Engaging with Our Federal Policymakers
In two weeks, members of our community of Michigan philanthropy and CMF staff will engage in Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) visits with our federal policymakers.
Through a series of virtual meetings taking place April 5-7, we will discuss the opportunities for philanthropy and government to work in partnership for thriving, equitable communities across Michigan.
FOTH has been a valuable tool over the years to build relationships with our federal delegation and advocate for our sector and our communities.
“I’m looking forward to participating in FOTH because it’s a great opportunity to connect my passion for philanthropy with a larger arena and to help elected officials learn more about how philanthropy contributes to our social fabric,” Angela Graham, director of Southwest Michigan Strategies at The Fetzer Institute said.
With the guidance of CMF’s member-led FOTH Planning Committee, led by Jennifer Poteat, trustee at the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation, in partnership with several other members of CMF’s Government Relations Public Policy Committee (GRPPC), the conversations with policymakers are designed to build their understanding of philanthropy’s work in their communities that attracts and retains talent and creates a culture of giving, empowering the community to invest in their priorities.
“As a corporate grantmaker, I get to show a different side of the company that policymakers may not see when they typically deal mostly with corporate lobbyists who have very different business-oriented agendas. It’s of tremendous value to my company to be able to tell the stories of our grantmaking and impacts to policymakers, reinforcing who we are as a Michigan business that cares about the communities we serve,” Carolyn Bloodworth, secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation and GRPPC member said.
These CMF-member-led conversations will highlight three specific lanes of partnership:
• Fostering Economic Prosperity: Addressing the student debt crisis by increasing financial aid transparency and using innovative ways to reduce student debt while attracting and retaining talent in local communities.
• Strengthening Philanthropy: Expanding access to charitable giving incentives by giving working families a tax break for charitable giving, empowering them to invest in their communities in ways that reflect their priorities and values
• Issues That Affect the Health of the Charitable Sector: Encourage policymakers to invite philanthropy to the table and ensure we are part of the dialogue when creating policy that effects philanthropy.
Through these FOTH visits and conversations throughout the year with policymakers, philanthropy will be highlighted as a resource for expertise and as a bridge-builder within communities and with other partners.
“I have been participating in FOTH for a very long time and there has never been a more important time for us to share with policymakers how philanthropy is tapped to fill the gaps when government funding has been eliminated, reduced or redirected. Opportunities for partnership are greater than ever before – and we need to make sure our policymakers remember us as a critical part of the solutions they are trying to achieve – bringing us to the table during the planning, not at the end when our dollars are needed,” Bloodworth said.
Dave Mengebier, president and CEO of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, CMF trustee and GRPPC co-chair shared that policymakers view philanthropy as an objective and unbiased source of information on a wide range of policy issues so it is important we engage with them.
“There are many examples of federal policies impacting the priorities of Michigan philanthropy such as tax policy, voting rights, pandemic relief and the Accelerating Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act, to name just a few. FOTH provides a unique opportunity for our community to share our perspective on these issues and to educate congressional members and staff on how these policies would affect the people and communities we serve,” Mengebier said.
CMF members and staff will also hear from policymakers on the issues they care about most and where they may see opportunities to work in collaboration.
“I’m eager to learn from our elected officials what is top of mind for them and how we can work together to help enrich and improve our communities. FOTH is an important opportunity to continue to expand the idea of ‘we the people’ and build mutual respect across differences in order to advance the common good. At the end of the day, we really are all in this together,” Graham said.
Registration for FOTH is open. CMF members can register through the United Philanthropy Forum to join FOTH programming and engage in CMF-hosted policymaker meetings.
“For CMF members who have not had an opportunity to participate in FOTH and are perhaps uncertain about how they would fit in and contribute, the CMF staff make participation in FOTH really easy. They do an exceptional job of preparing participants for these meetings, handling all of the scheduling, providing excellent briefing materials, facilitating meeting prep and the meetings themselves,” Mengebier said.
Ahead of FOTH, CMF's Government Relations Public Policy team is hosting a virtual conversation this Wednesday to help deepen your knowledge of advocacy and how to effectively engage with policymakers.
During FOTH, the CMF team will be providing real-time updates on all things FOTH via our social media channels. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @michfoundations via the hashtags #FOTH2022 and #CMFontheHill.
Learn more and register for Foundations on the Hill 2022.
Register for Advancing Change Through Advocacy, happening March 23.
View CMF’s 2022 Government Relations Goals.
View CMF's Policy Domains and Principles.
Food Security Council Outlines Final Recommendations
Estimates show that during the start of the pandemic, food insecurity increased to approximately 1.9 million people in Michigan, including 552,000 children.
A final report from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Food Security Council includes 11 recommendations to decrease food insecurity in the state and highlights the work already in motion by the state to improve this issue.
The Food Security Council's report provides recommendations that are broken down into three main recommendations:
• Increase availability of healthy, fresh food.
• Understand and support Michiganders experiencing hunger.
• Improve navigation to connect to food and nutrition programs.
Within the three main categories, recommendations include:
• Increasing funding for fresh food through local and regional programs.
• Increasing feedback from Michiganders who use community food programs.
• Ensuring Medicaid beneficiaries, such as those with diabetes, can access medically appropriate food.
• Improve food access through increased transportation options including home delivery.
• Improve infrastructure for food insecurity screening, referral and diagnostic coding in health care organizations.
According to the council’s report, cost-effective policies that enhance federal and state food and nutrition programs, increase charitable food assistance and clinically integrate food-as-medicine programs in health care have the potential to decrease food insecurity.
Whitmer created the council in August 2020 and appointed Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan as chair. CMF connected with Knight to learn more about what these recommendations mean for the state and what’s next in addressing food insecurity.
“The members, their research and a host of subject matter experts offered up the material you see in the final report. The scope of the work was very specific from the governor. There was an emphasis on ROI for the recommendations and more specifically what actions could the Governor take to address food security in the state,” Knight said.
Knight shared that the pandemic has provided a clearer picture of the high need that exists in our communities and we can better define the problem through data and research.
“Once that infrastructure is built, we can periodically conduct a ‘Michigan Hunger Study’ that will help us define the problem so we can better right-size the safety net from top to bottom,” Knight said.
During the pandemic, the network of seven Feeding America Food Banks increased distribution by 47%. According to Knight, it was done without the infrastructure in place to support that kind of growth.
A partnership with Door Dash Foundation gave the network unlimited use of services to deliver food to those who couldn’t get to food distribution sites.
“Innovation is key to solving some of the most stubborn problems associated with food security,” Knight said.
Knight shared that better alignment in partnerships is crucial to go to the next level of addressing food insecurity.
“Alignment with social programs across multiple state departments doesn’t seem efficient. We should look at better aligning this work under one roof and with community-based partners to get the best results for the families we serve,” Knight said.
Read the Food Security Council's full report.
New Program Supports Talent Attraction and Retention
Several CMF members are engaged in talent attraction and retention efforts to encourage residents to stay and work in their home communities.
The Four County Community Foundation is matching students who graduated from high schools in the community with local companies through its new Return to Earn Internship program.
The goal of the program is to entice students to “return to earn” and to also connect them with higher-wage jobs in their home community. This will also work to address “brain drain” in the community, which occurs when talent leaves their home community to work and live elsewhere.
“In addition to our traditional scholarships, we want to support our students after they enter college. Our internship program will provide up to $2,000 towards a local business or industry hiring college students who graduated from a high school in our service area. The other half comes from the employer,” Kathy Dickens, executive director of Four County Community Foundation said.
Students will receive eight weeks of valuable on-the-job experience through the internship and earn up to $4,000.
“This program also helps smaller businesses and organizations access interns when they have not been able to before. Smaller employers may not have the time to build a program or post openings, we are helping to provide them with a ready-made program,” Dickens said.
The community foundation is partnering with local businesses to provide internships for students who are majoring in subjects from pre-law to biochemistry.
“We are in an area known for manufacturing and automation in the automotive industry. However, it doesn't seem that there is an existing pipeline connecting college students with interested intern hosts in our local communities,” Dickens said.
Dickens shared that many colleges and universities utilize job seeking platforms that not all businesses in the area know about. The community foundation is trying to raise awareness, create opportunity and empower connections through this work.
“The Return to Earn program will partner with Michigan College Access Network to offer interns a weekly cohort session about how to leverage the experience, advocate for themselves, request help, identify needs, lift up the praise of their host, raise concerns and more. This will provide advocacy, guidance, voice and soft skill enrichment,” Dickens said.
Through the guidance of the CMF Community Foundation Committee, a grant was provided through the Community Foundation Endowment Fund to support the program in hopes of offering learning and insights for our statewide network of community foundations.
Several CMF members are working to attract and retain talent in their communities.
The Community Foundation of St. Clair County’s Come Home Award is a talent retention program and pays graduates on the back-end of their college career, after they have completed a degree in a STEM related field, if they agree to move to and work within St. Clair County after graduation.
The community foundation shared that they are expanding their efforts to “attract more remote workers, artists in residence, entrepreneurs and others who will grow the number of families, homeownership, quality of employment and the overall prosperity of St. Clair County.”
The Huron County Community Foundation used a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to support its Community Hub project, will offer access to reliable internet and could become a home base for self-employed professionals, entrepreneurs, startups and students, serving as a talent attraction in Huron County.
Read more about the Return to Earn Internship.
Read more about the Come Home Award.