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.

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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.

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The newly formed Northwest Michigan Rural Housing Partnership has tapped Sarah Lucas as its executive director. Lucas, who also serves as director of community development at Networks Northwest, a 10-county public regional planning agency, talked with MiBiz about the issues that make workforce housing virtually impossible to build in communities that continually get overlooked by state and federal programs.

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The economy in Northern Michigan may differ greatly from West Michigan’s, but leaders in both areas of the state have started to grapple with a common challenge: a lack of affordable housing. As in the greater Grand Rapids region, the inability of workers to find available affordable housing has reached crisis levels across the northern Lower Peninsula, in both rural markets and in cities like Traverse City and Petoskey.

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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.

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The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area surpassed its all-time record in fundraising in 2018, receiving close to $21 million in contributions.

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Since 2011, median home prices have increased by nearly 70 percent while per capita income went up by only 11 percent. Now, Deanna Rolffs, vice president of housing and family services at ICCF, has a waitlist of more than 700 families who are in need of safe, affordable housing. Going into 2019, she thinks community leadership and collaboration could be the key to solving the region’s housing crisis. 

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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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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. 

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Todd Jacobs becomes president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County on Jan. 1. The Muskegon native succeeds Chris McGuigan, who has run the foundation since 1999 and plans to retire. Jacobs moves to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, where he’s worked as vice president and chief philanthropy officer. 

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