Member Spotlight: Heart of West Michigan United Way−Internal Advocacy Council

Recognizing that nonprofit organizations play a vital role in the development and implementation of public policy, Heart of West Michigan United Way (HWMUW) endeavored to unite the business, labor and nonprofit communities for the purpose of forming an internal advocacy council.


Under the guidance of Policy Chair Stacie Behler (Vice President, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Meijer Inc.), staff tapped into their own legislative experience, as well as into some fine templates established by other United Ways, and hit the ground running. As a result, the Public Policy Committee was launched earlier than expected, and the official policy agenda was approved by the Board during its January 2015 meeting.


Our current committee roster is comprised of members from the business, nonprofit and labor sectors. Four of the committee members, including Ms. Behler, also serve on our Board. We ask our Policy Committee members to do the following as they serve:

  • Assist in development of an annual policy agenda to be approved by the Board of Directors.
  • Provide expert advice and guidance in HWMUW’s strategic plan around public policy advocacy.
  • Attend standing committee meetings.
  • Advise HWMUW policy staff via e-mail/phone on emerging policy issues as they arise.
  • Advocate for HWMUW policy positions as appropriate.
  • Assist in identifying pertinent public policy issues and opportunities affecting Kent County that align with our three bold goals.
  • Help HWMUW obtain access to policy makers as appropriate.


HWMUW engages in public policy advocacy because we recognize our civic obligation to employ knowledge and experience to help inform decision-makers on policy and funding of government human service programs. Our advocacy is not ideological, nor is it partisan. We never compromise our integrity to achieve personal gain. Our advocacy is inclusive in nature and utilizes our convening power to bring together all potential partners to reach common ground and advance the common good.


The Committee’s policy recommendations to the Board have thus far included support of the Kent County Senior Millage, Proposal 1 and Third Grade Reading. The Board adopted the first two recommendations and is considering the third. The Committee also analyzed last year’s legislative attempt to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by adding sexual orientation (and perhaps gender identity) as a protected class. Our mission has a foundational belief that all individuals should be treated with dignity and respect, and for that purpose, HWMUW will take a stand against any form of discrimination.


That having been said, we are tracking this effort’s momentum over the next two years before bringing its endorsement to the Board. We are cognizant of the strong possibility that resolution will be found on the 2016 November ballot instead of in the Michigan Legislature.


Time will tell.

Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Mission is to mobilize the caring power of volunteers, donors, agencies and community partners to improve people’s lives in West Michigan in measurable and lasting ways.

Please contact Matt Levin should you have any questions about the HWMUW Policy Committee.