Nonprofits, University Foundations and Transparency, Dark Store Legislation Introduced, & More Rural Voices Left Off State Boards and Commissions



This Week in Rural Insights

On Wednesday we will be publishing an article by Michael Broadway that looks at the effect Covid-19 has had on population in the Upper Peninsula from 2020 to 2021 using data from the Census Bureau, and discusses the conclusions that can be drawn from this data.

Nonprofits, University Foundations and Transparency

Nonprofits in Michigan are often used to avoid and hide from public scrutiny or to help educate citizens about what these public bodies are doing or not doing. University foundations are incorporated as nonprofits so as to not be covered by the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act.

Donor names are sheltered as are other activities of these boards. No public knowledge or review of what the university foundation boards are doing or how to give away donor money to recipients. All this does not mean that foundations don’t do good and amazing stuff, just that they want to do it without anyone knowing what, where and how.

Often the employees of these foundations are paid by the university and are part of the university retirement system. These university foundations are incorporated as nonprofits.

Nonprofit organizations often receive huge amounts of tax dollars as part of their budgets. Issues like whether any of the nonprofit employees been accused of mishandling organization/client funds, how do they operate, etc., would be important for the public to know about. Without these public dollars they could not continue to do the good work they do.

Some observers and Whisperers are calling for reform of the nonprofit state law to require the nonprofits that receive more that 50% of their budgets from state funds to be required to obey and operate under the FOIA and OMA laws. Some Whisperers are also asking for statute reform as it is applied to university foundations.

Dark Store Legislation Introduced

Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) has introduced legislation to reform the Dark Store exemption that, many believe, is unfairly taken by big box retailers like Meijer and Walmart and has so greatly impacted the budgets of local governments in the Upper Peninsula. It has often resulted in local government budget cuts to things like public libraries, K-12 school districts, law enforcement, etc., in our UP communities.

Local Chambers of Commerce have already come out in support of the McBroom legislation. Local governments are also in support. Groups like the Marquette Ambassadors have long supported reform.

Rural Voices Left Off More State Boards/Commissions

We have been reporting for a while now that rural voices are non-existent on important public bodies like the State Board of Education and the Michigan Supreme Court. Urban/suburban voices predominate.

This week we noticed, again, that no rural voices are on the Michigan Tax Commission and the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Not one voice. No members on these public bodies from rural areas above or below the Mackinac Bridge.

From the World Around Us

Nearly half of Michiganders think a college education is not worth the cost of tuition, etc.. About a quarter of Michiganders think a college education is important to landing a successful job. This according to a statewide poll by Craine’s News Service. You agree? Let us know.

Quotes That Make Us Go Hmmm

“Impunity is the exercise of power without accountability, which becomes, in its starkest form, the commission of crimes without punishment. In a phrase, impunity is the idea that ‘the law is for suckers,’ a notion that human rights leaders fear is on the rise in political institutions around the world. From behavior in conflict to its economic exploitation, from environment degradation to democratic backsliding, the battle between impunity and accountability is a critical lens for understanding what is happening in the world.” – The Eurasia Group.

Books Recommended By Our Readers

“A People’s History of the Civil War.” David Williams. This book deals with the impacts of this war on society, before, during and after the war.

Talk To Us

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Rural Insights connects policy, information, news and culture to raise topics and stories/information you might have not seen or overlooked. We bring you original writing from Rural Insights and other researchers, change makers, and storytellers, as well as our latest research and analysis.

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David Haynes

David Haynes has served as a professor of public administration and public policy. He previously has served as President of Northern Michigan University. David has been involved in the public administration and political science field for over 45 years.


  1. Cindy Lou Poquette on March 6, 2023 at 7:37 am

    Thank you for your spot-on analysis of these important topics. I live in Topinabee but have lived in the Upper Peninsula for years of my life…from Detour to Munising/Christmas to Sidnaw. Your issues often are the same as where I am now. I have been on large non-profits boards and agree with the premise of that article and I have fought for many years for rural voices in Lansing. Thanks for reminding folks to pay attention!

  2. Dennis H. Smth on March 6, 2023 at 7:54 am

    The premise of all of the Not for Profit to be subject to FOIA. Is over reach. Many small nfp’s would be harmed addressing vindictive or meritless foia’s by spend time and energy as opposed to providing their services for their missions. If Foundations are the targets, then the supporters of this concept should push for that specific legislation and not wrap it in a larger irrelevant concept. The broader the push the wider the opposition. It isn’t the best strategy.

    • John Marten on March 6, 2023 at 10:08 am

      This is also a false statement: Nonprofit organizations often receive huge amounts of tax dollars as part of their budgets. They are funded by donations, program fees, sometimes sale of products, endowments, and grants from (United Way, Foundations).

      • Dennis H. Smth on March 6, 2023 at 4:31 pm

        Very true

  3. Kim S on March 6, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Look what Walmart is doing in Houghton! I wish I could boycott them, but it’s all we have. Hope they can reform the dark store tax, so Walmart doesn’t take money away from our schools, etc.

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