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Sunday, 25 December 2016 17:39

GR Community Foundation’s Sieger: Nonprofits should ‘stay the course’ despite uncertainty

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Diana Sieger, President, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Diana Sieger, President, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Courtesy Photo

With the year ahead being so difficult to predict, Diana Sieger’s advice to nonprofits is to stay focused and keep doing their work well. She believes organizations like KConnect, whose goal is to bring together groups to collectively solve problems, will be essential in both identifying and addressing issues in 2017.

How do you feel about the new presidential administration?

Every time a new president is elected, the question is what’s going to happen with the programs that organizations have become connected with at the federal level. I think from the standpoint of the nonprofit sector, it’s going to be a few months of testing the waters and a bit of uneasiness. 

How is that going to impact local nonprofit work?

It’s really going to highlight that a lot of what needs to be done for our greater Grand Rapids area is still pretty much based on the local funders and the causes in the areas that we all wish to address. … I would say it’s for organizations to just stay the course and work together solidly and my bet is that all things will work out. It may be difficult, but things will work out.

Is there anything in specific you’re concerned with, coming from the new administration?

So much has been made of the decisions that the president-elect is proposing, from his cabinet to international relations, I’m a little hard-pressed to know what that means in terms of funding for affordable housing or job training programs, etc. My bet is a lot of that isn’t going to be really revealed until the administration really hits its stride.

What will you be watching in 2017 then?

We work really closely with the city, Kent County and the state of Michigan. So I’m watching more what the policies at those levels are going to be.

What are some issues to watch at the city level?

Mayor Bliss is very concerned about housing. That is something we’re very concerned about too, in terms of making sure there’s access to safe and affordable housing. I know there was a study done by the city commission that came out at the end of last year. I think there’s been some real effort at trying to inform some people as to what are those types of things and how we can all band together in that.

Is it a struggle to fully inform the general public on these issues?

When I think about the key thing that just came out with regards to the (Grand Rapids Destination Asset Study), people can wrap their heads around the need for hotel space and the river restoration project. When you get into things like affordable housing and people that are trying to find jobs that pay more than minimum wage or whatever, then it’s not as clear. 

Do you expect the city to come together and address these problems?

The thing I will say that’s in our favor as a community is that there’s a strong group of people … who have been working together. We may not always agree … but anytime I get into an intense discussion with folks, I don’t lose sight of the fact that there isn’t a soul in that whole world that doesn’t want a better community. Now, we may each define what a ‘better community’ means, but the intentions are true and honorable, and we have a very collaborative nature in this community.

All that being said, do you have any predictions for 2017?

I do think that over the next year, the importance of nonprofits and foundations is going to be highlighted, because when you think about the innovation that needs to occur, none of that can happen without the philanthropic sector. The importance of philanthropy is going to remain strong, and I don’t need a crystal ball for that one.

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