August 29, 2016

Monday, August 29, 2016

Clean Energy

Michiganders use 38 percent more energy than the national average, prompting our state government, businesses and the social sector to find ways to reduce our energy usage and work toward using more renewable energy. Renewable energy, or clean energy, is collected from natural resources, sunlight, wind, rain, and heat—all things that can be naturally replenished.

Governor Rick Snyder has said his goal for Michigan is to have between 30 and 40 percent of the state’s energy needs met by a combination of renewable energy and reducing energy waste through energy efficiency. As for our higher than average energy use, Snyder said programs that focus on updating outdated insulation, furnaces and water heaters would make a difference in energy usage.

The Michigan Agency for Energy released the Clean Energy Roadmap this summer, calling the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors “strong,” but recommends that the state target new research and development to advance its clean energy industries.

Clean energy is a growing initiative for funders, a number of community foundations are joining the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Energy Foundation and CMF for a clean energy meeting following CMF’s Annual Conference in Ypsilanti next month. The foundations will discuss a potential grant program to address clean energy transition on the community level. 

Meanwhile there are ongoing efforts happening around our state, especially when it comes to solar energy. The Institute for Energy Innovation, based in Lansing, is a grantee of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The institute is managing the first Solarize Michigan campaign, working to increase the use of rooftop solar on homes and small businesses. The Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities recently launched a similar program in the Traverse City area.

Consumers Energy’s second solar garden in the state just went live last week, with enough solar panels installed at Western Michigan University to power almost 200 homes. Consumers Energy also has a solar garden at Grand Valley State University’s campus, giving customers an option to subscribe to the solar energy.

Michigan Saves, another C.S. Mott grantee, supports investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems in Michigan homes and businesses. Michigan Saves says for every public dollar there are $20 in private dollars invested in energy improvements.

Earlier this month, Inside Philanthropy shared an article about how funders are using impact investing to tackle environmental issues. The article says that it’s gaining traction, likely due to the large amount of money needed over time to make a dent in extreme variations in weather conditions.

A report released this summer shared ways mission-related investments (MRIs) can lead to climate solutions, noting, “Investments that increase renewable development, such as next generation technologies, could accelerate the adoption of higher renewable targets – policymakers need to know a target is realistic.”

While the social sector continues to connect with clean energy initiatives, work on the state level is also underway. Snyder has said Michigan could get 19 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.






The Achievement Gap

As August slips away, the focus is on all things back to school. But for many children in Michigan and across the country, disparities can hamper academic success. One in five children in the U.S. lives in poverty, according to Child Trends, which makes them likely to start the school year already behind their higher-income peers; this reality is often referred to as the “income achievement gap.” It's a growing issue, one that Robert Putnam, political scientist, Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government and bestselling author, examines in his latest book. We will hear from Putnam as he shares insights on the inequality gap and solutions needed for change at CMF's Annual Conference in September.

Research has shown that the gap in reading and math test scores between children in families with low and high incomes is twice as large as the gap between white and African American students. The gap between high- and low-income students increased to 40 percent when comparing children born in the 1970s to those born in 2001. Child Trends notes that it may take at least 60 years for the gap to equalize.

Potential issues:

  • Literacy skills are low for lower-income children as well as cognitive and language skills before they even hit preschool.
  • Children living in poverty may have less access to healthy foods, and exposure to environmental toxins in homes and water supplies that affects brain development.
  • Social issues such as exposure to violence in neighborhoods can affect a child’s development.

With these differences, children from low-income households typically enter school behind their peers and never catch up. The Aspen Institute recently shared an article discussing the homework gap children from low-income families face due to a digital divide. Fewer low-income children have access to internet at home, yet more school assignments need to be done online. The Aspen Institute calls for expanded Wi-Fi and government changes to internet policies to narrow this gap.

Michigan foundations have been discussing income and poverty issues. CMF has shared with our members about our state rankings (41st in reading) and results from The Michigan League for Public Policy “Kids Count in Michigan Data Book” for 2016. The MLPP noted that Macomb County’s poverty level was up by 74 percent; that Michigan is the 11th most unequal state in income in the nation, with its top 1 percent earning 22 times more than the rest of its workers.

A growing number of our members are working to narrow these gaps for children, some of these include:

  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan recently announced $2 million in grants to support programs aimed at improving access to healthy food for children in southeast Michigan.
  • A Charles Stewart Mott Foundation grant is turning the former Cummings Elementary School in Flint into Great Expectations Early Childhood Program, which will serve up to 220 area children ages 2 months to 5 years. The school, available free of charge to Flint families affected by the city’s water crisis, is expected to reopen by mid-September.
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Healthy Kids, Secure Families, and its ECE program, Educated Kids, focus on grants made to "whole child development," with the majority of grants designed to help young children develop emotionally, physically, and cognitively.
  • The McGregor Fund’s Cradle to Career funding program supports efforts to assure that children ages 0-5 from disadvantaged backgrounds receive adequate nurturing, education and other positive early life experiences to be prepared for kindergarten and succeed in school

Read more from MLPP's Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.






New Accounting Guidelines

Foundations and other nonprofits will have to make some significant changes in the way they report net assets, expenses and other items in their annual financial statements starting in 2017, according to new rules recently announced by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). It’s the first update of its kind in 20 years.

“While the current not-for-profit financial reporting model held up well for more than 20 years, stakeholders expressed concerns about the complexity, insufficient transparency and limited usefulness of certain aspects of the model,” Russell Golden, FASB chair said.

The new guidance is intended to simplify and improve financial statements, enabling nonprofits to better communicate their financial performance while also reducing costs in preparing their financial statements.

The FASB is requiring improved presentation and disclosures to help nonprofits provide more relevant information about their resources (and the changes in those resources) to donors, grantors, creditors, and other users in the areas of net asset classes, investment returns, expenses, liquidity and availability of resources and presentation of operating cash flows.

Specific changes for nonprofits from the FASB updated guidelines include:

  • Nonprofits will have to provide additional disclosures about how they allocate expenses and will need to change the way they report net assets.
  • Nonprofits will need to report more and clearer information concerning resources available to make general expenditures.
  • Nonprofits will need to provide additional information about endowments whose values fall below the original gift amount.    
  • Nonprofits will need to classify net assets in two categories: those with donor restrictions and those without donor restrictions. This change replaces vague and confusing definitions surrounding unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted assets currently in use, according to the board.

While these changes are not federally mandated, many states, grantmakers and creditors do require that foundations and other nonprofits follow the FASB rules and regulations.

The changes will go into effect for annual financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2017.

FASB offers more resources outlining the guidelines here.







CMF Launches New Member Online Communities

Today CMF launched new online communities, a space for you to crowdsource insights from your peers. If you are currently a member of a CMF listserv, you will be automatically switched to a new online community, allowing you to curate content, track conversations and connect with your peers.  If you’d like to join an online community, click here and check out our growing list of more than 20 groups that include affinity groups, member networks, member types, job roles and interest areas. Our online communities provide a space where CMF members can easily share information and gain insights directly from their peers. CMF made the move to a new, updated system to give members an interactive online forum where you can engage with peers on topics and issues important to your work. 

What you need to know:

  • All online community conversations will be archived on CMF's website, allowing you to search and track conversations
  • Change/control your preferences to receive immediate messages from your online community or request to receive all of the messages grouped together in one, easy to read daily digest
  • Your online community will appear in an easy to use dashboard, allowing you to view the group's activity
  • If you’re already a member of a listserv, no action is required, as you have been automatically switched to the new system

Concerned about email filters and firewalls blocking your messages?

If CMF's emails are a trusted source in your organization (you're receiving our emails) then you shouldn't have an issue receiving the emails from your online community. If you have any issues or questions, please share this link with your IT department and/or contact Bill Corkill, director of technology at CMF.

Learn more about our online communities.

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