Financial Aid Workshop January 18

1978896_10152568144744232_8367881271452503021_nApplying for financial aid is perhaps the most important, and most complex, task many a high school senior will undertake.  To help academically talented students sort through this process, the Cook Family Foundation is holding a workshop on Monday, January 18 from 7-9 p.m. at the Baker College Welcome Center.

A representative from the University of Michigan Office of Financial Aid will provide important information about qualifying for financial aid, as well as some useful tips on making college more affordable.  U-M is the only public university in Michigan to cover 100 percent of demonstrated financial need of in-state students (learn more here)

While the workshop will provide particular insight to financial aid from the University of Michigan, the presentation will be applicable no matter what four-year university a student ends up attending. The first step for any prospective college student is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the form used by all institutions of higher learning. To qualify for financial aid from UM, students and their families will also need to complete a CSS Profile.

Students and/or their parents are invited to attend the January 18 workshop.  While it is not necessary to RSVP, please contact us if you have questions (989-725-1621 or To keep up-to-date on financial aid, scholarships, and other UM information follow us on Twitter @GoBlueGoBruce

Nonprofit Partners in Capacity Building


Executive Directors of Shiawassee-based nonprofits (l to r): Helen Howard, Respite Volunteers; Tonya Avery, SafeCenter; Lynn Grubb, the Arc Shiawassee; Lauri Elbing, Friends of the Shiawassee River; Tom Cook, Cook Family Foundation; Kathy Brooks, Owosso Community Players; Piper Brewer, Shiawassee Arts Center; Mary Warner-Stone, Durand Union Station Incorporated; and Marlene Webster, Shiawassee Hope

Eight Shiawassee-based nonprofit organizations have achieved Partner status in the Cook Family Foundation’s NonProfit Capacity Building program.  In recognition of this accomplishment, each community group has been awarded $5,000 in a special year-end grant.

“These nonprofits have demonstrated a commitment to improve their governance, their programs, and their capacity” said Foundation Executive Director Tom Cook.  “We are proud to call them Partners”

The organizations now recognized as Partners are the Arc Shiawassee, Durand Union Station Incorporated, the Friends of the Shiawassee River, the Intersection of Owosso (Shiawassee Hope Project), Owosso Community Players, Respite Volunteers of Shiawassee, SafeCenter and the Shiawassee Arts Center.

The NonProfit Capacity Building program provides training and technical assistance to over 20 Shiawassee-based organizations (click here for more information).  To achieve Partner status, over half of the board members of an organization attended one or more workshops on nonprofit governance, executive directors participated in bi-monthly peer learning sessions, and both staff and volunteers took part in coaching sessions with an expert from the Nonprofit Network, a Michigan consulting firm.  Several of the organizations have also updated their strategic plan, made technology investments, or otherwise added capacity.

“We make services available to all Shiawassee-based nonprofits that have paid staff” said Tom Cook, “and we are confident that several more will achieve Partner status in 2016.”  The NonProfit Capacity Building Program is currently being updated for 2016. Program revisions will be announced on this page in January.

“When our nonprofit groups are strong, our communities are healthier,” said Cook. “Nonprofits care for those most in need in Shiawassee County, promote our natural and cultural resources, and help us all be engaged citizens.”

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.

First Donald Cook Scholar Starts Medical School

OUWB White Coat

UM graduate Drew Barnes at his White Coat ceremony with his mother Julie Barnes and grandmother Shirley Kapler

In 2010, Drew Barnes of Owosso High School was awarded the first Donald Cook Scholarship that provided four years of assistance to attend the University of Michigan.  He used those four years well, and graduated with a B.S. in Biology and Spanish. After spending a year working in a dermatology research lab at UM, he starts medical school this fall.

Drew is part of the newest class at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, where he was awarded a scholarship.  While undecided about a concentration, he will volunteer with Seminario en Espanol to provide healthcare to spanish-speaking communities. He also has joined Advocates for Global Health and Human Rights.

The Cook Family Foundation is proud to have started the future Dr. Barnes on his higher-education pathway.

To learn more about our work to support talented youth from the Shiawassee County region, go to our scholarship page.

Foundation Moves to New Office

IMG_5107The Cook Family Foundation has relocated to the second floor of the Exchange Building in downtown Owosso.  The address of the new office is 120 W Exchange, Suite #202.  However, our mailing address remains PO Box 278, Owosso, MI 48867.  Our other contact information has not changed.  You can find all our information, as well as parking suggestions, on our “Contact Us” page.

We are still settling in to our new space, but we would love to have you stop in and say hello.


Next Tech Talk on July 23rd, Focus: Collaboration!

Our addition to the NonProfit Capacity Building Program, “Tech Talk” networking has been a great success. We’re now approaching our fifth meeting–but it’s 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 July 23rd at 10:30 a.m. at the DeVries Nature Conservancy (2635 N M 52, Owosso, MI 48867) where we’ll focus on Solving Problems Together.

Solve Problems Together  by Andy Wolber (@awolber)

Collaborative tools hold much promise.

They let us work differently. A shared document simplifies collaboration. For example, consider how a shared agenda can change a meeting. Create the agenda, and share it with colleagues. One person inserts a comment. Another replies. I’ve seen a comment conversation resolve an issue days before a meeting occurs.

They let us work together. Collaborative apps let people work together. Multiple people can write words ­­ at the same time. Or tweak budget numbers. Or sort slides.

And they let us work almost anywhere. People can edit from any device, anytime, anywhere. Lots of apps offer collaborative capabilities (e.g., see the list at the end of this post.)

Yet a collaborative tool won’t improve the quality ­­ or quantity ­­ of your ideas. The tools help, but much hard work remains. We tend to forget the following steps when we’re dazzled by new tools.


1. Think

Before you engage with other people, think for yourself. Can you concisely express ­­ in words or an illustration ­­ the problem you seek to solve?

The question often frames the answer. “How do we reduce our expenses?” prompts different thinking than “How we we increase revenue?” even though both attempt to solve a budget imbalance. “How do we eliminate hunger?” points to different solutions than “How do we make sure every child in Shiawassee County receives enough healthy food?”

If you’re stuck, explore the provocations of creativity authors such as Roger Von OechEdward DeBono, or Michael Michalko.

2. Create

Consider the most effective way to express your idea. Funders expect us to use words and numbers: we “write a grant application” (words) with a “detailed budget” (numbers).

Sometimes, we also use images, sounds, or video. We turn numbers into pictures: we portray the problem, such as a graph that indicates an increase in poverty. Or a chart that conveys our organization’s impact, such as the percentage of people in the community we serve. We show pictures, such as “before” and “after” images of a site that volunteers cleaned up. We produce a video to convey the emotional impact our organization had on someone we helped.

3. Share

Tools help the most here: we can make our work visible to others with a quick tap (or click) of a “Share” or “Publish” button. Share to small groups of people to obtain comments. Share to the world when you want everyone to know.

Tools mean that meetings may occur differently. A meeting doesn’t have to be a sequence of extroverted individuals who talk. Even something as simple as a shared spreadsheet might allow anyone in the meeting to add an idea ­­ anytime ­­ without the need to interrupt or write on a flip chart.

We choose the terms by which others may use our publicly shared work. Choose a Creative Commons license to allow other people to reuse, modify, or adapt your work.  Or not. It’s up to you. (As an organization, you might choose to license your work with specific terms. Watch a video to learn more.)

4. Comment

The heart of collaboration lives inside an effective comment. An English translation of a Buddhist document captures the essence of an effective comment: “It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately.  It is spoken beneficially. It is spoke with a mind of good­will.”

Think back to the most recent work­related meeting you attended. How does your speech measure up to each of the five characteristics above?

Collaborative tools let us share items easily. But the real, hard work of collaboration requires us to think, to create, and to comment to the best of our ability. We all have the opportunity to improve. ­­­­

*A few collaborative apps…

Google Apps leads the collaborative office suite field. In tech terms: Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides all allow multi­person, simultaneous, real­time, cross­platform edits.  Microsoft’s added some of these collaborative capabilities to Office 365, and will add more with the launch of Office 2016. Quip integrates mobile messaging with documents and spreadsheets.

Many tools offer multi­person ­­ and multi­device ­­ collaboration. These tools help you:

Explore GrantCraft’s Harnessing Collaborative Technologies site ( for more tools and ideas.

Nicholas Miller Awarded Bruce & Jackie Cook Scholarship

DLP-2413 Twenty-six of the academic leaders and best from the Shiawassee County region are headed to the University of Michigan next fall with scholarships from the Cook Family Foundation.  Among those recognized on May 12 by UM President Mark Schlissel was Laingsburg senior Nicholas Miller, this year’s recipient of the Bruce and Jacqueline Cook Scholarship.  He is the ninth winner of this full tuition scholarship provided by the two alumni of the University.

Nick Miller is a National Merit Scholarship commended student with a 3.96 grade point average.  He is captain of the Laingsburg quiz bowl team and science olympiad team.  An avid band member, Nick is a section leader as well as a trumpet soloist in the the jazz band. His career plan is to study epidemiology at Michigan leading to graduate study in public health.

In remarks as part of the scholarship recognition dinner, President Mark Schlissel stressed that the University of Michigan is a public university with a goal of serving academically talented students from throughout the state.  He noted the strong scholarship and financial aid support the University gives to make UM the most affordable public university in the state.  He also thanked alumni like Bruce and Jackie Cook for their support, and urged recent alumni to be advocates and recruit talented students to the University.

The Cook Family Foundation was formed in 1978 and provided one scholarship that year to the University of Michigan.  The Foundation now offers a scholarship to all high school students from the Shiawassee region who are admitted to UM.  More than 500 scholarships have been granted.  The Bruce and Jacqueline Scholarship is funded separately from the Foundation.

This year’s recipients of scholarship to the University of Michigan include from Byron: Brianna Wells; from Chesaning: Trevor Andrews, Tori Turpin; from Corunna: Larissa Robinson-Cooper, Cassidy Schnepp, Scott Feldpausch; from Durand: Tristan Blackledge, Lucas Schaeffer; from Lainsgsburg: Kurt McEwan, Nicholas Miller, Antonia Vrana, Clayton Zimmerman; from New Lothrop: Spencer Wendling, Roen Wheeler; from Owosso: Brittney Crawford, Abigail Edwards, Thomas Horak, Joseph Jafri, Jordan Sowash; from Ovid-Elsie: Elizabeth Bisson, Gordon Johnson; and from Perry: Jordan Depew, Amelia Feuka, Marissa Frent, Brett Ivey, Miranda Lewis

You can learn more about the Foundation’s scholarships on the website’s scholarship tab



Michigan President to Speak to Cook Family Foundation Scholars on May 12

um14pres4New University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel will be coming to Owosso on May 12 to congratulate new students from the Shiawassee area who are attending the University in the fall of 2015. The dinner and reception is hosted by the Cook Family Foundation, which provides a scholarship to every local high school graduate who attends the University of Michigan.

Dr. Mark Schlissel, was named the 14th President of the University of Michigan on July 1, 2014. He is the first physician-scientist to lead the University. He has stated a commitment to increase the opportunities for rural students from throughout the state to attend the University. The visit to Owosso is part of this effort.

The Cook Family Foundation, established by the late Donald Cook, a 1924 UM graduate, has provided more than 400 scholarships to the University of Michigan for graduates from Byron, Chesaning, Corunna, Durand, Laingsburg, Morrice, New Lothrop, Owosso, Ovid-Elsie, and Perry high schools. This year, students from all these local schools will be recognized, along with their parents.

One of the highlights of the evening will be the introduction of this year’s recipient of the four-year, full-tuition Bruce and Jacqueline Cook Scholarship.

The dinner will be held at the Baker College Welcome Center in on Tuesday, May 12 2015 beginning at 5:30 p.m.  All scholarship recipients and family members are honored guests. Current students at the University are also welcome to attend; please contact  Alumni of the University, educators, and others with an interest are invited to attend. Cost of the event is $20.   For more information, please call 989-725-1621. RSVPs are requested by May 5.