November 15, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

Supporting Afghan Resettlement Needs

Thousands of individuals and their families from Afghanistan are expected to arrive in Michigan in the coming months following the U.S. military’s departure from the region. According to the state, as of early November, 275 Afghan arrivals have already arrived in Michigan.

The Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) has been working closely with the governor’s executive office and the state discussing how the state, resettlement agencies and philanthropy can effectively and equitably support our new neighbors.

OFL has hosted conversations and made connections between CMF members and the state. 

In October, OFL and FLAC hosted a conversation with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s policy director, the state’s Office of Global Michigan and resettlement organizations to unpack the challenges facing our new neighbors, the nonprofit support system designed to serve them and opportunities for Michigan philanthropy to ensure they are connected with the resources needed.

This Thursday, OFL and FLAC are hosting a follow-up conversation to discuss next steps for Michigan philanthropy to effectively support Afghan arrivals. 

The Latest from the State 
The Michigan resettlement agencies, under consultation with the Office of Global Michigan, are currently approved for approximately 1,600 Afghan arrivals. Michigan is working closely with the federal government to coordinate the arrivals of Afghan allies and nationals as they come to Michigan.

According to a press release, arriving Afghans will go to one of the state’s five resettlement agencies: Grand Rapids-based Bethany Christian Services, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County, Samaritas in metro-Detroit and West Michigan, St. Vincent Catholic Charities in mid-Michigan and United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) in Dearborn.

The resettlement agencies help identify needs such as permanent housing, employment opportunities, provide cultural orientation, assist in signing refugees up for public benefits, enroll children in school and assist in securing a state ID/ driver’s license.

Recently, Jack Markell, White House Coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome, met with state and local leaders to learn more about Michigan’s support in welcoming Afghan arrivals and other immigrants.

"Michigan has shown strong leadership in the resettlement of our Afghan Allies, and I'm grateful to see firsthand the exemplary work being done to equip our new neighbors for success in the long term," Markell said in a press release. "We look forward to continued support and leadership from our Michigan partners and sharing with other states the best practices we've seen here today."

According to the state, Michigan’s efforts include:

•    Directing engagement from the state refugee coordinator's office with the five Michigan resettlement agencies to identify and address their needs to accomplish this important work in partnership.

•    Activating early-on an interagency operations framework to ensure housing, food and other wrap-around supports for arriving families in a short timeframe.

•    Working closely with federal partners to explore unique ways to further increase our capacity to welcome Afghan families.

•    Launching a statewide volunteer and donation website to provide an additional layer of support.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Office of Global Michigan (OGM) remain committed to welcoming refugees and immigrants. 

The governor, OGM and the Michigan Community Service Commission are calling on Michiganders to volunteer to ease the transition and welcome individuals and families to Michigan.

A new online resource has been launched where Michiganders can find volunteer opportunities to support Afghans arriving in the state.

If you’d like to learn more about how philanthropy can support our new neighbors, join OFL and CMF members this Thursday for Afghan Resettlement Needs in MI: Discussing Next Steps for Philanthropy.

Want more?

Read the full state press release.

Watch the full Briefing on Afghan Resettlement Needs in MI.

Learn more about OFL and FLAC’s upcoming conversation. 

Questions? Please connect with Karen Aldridge Eason, Foundation Liaison, OFL. 




Deepening Connections with State Policymakers 

Over 30 CMF members engaged with state policymakers and their staff during Foundations In Lansing, a pilot series of virtual engagements for our community of philanthropy to deepen connections, educate policymakers and highlight philanthropy as a community thought leader and partner to government.

Foundations In Lansing was modeled after our annual federal policymaker event, Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). 

For decades CMF members and CMF have engaged in FOTH, a national, annual two-day event in Washington, D.C. where we meet with our elected federal representatives to discuss key issues of importance to Michigan philanthropy.

Foundations In Lansing provided an opportunity for CMF members to connect with members of the Michigan Legislature and learn about their legislative priorities.

“Working with our state and federal legislators is imperative to make where we live, work and play the best they can be. Together with public and private ideas and funding we can have a positive impact for all,” Sara Morley LaCroix, trustee of Morley Family Foundation and CMF trustee said.

Dennis Fliehman, president and CEO of Capitol Region Community Foundation shared the importance of deepening relationships with our state policymakers to promote trust-building. 

“We want policymakers to use us as a valued resource when it comes to addressing the needs of the communities we serve, and to enact legislation that we know will benefit those communities,” Fliehman said. 

CMF members led conversations with our state policymakers focused on several key points: 

•    Philanthropy is a thought partner, community convener and capacity builder to help create transformational change in Michigan communities. 

•    Philanthropy can be a source of expertise and partnership in areas like education, health care and economic prosperity.

•    Philanthropy, and the charitable sector in general, is a vital, diverse part of Michigan’s economy as employers, funders and their abilities to bring people together. 

•    As a critical partner, it is essential that policy strengthens the tools and resources available to philanthropy and empowers and encourages all citizens to contribute their time, talent and treasure.

Monica Schuyler, executive director for Pennies From Heaven Foundation, shared more about the value of engaging with state lawmakers. 

“In my role working as a place-based foundation, I have a level of awareness about the community that we serve, and that includes the positive and negative impacts that policy can have on those it is intended to serve. I strongly believe that a part of my role for the community that I serve is helping to represent and advocate for our community,” Schuyler said. 

Amina Iqbal, senior community investment officer at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) participated in a meeting with Representative Donna Lasinski.

“It is important for philanthropic institutions, especially community foundations, to engage with elected officials to share our learnings of what we are actively listening to in the community, so we can take action and support policies for a more equitable future for all,” Iqbal said.  

The conversations with policymakers were designed to highlight three specific lanes of partnership:

•    Matters of economic prosperity and education highlighting the ways that philanthropy effectively engages in these spaces. 

•    Constituent connection opportunities, recognizing the ways philanthropy serves as a convener in communities and how foundations can serve as an on the ground resource for policymakers to hear about emerging issues in their district.

•    Issues that affect the health of the charitable sector, especially legislation providing tax credits for donations to community foundation endowments. We want policymakers to include us in the conversations about changes that can affect philanthropy. 

CMF members heard from policymakers on the issues they care about the most and where they might see opportunities to work in collaboration with philanthropy. 

“Policymakers are designed to represent the communities that they serve. It is critical to build relationships with policymakers to support them in doing just that. It is the relationship that helps us communicate effectively to collaborate and partner regardless of different backgrounds, experiences, or political affiliations,” Schuyler said. 

CMF’s Government Relations Public Policy team continues to create and strengthen opportunities to champion the policy leadership of CMF members. If you have any questions about policy or advocacy engagement or are looking for connections with policymakers, we invite you to connect with the GRPP team.

Want more?

Save the date for Foundations on the Hill, taking place March 20-23, 2022.





Advancing Public Policy in Philanthropy and Beyond

Paul Hillegonds joined our Michigan community of philanthropy 17 years ago as a trustee of The Kresge Foundation, following decades of leadership as a member of the Michigan Legislature and in the corporate sector. 

Now, a CMF trustee, co-chair of the Government Relations Public Policy Committee (GRPPC), former co-chair of the Michigan COVID-19 Philanthropy Working Group, member of the Statewide Equity Fund Strategic Support Working Group, outgoing CEO of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and now senior advisor to the CEO at the Health Fund, Hillegonds is retiring.

For nearly two decades, Hillegonds represented a West Michigan district in the Michigan House of Representatives, where he also served as Republican leader, co-speaker and speaker of the House. 

CMF sat down with Hillegonds to learn more about how his background in public policy shaped his approach to philanthropy. 

“I learned that advancing public policy goals requires relationships with community partners and policymakers built on trust and mutual respect. It requires asking questions, listening to and learning from other’s diverse experiences and viewpoints, it requires consensus building and compromise,” Hillegonds said. 

Hillegonds shared that policy engagement is not limited to lobbying but includes the power of advocacy, where storytelling and information sharing with policymakers can have great impact. 

“In our polarized society today, the most effective advocacy philanthropy can undertake is information sharing and storytelling that lifts community voices and the contribution of research and lessons learned from grantmaking to seed policy innovation and funding,” Hillegonds said. 

He shared that philanthropy is in a unique position to learn from community voices. 

“We can convene, we can set tables for community partners and policymakers where sharing, listening and trust building can occur,” Hillegonds said. 

Hillegonds is deeply engaged with CMF, serving as a trustee, GRPPC co-chair and a member of the SEF Strategic Support Working Group. Hillegonds served as a co-chair of CMF’s Michigan Philanthropy COVID-19 Working Group which developed CMF’s Building an Equitable Future Together policy framework and informed the development of the Statewide Equity Fund (SEF). 

The SEF is intended to serve as a collaborative vehicle for Michigan philanthropy to catalyze opportunities that advance impactful strategies to address systemic challenges laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SEF Strategic Support Pilot is bringing together CMF members in up to five regions to develop local approaches to help shape federal funding toward equity-centered approaches within the economic prosperity domain of the policy framework. The collaborative funding model will pool $2 million in CMF member funds to provide the infrastructure needed to help support and guide the incoming federal funding.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity but also a monumental challenge,” Hillegonds said. “Our challenge, as funders, is to work in our communities to build trust and respect for the work we’re doing, because longer term, in order to sustain important programs that match our goals, it will require public confidence.”

Hillegonds shared how the pandemic has unearthed inequities in our systems and structures and further amplified health disparities that are rooted in a long history of racial and systemic inequities.

“I think the pandemic has heightened our awareness of barriers to opportunity, in our case, access to good health, experienced by underserved people who live in both rural and urban areas,” Hillegonds said. 

The Health Fund’s immediate COVID response efforts included working with community voices to encourage vaccination, access to telehealth and partnering with funders to provide mental health supports in schools. 

“Addressing health disparities over the longer term requires a focus on social determinants of health like healthy food access, affordable housing, quality education and economic opportunity, for example,” Hillegonds said.

“No one foundation can impact all of these areas, and we certainly haven’t tried to impact them all, but with our respective areas of focus, as foundations, we can partner with each other and the public and private sectors to seed innovative ideas, show proof of concept and catalyze systemic change over the long term.”

Hillegonds reflected on how the Health Fund’s collaboration and partnerships have led to impactful programs and opportunities for Michigan residents. 

“I’m proud of our programs, we’ve been focused on food security and wellness, behavioral health access and care, healthy aging and special partnerships with state government and statewide organizations. Our support has ranged from grants to community nonprofits throughout the state to projects focused on statewide systems change. It’s all been very fulfilling,” Hillegonds shared. 

Hillegonds continues to serve as senior advisor to the CEO at the Health Fund and will officially retire at the end of the year. Neel Hajra was named CEO of the Health Fund in August.

Want more?

Read Paul Hillegonds retirement announcement. 

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