Better Than A Webinar

Dequindre Cut 4We thought we solved the problem of people not being able to make it to in-person trainings with the invention of the webinar. Maybe with a webinar they wouldn’t feel the need to pull out their cellphone or laptop and answer emails during the presentation. If you’ve hosted a webinar, you know this to not be the case. Since the speaker is invisible and the audio quality is usually poor, people tune out or don’t even show up and just wait for the webinar recording to come out.

So why not just skip right to the recording?

We filmed some of our beginner Real Estate Development workshops. They are the exact same information you would get by attending in person, except as videos. You can go at your own pace and you get a copy to keep, so you can rewatch it any time you need a refresher.

Each online training is $15 for CEDAM members. You can purchase Market Analysis, Utilizing Land Banks and Site Selection & Due Diligence here.

We also have a phenomenal Conflict Resolution training that is specifically designed to be presented in video format. You can see a demo and read about what this training includes here. (P.S. This training will significantly improve your life at work and at home; it’s definitely worth it.)

Happy learning!

6 Steps for Writing a BIG Grant

training201Written by Olivia Courant, New Media Specialist

Julie Powers has been writing HUD grants for twenty years. She has written almost 60 grants, and every one of them has succeeded. During the 2015 Building Michigan Communities Conference, she shared her methods on how to write successful large grants that have multiple organizations involved.

Before starting, Julie emphasized that each grant should have one captain who makes all the final decisions, one person who does all the media and press activities and one editor. The biggest mistake is to piece these responsibilities out, because when this happens, the grant will read like it was written by many different people with no consistent message.

1. Write the budget first.

The rest of your application will be determined by your budget.

2. Write the needs section.

Properly footnote your needs with real data and real research sources. Even if your work plan is not solid, a strong needs section that proves you know your community will dominate.

3. All drama happens in the wee hours of the night.

Do not take vacation before the grant is due. Anticipate that something may go wrong at the last minute: a partner organization drops out, technology fails, a section of the grant is accidentally skipped, etc.

4. Get anything from others that you need before the deadline.

If multiple organizations and people are working on the grant, tell them the deadline is earlier than it actually is so they get their stuff in on time. The head editor needs to put everything together and review the final product before turning it in.

5. Be ready with solid internet.

Large grant applications take a lot of power to upload. If you have a weak or unreliable internet connection, go to a school or library.

6. Write only for things that matter.

The grant reader wants to hear inspiring stories about the difference the funding will make.


Tech Soup has copies of Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, Adobe software, Windows and all other types of software that nonprofits can get for dirt cheap.

• If you are submitting an application for a federal grant, it is usually done through grants.gov. Set up an account for your nonprofit now. It takes a few weeks to clear and be approved, and this has to happen before you can submit a grant application.

• There is a human on the other end who will receive the grant. They might be willing to help you make sure everything uploaded correctly. If something goes wrong, look for contact information for the application site.

• You might make frenemies (friend-enemies). When you have a vision and you know it will change the world, you will need to leave people/organizations out if they don’t bring what is needed to the table – even if they are great people and you like them. Choose only the strongest partners who you know will carry their weight, communicate and turn materials in on time.

• If you need to prove you have matching funds, but those funds will not be in your hands until after the grant application deadline, you can try the following:

Attach a letter saying you’ve gotten $X every year from XYZ organization for X number of years, and attach previous years’ grant letters. Say you intend to apply to that organization and get $X again this year, and there’s no reason to expect XYZ will not approve that application.

City Leaders Are Paving the Way Toward Financial Empowerment

Written by Megan Kursik, Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment Coordinator

Two weeks ago, I spent a busy three days in Seattle at a CFE Coalition forum, learning from city leaders working across the country to promote financial capability for their residents.

The Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition is a group of dedicated local elected officials and staff who lead initiatives in their communities that improve access to financial counseling, affordable banking products, small business support and longer term asset development. These leaders have also instituted local policy to restrict predatory practices, like high cost payday lending.

This year, the City of Lansing was invited to join the CFE Coalition after successfully launching a Financial Empowerment Center in 2013 and Lansing SAVE, Michigan’s first universal, automatic kids savings program in January! I got to tag along to the CFE Coalition forum with Amber Paxton, Director of Lansing’s Office of Financial Empowerment.

I learned so much from the discussions at the forum, I just had to share a rundown with CEDAM’s membership in Michigan. There’s something in here for everyone!


Jose Cisneros with Megan Kursik

I’m also excited to announce that CEDAM will be welcoming a founding member of the CFE Coalition, Jose Cisneros, back to his home state of Michigan for our second annual Michigan Financial Empowerment Summit in August!

As Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco, Jose established the first ever locally-based universal, automatic college savings program in the U.S. This year, the MI Summit will focus on building similar community-based children’s savings programs.

Find out more about the MI Summit here. I hope to see you there!

The Bright Side: Rural

We released a new series of videos about small towns and rural areas in Michigan. Learn how to bring investment to a small town and see how others found surprising opportunities in Michigan’s rural areas.

2 hussHuss Project, Three Rivers [watch now]

Visit a historic former school in Three Rivers and take a tour of the future community center and garden at The Huss Project with *culture is not optional.

3 conferenceMI Rural Conference, Thompsonville [watch now]

Each year leaders from small town communities gather at Crystal Mountain for the Michigan Rural Council Small Town and Rural Development Conference.

4 stormcloudStormcloud Brewery, Frankfort [watch now]

Go on a tour of Stormcloud Brewing Company, a local brewery in Frankfort specializing in Belgian-inspired ales. At the pub on the shores of Lake Michigan you can get beer, ale, mead, and great food!

5 olivetFarm to School, Olivet [watch now]

Kids in Olivet experience local foods during a farmer visit to their cafeteria on Farm to School month. Video produced by MSU CRFS.

6 cultivate miCultivate Michigan, Bangor [watch now]

Visit Michigan’s hispanic farming cooperative Farmers on the Move and hear about how Cultivate Michigan aims to help institutions purchase 20% of their food locally by 2020. Video produced by MSU CRFS.


7 milanEast Main Redevelopment, Milan [watch now]

Tour a model success story for any small town that wants to upgrade its downtown. The East Main Redevelopment in Milan is a full block historic redevelopment that will have 15 apartments and 8 storefronts.

The Impacts of Free Tax Preparation

by Ross Yednock, Program Director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition

“The income tax compliance system is represented by two separate, and distinct groups. The free preparation sites where IRS certified volunteers prepare and file taxes for no cost and the paid preparers who do the same service, for a cost. These are their stories.”

bookkeeping-615384_640Every year, more than 100,000 people in Michigan rely on free tax services to prepare and file their federal, state and city income tax returns. They come from all walks of life and all across the state. From Detroit to Traverse City, Benton Harbor to Cheboygan, workers, retirees, parents and all others go to free tax sites to save money on tax preparation fees and ensure they receive all of the tax credits for which they are entitled. Members of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition are committed to serving these taxpayers and during the first three months of 2015, I interviewed some of these taxpayers. Here are some of their stories.


accounting-57284_640Velma used to go to a paid preparer to file her taxes. She did it because that is the way she and her husband would file their taxes before he passed away. It only cost $92, not a lot considering all the forms that were used and the seemingly endless numbers that needed to be entered. Besides, her return always was about $98 or $99 dollars – more than enough to cover the fee with a couple of dollars left to spare. Then someone told her about the free tax services offered by Community Action in Adrian. She figured it would give it a try. That was four years ago. She has come back every year since and even brings along her friend so he can save money too.

“It’s great,” she said. “They ask questions about rent and heating costs that the other guy never asked. Now, instead of paying $92 so I could receive a return of $98, I get about $400 back and I don’t have to pay!”

dollars-426023_640Velma’s story is not unique. Unlike some paid income tax preparers, every volunteer tax preparer at the Community Action’s free tax site is certified by the IRS and trained to know about all the federal and Michigan credits for which people may be eligible. That is why Velma’s tax refund went up – she was getting the Michigan Property Tax Credit, something her other preparer had missed.


flag-216887_640A Vietnam veteran from Ypsilanti, Jerry used to be a computer programmer with a nice home in a middle class neighborhood. Then he got sick.

“I’m making a 1/16 of what I used to make before I got sick…my life has changed quite a bit,” he said.

Unable to work, he lost his home and ended up staying in shelters. That is where a program for homeless veterans in Washtenaw County found him. Thanks to their efforts and local community supports – including free tax assistance – he is now living in a Habitat Humanity home and back on his feet, despite the daily challenges.

“It is real frustrating… paperwork, taxes. I got a degree in computer science. I am not an accountant whatsoever. I know binary, octal, hexidecimal numbers all that but I can’t deal with forms like that,” he said. “By the time I am done (filling out all the forms), I am so wound-up and frustrated, so this helps tremendously. I’ve sent other people here before, at least a couple people every year and tell them where I get (my taxes) done and how great it has been.”

Jerry is grateful for all the help he has received and keeps the United Way’s 2-1-1 number on speed dial so he can get help when he needs it. As for how the United Way of Washtenaw County’s free tax program compares with the service he used to pay for he says “No difference at all. Actually nice people here. I haven’t had any one bad experience so far… (No difference) except for paying them a lot of money to do the exact same thing free (tax services) does.”


house-605227_640“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” That is what Liz had to say to the volunteers at the volunteer income tax assistance site run by the United Way for Saginaw County. Working as a customer service representative, she doesn’t make a whole lot of money or have complicated taxes.

“I own a home, but nothing special,” she said, but that didn’t stop the “big box” tax preparer she used last year from telling her it would cost $400 to do her taxes this year. The $250 increase from the $150 she paid in 2014 was more than she could pay. When she asked about the price hike, she was told that they “charge per form, not per return.”

bill-41817_640“I have a little deal where I have a 1099 this year,” she said. “That still seems way ridiculous to me just for one extra form…. I couldn’t afford it. This money I get back I use to pay my property taxes and I really need that because working minimum wage, I can’t hardly save enough to pay my property taxes.”

The free tax program not only saves her money on tax preparation fees, but also ensures that she gets all the credits for which she is legally eligible including Michigan’s Homestead Property Tax Credit and Home Heating Credit.

“I have my home and all my bills and the (heating) bill absolutely killed me (this winter),” she said. “I actually had to borrow money from family to help me pay my gas bill. They shut me off last year because I got behind.” She is hoping that this year, with the help of the Home Heating Credit, which is used to offset the cost of heating for seniors and lower-income households, will help her avoid a similar situation, again.

All of these stories come the MEIC’s Client Story Initiative. Throughout the 2015 tax season, the MEIC gave away 30 $50 gift cards to clients willing to share their story. For more information about the MEIC, please visit meic.cedam.info.

Placemaking Through Crowdfunding

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications and Training Specialist

Crowdfunding is a popular go-to fundraising method used by people to launch new businesses or projects, raise money to help distressful situations and almost every other imaginable circumstance. While many charitable projects have depended on donations in the past, modern crowdfunding has succeeded through the development of an online platform with different donation levels and a rewards system. Donations as little as $1 or $5 are accepted, providing a low-barrier to entry. Statistics show that overall more money is  raised through a lot of smaller donations rather than fewer larger donations.

arrow-21509_1280Organizations and other groups are now using crowdfunding as a strategy to make projects without formal funding a reality, and evolved to become a community-based investment. Participation is voluntary and is used to direct the development of their neighborhoods. While those with deeper projects have typically had more influence regarding funding decisions, crowdfunding and the internet help raise awareness about different opportunities and is a very low-entry way for a person to contribute and participate. Trends show that a little skin in the game helps a project because they are actively supporting it and have an invested interest in the project success.

Public Spaces & Community Places

Enter the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). A long time investor in communities throughout Michigan, they are a funding source for community development corporations (CDCs) and other business development initiatives. As much as anybody, they want their investments to succeed and for communities to grow collaboratively.

Public Spaces & Community Places is their newer program in collaboration with the Michigan Municipal League offering funds to communities across Michigan through a crowdfunding match campaign. The grant program is available to municipalities with projects that are designed to activate public spaces and include parks enhancements, trail expansions, outdoor plazas and other community places and are working with therestaurant-766050_1280ir communities for local momentum. To participate, a community outlines the details of their project and proposes it to the MEDC. Once approved, they work with the MEDC and Patronicity, a Detroit-based crowdfunding company focused on community development, to develop a crowdfunding campaign. Once launched, there is a specified timeline to raise money, with up to $100,000 matched by the MEDC.

Locally Driven Momentum

Since the program’s inception, the MEDC reports that 100% of municipalities have raised their goal funds, and speculate that all projects have gotten underway within 30 days of receiving funds. They have high hopes for the future of this program, and believe that successful implementation is tied directly to community collaboration.

Screen shot 2015-05-15 at 2.56.03 PM

The Beacon Soccer Field concept in Downtown Lansing.

One example of a project going on right now is in Lansing where they have a few days left to raise money to put a soccer field in an available parcel in an existing park downtown Lansing. The goal is to help connect youth and adults through health and fitness education, and provide access to those who otherwise are unable to afford participation. There is still time to participate in this campaign, and you can watch their video here.

See a full list of some of the different participating municipalities and their projects here.

The Implications for Michigan Organizations

While all organizations would love to be able to plan large-scale projects, smaller projects are more easily attainable and can be a catalyst for even more development once completed. The MEDC and MML are ahead of the game by offering the first program of its kind with potentially big impacts across Michigan. Not only are more communities able to participate, but this program helps organizations to better articulate and plan a project by developing a solid marketing plan based on well-crafted visions considering timelines, numbers and overall feasibility, with local support at the root of the effort. That’s half the battle of any project, and groups are getting help from the professionals and funders to leverage success. This process will prevent a lot of failed projects and feelings of detachment or disengagement.

marketing-toolkit-biggerFunders (even micro investors) want to see well-thought out plans and budgets. By creating a communications and marketing plan, organizations can understand how to find more sustainable funding, engage and reach their audience and grow their programming. CEDAM members can download communications and marketing planning toolkits for free to get started on some of this research.

So, what are the projects your community hopes to implement soon and do you have a plan for how to do it?

Have You Noticed Any Immigrants?


Graduation from a family English Second Language literacy class in Grand Rapids. Video

In Southwest Detroit, Bridging Communities began to notice that not everyone was able to participate in their neighborhood programs. The small nonprofit had been developing housing, running intergenerational programs, a time bank and services for the elderly for a long time. Over those years the composition of their neighborhoods changed. Children from many new immigrant families that observed separation of men and women in sports couldn’t be in sports programs because the boys and girls teams practiced in close proximity to each other. Second generation bilingual children moved out of homes, leaving behind seniors who only spoke Spanish. The culture of the area had become more diverse.

Arab American business owner Edna Zaid shows how her firm's videoconferencing system works in Commerce Twp.

Arab American business owner Edna Zaid shows how her firm’s videoconferencing system works in Commerce Twp.

Diversity brings great benefits – such as the fact immigrants in Michigan are 3x more likely to start businesses, 6x more likely to start high tech enterprises and therefore create jobs – but it also brings challenges like those Bridging Communities faced. Like the challenges East Lansing faced when it noticed a boom in high income international students who spoke English well, but not to the degree needed to read legal documents or understand establishing credit or purchasing a home. Like the challenges rural areas face where migrant workers have transitioned to being permanent residents or citizens.

There’s a price to doing nothing. Macomb County has a diversity initiative called One Macomb, and as part of this they give presentations to key employers about how to welcome immigrants. After a presentation at a hospital, the hospital’s HR director said that they wished they’d seen the presentation sooner. Two of their very skilled new staff had left their jobs and moved because their families didn’t feel like the people in their community wanted them there.

Devi grows and sells local food in Lansing. She is a refugee. Video

Devi grows and sells local food in Lansing through Lansing Roots. She is a refugee. Video

If people were going to feel unwelcome, it was not going to be in Southwest Detroit with Bridging Communities. They took action. They adapted youth sports programs and put adequate distance between teams so children following the new religions in the community could play too. They did not have the money to hire a bilingual staff member full time, so they hired a part time staff member. The new person trained other staff on how to direct Spanish speakers to days and times they could get in touch with the part time staff member. Bridging Communities also began new programs that would help the cultures in the area learn from each other, for instance, through cooking classes where one person teaches a recipe from their culture.

World Refugee Day in Lansing. Video

World Refugee Day in Lansing. Video

Over in East Lansing, the municipal government found out how expensive it was to have 12 single pages translated into 5 key languages of the international students and families living there: $5,000. The city declined that outrageous price and instead developed a partnership with Michigan State University, where students in bilingual classes translate the documents under their professor’s supervision. Another service that some municipalities use for ESL residents is video remote interpreting. This is a cost effective solution where you access a web service and an interpreter translates the conversation between both parties. It saves a lot of time and complication in the courtroom, as well as settings like hospitals.

ACCESS gives a walking tour of food businesses immigrants and their families started in Dearborn. Video

ACCESS gives a walking tour of food businesses immigrants and their families started in Dearborn. Video

In April 2015, Michigan lifted the restriction that said we couldn’t resettle any refugees who did not have a friend or family member in the area. Newcomers will be curious about how to start a new life here, meet people, invest their money in a business, a home, an education, a family.

Have the people you served changed?

Have you changed to include them?

2015 Community Economic Development Award Winners

CEDAM board and staff are pleased to recognize many people and organizations this year as key contributors to the community economic development field. Congratulations to all of our awardees!

Community Economic Development Leader of the Year


Each year CEDAM recognizes a Community Economic Development Leader of the Year: a member who has engaged in creative new programming, been involved in an exciting new development, or has generally proved to be a leader in the field. The past year has been an extraordinary one, and CEDAM would like to recognize two Leaders doing very different work in different sides of the state: Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) in Detroit and Neighborhood Housing Services in Grand Haven.

uniUNI is a model for urban, place-based, community economic development. Located in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood of Springwells Village, UNI has undertaken significant public space development, including restoration of a historic chapel as a community center and the creation or restoration of five public parks and play-scapes. UNI is invested in creating a higher education bound culture in their community and their youth apprenticeship program is one of the largest in Southwest Detroit. For UNI, community beautification is key to a neighborhood’s quality of life. Its youth mural program has created one of the city’s densest collections of public art and ongoing resident-driven efforts against blight. UNI believes that all urban neighborhoods should be generational places to live, work and play.

fecNeighborhood Housing Services (NHS) understands that making homeownership sustainable requires residents who are educated, so while NHS provides homeowner and foreclosure counseling and a DHS navigation site for people to sign up for their benefits, they have also integrated financial empowerment services into the mix. Through a new Financial Empowerment Center, Ottawa County residents can get a free appointment with a financial counselor to make and meet goals like reducing debt, increasing savings and improving credit scores. NHS partnered with the County Treasurer to refer people at risk of tax foreclosure to the Financial Empowerment Center to help them stay in their home, and also with a local judge to refer clients who are transitioning out of the criminal system and need to pay debts and get their financial lives back in order.

Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year


The Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year award goes to an organization or individual who has done the most to advance community economic development in Michigan. This year, CEDAM is recognizing two award winners, as they are both incredibly deserving: Marjorie Green and Jonathan Bradford. Both have spent their careers dedicated to community economic development, served as CEDAM board members and worked to improve Michigan for all of its residents.

marjorie-greenMarjorie has made a huge impact in the CED field across Michigan and Indiana. She spent a number of years at MSHDA as the Director of Community Development and then Director of Multifamily Housing and Construction. More recently she has been known for her work as the Community Investment Development Manager at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis (FHLBI), where she connected millions of dollars of much needed FHLBI funding to some of Michigan’s most renown affordable housing and community investment initiatives carried out by organizations like Avalon Housing, Dwelling Place, ICCF, Goodwill, HomeStretch Housing, and local Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

jonathan-bradfordJonathan has been the President and CEO of the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) since 1981, starting out with 9 employees reconstructing 3 single family homes a year. ICCF has now constructed or reconstructed over 660 units of housing. Today, ICCF employs 40 talented individuals who serve 2,200 households annually. The organization has become a model for affordable housing and community economic development, as its programs develop attractive ownership and rental housing and provide resident services that enable housing success and broader life accomplishment. Jonathan was also a founder of CEDAM and the first President of its board.

Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year


The Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Host Site of the Year award is presented annually to recognize a MFPC host site dedicated to making a difference in the communities they serve and who exemplifies the spirit of national service. This year’s winner is Northern Homes Community Development Corporation located in Boyne City. Northern Homes is an organization who doesn’t allow its small number of staff to stop it from creating big improvements in communities. Northern Homes was incorporated 1998 and serves ten counties in northern Michigan with their Foreclosure Prevention programs.

Northern Homes has hosted Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps members since the program’s inception in 2009. Executive Director Jane MacKenzie and host site supervisor Alice Yeoman provide excellent support to their members. Current member Amy Evans is in her fourth year of service and has had the opportunity to take a variety of NeighborWorks trainings and attend MSHDA housing counseling certification due to Northern Homes’ support. Member Marsha Stahmer, who is in her first year of service with MFPC, has also received MSHDA housing counseling certification. It is clear that Northern Homes understands the value of MFPC members and invests in their professional development.

The MFPC members at Northern Homes build capacity in a variety of ways. Amy and Marsha facilitate financial literacy classes, host community forums in their service area, build relationships with County Treasurers’ offices and streamline the intake and triage process. “The AmeriCorps members have helped Northern Homes provide more services to more people. As a result of their service, we have been able to host 5 community outreach events to help us reach more clients and develop more community partnerships” says Jane MacKenzie, Executive Director.

New CEDAM Resources

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications and Training Specialist

Your organization has limited capacity and each person (if you’re lucky to have staff) is doing more than one job. In the nonprofit world, this is a common situation, with some of these extra “duties as assigned” beyond the scope of your skills and understanding.

CEDAM has identified areas where we can help you.


After a recent networking event at the University of Michigan, we learned that there are many Urban & Regional Planning Masters students who are interested in the community economic development field and want to hit the ground running. Knowing that many CEDAM members can benefit from this capacity, particularly from those with a background and interest, we created a members-only webpage with students who would love an opportunity to gain experience.

Whether you have an established internship program or not, it might be a good idea to take a look at the eager candidates and see if there’s a fit within your organization this summer or in the future.

As this program develops, we want to work with both universities and CEDAM members to fill a need in both organizations and opportunities for students to engage and learn about the industry. We are interested in hearing any feedback you may have regarding this new opportunity.

Visit this new web page with prospective interns here: cedam.info/interns.

Are you interested in posting an internship, or want to know more? Contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.

Marketing & Communications

We hear a lot that marketing and communications is a challenge for CEDAM members. There are little resources and understanding of how it works, and who has time for it anyway?

Honestly, you really can’t afford not to spend some time planning and understanding your marketing and communications. Taking some time as a collective organization to thoughtfully outline priorities and action items will save you grief in the long run, and provide measurable results that you can use to:

  • Build awareness, trust and clientele
  • Diversify your funding sources
  • Identify unrestricted funding
  • Reinvest more in your mission
  • And more!

To help you, we created a communication planning and basic marketing plan toolkit. Both are filled with worksheets, examples, explanations and guidance to help you make informed decisions with your limited resources and staff. At the very least, it can help ensure that your organization is all working toward the same goals

Visit this members-only web page to download the toolkits here: cedam.info/resources/library/marketing.

If you are interested in learning more about membership and the full range of benefits, please visit cedam.info/membership.

If you have any questions, or need help, please contact Lisa Assenmacher at lisa@cedam.info.