In only a few days. After three plus years as Executive Director and seven years of involvement in Immigration Law & Justice Michigan, I’m retiring on Monday, January 29.
While ILJ-MI has grown and evolved, our remarkable essence remains the very same. Caring donors open their hearts to people from around the world who in turn care for, enliven and enrich our communities.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the first legal clinic at Grand Rapids First United Methodist Church in 2005. Then called Justice for Our Neighbors, that original church ministry inspired three other United Methodist Churches to open clinics in Detroit in 2010 and in Kalamazoo and Traverse City in 2015.
The four clinics merged into an independent statewide organization in 2018. It’s been my honor to help build that fledging entity into the high impact organization that handled 1,392 cases for 919 clients from 85 countries in 2023.
Our clients – as well as our dedicated, expert and hard-working staff – rely on ILJ-MI to have the resources it needs to provide high quality immigration legal services. Toward that end, we’ve spent the last three years upgrading our organizational infrastructure with investments in computer equipment, IT security, software and the necessary financial and operational processes to be an effective organization.
Alas, long term financial sustainability still eludes this organization. For the last 14 months, we’ve worked with a highly regarded development consulting firm to analyze our fundraising activities, develop a comprehensive fund development strategy and train board members and key staff. Our longer-term prospects for raising sufficient resources are good, but it was unrealistic to think fundraising could grow as quickly as needed.
ILJ-MI fell short of our ambitious 2023 development goals. We’re still dissecting this setback. Charitable giving is down across the country. Public support for immigration appears to be declining. Furthermore, “empathic distress” is described in a recent guest essay in The New York Times as a growing reaction to the steady drumbeat of horrible news about many things. “Giving to charity feels like a drop in the ocean…”
While you can’t change the immigration system, you can help change a life that is mired in it.
While you can’t solve the growing disquiet in our country, you can make a difference – one person at a time.
Individuals like young Blessing, whose story is featured in this months newsletter. And in the lives of hundreds more like her across the state of Michigan.
My time in the Executive Director’s chair has been a labor of love with key organizational advances and much unfinished work. Heather Haigh, who is currently the Assistant Executive Director, will be the Interim Executive Director for a short time.
Please keep your caring hearts open to vulnerable people from around the world.
Here’s the very last fundraising pitch of my career!
If you didn’t make a gift in 2023, please do so. Today.
If you have never contributed to ILJ-MI, please do so. Today.
If you gave a gift in 2023, please consider making your 2024 gift. Yes, today! (You can even pledge your contribution now and pay when most convenient for you).
You can give online or mail a check to the ILJ-MI Development Office at 222 Cass St. Traverse City, MI 49684.