Working Together for the Past, and the Future

image002“None of us alone is as smart or as strong as all of us together” might be the best statement of the Cook Family Foundation’s goal to support collaboration to improve our community (read more here).  Recently, a small grant helped bring together a range of nonprofit leaders and local officials to learn from some experts and to talk about how they might work together to promote place and use our history to build a stronger economic future in Shiawassee County.

We are fortunate to have passionate people who care enough about their community to take time to organize nonprofit corporations to advance their cause. This is particularly true when it comes to the history and culture of this place we call home. The Cook Family Foundation has been a supporter of several of these organizations and provided funding through the NonProfit Capacity Building Program to help them develop and grow. Despite successes, many of these groups face challenges in gaining visibility and support, recruiting new volunteers, and securing their facilities. Perhaps working together might help them ensure the sustainability of their individual efforts.

On October 17, twenty-three community leaders and nonprofit executives dedicated an entire Saturday to the topic of “Developing Great Visitor Experiences” by listening to two experts, Jeanine Head Miller and Donna Braden, from The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan’s premier museum. The goal of the workshop was to help local arts and history organizations understand their audiences and connect with them, as well as think about how to present and promote Shiawassee County cultural resources as a whole. “The seminar jump-started site-specific and community thinking” said Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of  Domestic Life at the Henry Ford. “Shiawassee County has a lot to offer!”

Organizations sending representatives included the Owosso Historical Commision, which put on the event, the Shiawassee Arts Council, which hosted it, and Durand Union Station, the Steam Railroading Institute, Owosso Community Players, Shiawassee Historical Society, the Downtown Owosso Farmer’s Market, and the Friends of the Shiawassee River.

The next step is build on the relationships and trust created at the gathering and look for ways to cooperate on promoting Shiawassee County’s cultural assets and collaborate on achieving common goals.


The attendees are from left to right: front row, Elaine Greenway, Chair Owosso Historical Commission; Mary Warner-Stone, Executive Director Durand Union Station; Denice Grace, Head Docent Curwood Castle Owosso Historical Commission; Robert Doran, Executive Director Owosso Historical Commission; Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life The Henry Ford; Piper Brewer, Executive Director Shiawassee Arts Center; Donna Braden, Visitor Experience Specialist The Henry Ford; Jeanette Gomos, Durand  Union Station; Charlie Wascher, Executive Director Shiawassee Historical Society; Karen Kong,  Shiawassee Arts Center.
row two, Michael Boudro, Archivist Durand Union Station; Bruce Omundson, Steam Railroading Institute; Kathy Brooks, Executive Director Owosso Community Players; Jeff Winiarski, Steam Railroading Institute; Jack Baldwin, Steam Railroading Institute; Gordon Pennington, Burning Media Group; Lorraine Austin, Friends of the Shiawassee River; Katherine Godbold, Shiawassee Arts Council.
Not shown: Tom Colton, Durand Union Station; Betty McGinnis, Board President Shiawassee Arts Center; Tracey Peltier, Downtown Owosso Farmer’s Market and Owosso Historical Commission; Robert Brockway, Owosso Historical Commission; Jenelle Steele-Elkins, Owosso Historical Commission; Arlene Wascher, Shiawassee Historical Society; Patrice Martin, Non Profit Network.

Next Text Talk on October 1, Focus: Data

Our addition to the NonProfit Capacity Building Program, “Tech Talk” networking has really been a nice addition to our training offerings. We’re now approaching our sixth meeting–but it’s still not too late to join in! If you’d like to be a part of it and haven’t yet signed up, reply to this post or Tweet us @ShiaNPCB or @awolber

The tech group will meet again on October 1st at 10:30 a.m. at the Child Abuse and Prevention Council (1216 West Main Street, Owosso 48867) where we’ll have a discussion about data — and databases.

Got data? Use it.  by Andy Wolber (@awolber)

“May I have your phone number?” he asks.

You’d expect to hear this at a networking or dating event.  Instead, a company has trained
cashiers to gather customer data ­­even when you want to buy a $2 item. . . with cash.  If you’re like me, you find the practice irritating.

Contrast that with Apple.  Walk into an Apple store with your iPhone, grab a gadget, scan the item with your phone’s camera, pay with the Apple store app, and walk out.  No employee interaction necessary.  Convenient?  Yes.  Did you give the company some data?  Of course:  Apple records when and where you made the purchase.

In both scenarios, a company gathers your data.  Yet the Apple experience provides a clear, immediate benefit: convenience.  You provide data and you also receive an immediate benefit.  (As an aside, the first time I paid this way it almost felt like shoplifting. That’s how accustomed I am to the rituals of cashier interactions.)

Data flows through every organization ­­yours included.  Board members and funders rely on
data to make decisions:  Hire?  Fire?  Build?  Fund?  Expand?  Change?  Close?  Each decision requires data.

Nearly every organization can improve how it gathers, stores, processes, shares, and secures client data.  In other words, you don’t have to be Apple to benefit from a focus on data flows.

1. Play data golf.

To play data golf, reduce the data you track to as few items as possible.  Remember: in golf, the low score wins.  (Do you really need a fax number field?)

2. If you ask, act.

Review each piece of data on your website and organization’s forms. What do you do with each piece of information?  Is the data “must have” or “maybe we’ll need this someday”? Clarify what action you take as a result of each field.

3. Where possible: store data that doesn’t change.

Record a birth date, not an age.  Ages change.  Birthdates, unless you’re a movie star or
fugitive,­­ typically don’t.

4. Don’t ask twice.

A donor shouldn’t have to provide their address twice ­­ ever. If a person provides an address
when they purchase a ticket, for example, they shouldn’t have to provide their address again when they make a donation.

5. Consolidate systems.

Ideally, your organization would have one master system to store everything.  In reality, most organizations have a few separate systems: a financial system, donor database, and program and/or event database.  These should connect or share data, where appropriate. (For example, a consistent way to export, then import data from one system to another.)

6. You track, you benefit.

Make sure the people who provide data benefit from the data.  This can be tricky:  if a funder requires a specific report, you need to figure out how the data will benefit the people you serve.  A classic example: an organization where employees track time and the data are used to allocate grant funds among activities. If people who track time don’t see a clear benefit from the activity, at best you’ll get estimated data.

7. Client “self-service” (or: my data, my update).

Wherever possible, allow people to update the information you have stored.  For example, a person could log in to your website to update their personal information, such as address or contact information.

8. Honor communication preferences.

Let people to connect with your organization on their terms.  Don’t build your system around a single type of data, such as email address (unless you provide an email­-based product, of
course!).  Many people prefer to receive info via texts, Tweets, or even old-fashioned postal mail.  Support as many channels as possible, and customize your messaging to fit the characteristics of each channel.

Next steps?

Grab your organization’s forms and look at your website.  What do you see?  What can you do to improve your organization’s data flow?

For additional information on choosing and using databases, see my mindmap. Click the ‘+’ to expand items, and click the arrow to the right of an item to follow the link.

Nominees for the Bruce and Jacqueline Cook Scholarship

DLP-0398Twenty-six of the most academically accomplished high school seniors from the Shiawassee County area recently made a trip to Ann Arbor. All have been nominated for scholarships to the University of Michigan by the Cook Family Foundation. One of the students will be selected to receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship from Bruce and Jacqueline Cook.

In order to assist them with their college selection, the nominees recently attended an overnight trip to the University of Michigan where they met with admission officers, took a tour of the campus and stadium, attended a class, and had the opportunity to spend time with students from the Shiawassee County area presently enrolled at the University of Michigan.

The students from nine area school districts were nominated because of their high grade point average and test scores; all are outstanding students. Based on their academic records, the promise of future academic success, and demonstrated leadership capabilities, one of these nominees will be selected to receive the Bruce and Jacqueline Cook Scholarship, which covers all tuition for an undergraduate education at the University of Michigan.

Each of the nominees will receive at least a $2,500 scholarship to the University of Michigan from the Cook Family Foundation. In addition to these nominees, the Cook Family Foundation provides a scholarship to every local student attending the University of Michigan.  You can read more here about scholarships.

If they apply and are admitted to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the following students will be considered for the Bruce and Jacqueline Cook scholarship: from Byron, Kaila Daley and Mitchell Lawrence; from Chesaning, Rosemarie Calandrino, Anthony Edgar, Heather Mahoney, and Abigail Wallace; from Corunna, Alexander Backus, Nicholas Mars, and Connor Svrcek; from Durand, Jason Cottrell, Daniel Greeson, and Allison Luchenbill; from Laingsburg, Hanna Angst, Julia Angst, and Daniel Briggs; from New Lothrop, Clara Devota, Harrison Miller, and Hannah Thomas (not pictured); from Ovid-Elsie, Conner Applebee and Emma Phillipson; from Owosso, Mary Basso and Carmen Chamberlain; and from Perry, Breanna Bixler, Nathan Davis II, and Micah Johnson.

Past recipients of the Bruce and Jackie Cook Scholarship have included Nick Miller from Laingsburg in 2015, Nolan Wendling from New Lothrop in 2014, Emily Feuka from Perry in 2013, Sam Whaley also from Perry in 2012, Adam Stewart from Laingsburg in 2011, Valerie Foster from Byron in 2010, Adam Dingens from Corunna in 2009, Randy Piper from Owosso in 2008, Dan Frechtling from Perry in 2007 and Kendra Frye of Owosso in 2006.