I've served as the president of the ACLU of Michigan for three years, and it has been an enormous pleasure to have this role during such an important and exciting time for the organization. As I came on board, we were just finishing an $8 million fundraising campaign which had allowed us to expand our staff to 23, purchase our building on Woodward, and open a staffed office in Grand Rapids to complement our Detroit headquarters and legislative office in Lansing.
We had added an education reform program dedicated to ending the 'school to prison' pipeline and poor conditions in the bottom 5% of schools in the state. We were about to hire our first investigative reporter and we had a burgeoning program to protect the rights of poor people. We were organizing a new business coalition to support non-discrimination for LGBT people in our state human rights law. Even as we were building our influence in innovative ways, we continued tolook to the future.
For the last several years we have been talking internally about how to increase our capacity to engage volunteers in a way that coordinates all of the parts of our organization and provides a positive and rewarding experience for volunteers while generating outcome-driven work that is pro-active and aligned with our state and national priorities. We thought hard about how to best involve millennials, non-lawyers, and people from less populated areas of the state. We thought about how to create accountability and ensure staff time is used well. And we challenged the traditional framework of 'members' as our constituency; instead every Michigander is our constituency.
These changes coincided with some great developments at the national ACLU. Just last week the Washington Post announced the appointment of a new political director, Karin Johanson, in the Washington DC office and $80 million in gifts to back up 501(c)(4) work. Several months ago the New York Times announced a $50 million foundation grant to launch an eight-year political campaign across the country to make criminal justice policies a key issue in local, state and national elections.
I just returned from a conference of leaders from ACLU offices around the country. The ACLU is modernizing across the nation. Here in Michigan, as we too move towards a more strategic, outcome driven attack on the most important civil liberties and rights issues of the day, we are re-organizing our lay leaders to be pro-active and outcome driven as well. We've also gone digital in many respects, expanding our offerings to include our downloadable Mobile Justice MI application and an upcoming new website that will further enhance the work we do.
This is a transition from having only geographically based county groups of volunteers to opening opportunities for our volunteers to submit proposals to work together on one civil liberties issue or many for a short time or longer duration. This will allow even more volunteers to bring creative and fresh ideas to the table to defend the civil liberties and civil rights of Michiganders locally and statewide. As I said before, it's an exciting time for the ACLU of Michigan. Expect to hear more about how you can participate soon.
By Loren Khogali