Jane C. Simons

Jane C. Simons

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

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. 

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