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Metro nonprofits feeling the pinch of Michigan's erratic economy

Any non-profit organization will tell you that fund-raising is one of its more difficult tasks. So what happens when you run a non-profit in one of the most economically challenged regions in the nation?

This past year has been a horror show for Michigan's charities, with 50 percent reporting decreases in revenue (individual giving, foundations, government and corporate support) and 70 percent reporting increases in demand, according to the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

So it is time to get creative. And that is exactly what Cynthia Kidder has always done, no matter what the circumstances.

Kidder is the founder of Band of Angels Foundation, a national organization based in Rochester Hills dedicated to supporting children with Down syndrome and their families. She started the group in 1994, five years after her son, Jordan, was born with the chromosomal abnormality. (October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.)

Kidder is used to challenges these days. Her board members, mostly executives at large Michigan-based corporations, keep getting downsized or transferred.

Her biggest fund-raising event, the Starry Night Gala, hit major roadblocks this year. Corporate donations for March event were down 90 percent or about $70,000.

Kidder is now starting to organize next year's gala. And things already look grim.

“It's very scary to be in Detroit. You always wonder where the funding is coming from,” Kidder admited.

Her next theme will center on Michigan's growing film industry, perhaps under the theme “Live Your Dream.”
At the moment, she has a vendor willing to donate a backdrop or two for people to act out famous movie scenes – and Kidder is pushing to get five or six or seven more.

“I decided to look at it as our adventure in fundraising,” Kidder said. “It's about being resilient – and I think resiliency is more necessary than ever.”

Last year, Kidder got inventive. She and the organizing committee came up with a new theme: “Reinvent. Reimagine. Redefine.” Guests were encouraged to wear tuxedos or gowns already in their closets. The foundation reused centerpieces from previous events. As part of the festivities, a local jeweler took people's old gems and put them into new settings.

There is a bright side, Kidder said. People who normally would not have time to meet with her suddenly have time on their calendars. When she meets new people, Kidder notes whether they have family members with disabilities. That way, when she needs help she knows who she can tap on the shoulder.

Sure, it is time consuming. But like her son, helping people with disabilities is not a burden, Kidder said.

“I feel like this is what I was called to do,” Kidder said. “Plus, I'm pretty good at it.”

To check out Kidder's Foundation, buy some of her cool products or donate, hit this button right

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