by Mike Gallagher for the CMF NewsWire
“It’s like a bad storm that won’t end. Arts and culture in Michigan are continually taking a beating with all the state budget cuts and corporate gift rollbacks…and then along comes the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) and the sun came out!”
Anne Jenkins of Wyandotte says she never heard of CFSEM before last month, but when the Detroit-based foundation held its one-day Community Foundation Challenge-Arts and Culture on August 18 to help raise money for her favorite nonprofit organization – the Detroit Historical Society – and 74 other arts-based groups, she and her friends became instant fans.
“We pooled our money and made an online donation and (CFSEM) matched it,” says Jenkins. “My hat goes off to that great foundation. They stepped up to give the arts in Michigan a much-needed boost. They are truly a ray of sunshine in these dark times.”
Recognizing the important role that arts and cultural institutions play in enhancing the quality of life throughout the region, and in light of the current economic climate, CFSEM partnered with the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan to launch the Community Foundation Challenge-Arts and Culture, according to Theresa L. Fraley, CFSEM’s communications director and special assistant to the president.
Today that effort is providing $4.9 million that is being spread among 75 arts and cultural organizations which are members of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan.
Fraley credits the use of new social networking tools – Twitter and Facebook to name two – in providing the marketing and outreach needed to reach the thousands of donors who participated in the 12-hour event.
“The challenge surpassed the original goal of $3 million thanks to the strong outpouring of support from donors and the hard work of the 75 participating organizations,” notes Fraley.
“Our foundation even increased its initial commitment of $1 million to match donor gifts by ultimately providing nearly $1.6 million in matching funds,” she adds. “It was a tremendous success!”
Echoing that praise is CFSEM President Mariam Noland.
“The Community Foundation Challenge-Arts and Culture accomplished our goal of providing sorely needed support to arts and cultural organizations in southeastern Michigan,” says Noland. “We applaud the thousands of donors who contributed.”
Noland adds that GuideStar was contracted to provide technical assistance and handle the online donations and unforeseen technical glitches resulted in some donors being unable to make their pledges. But the foundation decided to keep the Website open until August 31 to ensure all the donors could participate.
There were several successful aspects of this unprecedented foundation Challenge to support arts and culture in Michigan during these trying times, says Maud Lyon, president of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan.
“This groundbreaking effort not only provides much needed funds for the participating members of the Cultural Alliance, but also helped organizations effectively use social media tools to communicate with existing supporters, and reach new audiences,” says Lyon. “These are new social networking skills that we can all build on for use in the future.”
The Challenge “made all the difference in the world” to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, according to Museum Director Anan Ameri.
“Thanks to (CFSEM) and our wonderful donors we raised $289,293 all in one day…and that money is very important to helping us continue our work,” says Ameri. “We can’t thank the foundation and the Cultural Alliance enough.”
The fundraiser also gave a burst of financial energy to the Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit founded in 1996 by Aaron P. Dworkin, a violinist and graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy who created the organization to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in musical arts.
“Their (CFSEM) help and dedication to supporting the arts is an incredible gesture given these times we are all trying to survive in,” says Dworkin, noting the $105,353 his group received.
“Our thanks also goes out to those donors who make such a difference in so many lives.” D
avid DiChiera, general director of the Michigan Opera Theatre, says the CFSEM/Cultural Alliance Challenge “couldn’t have come at a better time” citing the $318,984 his nonprofit will receive.
“Everyone in the arts in Michigan today knows how tough it is to keep moving forward,” notes DeChiera.
“These funds are helping us do just that. We join with all of our fellow artists in southeast Michigan in thanking (CFSEM) and the Cultural Alliance for all they have done and are doing for us and for everyone who enjoys the arts.”
CFSEM is a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations committed to the future of southeast Michigan. The foundation works to improve the region’s quality of life by connecting those who care with causes that matter, says Noland.
Supporting a wide variety of activities benefiting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development and civic affairs, since its inception the foundation has distributed more than $380 million through more than 33,500 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties.
The Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan is a professional association of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations with 89 member organizations that span every artistic discipline and serves communities across the seven counties of southeast Michigan.
It also serves as the collective voice of and advocate for arts and cultural organizations, to ensure that they are recognized, fully utilized, and supported by the general public, political and community leaders, according to Lyons.