner with the state on aspects of the plan that are most pertinent to funders’ priority areas.

CMF will continue to monitor key pieces of legislation and policy and their potential impact on philanthropy, and we will update you on any emerging developments.







United for Charity: What’s the Public’s Perception of Our Sector?

We’re getting an inside look at groundbreaking research for the nonprofit charitable sector that shows the public’s perception of philanthropy. Independent Sector, which represents more than 600 public charities, foundations and corporations, has released, United for Charity: How Americans Trust and Value the Charitable Sector, a study conducted in early 2016, polling voters on their sentiments of charitable giving and charitable organizations.

The highlights:

  • 88 percent say it should be easier to deduct charitable contributions from their taxes
  • 85 percent believe charitable groups and nonprofits should operate under the same set of regulations as everyone else in the policymaking space. (Charities and nonprofits are limited in their communications with policymakers unlike private corporations and others.)
  • 78 percent agreed the government should be doing more to engage the sector to address economic and social challenges
  • 74 percent trust charities with their money over the government, and want to see expanded access to charitable giving

It’s a positive framework as the findings show strong bipartisan support for the charitable sector, however the study was conducted before the political spotlight intensified on foundations.  As we look ahead to one of our biggest charitable days of the year, Giving Tuesday, some in the philanthropic sector are wondering if there will be any fallout from the negative attention foundations received during the presidential campaign. Will the public feel as inclined to give to charity as they have in years past?

Guidestar provided an analysis of the Trump and Clinton Foundations, noting they have “both been the subject of controversy while seeking to contribute to social good. They are undoubtedly different from each other in size, structure, and openness.”

Recommendations from the IS research:

One takeaway from the study that we can all apply in our own communities is that messaging matters. Research shows both Democrats and Republicans voiced strong support of the sector when the researchers posed questions directly connecting the charitable sector with tangible issues such as homelessness, poverty, literacy, housing and more. This highlights the importance of sharing our work with everyone, letting them know the specific issues and initiatives we are focused on and how it directly affects their own communities.

The research also showed people want us to play a larger role in helping the government solve problems. While we know, philanthropy is not a replacement for government but rather intended to serve in partnership with government, it’s important for us to continue working with policymakers.

Independent Sector is calling on policymakers to:

  • Strengthen the charitable sector through tax reform
  • Give the charitable sector a greater voice in policymaking

The report calls on clarity for engagement for nonprofits and charities with policymakers, currently the rules are confusing and may discourage nonprofits from participating in this important arena. As the research shows, most of those asked believe we should operate under the same rules and regulations as private companies and others.

Want more?

Read the United for Charity full report here.
Read Guidestar's analysis of the Trump and Clinton foundations.
In March, join us for Foundations on the Hill 2017 as we head to D.C. to meet with our Michigan lawmakers to discuss the critical role philanthropy plays in our state.
Check out resources and a toolkit for organizations for Giving Tuesday







Diversifying Our Teacher Workforce

While philanthropy and the state are working in various areas to improve education for our Michigan children, diversity among teachers, who are some of our strongest community role models, remains an issue in our state and throughout the country.

The Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) reported on the lack of diversity among Michigan teachers, noting:

  • 67 percent of the state’s students are white and 91 percent of teachers are white
  • For African Americans, the ratio is drastically different, for the 18 percent of students only 6 percent of the state’s teachers are African American.

We’re taking a look at a new report released by The Education Trust, Through Our Eyes: Perspectives and Reflections from Black Teachers, that details some of the challenges facing African American educators in hopes of sharing insights that can lead to better understanding and building a more diverse teacher workforce.

What teachers shared in the study:

  • African American teachers say they are often viewed as an “enforcers rather than educators,” often giving them troubled or lower performing students without opportunities to teach students at other performance levels.
  • Lack of resources and support led African American teachers expressing a sense of obligation to teach students of color well beyond the role of a typical teacher, experiencing pressure to be everything and everyone for their students.
  • African American teachers feel they aren’t valued by their colleagues

Education Trust’s report highlights the need to support our teachers of color, in hopes of diversifying our teacher workforce, providing more role models to African American students, improving their chances for success in the classroom and beyond.

An op-ed in The Detroit News notes, “Increasing the percentage of teachers of color in classrooms is connected directly to closing the achievement gap. Unfortunately, programs and initiatives designed to increase teachers of color have been slow to take hold across the nation.”

The U.S. education secretary addressed the lack of diversity in our teacher workforce earlier this year, saying while research shows more teachers of color are being hired, they’re also leaving the profession more quickly than white teachers, citing many of the reasons the teachers involved in the study shared.

The recommendations for hiring and keeping our teachers of color include encouraging and preparing a diverse group of young people to become educators and providing them with more support, improved compensation and working conditions.

Read the full report: Through Our Eyes: Perspectives and Reflections from Black Teachers






Irving S. Gilmore Foundation supports fire station’s transformation into community center

Excerpted from an MLive article, read the full article here

Once a vacant old fire station, Public Safety Station 5 in Kalamazoo, reopened Friday as a community center thanks to support from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and the Federal Community Development Block Grant Funds.

The Irving S. Gilmore Foundation gave a grant to support needed repairs and renovations.

The city historic preservation coordinator calls the building, “the last historic fire station that the city still owns.”

The historic fire station will now serve as a gathering place for community events and programming hosted by the city’s parks and recreation department.

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