The state embraces a model where nonprofit support is a joint responsibility of corporations, donors, and government—but working human service nonprofits have their own, separate organization.
Crane's Detroit Business (Sherri Begin) reports that the Michigan Nonprofit Association (EIN 38-2959692 Form 990) will merge with the ConnectMichigan Alliance (EIN 38-3572916 Form 990) on July 1. The organization will take on the nonprofit association's name under the leadership of ConnectMichigan CEO Kyle Caldwell. The current head of Michigan Nonprofits, Sam Singh (who also is serving as mayor of East Lansing, Michigan) is stepping down to pursue an interest in consulting and politics.
This is just the next step in Michigan's statewide experiment in nonprofit support. ConnectMichigan started in 2000 as a public-private venture between the Michigan Community Service Commission and three nonprofit groups: Volunteer Centers of Michigan, Michigan Campus Compact, and the Michigan Nonprofit Association. From the ConnectMichigan annual report we learn that the governor and legislature provided $10 million as a challenge grant to create an endowment, which is managed not by the organization but by the Capital Region Community Foundation (EIN 38-2776652 Form 990).
The board of trustees includes representatives of volunteer groups, educational institutions, corporations (including Ford and General Motors, of course), United Way, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Presumably the new board will also include some nonprofit organizations after the merger.
What's also noteworthy about Michigan is that there is a separate organization, the Michigan League for Human Services (EIN 38-1360557 Form 990), that handles advocacy for the organizations that most people think of when they hear the term nonprofit. Their board includes representatives of three unions (AFL-CIO, UAW, and SEIU), just one major corporation (Ford), consultants and other nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups.
This two-organization structure makes a great deal of sense to me. Charities, especially those that provide professional social services, need to have their own advocacy organization, separate from the organizations that promote volunteer support.
The two things I question in this structure:
- The continuing use of the term "nonprofit association" for an organization whose board is dominated by other groups (corporations and schools). It would be more accurate to retain the ConnectMichigan name for the combined organizations.
- The League for Human Services still relies almost entirely on outside contributions, from United Way and from foundations. On their web page, they credit the Annie E. Casey, Skillman, Ford, Charles Stewart Mott, W.K. Kellogg and Joyce foundations, plus Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Aspen Institute. But Charities won't be a truly independent sector until they have the ability to advocate for themselves, using their own money.