Guest post by Robert S. Collier, President and CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations. This post also appears on RE:Philanthropy, a blog from the Council on Foundations.
“If we are not at the table, we run the risk of being on the menu.” How I remember that comment from last year’s Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Sure enough, we had a close call this past season with efforts to trim the charitable deduction. This alone provides a major incentive for CMF and our members to again come together and join colleagues from across the country for FOTH on March 21–22.
Yes it is an election year, and political pundits say nothing gets done by Congress in an election season. However, this is actually a time when members of Congress are trying to look good to their constituents and partnering with philanthropy is good for their and the government’s image.
Therefore, we focus on public-private partnerships in our meetings with the Michigan Congressional Delegation. From local examples like Flint, where the C.S. Mott Foundation is helping the city address public safety issues, to regional examples like Southeast Michigan, where the 10 foundations supporting the New Economy Initiative are leveraging countless partnerships to support economic development, there’s no shortage of examples in urban and rural Michigan to share.
In fact, our congressional members and their staffers are pleased to know that our joint study with the Michigan Nonprofit Association on the economic impact of the nonprofit sector in Michigan confirms that one of every 10 working Michiganders works for a 501(c)(3). Foundations are an important part of each of our states’ economic engines and we cannot be shy about telling our stories!
Yes, they have heard some of these stories before, but repetition is OK. I have learned after 18 annual FOTH trips that they need to be reminded of the progress that philanthropy is facilitating through these public-private partnerships. While face-to-face visits in Washington are vital, we also have visits in the districts as part of our educational outreach and progress reports to our members of Congress.
Long-serving members of our delegation remark that the good work of foundations provides a sense of continuity that folks back in their districts are investing in long-term – balancing support for basic needs with innovative ideas – to partner in shaping a better future for constituents in their community and Michigan. Don’t miss this opportunity to be at the table on March 21–22!