February 17, 2020

Nonprofits provide essential services to those who need them most, but resource and capacity constraints continue to threaten the health and sustainability of such organizations.

To address these constraints, Michigan Health Endowment Fund (The Health Fund), Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Washtenaw Coordinated Funders, and Catchafire have come together to roll out “One Michigan”, a statewide initiative aimed at enabling nonprofits to get access to talent in abundance, and in the process, “on-demand” capacity building support.

The program goes live the week of February 10, with 590 nonprofits across Southeast Michigan, Upper Peninsula, and the broader state getting access to the One Michigan platform and service. The goal for 2020 is to make the infrastructure available to at least 3,000 nonprofits.

The roots of One Michigan were seeded in early 2019, when the Michigan Health Endowment Fund partnered with Catchafire to make its online platform and capacity building service available to 200+ current and former grantees across the state. In under one year, The Health Fund’s partners fulfilled 113 capacity building needs worth an aggregate of $462,361 through pro bono consultants who donated 2,250 hours on various projects. In the process, the Catchafire program was customized to meet the unique needs of Michigan based nonprofits.

Such outcomes led to the thought of democratizing access to the custom infrastructure for the benefit of nonprofit ecosystems across the state.

“The Health Fund is thrilled to help bring Catchafire to more nonprofits in the state of Michigan. If we expect nonprofits to be sustainable and effective, we must offer support beyond grant dollars to ensure they can achieve their mission. A healthy nonprofit sector is vital to a healthy Michigan,” said Megan Murphy, Senior Program Officer for Community Health Impact at Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

As part of One Michigan, nonprofits get access to a network of pro bono consultants from across the country through Catchafire’s online platform, which is customized for Michigan nonprofits in order to help quickly build more sustainable organizations.

In the short term such access will enable nonprofits to fulfill strategic and operational needs around fundraising, marketing, technology, and financial management among other functions. Nonprofits can choose from a menu of 140+ project templates to post their needs, and will then see applications from pro bono consultants wanting to donate their expertise to Michigan nonprofits.

Over time, such connections result in long term relationships where pro bono consultants become repeat volunteers, social media advocates, donors and even potential board members, bringing the power of this network effect to scale.

“As a small non-profit, utilizing Catchafire has greatly increased our ability to achieve our mission. We have utilized highly talented volunteers to accomplish important projects at no cost. Without volunteers, these projects would be costly and unsupported by a small non-profit budget. Catchafire volunteers have helped us elevate our web presence, supported us in human resource needs, grown our capacity to develop our board, and provided insight and wisdom that have been invaluable. Catchafire is an absolute must-have for non-profit organizations looking to improve processes, efficiency, and impact,” reflected Emma Garcia, Co-Executive Director at Access of West Michigan, a Grand Rapids based nonprofit, focused on poverty alleviation solutions.

“Nonprofits often find themselves competing for the same grant dollars and resources wherein factors like geographical location, operating budget, staff size and connections play a significant role. One Michigan will help level the playing field by using technology to fundamentally transform how nonprofit communities access talent and the benefits that come along with it. The ultimate goal here is to help reduce resource inequity while strengthening nonprofit ecosystems, at scale,” said Ash Didwania, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Catchafire.

In December 2019, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders, including the United Way of Washtenaw County and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and Livingston, became the first set of grantmakers to bring the One Michigan infrastructure to their community through a two-year funding commitment that enables access for 240 nonprofits in Washtenaw county.

"The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation has focused on nonprofit capacity building for the better part of two decades and we're very pleased to start utilizing Catchafire as an innovative new tool for strengthening local nonprofits,” said Neel Hajra, Chief Executive Officer, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

“The Washtenaw Coordinated Funders believe that a strong nonprofit sector is essential to sustaining our community’s quality of life. Cost and access are two things that can get in the way of nonprofits pursuing important organizational work. It’s for this reason we are investing in Catchafire, an easy, online platform that pairs nonprofit projects with skilled volunteers to build organizational capacity,” said Bridget Healy, Vice President of Impact & Advocacy, United Way of Washtenaw County and Washtenaw Coordinated Funding partner.

The Health Fund and Catchafire are now formally inviting Michigan focused grantmakers to be a part of the initiative by making the One Michigan infrastructure available to nonprofits in their respective communities. The next two cohorts go live in April and June of this year.

To learn more about One Michigan or express interest in participation as a grantmaker, please reach out to Ash Didwania, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Catchafire at ash@catchafire.org, Megan Murphy, Senior Program Officer, Community Health Impact, Michigan Health Endowment Fund at megan@mihealthfund.org or Chris Lemon, Senior Community Investment Officer, Ann Arbor Area Community foundation at clemon@aaacf.org.

About the Michigan Health Endowment Fund

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund is a philanthropic foundation that works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents while reducing healthcare costs. The Health Fund supports organizations across Michigan, from grassroots groups addressing local health challenges to large agencies working in every county. From the urban streetscapes of downtown Detroit all the way to the rural corners of the Upper Peninsula, our partners are doing innovative, evidence-based work to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents.

About Access of West Michigan

Access began in 1981 as a faith-based organization to bring congregations in Kent County together to address basic human needs. Access’ three main focuses remain, but have evolved in many ways over the years. Today, the values that Access upholds throughout our three main initiatives include community development, food justice, economic development, and equity. Our work ranges from housing collaborative food systems programs including a food prescription program and a farm to pantry program, to facilitating workshops that simulate an experience in poverty and employing individuals with barriers to work, to assisting congregations in developing best practices in engaging issues of poverty in their neighborhoods. Throughout our programs, Access’ vision is to cultivate a community rooted in equitable systems.

About the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF)

More than 50 years ago, residents established the foundation as a permanent source of community capital in Washtenaw County. AAACF is a tax-exempt public charity that helps individuals, families, groups, and organizations accomplish their philanthropic goals. Through a core team of 17 Trustees, a staff of 12, and 400+ volunteers, AAACF connects people, charitable causes, and permanent capital for community impact. The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation seeks to enrich the quality of life in our region through its knowledgeable leadership, engaged grantmaking, and creative partnerships with donors to make philanthropic investments and build endowment.

About the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders

The Washtenaw Coordinated Funders is a collaboration between the Washtenaw County Office of Community & Economic Development (representing the City of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Washtenaw Urban County), United Way in of Washtenaw County, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, and Saint Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor that unites the area’s funding sources in pursuit of the most efficient agencies and best program ideas. The program focuses on issues surrounding early childhood, school-aged youth, safety net health and nutrition, housing and homelessness, and the aging population.

About Catchafire

Catchafire is a full service, on-demand solution designed to address the wide-ranging and complex needs of nonprofits by connecting them with talented pro bono professionals. Through Catchafire’s innovative web-based platform and network of more than 10 million professionals, nonprofits have access to people with expert skills who can help them with operational needs such as developing a website, building a strategic plan, designing a brochure, professional development, and other areas of critical work. Catchafire’s scalable and cost-effective model makes it possible for grantmakers to provide a full suite of capacity building services to any nonprofit that the foundation seeks to serve. Catchafire and its foundation partners are not only helping nonprofits improve their capacity, sustainability, and effectiveness, but also leveling the playing field by making capacity building available to any nonprofit or changemaker.