We invite you to envision yourself as a changemaker.

We believe that everyone has a critical role to play in creating a world where all people thrive. A changemaker is anyone, at any age, experience, or ability, who has the tenacity and courage to tackle a social issue or opportunity with a creative approach. Changemakers leverage the strengths of collaboration, existing resources, and the insights of those closest to the issues to work differently to create community assets and systems that allow all to thrive.

We see our role as partners in this work, working alongside changemakers to build communities that are adaptive and resilient. Through our strategies of Funding, Learning, and Connecting, we provide resources for leaders at every level to catalyze change for the greater good.

How can we partner to create a better region for everyone?

A letter from Sakura Takano, Rotary Charities CEO

Sakura Takano.pngIt has been just over a year since being selected as Rotary Charities' fourth leader since 1977, and I am in deep gratitude to be entrusted with our resources to support positive community change.

A look back at what we’ve learned this year reveals insights we will incorporate as we continue to evolve our work. I am inspired by the resilience and adaptation witnessed in our region, and our team is committed to continuing to use what we learn to be better stewards and partners.

We saw changemakers demonstrate incredible resilience. We also saw that most are still struggling with the ripple effects of COVID-19. Organizations are facing sharp increases in demand while struggling with human resource challenges like burnout and declining mental and physical health. Still, they are beginning to explore what diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging means for their workplaces and the services they provide and adapt their work to reflect these values.

We are also witnessing a deep desire in our region to address problems at their source. But the collaboration and innovation required takes time, and the willingness to reconsider roles, shift mindsets, and build new skills. These are added challenges for organizations already stretched thin.

This shifting landscape has deepened our commitment to the guiding principles we established in 2018 - Inclusion, Collaboration, Alignment, Resourcefulness, Reflection & Adaptation. We hear the call to action and believe these principles will help us all meet the challenges of our time.

In the coming year, we hope to explore with you how we might all deepen our commitment to shaping inclusive communities for everyone. What will it take? How might we support one another? How can we be even more resourceful and reflective and adapt quickly based on what we’re learning?

These times are calling us all to work differently than we have. How will you be the change?

Finally,  I want to recognize and thank Jeff Hickman for his service as Board Chairperson for the last three years during a time of executive transition and societal upheaval. His steady, optimistic, and thoughtful guidance has positioned Rotary Charities, its staff, and board members to address pressing community needs with open hearts and minds. Thank you for your service, Jeff.

With deep gratitude,


A letter from Jeff Hickman, Rotary Charities Board of Trustees Chairperson

Jeff Hickman.jpgThis year marked the final of my three years as the board’s chairperson, a position that has been humbling, challenging, and enriching.

This time has been highlighted with a resilient and hard-working board that responded exceptionally well to the challenges of doing our work during the pandemic, conducting virtual retreats, and completing a strategic plan.

This year, as we work to fulfill the strategic plan we set a year ago, we have explored the important role Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion play in grantmaking. We continue to work to determine how these principles should impact our work as we strive to make our processes fair and inclusive and improve access to our resources and services.

Rotary Charities has earned a reputation in our region for doing good. The challenge of staying on the cutting edge of “doing good” continues to garner commitment from the board of directors as we work to take a responsive and proactive approach to pandemic recovery. There also continues to be an ever-improving atmosphere as the board works to set the stage for years of philanthropy to come. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community asset.



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Guiding Principles for change. As we evolve as a changemaking foundation, we strive to demonstrate and encourage principles that we believe result in lasting impact. 

The challenges of our time require us to work differently to ensure our communities provide everyone with the opportunity to thrive. In 2018, we worked with changemakers to name the principles and practices that embody this shift. We have learned from our grantees and partners that this work involves deep collaboration, creative use of resources, and flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. Successful initiatives see their work in relation to others’ efforts, incorporate learning into their work, and include those impacted by the problem in designing solutions. We believe these principles are urgent but are also emergent and can manifest in many ways depending on context.


Here we’ve highlighted what our Guiding Principles mean to us, and how Changemakers are embracing them in their work.



Including stakeholders with relevant expertise and those with lived experience is foundational to strategies for changing systems and building community assets that are accessible to all.

In June 2021, Rotary Charities made the explicit organizational commitment to embed equity into its culture, operations, and strategy. As a reflection of this commitment in action, we made a $35,000 contribution from the Rotary Endowment at the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation to their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Fund. The DEI Fund provides funding for organizations led by people of color, LGBTQ+, immigrant, neurodiverse, or disability community members, and supports opportunities promoting equity and inclusion across the 5-county region.

This year, Rotary Charities awarded nearly $400,000 to support initiatives aiming at greater equity, including those that:

Uplift the voices and stories of marginalized people;
Enhance access to community assets;
Deepen understanding of diverse cultures;
Build the capacity of organizations engaged in inclusion work.

Our grantees’ work inspires us, and we are committed to supporting organizations and grassroots initiatives that focus on creating inclusive spaces and building community assets that are accessible to everyone.


Complex community problems often require cross-sector partnerships to create enduring solutions. In order to make progress towards expanded affordable housing options, Housing North has worked diligently with local units of government to expand its Housing Ready programming into new areas of the region.


Creatively leveraging the knowledge, capital, and infrastructure that is already available makes for sustainable, relevant initiatives. On the cusp of opening a new state-of-the-art performance venue, the partners behind The Alluvion accessed additional funding using a unique crowdfunding platform that matches local dollars with state resources.


Learning does not take time away from the work - weaving learning into the everyday is the work. Seeking to lower barriers to beginning farmers and aid in the succession of local farmland, the business model for the Great Lakes Incubator Farm was developed based on deep research of existing successful programs across the country.


Building flexibility into strategies helps us use what we are learning to adapt to what is needed when it is needed. Volunteers kept the lights on at The Bay Theatre by quickly adapting programming to meet the moment, providing engaging experiences for the community with a keen interest in accessibility and affordability.


Our society is interconnected, and initiatives that work in ways that complement each other can build a fair, thriving, and resilient region. A collaborative effort to reroute the North Country Trail is an integral part of the Kalkaska DDA and surrounding communities’ long-term focus to boost economic activity and provide an asset to trail hikers and nature enthusiasts of all abilities.

Funding for change. We are committed to courageously leveraging all forms of our capital to contribute to the greatest possible impact.

Seed Grants  /  $268,761

Seed grants fund the beginning staging of projects, laying the groundwork by convening stakeholders, investigating community needs, and planning action.

This year, we granted $268,761 in our Seed grant category, a nearly 45% increase over the previous period, a sign that our grantees are once again planning for the future after devoting their focus to navigating the immediate challenges of the pandemic. Changemakers launched pilot programs, engaged their communities, and conducted feasibility studies to inform their actions. In several cases, work supported by a Seed grant provided the clarity and direction needed to move complex projects forward, leading to four Assets for Thriving Communities and two Emerging Needs grants.

Photo courtesy of Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region, photo credit Miranda Guzman-Shrake

Through Their Eyes

The Youth Action Team of the Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region (CHIR) Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI), made up of highschoolers from around the CHIR’s 10-county service region, is focused on reducing the stigma of youth mental health. Funded by a 2021 $10,000 Seed grant, the Youth Action Team launched a PhotoVoice project with the aim of engaging youth from diverse backgrounds to gain insights into lived experiences and needs related to youth behavioral health and resiliency. Using photography and artist statements that speak to the barriers and challenges to wellness and resilience, the project serves as an opportunity to amplify youth voice and provide them with a platform to share their perspectives on the most prevalent issues related to behavioral health that impact youth with the intention of further destigmatizing mental health issues.

“Youth are so often told how to lead our lives, but no one knows better than us how we’re feeling. Now they’re letting us have some control, and we’re giving advice both ways. I hope that when youth talk about how they’re feeling, instead of disregarding them, people listen. Our voice is valuable because we’ll be leading the world someday.” 

[ Miranda Guzman-Shrake, Student & PhotoVoice Participant ]

Improving Access & Increasing Literacy

In an effort to increase literacy among local students, the Kalkaska County Library (KCL) contracted with Kalkaska Public Schools to provide a full range of onsite school library services, with support from a 2020 $10,000 Seed grant. As a result, the existing library collections, which included outdated, worn, and irrelevant books, were replaced with nearly 2,000 new books and literacy-improving materials, encouraging a marked increase in use by students and teachers. Building upon these successes and lessons, and with support from a 2022 Emerging Needs grant, KCL will replace hundreds of worn and outdated books in the middle and high schools. In partnership with the schools, KCL is working towards a goal of 100% of students reading at or above grade level.

Seeding Food Sovereignty

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians is working to seed a movement of food sovereignty and empower the tribal community to preserve ancestral agricultural knowledge. A $10,000 Seed grant supported the purchase of annual crop seeds and starts, including potato seed which were traded with Little Traverse Bay Band for seeds that produce a prolific giant squash known as Gete-Okosomin, a 5,000 year old variety with rich tribal heritage. The farm team managed over 30 annual and several perennial fruit crops this year. This work to create an economically sustainable food system is creating opportunities to research traditional lifeways and build food security for tribal communities by providing produce to tribal elders, youth, and childcare programs.

Assets for Thriving Communities  /  $491,500

Our Assets for Thriving Communities (ATC) grants provide funding for initiatives that develop, strengthen, or build community assets or make an existing asset more widely accessible to all. This year, we provided funding for spaces that bring people together, our region’s thriving arts community, and recreational opportunities to people of all abilities. We are honored to steward resources that allow us to invest in a variety of community assets that contribute to making Northern Michigan communities more inclusive, healthy, and vibrant places to live, visit, and recreate.

Changemakers worked to restore and expand access to historic landmarks, remove barriers to necessary services and outdoor spaces, and increase capacity for communities to meet their housing needs. 

Photo courtesy of Justice for Our Neighbors Michigan

Escalating Investments to Expand Access

Justice for Our Neighbors Michigan (JFON-MI) has been serving the needs of immigrants in Michigan for over 15 years by providing pro bono immigration legal services to families and individuals from around the world as they navigate the complex immigration legal system. Their Traverse City office opened in 2015 and with continued support from Rotary Charities the organization has scaled its capacity as the need for their services increases. Over the next two years, JFON-MI expects to serve at least 250 immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers living in Northern Michigan communities thanks in part to a 2021 $50,000 ATC grant.

“Rotary Charities’ ongoing support has been critical to the development of this organization. It’s a great example of how escalating investments can nurture and grow an organization.”

[  Becky Beauchamp, Executive Director JFON-MI  ]

Planning for the Future

Peace Ranch serves individuals suffering the effects of trauma with advanced equine-assisted therapy regardless of their ability to pay. In December 2019, Peace Ranch was awarded a $60,000, three-year grant to improve the system of care in the Grand Traverse region by increasing its staff capacity, expanding their programming, and developing a succession plan for the organization’s future. Since then, Peace Ranch has hired a Clinical Director, developed an internship program, created new strategic partnerships, and improved access to their trauma-informed therapy services. With a solid clinical program in place and its newly created ten-year succession plan on track, Peace Ranch has secured its future beyond the founders.

Honoring Regional History

In 2021, the Traverse Area Historical Society was awarded a $10,000 Seed grant for Phase I of the Kchi Wiikwedong Anishinaabe History Project, an initiative to elevate awareness and understanding of our region’s indigenous history with new signage using bi-lingual text in Anishinaabemowin and English at historically significant sites in Traverse City and Leelanau County. The initial collaborative work of historical research done in partnership with Anishinaabek elders and approval from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Council paved the way for a $50,000 ATC grant awarded in 2022 to support the fabrication and installation of signage throughout the region. 

Emerging Needs  /  $406,600

Photo courtesy of Goodwill Northern Michigan, Photo credit Gary Howe

This Spring, we awarded $406,600 from our Emerging Needs (EN) Fund, a flexible grant program that enables the foundation to provide proactive support to initiatives addressing areas of significant community need.

The awards included support for organizations working to break ground on much-needed affordable housing solutions, improve access to critical mental healthcare services, develop youth mental health programming and expand after-school programming, and deepen acknowledgment of Indigenous culture in our region. 


Changemakers are leveraging these funds to advance vital projects that will improve the quality of life in Northern Michigan for people of all walks of life, lifting up our most vulnerable populations: people experiencing homelessness, low-income residents, families, and people of all ages experiencing mental health crises.

Breaking Ground on Affordable Housing

The ripple effects of Northern Michigan’s housing crisis can be felt throughout our communities, as employers struggle to attract and retain staff, schools experience under-enrollment, and low- and middle-income families face a shortage of attainable housing. Incubated by Rotary Charities in 1997, HomeStretch provides affordable housing for low- to moderate-income individuals and families, developing over 120 housing units in Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Antrim, Leelanau, and Benzie Counties. With the support of an $80,000 ATC grant, their Honor Village Apartments development nears completion just as the organization prepares to break ground on a new workforce housing project in Suttons Bay. Funded in part by a $60,000 EN grant, The Vineyard View Apartments will help fill a gap in attainable workforce housing in Leelanau County.

Supporting Youth Empowerment

Leelanau Investing for Teens (LIFT), a mentorship program committed to empowering youth through self discovery, expression, and leadership, is responding to the community’s need for increased access to after-school programming. Supported by a $41,600 EN grant, LIFT is building partnerships and hiring additional staff to scale the capacity and impact of its after-school mentorship program for Suttons Bay middle schoolers. Recognizing that children and teens are facing unprecedented conditions that impact their social, emotional, and physical wellbeing, LIFT’s programming seeks to provide transformational experiences that support youth development through mentorship, homework help, and service-learning experiences. As a result of this programming, the organization has witnessed improved self-esteem, stronger relationships with parents and peers, improved academic performance, and reductions in substance abuse, violence, and other high-risk behaviors among the teens they serve.

Improving Access to Mental Health Services

A critical lack of services in Northern Michigan has come into focus as mental healthcare has risen in the national conversation. Supported by a $150,000 SCA grant, the Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region launched the Behavioral Health Initiative (BHI) in 2021. Since then, several Action Teams of cross-sector leaders, practitioners, local youth, and other changemakers have been working towards goals that promote resiliency and seek to improve access to mental health services. One of the highly collaborative BHI Action Teams received a $50,000 EN grant to support their work of creating a Crisis-Wellness Center in Traverse City, which will offer support and services, regardless of age, insurance status, or ability to pay. The Center will focus on alleviating mental health crises and creating ongoing plans and wraparound services for clients.  This approach reduces unnecessary visits to the emergency department, inpatient psychiatric units, and jails, leading to a healthier community.

Building Cultural Awareness in Community

As the focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts increase nationally and locally, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) has experienced an exponential increase in requests for tribal consultation on community projects. A $25,000 EN grant will provide support to the GTB Natural Resources and Culture and Language Departments in their efforts to gather, review, and apply traditional ecological knowledge in local community planning efforts around rivers and watersheds including the Lower Boardman-Ottaway River. GTB is collaborating with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission FishPass Outreach and Education Team, Traverse City Downtown Development Authority, and other local partners to deepen tribal cultural awareness through interpretative learning opportunities along the river corridor as it flows through downtown Traverse City, seeking to restore community connections with history, people, and the river. 

Systems Change Accelerator  /  $150,000

Our Systems Change Accelerator (SCA) grants provide funding to initiatives working to go upstream and target the root causes of the complex issues our communities face. We support initiatives that aim to change policies, strengthen relationships, restructure resource flows, and share power to shift outcomes so that fewer people experience a problem. No one person or organization can do this work on their own, and powerful systems change strategies involve a constellation of actions carried out by stakeholders throughout the system. They create greater equity in a system by considering who experiences a problem most severely and design actions that intentionally target the roots of those inequities.

Since 2018, we’ve invested $1.3 million in support of initiatives working collaboratively to design safer routes to schools, advocate for housing solutions, reduce the occurrence of youth homelessness, end child sexual abuse, and more.

Supporting Health and Wellness in Schools

In 2020, we awarded a $20,000 Seed grant to support a collaboration between Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS), Shape Up North, and other community partners to explore the social determinants of health that influence TCAPS staff and students’ ability to live healthy lives. Partners worked to understand the impact of nutrition, physical activity, and social-emotional health on community wellness. By engaging students, parents, teachers, and administration, they identified perceived strengths and challenges of the system, key problems, and opportunities for action.

This work provided partners with the clarity needed to take action and this year we awarded a $150,000 SCA grant in support of TCAPS’s wellness initiative for students and staff. Their three-year initiative seeks to impact community health by creating and sustaining policies and practices throughout the school district that will encourage lifelong healthy habits for students and staff. 

“Rotary Charities’ shift to support system change and its recognition of the challenges and profound opportunities in this approach has allowed its grantees to be more adaptive, and therefore more responsive, given shifting needs in so many systems."
[  Anonymous Changemaker Needs Assessment Respondent  ] 

Investing for Impact

Our communities’ challenges and opportunities are rapidly outpacing our local resources. In 2016, Rotary Charities expanded its ability to catalyze positive change by creating an Impact Investing strategy. We sought to align a portion of our endowed assets to our Mission and Strategic Goals by creating new sources of investment capital to increase our philanthropic impact in the region, provide social benefits to our community, and inspire other funders to leverage their assets for increased impact.

Since then, we have invested a portion of our portfolio in Impact Investing Loans to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and provided Community Impact Loans to two local nonprofits. This strategy enables Rotary Charities to leverage the expertise and capital of CDFIs and facilitate new relationships with community partners.

This year, we witnessed several key indicators of progress as organizations work to address some of our region’s most pressing problems, even as they and CDFIs continue to adapt to the ripple effects of COVID-19. Through our partnership, IFF lent expertise to local providers in evaluating potential new facilities, making headway on addressing a critical need for more childcare offerings. Advocacy work by Michigan Community Capital to amplify the need for state-supported tools for increasing access to affordable housing contributed to a $50 million funding allocation from the State of Michigan. And hundreds of small businesses received grants from Venture North’s Regional Resiliency Program, helping predominantly women-owned businesses continue to contribute to the economic prosperity of our region. 

Rotary Endowment  /  $56,249

In 1999, Rotary Charities made a $2.5 million contribution to the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation (GTRCF) to establish the Rotary Endowment, which provides 1-to-1 matching funds for Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians in Antrim, Benzie, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties. Since its inception, $2.2 million has been awarded through the Rotary Endowment, including a 2020 $60,000 contribution to GTRCF’s Urgent Needs Fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and $35,000 directed to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund in 2022. This year $56,249 was awarded from the Endowment, matching Rotarians’ individual donations to local nonprofit organizations and supporting regional Rotary Club projects.

We encourage Rotarians to access the philanthropic power of the Rotary Endowment to leverage the impact of their personal gifts.

We recognize that transformative work requires more than funding and offer a variety of learning opportunities aimed at building the skills and mindsets to work in ways that are more inclusive, collaborative, aligned, resourceful, reflective and adaptive.

“Old keys won’t open new doors. I am grateful for Rotary’s investment in opportunities for us to learn new ways to solve complex problems.”

[  Sue Bolde, Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, Learning Fund Recipient  ]

The Learning Fund

The Learning Fund was created in 2020 as a way to help build resilience and create adaptive organizations in our region by offering individuals and teams small grants to support specific learning pursuits, including technical, operational, and professional development opportunities. Since that time, we’ve granted nearly $45,000 from the Learning Fund. This year we awarded $23,144 to 20 individual changemakers and 13 teams for transformational learning opportunities on topics such as collaboration, role-focused training, fundraising, and leadership development. 

Professional Development Series

Organizations flourish when staff feel valued, motivated, and have the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Encouraging professional development ensures that knowledge and skills stay relevant and up-to-date, which is beneficial not only to the individual but to the whole organization. Rotary Charities offered seven learning opportunities including Time Management in Teams, Intro to Systems Change, Tech Tools for Collaboration, and a Rotary Charities Grant Application Training. Nearly 200 individuals participated in these programs. Additionally, we have continued to promote learning opportunities offered by other regional and national organizations, which have become more accessible through virtual formats. 

Leadership Learning Lab

Adaptive leadership empowers individuals and organizations to be responsive and thrive in times of challenge and prosperity. Leadership Learning Lab is a collaboration between Rotary Charities, the Frey Foundation, and ten northern Michigan Community Foundations. The program’s curriculum focuses on adaptive leadership, time management, collaborative skills, and fostering inclusive conversations and provides participants with technical tools and resources. A new cohort of 65 participants kicked off their changemaking journey together in January, meeting virtually each month before connecting in person in June. Participants have the opportunity to build relationships with other community leaders and strengthen their network of support for each other, their organizations, and the broader community.  

Leadership Coaching

Rotary Charities has partnered with certified executive leadership coach Lucille Chrisman to offer adaptive leadership coaching services for over a decade. Lucille works with all levels of organizational leaders to navigate complex challenges, communicate with greater clarity, and cultivate higher emotional intelligence and intercultural competence in the workplace. Following years of multiple simultaneous crises and organizational leadership transitions, we saw unprecedented interest in our Leadership Coaching program. In all, 17 individuals with a range of organizational and leadership experience participated in the program, completing eight one-on-one coaching sessions and several cohort learning sessions. 

Changemaker Fellowship

The Changemaker Fellowship is one way we support community leaders to develop the skills, behaviors, and understandings that contribute to positive change. Fellows seek learning experiences that are at the leading edge of changemaking work and share what they learn with the local community to make progress toward an adaptive and thriving region.

Through a fiscal sponsorship by the United Way of Northwest Michigan, we granted a $20,000 Changemaker Fellowship to Ty Schmidt. In partnership with the FrameWorks Institute, he offered a two-part workshop called More than a Message: The Science of Framing, during which over 100 changemakers explored how we can understand and explain complex social issues in order to be understood and gain public support. Additionally, a Framing Community of Practice was offered as a resource for continued learning about what framing looks like on the ground with participating organizations and groups.

Connecting Changemakers to New Support

This year, we piloted a new service for grantees taking a collaborative approach to complex community issues. The Systems Change Coaching pilot ran for eight months and offered free coaching to 15 initiatives, with the goals of introducing grantees to a network of support, increasing their confidence as systems change leaders, and helping them identify and take next steps in areas in which they are challenged. Initiatives took advantage of 39 hours of coaching from experts in areas such as communications and storytelling, governance and leadership, and collaborative fundraising.

Based on what we’ve learned from changemakers about the impact the program made on their initiatives, we are excited to adapt the program in FY 22-23 and continue to offer it to our grantees.

Connecting Northern Michigan to New Support

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Stories that Change Systems

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“We gained tremendously from a more global perspective made relevant to the local level.”

[  Anonymous Systems Change Coaching Participant  ]

“We enjoyed our coaching sessions. It allowed us to achieve and expand what we had set out to do. It will result in multiple better outcomes.”

[  Anonymous Systems Change Coaching Participant  ]

From Crisis, Recovery, to Building Capacity

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked changemakers what they needed and how we could best support them as they navigated the challenges of the developing crisis.

In response to feedback that nonprofits were overwhelmed and under immense pressure, we formed the COVID-19 Crisis Support Team, a pool of skilled specialists who hold expertise in areas identified as high priorities by survey respondents. Consultants helped participants by connecting them to resources and thinking through decision-making as they navigated Federal aid programs, crisis communications, remote working, fund development, and strategic action.

In FY20-2021, we continued to help communities and their leaders as they adapted, shifting our focus from crisis support to recovery and resilience, renaming the service Recovery Support Team. In its first two and a half years, we have provided access to the Crisis/Recovery Support Team and over 200 hours of no-cost consultation to 89 organizations.

As a reflection of our commitment to supporting changemakers through crises and beyond, we’ve relaunched the program under a new banner: Capacity Advisory Pool. The Capacity Advisory Pool (CAP) program shares several similarities to the Crisis and Recovery Support Team, with one major difference: requests for help do not need to be related to COVID or its ripple effects. We hope that by providing access to support from these experts at no cost, we can help changemakers make better decisions, overcome challenges, and confidently plan for the future.

“Being part of the Capacity Advisory Pool means clients can leverage the diverse strengths of experienced professionals who are also passionate about building and nurturing community. When a client leaves a session with me, my hope is they’ve gained clarity about their direction, contemplated something new, or received guidance about an approach, practice, or resource in support of the next intentional steps they feel ready and empowered to take.”

[  Megan Motil, CAP Consultant  ]

Connecting to the International Field of Systems Change

This year our Director of Systems Change & Learning, Freya Bradford, deepened her own learning and connections in the field of systems change through an eight-month international cohort of funders and investors aiming to better address complex problems in their service areas. She weaved this and other learning into a four-part blog series that breaks down a systemic approach into four phases.

The series has been shared by several leading systems change organizations, and readers from around the world have reached out to share what resonated with them. Freya was also invited to speak about Rotary Charities’ Systems Change approach at two UK-based events hosted by the School of Systems Change and New Philanthropy Capital. 

Convene stakeholders and commit to change: Bring together diverse stakeholders and explore how you might work together to make progress on the causes of a complex community problem.

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Design interventions that change systems: Create a constellation of actions across a system aimed at changing your leverage points like policies, practices, resource flows, relationships, power, or mindsets. 

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Learning as we go: Develop practices that allow your group to continuously share learning about change in individual, organizational, and community indicators.          

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Explore the problem and find leverage points for change: Explore the upstream causes of your problem to find where you can have the most durable impact on the problem.

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Connecting with Changemakers

This year, we launched a series of events called Connecting with Changemakers. These convenings created opportunities for nonprofit, business, and community leaders to network with each other, share updates on their work, and connect with Rotary Charities staff. The gatherings have allowed our staff to reignite relationships and forge new connections with the communities we serve, and we look forward to hosting these events throughout our service region.

Leveraging Connections to Access Funding

In June, we partnered with fellow members of the Community Development Coalition, including the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Traverse Connect, and Networks Northwest, to launch the Grand Traverse Regional Project Dashboard. With the aim of increasing awareness about regional projects and encouraging partnerships and collaboration to meet community needs, the Project Dashboard features hundreds of programs and projects, including a wide range of public infrastructure and other economic, societal, and environmental priorities, submitted by local nonprofits and governments in the five-county region. This tool brought several projects to the awareness of our staff which were ultimately awarded an Emerging Needs grant.

Visit the Dashboard

Convening for Rural Community Development

Convening first in October 2020, The Rural Community Development Roundtable is a cross-sector group of over 30 changemakers from a dozen communities in our five county region which meets quarterly to highlight work being done in their communities and provide space for mutual learning. These meetings provide valuable time to connect with regional leaders to learn about developing projects, share resources, and discuss opportunities to help our communities overcome challenges. 

“We encourage communities and nonprofit organizations to be strategic about the unprecedented funding resources allocated through APRA and collaborate across sectors to ensure resources are leveraged for the greatest impact.”

[ Sakura Takano, CEO of Rotary Charities ]

Changemaker Needs Assessment

Rotary Charities completed a Changemaker Needs Assessment in early 2022 to better understand how organizations were faring, the challenges they faced, and how we might better support changemaking work in the region.

Listening to the communities and organizations we serve is core to our mission. Changemakers surveyed pointed to several things Rotary Charities could do to help the region adapt to these challenges and opportunities. The feedback we received will help us better understand what support changemakers need to adapt, inform adaptations to our strategies, and determine the types of professional development opportunities we provide. Board and staff have already started making adaptations based on this feedback, with more to come in 2022-2023. Key insights include:

Nonprofit organizations are experiencing significant human resource challenges. Respondents report an increase in burnout, difficulty recruiting staff, and a decrease in volunteers. This is in the face of increasing demand, a trend 90% of respondents predict will continue in the next year. Despite these challenges, most organizations increased programming or improved or adapted existing programs. Other changes were made to adapt to COVID-19 and improve employee satisfaction like flexible scheduling and work environments, adjusted payscales and workload expectations, or new benefits.

Organizations are increasing their focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The large majority of respondents indicated that their organization had increased its focus on DEI in the last two years, many of them with outside help. Changes resulting from the work varied from increased learning, changes to mission, vision, or goals, changes to programs or services, or operations changes to things like hiring or board composition. Despite this progress, many reported barriers to engaging more deeply, including a lack of board support, a lack of funding for assistance, or not knowing where to start.

Networks and coalitions are a popular way to organize work around community goals in the region, but many challenges persist. Three-quarters of respondents reported participating in at least one network or coalition working together on a common goal. The majority report wanting to do more collaborative work to change the upstream causes of complex problems. However, many barriers to systems change work persist, including a lack of funding, turfism or competition for resources, and a lack of accountability for the additional work created by the collaborative.

“Rotary Charities is a remarkable asset to our region. Its support, coupled with the development resources provided to area non-profits, clearly are helping organizations grow, adapt, and make important contributions to the quality of life throughout the region.”

[  Anonymous Changemaker Needs Assessment Respondent  ]


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Net Assets, beginning of year54,157,91344,966,842
Consulting fees35,60544,551
Investment return, net of investment fees(5,994,981)11,744,896
Oil and gas royalty income 352,280126,962
Grants and Other32,72055,740
TOTAL REVENUE AND GAINS (5,574,376)11,972,149
Program Services 3,096,8882,650,100 
Management and general 136,630127,978
Change in net assets without donor restrictions(8,807,894)9,191,071
Change in net assets with donor restrictions--
TOTAL CHANGE IN NET ASSETS (8,807,894)9,191,071
Net assets without donor restrictions end of year 45,350,01954,157,913
Net assets with donor restrictions end of year --
TOTAL NET ASSETS END OF YEAR45,350,01954,157,913