CEDAM Blog

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4 Reasons You Should Volunteer

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern 

Everyday and in just about every part of the nation, groups and organizations could use a helping hand through volunteers. For some, volunteering is something they’ve never considered doing, while for others it is a regular part of their life. If you’ve been on the fence about donating your time and skills to an organization, it’s a great way to get involved, and you may be surprised at how giving back can help you as well. Here are some reasons that may encourage you to volunteer.

animals-617305_19201.) You can support a cause or community you care about.

Whether it’s helping at a local shelter, working at a soup kitchen or donating your time to a community event, volunteering can help strengthen the causes or community you choose to work with. Think about what or who you care about and would like to assist – doing something you’re already passionate about can create stronger bonds to spending your time there.

2.) Networking can happen anywhere.

While traditionally networking is thought of in work or professional situations, volunteering can lead to a great opportunity to network as well! You may be surprised at others who are also donating their time to similar causes, and can create long-lasting connections to them!

3.) Volunteering can build upon or help you learn new skills.

Some people may think “Well, I’m not sure I have the skill set that would be best for this type of volunteer work.” That’s okay! Most places who are looking for volunteers aren’t expecting experts walking in the door on their first day. When you go in to volunteer, be honest about your knowledge level. Other volunteers or employees can help you figure out what you need to know, and you may be surprised at what you learn!

4.) Volunteering saves more resources.money-652560_1280

One way or another, jobs must be done in nonprofits or groups. If volunteers are not able to be found, or not enough are giving their time, groups are forced to spend their money on extra employees rather than placing funds toward their need. Giving your time without expecting payment allows nonprofits to place money towards other important needs and goals.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Shelby Soberalski

Written by the Corps Support Committee

The Rural Opportunity VISTA Program’s members provide capacity building to organizations by expanding on existing programming or creating a new program from the ground up. The VISTAs in this cohort are hard-working, dedicated, and awesome!

This month, as the great stories submitted by the AmeriCorps State Members and the AmeriCorps VISTA Members were coming in, one person’s story in particular really stood out to us.  The Corps Support Committee is so grateful to all those who allowed us to take a peek behind the curtain of their service year.

February 2017: Shelby Soberalski

ShelbyVISTAThis month we are highlighting: Shelby Soberalski! Shelby is an AmeriCorps VISTA currently serving in her first year.  She is empowered by the knowledge that she can do something to make a change in her hometown and excited about being a VISTA. Here is her Great Story submission:

In my short time of being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I’ve been able to do a lot of work that I never thought that I’d be able to do. It has opened many opportunities while also opening my eyes to many struggles in my own hometown. But knowing that I can do something about it is empowering.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” is a quote that I’ve always felt inspired by. Martin Luther King Jr. has always inspired me through different projects that I’ve done throughout my life. At a young age, his stories always compelled me to think of others and give back. When I was 14 years old and visited the National Mall and stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he had stood years before me to deliver his unforgettable “I have a Dream” speech, was incredibly humbling.

I’ve volunteered a lot in my life and when I first thought of the idea of becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, I knew this was something I could do. One of the first things I noticed was the MLK Day of Service and I loved the idea of serving in honor of Dr. King.

After researching a few different and unique ideas of what to do for MLK Day of Service, my fellow VISTA, Sarah McMahon, and I agreed upon the idea of creating Valentines Cards for Veterans and active Military personnel. We decided to encourage local senior citizens, fifth grade students and a Girl Scout troop to help us create over 100 cards.

I’ve learned a lot about Dr. King and I’ve always taken Martin Luther King Jr. day seriously, but it wasn’t until I was in a fifth grade classroom, as an AmeriCorps VISTA Member, that I fully understood. I was finally able to understand the impact of a volunteer and how far my service as a VISTA can go. Even though Dr. King is no longer here, I can continue to foster his dream. That it doesn’t take much for me to make a difference. The students were in awe hearing about what the AmeriCorps VISTA program is about and that I am able to help carry on such an important legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. started. Of all the thoughtful cards these students made for our Military, one wrote,

ThankYouCard“We are thankful for you and your work. If the AmeriCorps Volunteers did not give us the advantage to right notes to you and other working veterans’ this day would be wasted because there’s nothing better than thanking our working men and women.” [Note was copied word for word]

Reading through all of these cards, I was in awe of the lessons I was able to share with these students and I hope that they continue to feel compelled to give back to others. Days of service like this make me look forward to the rest of my service. It is moments like this, that I’m so glad I decided to become a part of something much larger than myself and commit to being an AmeriCorps VISTA Member.

CEDAM hosts the Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and the Rural Opportunity VISTA program AmeriCorps programs. We would like to thank the Corps Support Committee (Jennifer Tucker, Lily Fossel and Autumn Zywicki) for providing content to the Voices of AmeriCorps series.

Dodd-Frank Rollbacks Expected

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

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The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, simply referred to as Dodd-Frank, is an Obama-era response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. President Trump has indicated he has plans to roll back the Act, despite objection from many including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The methods used by this Act for the purpose of more control over the national economy include the “Volcker Rule” which sets limits on risky investments by banks, the establishment of the Financial Stability Oversight Council which has the Department of the Treasury monitor America’s financial security, as well as establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB keeps a check on financial companies to protect the interest of consumers. The CFPB’s goal is to protect consumers by regulating banks, credit unions, payday lenders, mortgage servicers and other institutions that offer financial products. Many of these institutions, particularly payday lenders, are notorious for preying on consumers. A recent CFPB victory, as you may recall from recent headlines, was the fining of Wells Fargo following the bank’s scheme to open accounts without consumer consent. In its five years of existence, the bureau says it has recovered $11.7 billion for more than 27 million consumers.

The CFPB is a component of Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act, and has long been the subject of Republican disapproval. While many would like to see reform, others want to eliminate Title X entirely. A bill introduced last Tuesday by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas would repeal Title X and end CFPB. “Don’t let the name fool you, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does little to protect consumers. During the Obama administration, the CFPB grew in power and magnitude without any accountability to Congress and the people, and I am encouraged by the actions President Trump has begun to take to roll back the harmful impacts of an out-of-control bureaucracy,” Cruz said. Cruz and Ratcliffe had introduced a similar bill two years ago without luck, but appear encouraged by President Trump’s recent calls to undo Dodd-Frank.

document-428334_1920Trump recently signed two directives to review Dodd-Frank as well as a critical review of the Fiduciary Rule which holds that financial advisers must act in the best interest of the client. “We’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” the president said in reference to part of his large plane to repeal many Obama-era programs. If repealed, the effects would not be immediate but would eventually return the banking system to pre-2008 practices. The arguments made in favor of dismantlement include the notion that small banks are disproportionately burdened by the paperwork involved that their small staffs cannot reasonable manage. This is supported by the statistic that 25% of local banks have closed or merged as a result of this since the Great Recession. In the realm of large banks, many object to the rules against proprietary trading, which is said to prevent these banks from offering securities to customers who want them. Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, and the newly appointed director of the National Economic Council supported the President’s position saying that “[the] banks are going to be able to price product more efficiently and more effectively to consumers […]”. While both sides watch to see what will happen next, it is clear that there will be major changes from what Obama set in place.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Call for Presenters for People & Places 2017

Written by Suzanne Gunther and Nina Arce, NACEDA

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A lot great things are happening in Michigan and we’re eager to share the tremendous accomplishments of Michigan’s community development sector on the national stage. Join us for the largest gathering of community development professionals in the country at People & Places 2017. Mark your calendars for May 31-June 2 in Arlington, Virginia (minutes from DC and Reagan National Airport), this peer-learning event will bring together approximately 800 community development placemakers, partners and supporters from across the country.

Call for Presenters

DSC_0134Do you have a passion about the work you do? Have you helped orchestrate a successful state or local policy campaign? Do you want to share your strategies and tactics with community development professionals from around the country? If so, the People & Places 2017 steering committee invites you to propose a session to present at the most diverse and inclusive community development event in the nation. Some travel assistance is available for selected presenters. To submit a proposal for a workshops, panel, roundtable discussion, or TED-style talk, respond to the Call for Presenters by Friday, February 24.

At this year’s conference, we want Michigan’s participation level to be prominent. Whether a presenter or participant, don’t miss this opportunity! You can also take advantage of TD Bank’s Non-Profit Training Resource Fund which may be used for registration costs. These funds are limited, so don’t delay in registering. It is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to qualifying non-profits.

People & Places 2017 is hosted by five national networks to inspire each other, strengthen our skills, unite our networks, and raise our voices on behalf of the communities we serve. The hosts are:

  • National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations;
  • National Urban League;
  • National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders;
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development;
  • and Network for Developing Conscious Communities.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Trump’s Executive Order and What It Means for the Affordable Healthcare Act

Written by Tristyn Walton, Policy Intern

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Since the primaries, President Trump has been intent on repealing President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA). If there was any doubt to the contrary, one of his first official actions in office was the signing of an executive order to “minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Affordable Care Act”. Trump’s executive order grants the Secretary of Health and Human Service, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS all authority available under the current law of the ACA to roll back the pieces that make it work.

On the surface level, the executive order seems like nothing more than a symbolic gesture because the secretary cannot do anything beyond the bounds of the law. However, the act itself gives the incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services some broad powers that could have significant effects on the law. The executive order’s broad language gives federal agencies wide latitude to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impacts, and essentially allow the law to be dismantled enough to eventually destabilize health care and require a repeal and replacement of the ACA.

The order also spells out the various ways that Trump and his administration might fight specific parts of the ACA until new legislation comes forth: by writing new regulations and exercising discretion where allowed. On matters of discretion, the administration can move faster, but there are still limited places where current law gives the administration power to quickly change course. Another important area of discretion has to do with exemptions to the law’s individual mandate to obtain insurance. Under the current law, all Americans who can afford it are expected to obtain health insurance, unless they have experienced some hardship that would make it impossible. People who feel there has been such a hardship can apply for an exemption, and employees in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service can decide on their case. Under a Trump administration, it might become easier to claim hardship and get out of the requirement to buy insurance. However, doing away with the individual mandate could have significant consequences for the individual insurance markets. If fewer healthy people buy insurance, the costs of insuring everyone else will rise, causing insurance companies to raise prices or leave the market.

Trump’s executive orddoctor-563428_1920er also gives states more autonomy in directing health policy, allowing administrations more latitude under the law to decide what sort of new programs qualify. For a lot of people, Mr. Trump’s selection for the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, was a sign that his administration would become more open to new Medicaid rules, including possible work requirements to obtain coverage, or premiums even for very poor Americans.

Lastly, the order states what Mr. Trump made clear during his campaign: that it is his administration’s policy to seek the “prompt repeal” of the law; however, Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill have yet to keep their promise to devise a replacement health care plan that will be “far better” than President Obama’s signature healthcare law that would also insure more people and lower their costs.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Collaborative Environment Between Officials and Community – Part 1

Written by Douglas Kelsey and David Gruber of Dispute Resolution Education Resources, Inc. (DRER)

clasped-hands-541849_1920Local officials who wish to preside over a peaceful community might ask themselves how they and their constituents can create a collaborative climate in their town. In a collaborative environment, officials and citizens anticipate difficult issues and together seek solutions before a crisis arises.

A collaborative environment could change the dynamics of the following situations.

  • A homeowner uses his backyard to store junk cars. The neighbors are unhappy and vocal about it, but local officials have little enforcement power.
  • Citizens are certain that water rates are too high, even though their hometown officials, not some far off agency, set the rates. They don’t mind complaining.
  • A proposed state highway would cut through farmland and whisk travelers by your downtown tourist attractions. Local farmers and business owners ask, “Can this be stopped?”

Each situation poses a contest of interests. In the first, the enforcement of community standards versus an individual’s solution to low-cost car storage. In the second, public health and community growth versus ratepayer protection of the pocketbook. In the third, tourism development versus protection of local livelihoods and the local economy.

In a collaborative climate, public officials would:

  • Share information about community goals and standards, especially with newcomers.
  • Understand where the goals of citizens might diverge from public objectives.
  • Engage citizens in early problem solving.

All three are essential to collaborative communities, but the last is especially important. A common type of government decision making involves the government collecting public input then making the decision internally. This seems reasonable, since the community presumably elected them to do just that.

bonding-1985863_1920All to often, though, it still ends in conflict. The reason? Today’s citizens are more sophisticated in their use of mainstream and social media, referenda and the courts to promote their issues. Government may not have the last word. Many citizens today want to be part of the decision-making process. They believe they have a better chance of ensuring that solutions meet their needs.

It ultimately comes down to trust. Transparency in government is a building block, but so is the willingness to tap citizen ingenuity and turn potential conflict into creative solutions. Future blogs will discuss how this can be done.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

Thanking Donors the Right Way

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern

thank-you-515514_1280Many nonprofits, regardless of focus area, spend time fundraising. Nonprofit employees work hard to create a project and everything that goes with it – logos, blurbs and marketing materials – and when it comes down to it, money is often an important part of making these projects or events happen. They may even spend time targeting fundraising emails and writing a really great email or letter. Once we receive donations from donors, what is the next step?

Sending thank you’s, no matter the format, is an art that nonprofits often need to work on. There are many donors who simply give out of the kindness of their hearts, but don’t you believe a thank you would be appreciated? Letting people know that what they’re doing is important not only to you, but to whomever the project or event may affect, is key. Here are some tips on the best ways to say “thanks” to your donors.

Plan the Thank You Before Asking

Before even asking for donations, your nonprofit needs a solid plan. While having a basic format is usually beneficial, answering some of these questions will help move the process along much quicker.

  • What type of thank you are we going to give? (Phone calls, emails or physical letters? Will different donations types get different thank you’s? If so, who will be in charge of each type?)
  • How much information are you going to include? (i.e., Who is this event benefitting?; What sort of work or groups will this be improving?; etc.) It is also important to not be boring in your letter. Don’t dwell on unimportant information that donors will only skim – tell a story with what you’re including that will enthrall your donors.
  • Who signs the letter? Whether it is the executive director, CEO or the employee in charge of the event, knowing this will make it easy to know who to go to.

Don’t Delay

Promptness in being thanked can be key to continuing a positive donor relationship. When one knows that their gift has not only been noticed, but appreciated in a short time, will let them know that their donation is important and may create more openness to giving in the future. A good rule of thumb is to send out your thank you, no matter the format, in 48 hours.

Proofreading and Personalizingwriting-1209121_1920

No matter if it is the first thank you letter or email you are sending or the last, always proofread the letter, and in particular the donor’s name. Misspelling or grammatical errors make any professional place of work look sloppy or rushed, so always take the time. While it might seem easier to avoid personalizing each thank you, skipping this key step could be a huge misstep. A recent study showed donors feel over 70% more engaged with nonprofits that send them content specifically for them. Take the time to do it right.

Who can I reach?

Always include someone and some way to reach out to the nonprofit. Usually, the person who has decided to sign the letter is an easy choice. Attach a name, phone number, email and picture (if possible), so donors know exactly who they can call if they have any questions in the future. While receiving a call like this from a donor may not happen often, a point of contact who donors know they can reach is important.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

A Review of Paul Ryan’s ‘A Better Way’ Plan: Part 3

Written by Sarah Torrico, Policy Intern

calculator-385506_1920The Reagan administration drastically reformed America’s tax policy, and Paul Ryan says it’s time for another big change. Like in the eighties, Ryan suggests that the public, as well as congress, are tired of the current system. In his proposal A Better Way, the three main objectives include: simplifying the tax process, create jobs and reconstructing the IRS to better serve the public.

Much of the document is spent emphasizing the difficulties of filing taxes as both an individual and as a company. His solution to this problem is to limit the bracket system to three while making some big changes that he believes will incentivize national saving. Some of these changes include:

  • streamlining education tax benefits to make college more easily afforded;
  • end the alternative minimum tax so that taxes only need to be filed once annually;
  • improve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to promote work;
  • improve tax incentives for charitable donations;
  • reform saving provisions so that families may more easily plan for retirement;
  • reduce taxes for products made in the USA so that producers can more easily compete in a global market; and
  • repeal the death tax.

application-1915345_1920Some other adjustments are aimed specifically at creating jobs. Taxes on businesses will be reduced to a flat rate of 25% for small businesses and 20% for large corporations – the largest corporate tax cut in our country’s history. Taxes on a company’s savings will also be cut by allowing deductions of 50% of the dividends, capital gains and interest received from stocks and mutual funds, as well as allowing immediate write-offs on tax-free returns on new investments.

The complexity of the current tax system, Ryan claims, has led to fraud by the IRS. In order to make the organization more efficient and accountable, he advises its restructuring into three branches: “one for individuals and families, one for businesses of all sizes and one that provides an independent ‘small claims court’ approach to resolving routine disputes quickly […]”. This, in addition to appointing a new commissioner with term limits and creating an Office of Dispute Resolution, is said to solve the problem of overtaxing.

The proposal as it currently stands is largely incomplete. Though it addresses some relevant issues, few solutions are made clear. Ryan addresses that his current package assumes that the Affordable Care Act has been repealed in its entirety. He also assumes that a $400 billion worth of expenditures that are set to expire will not be renewed.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

MLK Day 2017: What are you doing to help others?

Written by Stevie Chilcote, VISTA Leader

Legacy of Service

Watch more videos and amazing interviews.

Beloved Communitymlk2005_cncs

In 1983, after a long struggle, legislation made the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into a federal holiday to honor a man who believed in a nation of freedom
and justice for all.  He spoke often of how non-violent resistance would lead to a “Beloved Community.”  He said that its creation would require “a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” MLK Day became a call to action, and in 1994, Congress designated that MLK Day would be a day of service to pay homage to the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  MLK Day is our chance to empower communities, strengthen bonds, create solutions to social problems and work to better our “beloved community.”

 

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“It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age.”
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A Day On, Not a Day Off!

Dr. King asked of us, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Americans across the country answer the question by committing themselves to service in honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Over 5,000 organizations have already registered events.  So take the pledge to serve and work to build our “beloved community” on January 16th.

Find your service or register your event here.

You can also find lesson plans, videos, and resources here.

“You don’t have to hamlkday2015ve a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Business or Nonprofit

Written by Kaylee Kellogg, Communications Intern

It’s the beginning of a new year, and all around us, individuals are making resolutions on things to do or change in 2017. Have you ever thought of using this idea within the workplace? The new year is a great time to plan out changes or updates to make not only for you and your coworkers, but for your customers or members as well! Here are some ideas that might get you started!

office-625893_1920Make it a priority to get or keep your websites up to date

It’s something all companies or nonprofits with a website come across – you forget to post about one event or product, and next thing you know, you have plenty of updates to do and no time to do them all. While sometimes not posting or updating a site may seem minor in comparison to other job necessities going on, you should also remember that your website or social media may be some people’s main way to reach out and see what you’re doing. Take the time – whether it is all in one go or scheduled out – to make sure each page is updated with the most current information. Keep it updated throughout the year by finding ways to schedule posts ahead of time or designating individuals to post on specific media types.

Learn a new skill that could help you now or in the future

Have you ever seen another business or nonprofit do something and think “Wow, I wish we could do something like that here!” Why not take the time to learn one of these skills that might help the company prosper? Video skills, becoming active on a new social media site or taking the time to attend a class or workshop are all great ways to hone in on new skills, but there are so many more that could help depending on your business!

Ask for feedback – and ask for it regularly

Asking for feedback can sometimes feel risky – while in some areas you may feel you are succeeding, other areas may feel like they’re going to be criticized. Even though this can be nerve racking, you should be regularly asking people about areas you can improve at and where you are doing things right. One great way to do this is through a yearly survey with participation from staff. Allow everyone to have input on what questions should be asked and how it will  be organized. Then, send this to your customers through whatever medium makes the most sense. While this sounds like a huge dilemma, this survey no longer has to be a harrowing experience – survey websites such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey are great resources that will help easily organize your information into useable statistics. Once you receive answers, get with your staff again and discuss the results – use these to make attainable goals to reach for by next year. You might be surprised how much you learn about your audience and customers!

Take the time – be kind to those around yougesture-772977_1280

This one may seem simple, but it can mean so much to those around you. Coworkers, volunteers, customers and everyone you interact with should feel like they are important to the way you work. Take the time to say hello and ask people how they’re doing. Throw an office appreciation party. Let someone know they did a great job. Doing even these small things will make people happier to see you, and more motivated in working with you.

If you have a topic or idea that you think could make a great CEDAM blog post, please contact Kaylee Kellogg at kellogg@cedam.info.