Tech Talk Networking Begins!

As part of the NonProfit Capacity Building Program, Tech Talk networking will begin on December 17 at 10:30 am.  If you’d like to be a part of it and haven’t yet responded, reply to this post, or Tweet us @ShiaNPCB or @awolber

Personal learning: it’s a process by Andy Wolber

How do you manage what you see, save, search, and share?

You have a personal learning system. Read an article? Copy it. Hear something new at a workshop? Write it down. Need to know something? Google it. Want someone else to know? Share it online.


Your personal learning system includes all the tools you use to read, save, search, and share information.

Many people rely on an old technology to read and save information: paper. You might not think of paper as a technology, but it is. In China during the 2nd century BCE, people wrapped delicate objects with paper to prevent breakage — just as we do today. But by the 3rd century CE, writing on paper was common. It took around 500 years for people to adopt the behavior of writing things down.

Today, we use software to search and share in ways that paper can’t. Need to know something? These days, our first response might be to search or ask for help on a social network. Chances are good that useful resources already exist. Search tools and social networks help connect us to information — and more importantly — other people.

Plenty of tools handle these same tasks — reading, saving, searching, and sharing — for private information, as well. For example, a keyword search of your files might help you locate a document. Or an article might be shared privately with your colleagues, not posted publicly. In most cases, you choose whether to keep your information private or share it.

Mostly Digital Example

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Example of personal learning tools. Yours will be different. (That’s good.)

Here’s my personal learning system. I likely use a few more digital tools than some people, but this set works well for me. I follow more than 450 sites with Feedbin: when a new post appears at one of the sites I follow, it shows up in Feedbin. I follow about 1,000 people on Twitter, 150 people on Google+, and subscribe to 9 podcasts (audio shows), and 6 magazines. And I read the New York Times newspaper delivered to my driveway daily.

When I see something online that I want to read later, I save it with Instapaper. I bookmark websites I want to find again at Pinboard. I saves notes in either Evernote or Google Docs.

I search frequently to find items I’ve saved in Instapaper, Pinboard, Evernote or Google Apps. I also use Google’s advanced search options often. And I use the Chrome browser on all of my devices, so I can always search my browser history.

When I find something useful or interesting, I most often share it to Twitter or Google+. Every now and then I even email someone a link directly when I want to make certain they’ll see it.

TO DO  (before December 17, 2014)

Your system will look very different. You’re not me. Your history, job, and tool preferences will likely be different. That’s good. It will make our discussion of tools much more interesting!

Before we meet, I’d like you to identify the tools you use…

  • To see new information (read, watch, or hear),
  • To save information for later review or reference,
  • To search, and
  • To share with other people (publicly or privately).

It may help to think through a typical day. What do you read, watch or listen to? How do you learn what’s happening at work? How do you share that with your staff — or board members, volunteers, or friends? You might be surprised at the range of information sources and tools.

Put together your list, then bring it to the meeting ready to discuss with the group when we meet on December 17 at 10:30 am at the YMCA (515 W Main St, Owosso, MI 48867).

Be ready to discuss how the tools you use help you learn what you need to know or connect you to people that can help you.

Feel free to keep your list in digital form. No need to print anything. If you like, take a few minutes to illustrate your personal learning workflow. Share your workflow publicly wherever you’re active online, if you’re comfortable doing so.


Nonprofits, want to join a local tech conversation?

Through our Nonprofit Capacity Building Program, we seek to support nonprofit organizations active in Shiawassee County.  We offer workshops to help nonprofit executive directors and board members in their important tasks (learn more here).

W-s24UNp_400x400Getting help with technology was a frequently mentioned need in surveys we conducted of both board members and executive directors of local nonprofits.  Over the summer, we started a conversation with our technology guru Andy Wolber (@awolber) about ways the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program might help people better understand and leverage technology for social benefit.

Andy suggested we bring together nonprofit staff and volunteers to learn and share about tech issues.  He recommended a series of six conversations about the following tech-related topics:

  • personal knowledge tools (tools to search, save, and share info)
  • contemporary collaboration tools (for private teams, and for public engagement)
  • choosing systems (discuss processes that work to choose hardware or software)
  • securing systems (again, discuss processes that work)
  • online engagement (what mix of tools works for your org: web, social media, email?)
  • infrastructure (laptops, tablets, internet connections, hardware, networks)

Andy will post ideas and resources prior to each session, then facilitate the conversation. Participants will the be expected to do just that: actively participate during and after each session. There may be a bit of “homework” he’ll ask you to complete. But it’ll be fun … or at least informative (he promises).

So far, we know that people from The Arc Shiawassee County (@ArcShiawassee), The Shiawassee YMCA (@ShiawasseeYMCA), Durand Union Station, and CAP Council plan to participate. We will meet at participating sites. The site host may share a bit about how people at their organization use tech.

If you want to learn and “talk tech” with your colleagues and Andy, please join the conversation!

Let us know you’re interested by either:

  • Commenting on this post (below) by selecting “Leave Reply”, or
  • Mentioning Andy (@awolber) or the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program (@ShiaNPCB) on Twitter.

Something like “I’d like to join the #nptech dialogue this fall with @ShiaNPCB” would work. Please post or Tweet to show your interest and reserve a spot.

We look forward to the conversations!

Bruce & Jackie Cook Scholarship Nominees

Thirty-two of Shiawassee County’s most academically accomplished high school seniors 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.

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. Read more about our scholarships (click here)CFF_UM_WEB

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, Samuel Geiser (not pictured), Brianna Wells; from Chesaning, Jordyn Barta, Rachel Kelley, Jacob Sadilek, and Colton Vrable; from Corunna, Kyle Daley, Michael Newman, Larissa Robinson-Cooper, and Cassidy Schnepp; from Durand, Tristan Blackledge, Jonathon Fall, Nathan Johnson, and Lucas Schaefer; from Laingsburg, Kurt McEwan, Nicholas Miller, Sydney Schneider, Antonia Vrana, and Clayton Zimmerman; from Morrice, Lucas Crawford and Taylor Zachar; from New Lothrop, Olivia Bishop and Roen Wheeler; from Ovid-Elsie, Elizabeth Bisson and Gordon Johnson; from Owosso, Ryan Comrie, Thomas Horak, Joseph Jafri, Eric Locker, and Lucas Messmer; and from Perry, Amelia Feuka, Hannah Feuka, Miranda Lewis, and Hayley West.

Past recipients of the Bruce and Jackie Cook Scholarship have included 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.

You can follow the Foundation’s scholarship efforts on Twitter @GoBlueGoBruce


Recognizing Nonprofit Boards

Serving on the board of a local nonprofit may be one of the most important, under-recognized volunteer actions in any community.  Nonprofit board members guide community organizations, support their work, and help them achieve their mission. The Cook Family Foundation seeks to strengthen Shiawassee-based nonprofit organizations, and thus we support the work of nonprofit boards through our Nonprofit Capacity Building Program.

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Congratulations to the board of the Arc Shiawassee for their 100% participation in our recent survey contest.

Recently, we held a survey contest to gain the ideas of board members about what they wanted to know more about.  The 119 board members that responded identified three top concerns:

  1. Fund Development, to raise more support for their nonprofit
  2. Technology, to be able to respond to the changing times
  3. Effective Board Meetings, to make the most of their time together

In response to this survey, the Cook Family Foundation will be sponsoring two workshops from our partner, the Nonprofit Network.  These will be held October 22 and November 12 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Baker College Welcome Center, with refreshments provided. The first workshop is entitled Board Governance in the Digital Age; the second will be about Building a Better Board.  More details will be available soon, but reserve the dates now.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey; your feedback was very valuable.  Thank you for serving the community through your nonprofit board.

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Congratulations to the board of Respite Volunteers of Shiawassee for their 100% participation in our recent survey contest.


Fellows to Share Their Experiences

Do you need a new perspective on our community?  Sometimes we think we know all that we need to know about Owosso and Shiawassee County, the issues we need to deal with, and the organizations and people we work with.  At the Cook Family Foundation, our view is often refreshed when we talk with the next generation, and we are fortunate that several of our programs brings us that opportunity.

On July 31, six Owosso Fellows will be offering us a new perspective on our community.  For the last several weeks, these college students have been working for local organizations, doing several service projects, and learning about small town life. On Thursday, July 31, from 4-8 p.m. at the Jordan Gallery (118 N. Washington St. in Owosso), they will share “Conversations on Community: A Visual Journey.”  This will be a personal and collective expression of their experiences in Shiawassee County, something they have captured by taking a photo a day during their time here.  The Fellows will be in the gallery in an open house format, so stop by anytime.

The Cook Family Foundation’s Owosso Fellows program (see more info here) has brought together three of our local scholarship recipients attending the University of Michigan together with three students from Yale University.  From Michigan they are: Christian Van Epps, who has been working for the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership; Courtney Crawford, promoting early childhood health through Great Start Shiawassee; Emma Tompkins, an intern at the Shiawassee Arts Council.  The Yale students are: Mary Shi, who is helping plan pedestrian and bike improvements for the City of Owosso; Chloe Larkin, promoting tennis and fitness through the Shiawassee Family Y;  and Spencer Klavan, who is directing “Robin Hood” with the Owosso Community Players.

For more information contact the Foundation office at 989-725-1621


Welcome Fellows

Six college students are going to make an impact in Shiawassee County this summer.  The second class of Owosso Fellows, half who attended high school in the County and half from elsewhere, will be working for local organizations, undertaking several service projects, and learning about what makes a strong community.


This year’s fellows are, from left to right: Christian Van Epps, a University of Michigan Junior, will be working for the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership; Mary Shi, a recent graduate from Yale, will be helping plan pedestrian and bike improvements for the City of Owosso; Chloe Larkin, a Yale sophomore, will be promoting tennis and fitness through the Shiawassee Family Y; Courtney Crawford, finishing her first year at Michigan, will contribute to early childhood health through Great Start Shiawassee; Emma Tompkins, a Michigan sophomore, will be helping arrange the upcoming Seuss exhibit at the Shiawassee Arts Council; and Spencer Klavan, who just graduated from Yale, will be directing “Robin Hood” with the Owosso Community Players.

Returning as coordinator of the program is Owosso High and Yale alumna, Heather Rivard. In its second year, the Fellows program combines two goals of the Cook Family Foundation:  to support talented youth in their educational development, and to build the capacity of community organizations in Shiawassee County.

To learn more about the Fellows program, go here; to read testimonials from last year’s fellows, go here.

Scholarship Winners

The Cook Family Foundation recently recognized 25 students from the greater Shiawassee County area who are attending the University of Michigan this coming Fall.  All of them have been awarded scholarships from the Foundation, and several have received additional scholarships from the University.  In total, the scholarships awarded total $298,500.  In addition to these merit-based scholarships, many of these students are also receiving need-based financial aid.


Jackie and Bruce Cook present their scholarship to Nolan Wendling and his parents Lisa and Allan Wendling

The following students from nine local high schools have been awarded scholarships from the Cook Family Foundation.  Byron: Vanessa Kiefer; Chesaning: Jared Weisenberger;  Corunna: Nathan Dennison, Anthony Ferzo, Stephanie Rasmussen;  Durand: Madeline Dietrich, Tyler Lockhart; Laingsburg: Kirsten Johnson;  New Lothrop: Arman Jacob Aznavorian, Bryce Birchmeier, Taylor Krupp, Cody Symons, Nolan Wendling, Kyle White;  Ovid-Elsie: Logan Applebee, Hunter Charvat, Maureen Wiltsee;  Owosso: Jordan Bannan, Caitlin Harrell, David Hoffa, Janae Hurd, Geoffrey McClung, Madison Van Epps;  Perry: Alex Proudfoot, Taylor White

While all of these students are accomplished and at the top of their class, several students received special scholarships.  Nolan Wendling of New Lothrop received the Bruce & Jackie Cook Scholarship, a four-year full tuition scholarship to attend the UM Ross School of Business.  Kirsten Johnson of Laingsburg was awarded the Donald Cook Scholarship from UM’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts.  Jared Weisenberger of Chesaning was named one of the prestigious Shipman Scholars and will study mathematics at UM.  You can read more about the scholarships from the Cook Family Foundation (click here).


Tom Cook presents the Donald Cook Scholarship to Kirsten Johnson and her mother Brenda Johnson



The 1225 Back Under Steam

The Cook Family Foundation has awarded a $20,000 grant to the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso to contribute to the recent restoration of the 1225 Pere Marquette steam engine. This multi-year overhaul was necessary for the 1225 to gain Federal approval to carry passengers on its famous North Pole Express and other excursions.

The Steam Railroading Institute (SRI) will be hosting a Train Expo June 20-22 that will feature the 1225 and several other steam engines, special historical airplane exhibits, and an antique car show.  You can learn more about the extravaganza at the SRI website.

10252175_772190622798953_7637806208053220516_nThe Cook Family Foundation provided some of the earliest outside funding to help support the growth of SRI at its location in Owosso, and its museum has become part of the cultural landscape and railroad heritage of Shiawassee County.  SRI has also been a participant in the Foundation’s Nonprofit Capacity Building Program , and has used these resources to strengthen the organization, improve board governance, and carry out strategic planning.

We are proud that Owosso is home to the 1225.

Our 2013 Annual Report Now Online

The Cook Family Foundation’s spring newsletter just hit mailboxes (let us know if you want to be added to the mailing list) and is available on our website (click here).  The cover story is about our support for the International Baccalaureate program that is bringing the world, and a world of opportunity, to students of all ages in the Owosso Public Schools.  Inside the newsletter you will find our six goals for 2014, and our annual report where we recap of the grants we made in 2013.


If you haven’t had the chance, you may want to look around our recently updated website as well.  In our “About” section, you can find a video that gives the history of our founders, Don and Florence-etta Cook, as well as contact information.  Check out the “Nonprofit Capacity Building Program” section for details on upcoming education sessions, how to get support for local organizations, and to read our thoughts on collaborative efforts to improve the community.

Foundation Adopts Goals for 2014

In order to identify potential partners and encourage collaborative grant making, the Foundation has adopted six goals for its work in the coming year.

  1. Encourage the highest level of academic success for our community’s young people;
  2. Expand the capacity of community-based nonprofits to more effectively carry out their missions and serve the residents of Shiawassee County;
  3. Foster the Shiawassee River as a source of pride for the community;
  4. Promote the arts and history as strong cultural cornerstones of the community:
  5. Help care for and protect the most vulnerable members of our community:
  6. Increase opportunities for community collaboration and engagement among and between local nonprofits, arts organizations, government, students, and citizens:

We encourage you to learn more about our interest and background in these areas by reading through our website; several of the pages relate to these goals. We also encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can work together to achieve these goals.  We invite grant applications that serve these goals.