Jane C. Simons

Jane C. Simons

Contributing reporter, covers nonprofits and philanthropy
Email: [email protected]

Shortly after opening her philanthropic consulting firm in 2000, Christine Gavin got a firsthand look at the “unevenness” of philanthropy.

KALAMAZOO — A conversation among the leaders of four nonprofits has resulted in a collaboration that’s designed to save money and resources and improve service delivery to their clients.

Diversity, equity and inclusion have been foremost in the minds of people who work in Michigan’s nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

GRAND RAPIDS — The inequities women face in daily life are often much worse for women who are incarcerated. 

GRAND RAPIDS — A house on Union Avenue SE may soon become part of the solution to providing safe and stable housing to the city’s growing population of homeless youths.

Just over three years ago, Joe Sobieralski was hired as the President and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited.  Sobieralski joined BCU in 2015 as vice president and was then appointed interim CEO in 2016. Later that year, the interim title was removed. While there has been a lot of forward momentum under his leadership, he says there is still a lot more to be accomplished. With the renewal of his contract for another three years, we wanted to check in with him to get his view from the corner office.

GRAND RAPIDS — The ability of many nonprofits to successfully meet their missions can be directly tied to those who sit on their boards.

GRAND RAPIDS — The economic power of  Grand Rapids’ immigrant community grew by more than $100 million in just one year.

GRAND RAPIDS — Bethany Christian Services Inc. faces a difficult challenge in trying to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children who cross the border into the United States avoid any long-term effects from the detention process.

Building stronger relationships with donors who are part of a U.S. demographic shift should be part of the fundraising strategy for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. 

KALAMAZOO — Creating workplaces where equity is the norm rather than the exception forms the basis for the Coalition for Inclusive Communities initiative.

GRAND RAPIDS — Within the next 20 years, the need for the types of services provided by D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s is projected to double.

BATTLE CREEK — The $22 million expansion of Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation at W.K. Kellogg Airport will include many visible signs of growth. Even so, Dave Powell, the dean of the aviation school, said he is focusing on an area of growth that’s less obvious: About 7 percent of all pilots and airline mechanics in the United States are people of color, and of that percentage about 2.5 percent are African American.

BATTLE CREEK — A more holistic approach to ensuring positive outcomes for students, teachers and the community is the driving force behind a new partnership involving Battle Creek Public Schools and Grand Valley State University. That’s according to GVSU President Thomas Haas, who notes having a highly skilled talent pool in Battle Creek will play a crucial role in the region’s ability to attract and retain new businesses.

In Michigan, the second most diverse agricultural state in America, one in six children goes to bed hungry. That was among the findings in Map the Meal Gap 2019, the latest report from Feeding America on food insecurity and the cost of food at the local level.

KALAMAZOO — Sorghum is not a common ingredient in beer produced in the United States, but it is used widely in Africa, where the grain is favored for its drought-resistant properties. But a collaboration between Tillers International, a nonprofit headquartered in Scotts, about 12 miles southeast of Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo-based Arcadia Brewing Co. aims to give patrons a chance to sample a beer made with sorghum at a tasting event on April 30.

While he wouldn’t categorize it as “dire,” a leading Michigan-based consultant said the fundraising climate in Michigan has been better and currently is headed in the wrong direction. Michael Montgomery, owner of Huntington Woods, Mich.-based Montgomery Consulting Inc. and an instructor at the University of Michigan’s Dearborn campus, lays out the rationale for his predictions in his annual Michigan Fundraising Climate Survey, released at the end of March.

GRAND RAPIDS — Fountain Street Church is less than one month away from finalizing the creation of a separate nonprofit organization that will enable it to increase the efficiency of its space and its long-term sustainability. Executive Director Jack Woller said the non-denominational Fountain Street Church would retain ownership of the building it has occupied for 150 years, but will make a more formalized effort to sublease space or make in-kind donations of space to organizations that have a relationship with the church for continuing education or personal growth opportunities.

Building the United Way brand and providing a consistent donor experience is imperative for the organization and its affiliates to remain relevant. Those were among the factors that led to the announcement in January of the Van Buren County United Way’s decision to join forces with the United Way of Southwest Michigan for back office operations.

Industry trends increasingly are blurring the lines between philanthropy and business. As government funding to address issues such as food insecurity, homelessness and poverty continues to shrink, requests to funders are increasing as the nonprofit sector seeks to fill those service gaps. The result from this growing trend is perhaps most visible in philanthropic support of economic development efforts, often through significant investments.

GRAND RAPIDS — Steve Heacock admits to having a level of discomfort about being the focus of the Grand Rapids Whitewater project. Heacock left his job as a senior vice president with Spectrum Health to take the position of president and CEO with the nonprofit organization earlier this month. He said everything he has done in his career has prepared him for this new role.

GRAND RAPIDS — A new initiative funded with a $300,000 grant from the Wege Foundation wants to develop environmentally-conscious human beings at a young age. The aim for the Grand Rapids Environmental Education Network, or GREEN, is to have every student in Grand Rapids Public Schools participate in an environmental experience, according to Clayton Pelon, associate director of the Grand Valley State University College of Education who serves as the lead on the grant.

Historically low unemployment rates could pose challenges for Michigan nonprofits looking to hire highly-qualified workers. Just as in other sectors of the state economy, the nonprofit industry also faces its share of talent constraints, according to people focused on hiring and preparing individuals for careers in the sector.

The nonprofit sector must be focused on serving needs in their communities, even if that means taking big steps and thinking outside of the box, according to Carrie Pickett-Erway, the president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. 

Teri Behrens took over as executive director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University on Oct. 22. She previously served as the director of strategy and programs at the Johnson Center and worked to integrate an applied research mission with the needs of the changing nonprofit sector. 

In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, not a war on those in poverty, said Michelle Williamson, the CEO of Community Action Agency of South Central Michigan (CAASCM). 

GRAND RAPIDS — The increasing diversity within giving circles is broadening the scope of causes they support and better reflecting the nation’s changing demographics.

People give because they believe in the mission of an organization, not because of the tax deductions they can take. 

Nonprofits have to compete for attention with the plethora of communications that possible donors get on a daily basis, whether in their mailboxes or on their smartphone screens. That’s causing the industry to adapt and shift in new ways to remain top of mind with their intended audiences. 

When Jennifer Goulet departed as president and CEO of Creative Many Michigan Inc. in September after 11 years, board members decided to hire a well-known philanthropic leader to lead the arts advocacy organization as it figured out the type of leadership it needed for the future. 

Page 1 of 4