Jane C. Simons

Jane C. Simons

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

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. 

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