Courtesy of the Capital Region Community Foundation

The Next Idea

When we think of nonprofits, we often think of them helping people or working for causes that improve our quality of life but are difficult to monetize. And usually, it’s their work and their cause that inspire us to give.  

What’s often not mentioned, however, is just how much Michigan’s nonprofit sector also contributes to our economic well-being.

Courtesy of Detroit Soup

The Next Idea 

There was an article in the Detroit Free Press last month about a family’s efforts to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign. The goal was to fix up a decaying home so that their mentally disabled relative didn’t have to move into a nursing home. As the article pointed out, the family asked the public for help, “and much of the public reacted with outrage.”

This hurts my heart. As someone who’s been working for the last five-plus years on building a non-profit in Detroit, I have seen firsthand how reluctant – even afraid – we are to help people here.

Courtesy of Urban Ashes

The Next Idea

I think most people would agree that Michigan is on the rebound. In Detroit, where I live, new restaurants are popping up on a weekly basis, national retailers are moving in, and corporations are opening new offices. This hint of change in the Pure Michigan air is still polluted, however, by many of the same intractable issues -- homelessness, unequal access to education and food, and environmental degradation, to name a few. Much like the rest of our economy, these old problems require a new approach.


JPMorgan Chase is lending some of its people to development-boosting efforts in Detroit.

12 JP Morgan employees will spend much of this month working with non-profit groups in the city as part of the new Detroit Service Corps.

The volunteer effort is meant to complement the financial services company's five-year, $100 million investment in a number of Detroit projects, says Tasha Tabron of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation.

User: williami5 / Flickr

Each October, the nation blooms with pink: It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

The big push is often about awareness, as in "don't forget to get your mammogram" and in raising money for breast cancer research.

But there's a lesser-told side of the breast-cancer story: the financial hardships so many patients endure as they go through treatment.

Molly MacDonald of Oakland County knows this all too well through her own breast cancer experience.

That's why she founded The Pink Fund, a nation-wide organization offering financial aid to breast cancer patients. 

Detroit Drunken Historical Society's recent meet-up explored the Belle Isle history
User: UpNorth Memories - Donald (Don) Harrison / Flickr

Some organizations these days are having a hard time getting new people involved. Classical music groups have been struggling to appeal to new fans. And plenty of arts and culture groups have a tough time attracting members.

It turns out, historical societies are also having a tough time. And that’s something that Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris has been looking into.

Norris says the problem is that these societies tend to be older, and getting new blood is not going so well in general.

But that’s not an issue for Amy Elliott Bragg, a co-organizer for the Detroit Drunken Historical Society.

It's a meet-up group that hosts monthly activities at local bars in Detroit for people to come out and learn about history. Bragg says there's no commitment, the gatherings are easy to attend, and all are welcome.

“We have found that there are people who might not be immersed in the library in their historic text all night, but they enjoy history, they are interested in it. They want to weigh in,” says Bragg.

* Listen to the interview with Amy Elliott Bragg above.

Metro Detroit Ethnic Communities Collection/Walter P. Reuther Library

There’s a joke that historical organizations are stuck in the past when it comes to how they do things. You know, like they don’t have a grasp on using social media, and their museums and events are outdated and uninspiring.

And that joke might extend to the people who run historical organizations – many of whom are senior citizens and have often run their group in the same way for a long time.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Poker's rise in popularity has helped Michigan's charities and civic groups stay afloat at a time of dwindling donations from elsewhere.

And efforts to rein in a charitable gambling industry that has grown more than 20-fold in a decade are sparking backlash.

If there's one song that captures the feel of Motown, Detroit, and America in the 1960s, it's Martha Reeves singing "Dancing in the Streets." On today's show we talked about the historical importance of this Motown classic.

And, we explored the concept behind community cafes, how they work and where you can find one near you.

Also, Ontario Power Generation is proposing to build a nuclear waste dump site on the shore of Lake Huron. How will this affect the drinking water?

First on the show, this promises to be an important week for the State Senate. This could be the week the Senate decides whether or not to expand Medicaid to more low-income adults in Michigan.

You may recall, the Senate broke off for its summer break in June without taking a vote on Medicaid, something that so incensed Governor Snyder that he came home early from a trade trip to Israel in order to publicly scold the Senate.

So, two months later, it appears a vote is at hand.

Rick Pluta, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

One of the community cafes in Michigan is called "Panera Cares." It's a non-profit Panera Bread location in Dearborn that uses the pay-what-you-can model.

Kate Antonacci is the Director of Societal Impact Initiatives for Panera. She joined us from corporate headquarters in Boston.

Listen to the full interview above.

The community café, it’s a concept catching on all across the country. Open a restaurant, serve good food, let the patrons choose their portions, and let them price the portions themselves. The goal? To eliminate hunger, eliminate food waste, and create food security.

Denise Cerreta launched the community café ten years ago with her One World Café in Salt Lake City. From that start she’s gone on to found a non-profit called One World Everybody Eats, and that non-profit has guided some three dozen community cafes across the country, including some in Michigan, with more in the planning stages.

Denise Cerreta joined us today from Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Listen to the full interview above.

It has been a challenging few years for nonprofit groups in Michigan. Whether they depended on private donations or corporate donations or both, the Great Recession hurt organizations all over the state.

But as our state gradually recovers, so are the nonprofits, especially in certain areas of Michigan.

Montgomery Consulting of Huntington Woods is out with a new survey of fundraising conditions in Michigan.

It gives us a quick look at who's on the rebound and who is still struggling.

Today Michael Montgomery joins us from Huntington Woods. He gives us a look at Michigan's regions and where nonprofits are doing the best in terms of meeting their fundraising goals.

He also gives us some tips for those who run nonprofits in Michigan and people who are prospective donors. / A2DataDive

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When it comes to data and knowing just what to do with it, it seems there are two camps in this world. 

Those who can plunge into mining, parsing, analyzing and figuring out how to really use data, and those who are fairly clueless when it comes to crunching data.
Luckily for some non-profit groups in the Ann Arbor/ Detroit area, those types aren’t just smart, they are nice, and willing to help.
Thanks to some hard-working grad students at the U-M School of Information. The A2 Data Dive is coming up this weekend on the Central Campus of the University of Michigan.
Co-founders, Claire Barco and  Nikki Roda tell us more about the A2 Data Dive.

The nonprofit, MI-C.O.P.S., supports the families of Michigan's fallen officers.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

West Bloomfield Township this week lost a police officer in the line of duty—a tragic "first" for the community.

39-year-old Officer Patrick O'Rourke was responding to a "shots fired" call at a home in West Bloomfield. His partner says they thought they were coming to help a family in distress with a possible suicide. Instead, a blast of bullets through a bedroom door killed Officer O'Rourke.

He leaves behind his wife Amy and four small children. His funeral will be held tomorrow morning.

Diane Philpot knows the agony of losing a first responder in the line of duty.

Michiganders are feeling better about the economy, but lukewarm on other topics
morguefile user Penywise /

Nonprofits across Michigan are doing their annual end-of-year holiday push for financial donations. This will be the last time donors will be able to take advantage of a charitable tax credit.

Margaret Sutton/Creative Commons

A 78-year-old woman says a 6-mile canoe trip down a river in northeast Ohio was a dream come true. That’s despite the fact that she’s afraid of water.

Kay Riffle took her first canoe ride thanks partly to the Second Wind Dreams group. The nonprofit organization works to help grant dreams for seniors.

Nonprofits: Tackling illiteracy in Chicago

Jun 16, 2011
Open Books

In Chicago, literacy rates are pretty grim. More than one in three adults cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Many are working toward improving literacy rates in Chicago, among them, the nonprofit Open Books. In the second story in our series on nonprofits, I took at look at Open Books, mostly because of the organization’s funding structure.

At Chicago International Charter School’s Bucktown campus, second grader Jayla Mercado is reading a book about dinosaurs. They’re her favorite topic, but she’s having a hard time sounding out some of the bigger words.

Late government payments strain nonprofits

Jun 15, 2011
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

DETROIT — Nonprofits are a vibrant part of the Midwest economy. They employ a lot of people and the need for their services has grown. But charities that contract with governments to provide social services also depend on those governments for payments. When promised payments are late, the results can be crippling.

Here’s the story of two non-profits — one old and one new — and their fight to survive the effects of late payments in hard times.

the yes man / flickr

We continue our What’s Working series today with guest Sarna Salzman. She’s the Executive Director of SEEDS, or Seeking Ecology Education and Design Solutions.

SEEDS is a non-profit based in Traverse City that acts as an energy consultant for local businesses and municipalities. In addition, SEEDS hosts the northwestern Michigan branch of Youth Corps, which gets kids involved in projects such as cleaning up parks, organizing gardens, and spreading awareness about environmental issues. Last but not least, SEEDS works with local school districts to develop after-school programs aimed at ecological awareness.

Knight, Tom
Gerry Leslie / Homeless Management Information Systems

In 2008, the state estimates there were a little more than 86,000 people without a home. Half of them were families.