Exploring Community-Connected Boards
In this time of transformation in our sector, we’re seeing philanthropy continue to reimagine its roles and ways of working, and explore what it means to center diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our work.
We are highlighting how some in our CMF community of philanthropy are bringing that conversation to the board table.
Most recently, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation (KZCF) announced that for the first time they are holding an open application process to fill two seats on their newly expanded board. KZCF shares that it is growing its Board of Trustees from nine to 11 members to intentionally include trustees “whose identities and communities are most directly impacted by injustices.”
The board expansion is driven by the community foundation’s new mission “to mobilize people, resources and expertise to advance racial, social and economic justice.”
“We chose an open application process because we want to reach community members whose lived experiences give them deep knowledge and expertise on Kalamazoo County’s issues and opportunities,” Carrie Pickett-Erway, president and CEO of KZCF said in a press release. “KZCF is looking for trustees who have the vision and commitment to advance justice in all forms and move our mission forward.”
According to the press release, “volunteer trustees are principally charged with providing guidance in the areas of grantmaking and community leadership. Candidates must be willing to center anti-racism and justice, engage in open and honest dialogue, prioritize trusting relationships and take personal action to carry the work forward.”
During CMF’s 49th Annual Conference, members discussed the need for more community-connected and diverse board leadership.
In the Leadership Series session, Anne Wallestad, president and CEO of BoardSource, led a conversation framed around purpose-driven board leadership, a mindset characterized by four fundamental principles that define the way that the board sees itself and its work.
Wallestad first wrote about this mindset and the four principles in an article featured in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
According to Wallestad, purpose-driven board leadership is characterized by four principles:
• Purpose before organization: Prioritizing the organization's purpose, versus the organization itself.
• Respect for ecosystem: Acknowledging that the organization's actions can positively or negatively impact its surrounding ecosystem and a commitment to being a respectful and responsible ecosystem player.
• Equity mindset: Committing to advancing equitable outcomes and interrogating and avoiding the ways in which the organization's strategies and work may reinforce systemic inequities.
• Authorized voice and power: Recognizing that organizational power and voice must be authorized by those impacted by the organization's work.
“Community voice and power on boards are essential. It is the mechanism for earning and maintaining the trust required to do the work of social sector organizations,” Wallestad writes in the article.
Purpose-driven board leadership moves away from traditional “mission-driven” leadership.
According to Wallestad, and in reference to the principle of “authorized voice and power,” a traditional board asks: “What do we think is best?” – without any reflection on how who “we” are is impacting the board’s answer to that question. In contrast, a purpose-driven board asks itself deep questions about its composition and how that impacts its perspectives, including “Is our board populated in a way that ensures that our power is authorized by and inclusive of the community impacted by the work that we do? Are we doing all we can to listen to what our programmatic stakeholders tell us is most important.”
We are seeing an increasing number of foundations reexamining their policies and practices around board recruitment and board governance, as well as reflection on opportunities to engage more community voice at the committee level, particularly for family foundations whose board composition may be limited to family members.
Dr. Elishae Johnson, chairperson for Battle Creek Community Foundation Board of Trustees and Randy Maiers, president and CEO of Community Foundation of St. Clair County, joined Wallestad in conversation in the Annual Conference session.
According to Maiers, previously the foundation followed the model of board member recruitment that required candidates to have direct prior experience on one of their committees.
“However, over the last few years we’ve come to realize that what’s truly important for community-based philanthropy, is recruiting people who share our values, beliefs and actively demonstrate their belief in philanthropy and/or volunteerism on their own terms and in their own community,” Maiers shared with CMF. “Now, there is more than one pathway to serve on our board which makes us a more intentional and thoughtful organization.”
Jim Taylor, vice president of leadership initiatives, focuses on leading BoardSource’s efforts to position nonprofit boards for stronger leadership on DEI. Taylor shared more with CMF from the national landscape about how boards are thinking about diversifying their composition.
“Since the onset of the pandemic ─ and its disproportionate impact on communities of color ─ and the tragic murder of George Floyd, we’ve definitely heard from an increasing number of nonprofits stating that they ‘want to get off the sidelines’ regarding DEI,” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, conversations about board composition and community representation are happening but there’s much more work that lies ahead in the sector.
“The issue of community representation can be particularly challenging for boards; some boards have informed us that they want to include more voices from the community, but that these individuals are often ‘not a good fit’ for the board,” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, community members might not be a “good fit” for several reasons including that they may not have the personal wealth or networks that the board desires, may not have the skill sets the board is looking for and may not share similar perspectives as the majority of longstanding board members.
Taylor shared that he urges boards to move beyond their strong preferences to only add board members with whom they are “comfortable” with and to recognize that adding more community representation can ultimately help the board have more robust conversations.
“Ultimately, we at BoardSource are urging boards to ask themselves: ‘If our board composition is a reflection of whose trust we consider to be most important, which stakeholders are we prioritizing – and who are we leaving out?’” Taylor said.
BoardSource encourages boards to try different approaches to achieve greater board diversity. According to Taylor, boards can share board postings on job recruitment sites and include language in the postings that encourages candidates that would add to the board’s racial and ethnic diversity, to apply.
“We recommend that every board member ─ not only board members of color ─ challenge themselves to expand their own networks to include more diverse individuals,” Taylor said. “If every board member does this, the board will be able to create a pool of candidates that would enable the board to recruit strategically for more diversity not just for the next recruitment opportunity, but for board recruitment opportunities over time – which could also positively impact the board’s ability to build a more inclusive culture and, ultimately, to more clearly see the connection between equity and the board’s mission and work.”
Read the full article The Four Principles of Purpose-Driven Board Leadership.
Learn more about BoardSource’s commitment to DEI.
CMF’s 2022 Government Relations Goals
CMF has a longstanding tradition of developing annual government relations goals, designed to guide the policy and advocacy efforts of the organization, in service to our community of philanthropy. This year, CMF’s Government Relations Public Policy Committee (GRPPC) engaged in a comprehensive and collective process to co-design the goals that will guide CMF’s efforts in 2022.
CMF’s 2022 Government Relations Goals were approved by the Board of Trustees, and then by the members during our Annual Members Meeting in October.
The goals reflect CMF’s perspectives, policy positions and intended engagement strategies on pressing policy issues.
“Under Kyle’s [Caldwell] leadership, CMF has sought to increase its transparency with members regarding its government relations goals and engage more methodically with members on what those goals should be,” Neel Hajra, CEO of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and co-chair, GRPPC, told CMF. “That has included the development of a very strong public policy team led by Regina Bell, the merging of the Public Policy and Government Relations committees and a re-examination of every single goal CMF has been pursuing in recent years.”
CMF’s advocacy efforts focus on issues that may have long-term, systemic impact and where philanthropy’s voice can resonate. Our advocacy work is prioritized and guided by five policy domains: P-20 Education, Economic Prosperity, Health, Civic Engagement and Health of the Sector.
“We are advocating for policies that seek to move our society from a culture of ‘I’ to a community of ‘we,’” Paul Hillegonds, senior advisor to the CEO at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and GRPPC co-chair said.
CMF’s Government Relations Goals are mostly focused on issues that affect the health of the sector, enhance the resources, operational capacity and flexibility the sector needs to effectively engage in social policy issues, especially in education, public health, economic prosperity and civic engagement.
CMF’s policy work continues to be active within the areas of public health, education and economic prosperity from the Building an Equitable Future Together policy framework, which was developed by CMF’s Michigan Philanthropy COVID-19 Working Group. The economic prosperity area has also informed the work of the Statewide Equity Fund Strategic Support Pilot.
CMF’s 2022 Federal Legislative Goals
1. Action: Support legislation that would incentivize all Americans to be charitable givers. CMF will advocate for a universal charitable deduction and other inclusive tax incentives for charitable giving.
2. Action: Protect the value of endowed philanthropy in part by maintaining the private foundation payout rate at the current 5% to protect foundations’ grantmaking capability.
3. Monitor: Support legislation and regulatory changes that would exempt certain philanthropic excess business holdings from being taxed.
4. Monitor: Support legislation that broadens tax free distributions from IRAs to charitable organizations.
5. Action: Promote talent retention in communities by supporting an amendment to the tax code that would make post-graduation scholarships non-taxable.
6. Advocacy: To support regulatory reforms and legislation that will make it easier for foundations to make program related investments (PRIs) and mission related investments (MRIs).
7. Action: CMF will support policies or regulations on donor advised funds (DAFs) that are data informed, do not impose unnecessary and overly burdensome requirements and consider community impact.
8. Monitor: Oppose legislation to repeal or amend the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits 501(c)(3) charitable organizations from endorsing, opposing or contributing to political candidates and engaging in partisan campaign activities.
CMF’s 2022 State Legislative Goals
1. Action: Restore Charitable Tax Credits
2. Monitor: Regulations that would mandate public donor disclosure.
3. Monitor: Support property tax exemption; oppose mandatory and coercive demands for payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTS).
Members of the GRPPC highlighted the goals that support federal legislation to incentivize Americans to be charitable givers.
“These goals provide access to charitable giving for individuals and families from all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Dave Mengebier, president and CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, CMF trustee and GRPPC co-chair said. “Giving everyone a fair opportunity to make a difference in their communities through charitable giving embodies CMF’s strategic plan vision of keeping equity at the center of our work.”
“I am proud that the GRPPC has started explicitly integrating considerations of equity and community impact into our goal-setting process, which aligns with CMF’s new Equity at the Center strategic framework. I believe the resultant goals position CMF to be more effective than ever in strengthening the impact of our field,” Hajra said.
Hillegonds shared that along with this goal, the state legislation goal to restore charitable tax credits will provide residents with important tools to help achieve larger equity centered community building goals.
This week, members of our Michigan community of philanthropy will be engaging with state legislators during Foundations In Lansing. CMF members will be connecting virtually with legislators to discuss the state specific goals as well as how philanthropy can serve as a partner to government.
Read the full 2022 Government Relations Goals.
Learn more about the Government Relations Public Policy Committee.
Learn more about how you can be involved in Foundations In Lansing.
Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation Awards First Grants for DEI Fund
The Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation (GTRCF) has awarded its first grants through its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Fund to organizations across the five-county region.
In June, GTRCF announced the launch of the DEI Fund to support a variety of organizations and initiatives, including Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ+ led organizations; DEI training and learning; and other partners, programs and opportunities promoting equity and inclusion.
GTRCF shared that grant decisions would be made by the DEI Fund Advisory Committee with a diversity of representation from BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, allies and equity leaders and advocates.
According to a press release, the DEI Fund’s first grantmaking cycle supported eight organizations, including The Friendship Community Center, Kids on the Go Traverse City, Mashup Rock & Roll Musical, Mnamaadiziwin Inc, National Writers Series, Suttons Bay Public Schools, United Way of Northwest Michigan on behalf of Raven & Lotus and Women’s Resource Center.
The grants will fund a variety of DEI efforts, from community potlucks and a DEI training to general operating support and a youth program expansion.
“This grantmaking round was full of organizations that have been actively working in DEI systems and have been seeking ways of getting that last bit of funding needed to launch forward,” Brett Sinclair, DEI Fund Advisory Committee member, said in the press release. “These are the leaders in our community.”
GTRCF shared insights from its evolving DEI learning journey with CMF earlier this year.
Before establishing the DEI Fund, GTRCF provided staff and board with training in 2020, including an anti-racism training led by Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran of Blackbird Consulting for Nonprofits and an Anishinaabek culture training, facilitated by GTRCF board member, JoAnne Cook.
The staff also formed a DEI working group dedicated to exploring how to embed DEI into all aspects of the organization’s work. Mengebier shared a few examples of internal shifts the GTRCF has made, informed by the community foundation’s ongoing learning journey.
“It’s vital that our area be welcoming and inclusive for everyone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, background, or beliefs,” Meagan Warner-Alvarado, member of GRTCF’s DEI Fund Advisory Committee, said in a press release. “To help community groups boost their efforts in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion means we all reap the benefits of a more vibrant welcoming region.”
Read the full press release.
Learn more about GTRCF’s DEI Fund.
Read more about GTRCF’s DEI learning journey.