A Message to CMF’s Community of Philanthropy
From President and CEO Kyle Caldwell
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker recently spoke to the board of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan about the Ford Foundation’s work in the region, including their support of Michigan’s Nonprofit Complete Count Campaign for Census 2020 and their investment in The Henry Ford. Walker also shared his new book and related invitation to dialogue entitled, “From Generosity to Justice: A New Gospel of Wealth” that focuses on philanthropy in America and builds on Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth” that has described the responsibility of philanthropy and our sector. Bringing forward that 1889 article, Walker highlights a new vision for our sector that explores the growth of prosperity our community of philanthropy is built upon, sharing that we have not only an opportunity, but a responsibility, to address inequity.
As I sat in the audience listening to his remarks, I reflected on my own exploration of a new world of philanthropy and on the work of CMF and our Michigan community of philanthropy. I left that program with a clear thought in my mind, that while there may be tensions in the work and a myriad of challenges to face, there are exciting and bold steps we are taking together to build a better future.
The Issues We Explore
To say that we are in interesting times seems to be an understatement. Michigan is uniquely positioned at an inflection point with a still-evolving economy working to diversify, an education system seeking to meet the new demands of society, a rapidly changing and uncertain environment and pressures on our governing institutions during social change. Our community of philanthropy stands at the center of these issues, seeking to understand root causes and explore saleable solutions, and deeply rooted in community problem solving. There are so many examples of this work among our membership:
Leadership in Launch Michigan’s new vision for education to serve the needs of children and families.
The basin-wide approach to water infrastructure community foundations are leading through the Great Lakes One Water Partnership.
Our work to engage policymakers in a deeper understanding of partnership with philanthropy through the Office of Foundation Liaison.
The New Way Forward We Will Chart
At the center of all this exploration – whether explicitly stated or implied – is the issue of equity. The investment in East Jefferson is one example of the economic revitalization of Detroit that has been led by philanthropy and seeks to support the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown economic turnaround. Education is the single largest investment area for Michigan philanthropy and yet the challenges in our public education system and the need for more equitable funding models are being exposed through philanthropy’s leadership. Our Great Lakes and surrounding communities are a vital resource for our health and well-being and yet their exploitation over the century of rapid economic expansion and decline leave consequences in their wake that philanthropy is seeking to mitigate. These and many other examples are the ways CMF members are charting a new way forward for Michigan philanthropy and the communities we serve, a way forward that embraces and exemplifies what Carnegie and Walker are defining as the imperatives (both traditional and new) for philanthropy.
To ensure CMF is leading this new way forward with you and for you, we will be focused on two important questions throughout 2020. First, we will continually ask the question that was shared during our 47th Annual Conference: “What does equity mean to our community of philanthropy in Michigan?” Throughout our programming, convening, communications and thought leadership, we want to advance a deeper understanding of this important issue and use our learning to inform not only our work but that of members and partners. Second, we will engage in a deep dive into our priorities and focus through a year-long comprehensive strategic planning process that we hope will guide the evolution of CMF to the next level of leadership that our community will need to grow the impact of Michigan philanthropy. With that in mind, our second question for 2020: “What do you envision for the future of your work, for CMF and for our sector?”
As 2019 comes to a close, all of us at CMF wish to thank you for the opportunity to serve you and serve beside you. CMF is made strong because of your engagement and support and is the premiere regional philanthropy serving organization in the country as a result. We are excited to continue the high-quality programming and services you have come to expect while leading the way toward a more equitable Michigan now and into the future.
Themes Emerging in Philanthropic Predictions for 2020
It’s the time of year when we reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the new year ahead. Many leaders and organizations are coming out with their predictions for 2020. As we track them, we’ve uncovered a few key themes that are sure to impact our sector in the coming year.
1. Technology Integration
Thought leaders making predictions for 2020 almost universally mention the role of technology in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our work.
Scot Chisholm, CEO and co-founder of the social enterprise technology company Classy, talks about technology from the perspective of integrations that infuse giving into typical consumer habits and experiences. In his post 5 Fundraising Trends for 2020 and Beyond, he wrote, “As technology continues to evolve—think things like “Alexa, make a donation,” and the advent of driverless cars and essentially a “second living room”—we’ll only see more opportunities and integrations crop up that allow nonprofits to interact with consumers through platforms like Uber, Venmo, Shopify, and Twitch.”
In her annual predictions, philanthropic futurist Trista Harris talked about the growth of the role of Chief Digital Officers. “These CDOs will hire staff and consultants with expertise in automation to limit the amount of time that staff spend on repetitive duties like checking nonprofit status, updating databases, and managing reporting and instead use that time to deepen relationships in community,” Harris shared via her website.
The Forbes Nonprofit Council also cited cutting-edge technology in their listing of 12 Nonprofit Trends We’re Likely to See in 2020. Council members referenced artificial intelligence, donations via text, new platforms for nonprofit connections, investments in technology to drive innovation and blockchain.
2. Election Effect
The election climate, and the implications the election may have on fundraising, are common themes in 2020 predictions. Chisolm anticipates a potential surge of donations for certain causes as November’s election nears.
In the Forbes article, council member Thom Ruhe of the NC Idea Foundation called for nonprofits to stay focused on their mission and priorities, noting, “We will need to be the safe port in the storm and an antidote for what will likely be challenging times.”
Harris sees foundations being leaders in defending democracy. “From creating spaces for people to come together and discuss solutions to complex issues, to reinvigorating our civics curriculums in schools, to ensuring the safety of elections locally and globally, foundations will have to develop new skills and relationships to have an impact on this critical need.”
3. Employee Wellness and Flexible Work Environments
Both Harris and Chisolm predict nonprofits and foundations will more deeply explore employee wellness and flexible work environments in the coming year.
“With such concerning data surrounding fundraiser turnover and satisfaction, it seems clear that the organizations that place greater emphasis on what employees are asking for—flexibility—will be the organizations that rise to the top,” Chisolm shared.
Harris offered specifics for workplace improvements, including employee wellness programs, additional remote work options, additional vacation days and investments in improving organizational culture.
We will be reporting on additional 2020 trend reports as they become available. Stay tuned to CMF’s social media channels!
Nonprofits React to the Purchase of the .ORG Domain
In a November 13 press release, the Internet Society announced it had reached an agreement with Ethos Capital, under which Ethos Capital would acquire Public Interest Registry (PIR), the company that owns the .ORG domain. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.
Nonprofits have raised concerns about the sale and the possible future implications for their organizations.
Two key concerns from the sector: the possibility of domain price increases and the threat of censorship.
The former concern largely stems from an action earlier in the year, when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the governing body which oversees .ORG domain rights, removed a price-hike cap at 10 percent for annual increases on.ORG domains.
“The concern is not just about this purchase,” Rick Cohen, COO, National Council of Nonprofits, said in an interview with CNN Business. "It is about this purchase, coupled with the removal of pricing caps that have protected nonprofits from exorbitant price increases on the .ORG domains they rely upon.”
During a December 5, 2019, community call organized by NTEN, a membership organization of nonprofit technology professionals, Erik Brooks, founder and CEO of Ethos Capital, shared, “Keeping .ORG accessible and reasonably priced for everyone is 100% our intention. Annual price increases could be no more than 10% on average, which is consistent with historic practice.” He later reiterated, “We are committed to staying within the spirit of how PIR has operated within the price system that they operated with before.”
The concern of censorship relates to the registry having the power to develop and implement Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs). According to ICANN’s website, RPMs are designed “to support a trusted marketplace.” A letter crafted in opposition to the sale says that if not carefully crafted, such mechanisms could “risk censoring completely legal nonprofit activities.”
The letter goes on to say, “A registry could abuse these powers to do significant harm to the global NGO sector, intentionally or not. We cannot afford to put them into the hands of a private equity firm that has not earned the trust of the NGO community. .ORG must be managed by a leader that puts the needs of NGOs over profits.”
While it is true that nonprofits are the primary users of .ORG, it’s also important to understand that nonprofits are not the only users of the domain, a fact that complicates the issue.
During the recent community call, Andrew Sullivan, CEO of the Internet Society, said, “It’s not true and it’s never been true that .ORG is exclusively for nonprofits. There is no requirement for anything in terms of a .ORG registration.”
The PIR website states, “Whether you're a social enterprise, non-profit, community group, blogger, or anyone interested in making an impact online - and in the world - .ORG is the right fit for you.”
For many nonprofits, .ORG is part of their brand. Making a domain change at this time would be incredibly costly and difficult to accomplish.
Mitch Stolz, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who also participated in the community call said, “There are now millions of nonprofits who are essentially captive audience of .ORG at this point. There are people for whom switching domain names is nearly impossible at this point.”
On December 9, ICANN shared that it has requested additional information from PIR about the transaction. In a message shared on its website, the group states, “ICANN will thoroughly evaluate the responses and then ICANN has 30 additional days to provide or withhold its consent to the request.”
At the time this article was published, the petition at savedotorg.org has been signed by 17,426 people.
This issue has been raised to CMF’s Public Policy Committee for their discussion; a resolution opposing the sale is being presented for action. If approved, a resolution would later be brought to the full board.
Check out the PIR and Ethos Convene Community Webinar on December 19.
Watch the video of the community call hosted by NTEN on December 5 with Andrew Sullivan from Internet Society, Electronic Frontier Foundation, The National Council of Nonprofits and Internet Society chapter leaders, as well as Jon Nevett from Public Interest Registry, and Erik Brooks and Nora Abusitta from Ethos Capital.
The Gerber Foundation Reflects on Mission-Aligned Grantmaking in 2019
Gerber isn’t just a household name in baby food; it’s also a leader in supporting children in West Michigan.
Founded in 1952 as the Gerber Baby Foods Fund, The Gerber Foundation was a collaborative effort between Dan Gerber Sr., who spearheaded his namesake company’s focus on infant nutrition, and the Gerber Products Company. The goal was to help children develop, learn and grow with more than just food products.
“It all goes back to the history of The Gerber Foundation,” Catherine Obits, program manager, The Gerber Foundation said. “Dan Gerber and the company started this foundation, and he was a very strong proponent of supporting youth and helping them grow and learn to become good citizens. We try to continue that today with our local grant making.”
As a result, the foundation began robust grant making nationally and statewide.
In 1994, the foundation became a separately endowed, private foundation when Gerber Products Company merged with Sandoz Ltd. In 1997, the name was changed to The Gerber Foundation.
According to the foundation, most of its funding today is dedicated to research on health and nutritional issues of infants and young children. But it also has a portion of funds dedicated to the development of youth ages zero to 18 in Lake, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana Counties, which includes some scholarships for graduating students of select high schools in those four counties.
Obits spoke with CMF about six specific grants that the foundation made in 2019 focused on its mission of supporting youth growth and development in West Michigan.
$10,000 to the Newaygo County Area Promise Zone
The Newaygo County Area Promise Zone provides tuition payments for students in Newaygo County attending Muskegon Community College to receive an associate’s degree. The Gerber Foundation has funded the Promise Zones for three years, citing the need for funding to keep the program going after its initial launch in 2016.
“We’ve been very pleased with the outcomes so far and the number of kids who are taking advantage of the opportunity,” Obits said.
$25,000 to the Newaygo County Museum and Heritage Center
The Gerber Foundation has a long history of providing annual funding to the Museum and Heritage Center for civics- and history-based learning for second, third and fourth graders. Museum staff develops grade-specific curricula with hands-on components, such as learning how ancient tools were made and used.
Due to program popularity, the Museum required more classroom space and some facilities upgrades to accommodate the growing number of student participants. The foundation funded some of the expansion and renovation in addition to two smaller grants for an exhibit showing how two local dams work and an interactive loom so kids can learn how fabrics were made before the Industrial Revolution.
$10,000 to Fremont Public Schools
In response to the state’s newly enacted law stating that third graders who are more than one grade level behind in reading may be required to repeat third grade, The Gerber Foundation provided funds to Fremont Public Schools to hire and support am elementary literacy coach to identify and support students with reading difficulties to help them read at grade level. The goal of the coach is to reduce the number of students reading below grade level and to prevent students from having to repeat grades. The coach also identifies students with learning disabilities that may be a barrier to their reading abilities and provides them with additional support.
“The coach has had great success,” Obits said. “Most of the kids that she works with can grow two grade levels in reading in just one semester.” The grant also allowed the coach to work with students over the summer to provide additional support to students who were in need and to minimize learning loss over the school break.
$10,000 to Grant Christian School
The foundation funded the Grant Christian School, a private K-8 school in Grant, for the first time in 2019 with the goal of providing state-of-the-art teaching tools, particularly in STEM education. The Gerber Foundation’s gift is part of a larger fundraising project for the school that includes the Fremont Area Community Foundation. The project will provide computers, smart boards and other equipment for teachers and students.
The Center for Interprofessional Health is a healthcare education and training facility located on Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile. The facility provides hands-on learning opportunities for students studying healthcare fields at Grand Valley. Students can practice on mannequins and live volunteers. The foundation is specifically funding a pediatrics exam room where students can practice on real and simulated child patients.
This project aligns with the foundation’s mission in two ways: It supports older youth who are students in healthcare fields and helps to cultivate the next generation of pediatric caregivers to support children’s health and well-being.
$177,407 to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation
Aligning with the foundation’s primary focus on research for children’s health, this grant allows plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Mann to conduct research on a technique for treating cleft palates in children. Preliminary research shows that Dr. Mann’s technique may be highly effective in improving patients’ speech and facial growth as well as reducing the number of follow-up surgeries necessary for patients.
“We’re looking specifically at the speech outcomes,” Obits said. “Mann will be using an online public mechanism where people can grade patients’ speech and nasal quality to see if patients whom he has treated have less-nasal speech than those who have undergone different treatments and comparing the speech of those treated by his technique with that of adults who never had a cleft palate repair.”
Member Spotlight: Wilson Foundation to make $10 million grant to Detroit's neighborhood revitalization fund
Adapted from a story by Kurt Nagl in Crain’s Detroit
The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is making a $10 million grant to Detroit's Strategic Neighborhood Fund to improve commercial corridors and parks across 10 neighborhoods.
Seven corporations — American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Fifth Third Bank, Flagstar Bank, Huntington Bank, Penske Corp. and TCF/Chemical Bank — have each agreed to contribute $5 million. Half of the total $35 million from those companies is directed toward the LISC Affordable Housing Leverage Fund, and the other half goes toward the neighborhood revitalization fund, dubbed SNF 2.0.
"Over the next five years, this grant will help to strengthen and grow these commercial corridors," Lavea Brachman, vice president of programs for the Wilson Foundation, said at a Wednesday event announcing the grant. "We're excited to make investments that drive inclusive small business in neighborhoods."
To date, SNF has raised $50.1 million, or 85 percent of its $59 million goal. Funds raised for SNF 2.0 include $10 million from the Wilson Foundation, $17.5 million from the aforementioned corporations, $5 million from JPMorgan Chase, $15 million from the Kresge Foundation, $2 million from the Skillman Foundation, $500,000 from the Ford Foundation and $125,000 from Bank of America.
The Wilson Foundation's grant is part of its place-based investments aimed at "driving job growth, building community wealth and generating additional economic development," according to the release.
"If it were not for these funds, the aperture, the entire scale of our vision would be different because we would be working only with the funds that the city and potentially the state might be able to bring to bear," Arthur Jemison, Detroit's group executive for housing, planning and development, said at Wednesday's event.
A community engagement process at each of the targeted neighborhoods will inform how the investment is used. The SNF neighborhoods are Grand River Northwest, Warrendale/Cody-Rouge, Russell Woods/Nardin Park, Campau/Banglatown, Gratiot/Seven Mile, East Warren/Cadieux, Jefferson Chalmers, Islandview/Greater Villages, Vernor/Southwest and Livernois-McNichols.