Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 18, 2013

Rotary Charities restructures

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Rotary Charities is changing the way it does business and restructuring to be more responsive to community needs.

It also will begin a new strategic planning process next year to help deal with — and benefit from — evolving trends in philanthropy in Michigan and the nation, said Rotary Charities executive director Marsha Smith.

The changes won’t dramatically affect future grant-making, Smith said.

“We’re not moving away from grant-making or giving less,” she said. “We will continue to make grants and develop programs and services to nonprofits.”

Eventually, expect to see more emphasis on creating and funding “network” projects such as the Traverse Bay Poverty Reduction Initiative, Grand Vision, Great Start Collective and Complete Streets efforts.

All have brought together an array of community sectors — agencies, nonprofits, local governments, businesses and citizens - to address regional efforts to build a strong regional economy, healthy families and environment, as well as art, culture and educational opportunities for area residents, she said.

“We will actually provide more services to a wider range of community participants,” she said. “It won’t change overnight. It will happen over time and in response to community needs.”

Rotary Charities is one of the area’s largest philanthropic organizations and has provided more than $55 million in grants for community-building projects since it was formed in 1976, when oil and gas reserves were discovered under its Boy Scout camp property in East Bay Township.

Over the last year, it handed out 50 grants totaling more than $1.5 million. Its offshoot, Northsky Nonprofit Network, also provided professional development, counseling and fee-based consulting services to 380 organizations in the region.

Leverage — essentially “using your dollar to attract more dollars” — has been a focal point of Rotary Charities’ strategic planning through much of the first decade of the 21st century as oil and gas royalties began to dwindle.

Rotary Charities also has a new leadership team. It will include Smith, existing staff member Becky Ewing as associate director, a new yet-to-be hired NorthSky program director and new learning officer Freya Bradford, formerly a NorthSky contract consultant.

The revamped organizational structure will free Smith to serve on the Council of Michigan Foundations board, attract more philanthropic dollars to the area, enable her to keep current on the changing world of philanthropy and allow her to do more regional community work and work with networks, she said.