Strategic Planning

Reflections on Your Input in Shaping Our Strategic Focus

From Kyle Caldwell, President and CEO • December 2019

During the CEO Listening Tour, at the Annual Conference and in many other conversations with staff, trustees and CMF members, we've been gathering your input on the trends, challenges and opportunities you see in the coming years for our community of philanthropy. That input has become the foundation of CMF strategic planning efforts that are now underway. Below is a snapshot of next steps in the process, including the collaboration of staff and trustees serving on a Strategic Planning Task Force and additional opportunities to welcome your input.

Background

In early 2019, I traveled to Detroit, Traverse City, Marquette, Grand Rapids, Midland and other Michigan cities for a series of formal and informal gatherings - a listening tour - to hear directly from CMF members about the challenges you face and about the critical issues most important to your work. My hope was that these conversations could inform CMF’s future strategic planning efforts while also initiating local dialogues that could bring members together. My hopes were far exceeded. You helped light the way to a new vision for CMF.

The current CMF framework was created in 2013. While it is very powerful and has effectively guided our organizational priorities as defined at that time, what we've heard from stakeholders over the last year indicates a readiness to reimagine and redefine CMF's focus, strengthening and deepening our role as a leadership organization in growing the impact of Michigan philanthropy, while refining our high quality supports and services and advancing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Member Collaboration at the Annual Conference

During a special Tuesday morning program at the 2019 Annual Conference, we invited attendees to reflect on the themes that emerged from the listening tour, representing the start of our thinking around new priorities for CMF to carry us into the future. Then, we asked attendees to consider what CMF’s role could be in supporting those priorities, keeping the cornerstone of equity in mind. 

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    Here is initial analysis of what we heard during this program:

         

    1. CMF must maintain its leadership role in advancing public policy.

    This theme received the strongest response in terms of narrowing in on top priorities among the seven themes that were shared. Members identified several potential action steps: a legislative seminar about nonprofits and foundations, expanded policy focus, a Foundations on the Hill (FOTH)-type event at the state level and regional gatherings on policy issues, to name a few.  

    Comments and Questions of Note: “Philanthropy needs to stand up for philanthropy because nobody else will.”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    2. Members need support in cultivating the next generation of philanthropic leaders.

    This theme was identified as a top priority by some, though it did not come out as strongly as policy and others. Suggested action steps include a future leaders program, increased support for family foundation transitions, plans to address the upcoming retirements of many key foundation leaders, promotion and expansion of the Mentoring Program and strengthened opportunities for youth leaders and Youth Advisory Councils (i.e. supporting partnerships with colleges and businesses, ensuring a presence on community foundation boards, engagement at the Annual Conference).

    Comments and Questions of Note: “It’s important to focus on next gen giving habits but also continue to maintain and create philanthropic leaders of the current generation.”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    3. CMF should consider fostering or creating “neutral space” to have civic dialogue around hard conversations.

    This theme was among the three issues most often identified as a top priority. In several table conversations it was discussed that this theme could be more clear in terms of what “neutral space” means and what it looks like. In terms of language, some members considered whether “safe” or “brave” space would be more appropriate language, and perhaps “civil” dialogue instead of “civic.” Some suggested this is a priority better led by foundations and community leaders and is perhaps outside CMF’s scope or platform, while others suggested CMF could contribute research, resources or other supports.

    Comments and Questions of Note: “CMF could develop tools for foundations to take into their communities to encourage difficult conversations. An end goal needs to be established before the conversation takes place. We cannot open wounds without a plan to move the conversation into action.”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    4. Michigan philanthropy needs to remain engaged in public-private partnerships – going forward the economic roles and roadmaps need to be clear about our respective boundaries – and we’ll need to get better at multi-sector communication.

    This theme was the lowest rated in terms of priorities for focus. Comments included reference to the challenge of mixed vocabulary (i.e. in working with education partners) and the value of learning through experience (i.e. pilots). Members discussed opportunities for CMF to help foundations navigate the lines between business and nonprofit, between funders and grantees and between foundations and state government.

    Comments and Questions of Note: “How do foundations help support the way states are maintaining support and assistance to people and programs?”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    5. We must continue to support efforts that promote and advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

    This theme showed strong interest as a CMF priority. Members shared individual reflections on the need to lift up racial equity and the importance of valuing and seeking out diverse perspectives and ideas, including those of youth. There were several comments suggesting that rather than being one of several priorities, the values and practices connected to DEI should be embedded throughout. It was also noted that we need to develop a shared definition of these terms. Several members referenced intentionality in regard to involving community (those we seek to serve) in creating solutions.

    Comments and Questions of Note: “Things are changing - CMF needs to be a support to our field.” “CMF provides a vehicle to reach out to the field itself - give access to people doing the work.”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    6. Data-informed decision making needs to be widely adopted and philanthropy should lead the way.

    This theme was among the three issues most often identified as a top priority, though several respondents sought clarity on what specific data this may refer to for context and clarity. A number of members commented on the value of data and the need for CMF to continue bringing research and trends to light, especially for smaller foundations. It was suggested CMF could further encourage members to share data with each other. It was suggested that broader work in data could lead to the expansion of policy issues CMF monitors and engages in actively (i.e. policies affecting communities and families, not just philanthropy and giving policy). Some commented that while data supports decision making, tools to use and interpret data are equally necessary.

    Comments and Questions of Note: “We need data but also need to be compelling storytellers. Data supports but stories transform.”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    7. Michigan philanthropy and CMF’s role may need to evolve as we explore how to respond to changing environments for philanthropy and new trends in giving habits.

    This theme showed strong interest as a CMF priority. Members identified several examples of giving habits and practices for exploration and increased study, including Giving Tuesday, impact investing, donor advised funds, crowd funding and text-to-give. Respondents connected these trends with the need for current, quality data and the challenge of staying present with trends.

    Comments and Questions of Note: “If this works, we'll accomplish the rest [of the priorities].”

    This word cloud was built from input on this theme as shared during the Annual Conference exercise; the most commonly used words are represented as larger text.

     

    Other

    During the Annual Conference exercise, members were invited to share potential action steps for other priority issues they identified. Selections from that input:

    • Don’t try to be all things to everyone. Do a few things well.

    • It is important to be inclusive when soliciting input from members (i.e. large and small).

    • Provide education in helping people understand what philanthropy is and what a community foundation does.

    • Don’t forget member resources and education – CMF is a hub. We depend on CMF for this and appreciate you.

    • Promote and support narratives from and about our communities.

    • Consider that some of these [themes] are things CMF could do, but some are values that CMF can use as it approaches the work.

    • CMF could create a dashboard of aggregate impact to boost accountability.

    • How do we move the needle from charity to social justice.

    • What’s our north star?

         
       

Strategic Plan Task Force

In November we held the first meeting of our Strategic Plan Task Force - a team working in collaboration to inform, guide and support the strategic planning process. The group includes staff and trustees; Neel Hajra, Vice Chair of our Board and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, is Chair of the Task Force (pictured below). One of the key conversations the task force has already begun - how to further develop meaningful opportunities for CMF stakeholders to share their input.

Our timeline ramps up to the announcement of a new set of core priorities being shared at the 48th Annual Conference in October 2020.

Members of the Strategic Planning Task Force. Pictured (left to right): Joe Scantlebury, CMF Board member and vice president for program strategy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Laura Collier, program coordinator, CMF; Jenee Velasquez, CMF Board member and executive director, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation; DJ Jones, CMF Board chair and executive director, Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation; Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO, CMF; Regina Bell, director of public policy and government relations, CMF; Stephen Arellano, coordinator, Office of Foundation Liaison; Steve Wilson, consultant, CMF; Lynne Ferrell, CMF Board member and program director, Frey Foundation; Neel Hajra, CMF Task Force chair and Board member, and CEO, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation; Julie Ridenour, CMF Board member and president, Steelcase Foundation; Dave Lindberg, CFO, CMF; Bridget McGuiggan, director of communications and knowledge insights, CMF; and Nora Petznik, executive assistant, CMF. Not pictured: Audrey Harvey, CMF Board member and executive director and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation.

Next Steps

I hope you’ll join in the next conversations to come, not only on specific strategic priorities, but also around our learning journey in diversity, equity and inclusion. These are not parallel paths; they are intertwined, with equity at the center as we strive to achieve vibrant communities with great opportunity for all.

Strategic planning news and information on future plans to engage stakeholders in this process will be posted on CMF social media channels and on this webpage. We will also share an email update in February 2020, shortly after the next meeting of the task force.