April 20, 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

We're sharing the latest updates, best practices and learning opportunities emerging from Michigan philanthropy.


The Role of Seeing and Observing in the COVID-19 Crisis

A message to our community of philanthropy from Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of CMF

This past week we have witnessed some promising signs that the social isolation policies are beginning to “flatten the curve.” While the new coronavirus cases and recorded deaths are continuing to rise statewide, the data shows we have seen some leveling off in Detroit, at least temporarily and projections are that Michigan may be nearing the top of the upward slope if not the peak of the pandemic. Of course, with these signs of optimism, we are also seeing continuing negative impacts. 

COVID-19 and the social isolation policies are particularly hard-hitting for our senior population. Schools are struggling to shift to virtual learning environments. And the pressure to ease social isolation and essential business restrictions is mounting as federal and state officials work to develop their guidance on how we will restart our economy.

In the struggle to address the immediate and overwhelming needs, we can often miss our opportunity to observe (not just see), what is happening more deeply in a crisis and plan for the needs ahead. In their blog, the Art of Observation: The Two Types of Observation the folks at Farnam Street point out the contrast between things that appear to us (what we see) that we immediately process, and the deeper understanding and meaning we can consider when we observe. They point to the need to grow our experience as observers based on our experiences and knowledge: “When we are a novice at something, all observations are unexpected and worthy of our attention but as we learn more about a field we become more discerning about that which we consider important and noteworthy.” 

It is probably safe to say that few, if any of us, have lived through the experience of a worldwide pandemic and economic downturn quite like this. However, philanthropy and in particular Michigan philanthropy, does have experience in dealing with major health crises and major economic downturns. 

In the 1980s AIDS was largely a death sentence especially for marginalized populations. Late in the decade, Michigan philanthropy developed an unprecedented state response to the AIDS crisis. CMF joined the then Michigan Department of Public Health and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to form an unprecedented funder collaborative — the Michigan AIDS Fund. The Mott Foundation was initially joined by major grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Metro Health Foundation and loaned staff from The Kresge Foundation. Over the 20 year lifespan of the fund, more than 40 foundations and corporate giving programs and individuals committed more than $12 million to support efforts to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.

At the beginning of the Great Recession, Michigan and Detroit specifically, were feeling the financial hardships of a downward economy. Labor markets were suffering, economic development in the city was slow and many residents could not access the labor market. There was also a clear recognition that Michigan’s overall success could be tightly linked to the success of its single largest major metropolitan region. In 2006 and 2007, 13 Michigan foundations pooled resources to develop a strategy for the Detroit region to think differently about its economic prosperity. The New Economy Initiative (NEI) was born and its current mission to grow an inclusive culture of entrepreneurship in Southeast Michigan works to benefit residents and strengthen the region’s economy. Since 2007, NEI has garnered $159 million from philanthropy to support strategic grantmaking, promote multi-sector convening and advance the expansion and understanding of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. That work has helped develop one of the most robust entrepreneur corridors and a network of more than 225 resources.

In these two examples we are able to “see” our community of philanthropy stepping up to a crisis, working to stand up coalitions, pooling resources and enabling strategic grantmaking. But a deeper look could help us all understand how we might be better observers of the COVID-19 crisis. With that lens, here are some “observations” I take away from these efforts.

  • Clearly the AIDS crisis and the coronavirus are dramatically different diseases but they do share a disproportionate negative impact on marginalized populations. In the case of AIDS, there is no cure and a vaccine for COVID-19 remains elusive. It was not easy to get the general public to truly understand the AIDS epidemic. Initially those infected were stigmatized while epidemiologists strived not only to find a cure but get the public to clearly understand the seriousness of the disease as well as the ways to stop its transmission. Standing at the center of an issue of equity, it was clear that philanthropy could and perhaps should play a role in helping to find a cure, treat those infected with compassion and dignity and work to stop the discrimination and marginalization that those infected or potentially infected might face. 

  • Prior to the Detroit bankruptcy Michigan philanthropy was actively engaged in working to develop a new economic way forward for the region’s economy. There was a clear understanding in our philanthropic community — we saw — that our economy had to move from an over-dependence on one way of economic prosperity (auto manufacturing) to a diverse and inclusive framework that provided opportunities for all. Leaders in our community observed that previous economic recoveries were increasingly unable to support the middle class as Michiganders had come to expect and large single industry employment would not be the only solution. NEI — eventually determining an entrepreneurial ecosystem —developed new strategies for economic mobility and sustainability that are more individually grounded and universally accessible.

As we look to the coronavirus and its spread in Michigan, CMF members have supported more than 30 COVID-19 pooled relief and response funds, provided matching grants to employee contributions to frontline nonprofits and direct grants to community-based nonprofits distributing food, fast-tracking grants to advance access to mental health services and extending technology or virtual learning. In just six weeks our community of philanthropy “saw” the need for immediate flexibility, the focusing of resources and the ability to deploy resources rapidly where they are needed most. This has created new and stronger partnerships among CMF members, nonprofit grantees, local United Way organizations, small businesses, and government at all levels.

Now we need to ask ourselves what we observe in the wake of a dual issued crisis (pandemic and dramatic economic downturn) beyond our immediate response. It will be difficult to suspend the high volume of demands for help in supporting our seniors, educating our children, fortifying our public health and emergency health care systems and working to partner with the business community that is reeling from a stalled economy. But now is the time to think ahead. This will be like no other recovery in recent history so while we can look back for lessons and insights, there will be no road map that will definitively outline what is next. So now is the time to observe and ready ourselves for what may be next — what will be the consequences, what are our data points and how will we prepare for life after this crisis? Here are some questions we will be exploring at CMF: 

  • Fiscal Health —There have been some studies on the nonprofit sector broadly but no clear industry index as we see in other “industries.” If we had one, we probably would want to ask ourselves: "what do we know about the fiscal health of our own nonprofit partners before the crisis hit, now in the midst of our response and later as we reopen our economy?" 

  • Business Model — For nearly a decade our sector has promoted a number of best practices to help nonprofits expand their support base including earned revenue, events and individual fundraising efforts including planned giving and targeting the wealth transfer. Even storied and successful membership organizations like ours are struggling to effectively engage our members during this crisis as spring is our prime convening season outside of our fall annual conference. There are fundamental challenges to the nonprofit business model. These require a certain level of engagement, intimacy and commerce-related activities that the coronavirus has disrupted. Do we reinvent the nonprofit business model to conform to a society that will be experiencing intermittent social isolation policies or do we need an interim way of doing business that straddles this crisis and our “new normal?”

  • The Social Compact — Our experiences in previous recessions and national disasters have provided some lessons for us to reflect upon going forward. September 11, 2001; Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Sandy; the SARS and Ebola epidemics; the Great Depression and Great Recession all provide models for us. None of these alone however are going to be sufficient to help us fully mark our next six to 24-month journey of the COVID-19 crisis. Nonprofits will be challenged to meet overwhelming needs with already limited resources. Foundations will be challenged to continue strategic grantmaking and a long-term focus on outcomes while surging support for emergency response. The already fraying of the social compact (innovation in the social sector that is scaled by the public sector and free markets) will be stretched even further. The COVID -19 crisis is showing both the agility and limitations of the nonprofit sector to address issues alone. The public sector’s infusion or intent of capital to nonprofits as small businesses demonstrates what is possible, even while the Payroll Protection Program loans have not been readily clear or accessible to charities. In this new reality, what will be our opportunity to both explore and renew the social compact?

  • Rebuilding and Rebalancing for Sustainability — The impact of the coronavirus crisis is going to negatively impact nonprofits, foundations and donors. Foundations are going to realign their grantmaking priorities, double down on their payouts and change their expectations on endowment growth. Small family foundations are watching the market as they try to find new ways to support their nonprofit partners. Spend down foundations have to recalibrate their strategies and expectations, almost in real-time. Community foundations have to sort out new pressures as a whole area of need and potentially new types of partners — small for-profit businesses — come knocking on their doors looking for support. All the while enormous pressure will be placed on investment committees and advisors as they work to look above the current market volatility and determine how to preserve and grow assets as pressures on grantmaking only increases.

Nonprofits are resetting budget revenue expectations, changing their programming designs and prioritizing how they provide the services their constituents need. Whether it’s a food pantry that’s working to meet the increased demand while food supply chains are disrupted, a senior center working to protect the health of both their residents and employees while keeping away loved ones to reduce the spread of the virus or an arts organization trying to survive the stall of patron engagement, all are dealing with a new harsh reality — wondering if their organization endure. Foundations and nonprofits alike are going to be asking key questions of how we rebalance, what do we rebuild and how do we as mission-driven organizations find new ways toward sustainability — not just of our organizations but of our very sector and the outcomes we seek to achieve?

In our community of philanthropy, none of us have the answers to these questions today, nor should we. There is not enough data nor certainty to the conditions on the ground to provide any confidence that our answers might be right. What we can do now is see what is happening, listen to grantees and communities when it comes to challenges and the context and address the immediate needs effectively and collaboratively. At the same time, we need to ask ourselves hard questions regarding the future and observe – look for data, reflect on our past and current experiences for lessons and demonstrate perpetual curiosity of possible new best practices – so that we are ready to forge a new way forward to grow the impact of Michigan philanthropy as we evolve to a new reality after this crisis abates. All of us at CMF look forward to supporting and guiding you and your organization on this difficult journey and appreciate not only all you are doing to help all Michiganders during this crisis but your support in CMF as well. Thank you.

All the best,





Independent Redistricting Commission Applications Continue Virtually in Pandemic

Applications for the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission are still being accepted and processed virtually, despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

The commission will be tasked with drawing district lines for the Michigan Legislature and Michigan’s members of Congress for the 2022 election.

The application window for the commission is still set to close on June 1. Registered voters can apply online to serve on the commission and several e-notaries are waiving their fees to help this process continue during the pandemic.

“Democracy is sacrosanct, perhaps especially when our society faces uncertainty,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state said. “We can and must provide safe ways for Michiganders to maintain their democratic rights as we take on the coronavirus.”

The state announced last week that the Michigan Department of State has already processed 4,332 notarized applications for the commission, putting Michigan “on track to surpass the number of final submissions processed by California when it first launched a similar commission.”  

“Michiganders remain as committed to participating in our democracy as they were in 2018 when voters amended our state constitution to create this commission and make our election districts fairer,” Benson said. “Surpassing California’s number of final completed applications demonstrates the tremendous enthusiasm for democracy in Michigan.”

While Michigan has received thousands of applications, there are growing concerns whether the pool of applicants is reflective of the state’s demographics and includes diverse representation.

The state is tracking detailed information on the applicant pool. The data from the 4,332 applications received to date shows that:

  • The majority of applicants are white (3,675). Only 9% (390) are African Americans and 1.3% (56) are Asian Americans. You can view the complete data here.

  • 59% of the applicants are men.

  • 82% of the applicants are over the age of 45.

To ensure there are diverse representation and voices serving on the commission and broad participation in developing inclusive maps, CMF encourages members to share the online application with their networks.

“This commission is responsible for drawing district lines and shaping our democracy. Moving the application process to an all-virtual platform with free e-notaries helps to remove barriers for those who otherwise may not have been able to participate in the process,” Regina Bell, director of government relations and public policy at CMF said. “We have an opportunity to encourage community members and leaders and next-generation leaders to apply and help shape a commission that is representative of our state.”

As CMF’s policy team shared in the latest edition of The Policy Brief, the commission is expected to begin working this fall and will have one year to determine district lines, which will be used for elections in 2022.

While the initial applicant pool must be representative of the state’s population in terms of geography, race, age and gender, the speaker of the house, majority and minority leader legislators will have the option to disqualify up to five applicants each before the Secretary of State’s Office randomly selects the final 13 commissioners.

Want more?

Apply to serve on the commission.

Share the application with your networks.

The state directs anyone with questions on the process to email: [email protected].






Census 2020: Field Operations Further Delayed

The U.S. Census Bureau has announced another shift in census operations due to COVID-19. CMF reported in March that the bureau was pausing field operations due to COVID-19. The bureau now shares they are taking active steps to resume field operations as early as June 1.

The current delay has shifted the timeline for Census 2020 as follows:

  • The self-response deadline has been extended from July 31 to October 31.

  • In-person follow up to those who haven’t responded to the census will now take place August 11 – October 31.

  • Apportionment counts are expected to be delivered to the president by April 30, 2021 and redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.

Michigan’s self-response rate is among the highest in the nation at 56.5% with 48.6% of responses submitted online.

You can view self-response rates by city and county. Recent examples include:

  • Detroit, 40%

  • Grand Rapids, 54.4%

  • Flint, 40%

  • Kalamazoo, 49%

  • Midland, 66%

  • Sault Ste. Marie, 48%

The Nonprofits Complete Count Campaign (NPCCC), led by the Michigan Nonprofit Association, shared this statement with CMF:

“Protecting the health of communities by maintaining physical distancing is critical and we support the Census Bureau’s plan to delay the start of field operations. We are analyzing these changes and what they mean for our campaign. In the wake of COVID-19, we will continue to use innovative strategies - including deploying digital organizing tools and working with essential businesses to further our outreach, education and training on participation in the 2020 Census.”

Want more?

CMF encourages you to promote census participation on your own social media channels. The bureau provides downloadable social media graphics and language you can use to encourage your family, friends and colleagues to respond to the census.

Connect with the latest from the NPCCC. You can see what’s emerging from regional census hubs and receive blogs.  

Stay connected with updates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Go online now to fill out your census form today! You also have the option of completing the questionnaire by phone. To begin, call 844-330-2020. English and Spanish phone lines are open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.






CMF Members Combat Misinformation Through Social Media Influencers

With so much information on COVID-19 coming from various sources, many community members may find it difficult to determine what to interpret as fact. In conjunction with Spectrum Health Lakeland (SPL), the Berrien Community Foundation (BCF) and the Frederick S. Upton Foundation have supported a local campaign to stop the spread of misinformation around COVID-19.

The health system and the Berrien County Health Department determined that social media was an effective way to share information with the community. SPL received funding from BCF and the Upton Foundation to reach Berrien County’s African American and Latinx populations to provide accurate information about the spread of COVID-19.

BCF, the Upton Foundation and SPL contracted local social media influencers from around the community to post key information on Facebook, Instagram and other popular platforms.

“It was important for us to recognize that traditional communication and marketing channels may not be reaching all populations,” Lisa Cripps-Downey, president, BCF said. “While not conventional, this grant could help to open up channels of communication now and in the future.”

One such communication is The Internal Work of Love with Betty Fisher, a Facebook Live discussion between local author and influencer Betty Fisher Berth King, co-founder of Strong Women of Faith, and Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health. In just one day, the segment received over 5,000 views.

Both BCF and SPL hope this effort will continue to improve trust in health care providers among community members.

“SPL had already laid the groundwork for this through their Community Grand Rounds effort that examines structural racism and how this impacts the health of minority populations,” Cripps-Downey said. “This effort has already been successful in engaging the community in conversations and understanding about disparities in health care outcomes along racial lines.”

SPL will evaluate campaign results over time to guide future communications and incorporate broad-based community engagement. Meanwhile, BCF hopes to utilize some of these tactics to bolster outreach for other key efforts, including the 2020 Census.

“BCF was so pleased to participate in this opportunity and to have the ability to provide the necessary funding,” Cripps-Downey said. “This was exactly the type of project we have been looking for as we are the Census 2020 hub for Berrien County. In addition to the communication on COVID-19, we were able to provide additional funding for messages around the importance of completing the census to be communicated through this network of social influencers.”

Want more?

Watch The Internal Work of Love with Betty Fisher’s segment on COVID-19.






COVID-19 Leadership Snapshot: Corporate Philanthropy’s Response

New partnerships and strategies to help our most vulnerable communities continue to emerge from within our community of philanthropy. We’re highlighting a few examples of how CMF corporate members are taking the lead as they work to meet the growing needs of Michiganders and communities across the country.

The Consumers Energy Foundation announced last week it has provided over $1 million to nonprofits, including $600,000 to protect and support healthcare workers and $500,000 to nonprofits across the state.

“It’s inspirational to see how Michiganders are stepping up to fight the COVID-19 virus,” Brandon Hofmeister, president, Consumers Energy Foundation said in a press release. “As our company continues to provide critical energy to Michigan’s homes and hospitals, our foundation is honored to support the front line of this war against COVID – through providing additional protective equipment for doctors and nurses, helping our senior citizens stay safe in isolation and ensuring everyone in Michigan has access to food.”

Grants totaling $300,000 will be distributed to 30 community foundations supporting 45 counties across Consumers Energy’s service territory

“Consumers Energy Foundation’s latest commitment to address the challenges of the coronavirus is an investment in local problem solving,” Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of CMF said. “Michigan’s community foundations are connected to the issues and nonprofits that are most relevant during this crisis. This latest grantmaking will go a long way in supporting local partnerships, front line nonprofits, United Ways and others helping Michiganders’ resilience.”

The DTE Foundation has partnered with the Michigan Association of United Ways and Michigan Community Action for a matching donation program.

“Our foundation has funded 1 million meals; provided 100,000 families with basic needs; and shored up nearly 400 small businesses so they can survive this crisis,” Jerry Norcia, president, DTE wrote in an email to customers. “We’ve committed to donating 2 million KN95 respiratory masks and have already delivered thousands to the Detroit Police Department and area hospitals to keep our first responders safe.”

Foundations with statewide, national and international footprints are finding unique challenges and innovative opportunities as they provide crisis relief.

The Bosch Community Fund provided grants for food relief to Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan and Feeding America, both working to provide food to families in need.

“The opportunity and the privilege, really, is that we can help support many communities where Bosch associates, customers and partners live and work,” Kathleen Owsley, president, Bosch Community Fund and CMF Board of Trustees vice chair said. “The challenge, as with all foundations, is making those dollars stretch across as many areas and topics as possible, so it’s important we pick strong partners that share that goal.”

The Steelcase Foundation—an independent 501I(3) which functions as a hybrid of a family foundation and a corporate foundation—named The Center for Disaster Philanthropy as one of the first organizations funded through its disaster relief fund.

“The Center for Disaster Philanthropy was one of the first responders selected because of our admiration for the thoughtful, longer-term approach that organization takes to relief,” Julie Ridenour, president, The Steelcase Foundation said. “That was a niche that the Center for Disaster Philanthropy solely occupied.”

Additionally, Steelcase has expanded its program providing matching funding for U.S. employees and retirees of Steelcase Inc. to include disaster relief organizations.

“These matches recognize the generosity of the company’s employees and retirees, and all of the good work and organizations they support,” Ridenour said. “It reflects their benevolence as well as that of their employer, Steelcase, Inc., and helps to elevate the Steelcase name.”

Auto manufacturers such as General Motors (GM) and Ford, who are also CMF corporate members, are stepping in to produce personal protection equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

GM has partnered with Ventec Life Systems to support the production of VOCSN critical care ventilators. GM is also manufacturing surgical masks at its plant in Warren.

“We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic,” Mary Barra, chairwoman and CEO, GM said in a press release.

Ford has created partnerships with 3M, GE Health and the United Auto Workers (UAW) to produce PPE. The auto manufacturer is working with 3M and GE Health to redesign and produce PPE and partnering with the UAW to support the manufacturing of such devices.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation,” Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford said in a press release.

The Council on Foundations (COF) published a joint letter from COF, the Association of American Citizenship Professionals, Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose and Points of Light to highlight the importance of collaboration among corporate foundations and giving programs during this time.

Many corporate funders agree collaboration and partnership is critical, especially in a crisis.

“I am grateful to my fellow corporate funders who are always quick to galvanize and share information,” Owsley said. “They have been so helpful as information sources during this crisis.”

Want more?

Read COF’s joint letter





Fund Launches to Support Families and Workers in Long-Term Economic Recovery

Content excerpted and adapted from a press release. Read the full release. 

The Ford Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation, both CMF members, in partnership with several other funders, recently announced the launch of the Families and Workers Fund.

The fund is dedicated to serving the workers, families and communities most devastated by the economic and health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundations shared that with an initial commitment of $7.1 million and a goal to raise $20 million, the fund will provide flexible funding to organizations working to prevent workers and families from sinking more deeply into poverty during the initial months of the pandemic and to support policy and advocacy efforts that center workers and families in long-term economic recovery.

The fund will:

  • Facilitate direct cash grants and loans to individuals, with a focus on those who are most likely to be left out of the government’s emergency policy response—especially workers and families who are reeling from layoffs, temporary business and school shutdowns and caretaking duties.

  • Advance economic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, designed with and for vulnerable workers, families and communities by providing grants to policy and advocacy organizations, worker groups, community nonprofits, and others advancing and implementing policies and business practices that stabilize working people during the acute phase of this crisis (e.g., paid sick days and unemployment insurance).

“Through this fund, we will address not only the immediate needs of workers and families during this crisis but we will support long-term policy change that puts them at the center of the economic response,” Sarita Gupta, director of the Ford Foundation’s Future of Work(ers) program said.

The foundations shared: “COVID-19 is highlighting the deep structural defects in our economy. Low-wage workers have long faced low pay, shrinking benefits, and limited on-the-job opportunity, yet this crisis emphasizes how critical their work is to our survival and the functioning of our society. This fund will support community nonprofits, frontline groups and worker organizations to help struggling workers understand and access benefits—especially new, emergency provisions organizations have long fought for.”

To date CMF has captured more than 30 urgent relief funds on our COVID-19 Resource Central webpage created by or in partnership with CMF members. Are you aware of a relief and response fund led by or supported by Michigan philanthropy not listed? If so, contact CMF.

Want more?

Learn more about the Families and Workers Fund.

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