Talk with a Candidate
Campaign season is in full force and that means you’ll likely have an opportunity to talk to candidates in the coming weeks and months. This week CMF will be sharing suggested talking points for conversations with candidates, look for that email in your inbox later this week. First, we want to highlight some of the big issues on the table in Lansing for this fall, as policies can either align with a foundation's mission or change how we respond to certain situations.
Can foundations talk about this?
Educating candidates about an issue, as opposed to telling them to support a certain position or bill, is allowed for both private and public foundations. Telling candidates stories of how you’ve contributed within a particular field or community, and how it was made possible, informs a candidate and allows them to make decisions regarding public policy as it pertains to the charitable sector.
Here’s a breakdown of some key legislative items coming down the pipeline, an important read as we all work to further our impact in our own communities.
Charitable Nonprofit Property Tax Exemption
The main bill in the legislature that affects the charitable sector addresses property tax exemptions for charitable organizations. We have shared a couple of articles in previous Weekly Download editions about Michigan nonprofits facing tax bills despite their tax exempt status. This issue comes from a lack of clarity in the language about what constitutes a charitable organization, as well as the nearly 4,000 assessors across the state who have different understandings and interpretations of what the guidelines are for a charitable status. In partnership with the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), CMF continues to work with the Treasury Department on Senate Bill 960 as to what constitutes a charitable organization.
Implementation of the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a top priority for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), as well as districts all around the state. The ESSA replaced the long standing No Child Left Behind act. Once in place, ESSA will give states more flexibility in determining school improvement and measuring academic outcomes.
What’s happening with ESSA in Michigan right now?
The MDE expects to submit its ESSA accountability plan by spring 2017. Currently the MDE’s ESSA Action Teams are seeking feedback on their initial concepts related to Michigan’s ESSA plan development. You can take part in their online survey through August 16.
CMF’s 44th Annual Conference will feature the session, Exploring the Every Student Succeeds Act, with the state superintendent and several superintendents from around the state on hand to explain what grantmakers need to know about this law and how to be effective partners in education.
Economic Impact of Nonprofits
Another important point to stress to candidates is how philanthropy can affect jobs, job training and postsecondary attainment, and, by extension, the broader state economy.
- 450,000 Michiganders are employed by nonprofits (or about one in 10 people)
Not only does the nonprofit sector support jobs all over the state that further contribute to the development of Michigan communities and residents, but the philanthropic sector often supports programs and initiatives to prepare students, and adult learners, for jobs in all sectors. Philanthropy has partnered with stakeholders in various sectors to create programs like Earn and Learn and Pathways to Success, which train underserved young people for jobs. Foundations provide support for postsecondary attainment through scholarships, children’s savings accounts and supporting local college access networks.
Check your inbox this week as CMF shares suggested talking point and a dashboard with county data featuring the nonprofit economic impact that you can share with candidates.
Enhanced cybersecurity for foundations is more important now than ever as we are faced with growing challenges, as our partners and grantees hold some sensitive information. How do you protect your data and what should you consider when it comes to cybersecurity?
The Council of Michigan Foundations connected with Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society’s (PACS) Digital Civil Society Lab on this important issue because of CMF’s work with Impact Michigan, (we’ll share more details on this major initiative taking shape).
As for Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society Lab, it launched last year to further discussions between civil society leaders and technology leaders, to define software, organizational and legal codes needed “for private action for public benefit to thrive in the digital age.” A foundation CEO recently blogged that Lucy Bernholz, the director of the Digital Civil Society Lab, “pointed out that data is a fundamentally different resource to the other resources we generally use: time and money. It requires different thinking, different policies and a new perspective from philanthropic foundations.” The Digital Civil Society Lab notes that civil society organizations, including nonprofits and foundations, face a common challenge: Getting the greatest public benefit from data while protecting the rights of individuals to manage their own information.
Digital Civil Society Lab recommends considering:
- Have you collected the least possible amount of data to accomplish your goals?
- Have you done everything you can to protect individuals from being identified?
- Have you used proxies where needed, to avoid using information that might be linked to people’s identities?
- Do you have a timeline and a plan to destroy the data?
We know many Michigan foundations are ramping up their cybersecurity to protect the personal and financial information of their donors and their organizations. Small and large foundations – including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation – all report stepping up their cybersecurity efforts in the past few years. Grand Rapids Community Foundation was recently noted in an article for its work in putting cybersecurity as a top priority. MI Biz reported that, “the foundation has put multiple safeguards in place to protect every aspect of the organization’s data and resources.” The foundation’s information technology manager, Ann Puckett, told the reporter that all online donations go through a different site, but the foundation first “did our due diligence to ensure that they had the best security practices in place.”
Despite best efforts, cyberattacks can – and do – occur. That’s why experts say having a process in place to respond quickly and effectively to such attacks is the best way to contain and minimize the fall-out.
Check out the resources from Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society Lab.
Visit the CMF Store to access a webinar on this important issue.
MI College Report Card
New Michigan college data analyzing graduation rates is giving us an idea as to how our Michigan colleges and universities are scoring when it comes to successful graduation rates. The data is more detailed and eye-opening than federal data, which just tracks full-time students. According to an Mlive article, state officials say the federal government's method for tracking graduation rates is flawed, because it only counts full-time students who are entering higher education for the first time and doesn’t take into account non-traditional students, part-time students or transfer students’ records. Those are important categories to track, because according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, only 29 percent of college students these days are considered “typical students” who enter college directly after high school.
Two databases, one for universities and another for community colleges, show success rates for multiple time periods. What is success? For universities, it is defined as receiving a bachelor's degree.
How are Michigan's public universities doing?
The most recent four-year success rate for Michigan's 15 public universities is 39.4 percent, an increase from two years ago.
Dan Hurley, president of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said that he and other state higher education leaders are "pleased, but not content" with the state's four-year success rate. He attributes the increase to "a tremendous focus" on boosting student retention and degree completion, an effort he said is happening in Michigan and around the nation.
It is in the interest of our state to help with graduation success, which will result in more educated graduates. Many Michigan foundations have stepped up to help out in this regard.
The McGregor Fund granted Wayne State University with $200,000 to develop a comprehensive plan for students who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as those experiencing difficulty in meeting basic non-academic needs.
"Without safe and reliable housing, or other basic needs being met, students cannot be successful in college," Kate Levin Markel, president of the McGregor Fund said. "We are happy to support this initiative at Wayne State as it works to ensure that poverty and hardship do not stand in the way of earning a four-year degree."
Wayne State University has also received three grants totaling nearly $1.4 million from the DTE Energy Foundation to support programs and scholarships designed to improve retention and graduation rates. The grants are “part of the foundation’s efforts to power the Michigan economy by ensuring graduates have the skills and talents to achieve career success in the state.”
The Kresge Foundation gave funding to CMF to provide grants to community foundations who are actively involved with their local college access networks to further their sustainability.
There’s been a lot of discussion in Michigan as of late about the “brain drain” that is caused by the high amount of students who leave Michigan after graduating, instead of filling highly skilled jobs in their home communities. CMF is hosting the webinar, Talent Retention in Your Community: How to Bring Your Grads Back, and sharing a new resource, the Talent Retention Program Manual, this Wednesday.
NCAN will host a Big Thoughts, Quick Talks table about how to focus your college scholarship program for success, at CMF’s 44th Annual Conference in September.