Berrien Community Foundation Named to Best Places to Work in SWM for 2022

There’s a small but powerful team among us working “For Good. For Ever.” That’s the unique team at the Berrien Community Foundation. The BCF team collaboratively and enthusiastically executes annual activities superbly and embraces new challenges – all for the residents of Berrien County. They enable donors to award grants or scholarships or donate to special interest funds like those for children, arts & humanities, veterans, or many more. Annual activities like grants for nonprofits and administering over $300,000 in scholarships deliver valuable resources throughout the county. They tackle assembling and distributing over 1,000 backpacks every August. When Emergency Shelter Services needed urgent repairs, BCF facilitated community donations to make the repairs possible. When the Michigan Nonprofit Association needed a local organization to lead Berrien’s census count to get our fair share of federal funds, BCF led the nonprofit effort. When Covid threatened the arts in Berrien County, BCF encouraged the local arts groups to work together, and the BCF-organized match resulted in each organization receiving needed funds. That’s a lot of work and yet it barely scratches the surface for this remarkable team. Governed by a volunteer board of leading citizens and operated daily by professionals immersed in understanding community needs, the BCF staff works collaboratively and often tirelessly. They are buoyed by seeing firsthand the impact of leveraging resources to affect the quality of life in Berrien County. Once you read the rest of the story, you’ll certainly understand the qualifications of this great team to be counted among the 20 Best Places to Work in Southwest Michigan for 2022.

What is the name of the business you are nominating?

Berrien Community Foundation (BCF)

Who are the owner(s) and/or principals in this company?

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The Executive Director is Lisa Cripps-Downey and the Board Chair is Dr. Robert Harrison.

Business Contact Information

Berrien Community Foundation

2900 South State Street, Suite 2E, St. Joseph, MI 49085

How many people work at the company you are nominating?

8

Tell us the story behind the nominated company. What does it do, and what sets them apart from other companies in the region?

The Berrien Community Foundation matches donors to community needs. As a tax-exempt public charity, BCF invests and administers donor funds to improve the quality of life in Berrien County.  Whether it’s an ongoing need or an unexpected one, such as Covid, the foundation staff stays on top of the challenges of changing times and looks for ways to make a difference.

When community members are planning their donations…whether today or for their estate plans…they can designate funds to further their charitable goals and special interests by creating new or contributing to existing endowment funds.

BCF is governed by a volunteer board of leading citizens and operated daily by professionals immersed in understanding community needs. The BCF staff works collaboratively and often tirelessly. They are buoyed by seeing firsthand the impact of leveraging resources to affect the quality of life in Berrien County.

In your own words, why do you think this company deserves to be declared to be one of the 20 Best Places to Work in Michigan’s Great Southwest?

The BCF team collaboratively and enthusiastically executes annual activities superbly and embraces new challenges – all for the residents of Berrien County. They enable donors to award grants or scholarships or donate to special interest funds like those for children, arts & humanities, veterans, or many more.  Annual activities like grants for nonprofits and administering over $300,000 in scholarships deliver valuable resources throughout the county. They tackle assembling and distributing over 1,000 backpacks every August. When Emergency Shelter Services needed urgent repairs, BCF facilitated community donations to make the repairs possible. When the Michigan Nonprofit Association needed a local organization to lead Berrien’s census count to get our fair share of federal funds, BCF led the nonprofit effort. When Covid threatened the arts in Berrien County, BCF encouraged the local arts groups to work together, and the BCF-organized match resulted in each organization receiving needed funds.

What makes workers proud to say they work there, and keeps them a part of the team?

Each BCF team member can say every day that they made a difference in someone’s life. They live the organization’s mission, “To connect the power of people who care with causes and organizations that strengthen our communities.” Whether it’s helping a donor direct funds to the causes they’re most passionate about or helping nonprofits deliver the most-needed services, the BCF staff knows their work matters – and it matters locally.

Let’s pretend you’re writing a review for Yelp! or Trip Advisor. Give us your best recommendation for the nominated company that would make the rest of us wish we worked there, too.

Work collaboratively to be part of the solutions to improve your local community. At the Berrien Community Foundation, we award grants and scholarships and tackle tough community issues by connecting donors and community needs.

What three key words best describe why this company is a Best Places to Work caliber company?

  • Mission-driven
  • Teamwork
  • Community-focused

As a Best Places to Work company “Super Hero,” what are the two most magical “Super Powers” this company seems to have on a day-to-day basis? (i.e., Ability to read minds, fly, invisibility, etc) And why?

Super Power One: Super Pivoter – When working with communities, surprises are inevitable. The BCF team doesn’t get stopped by barriers; they are energized by them. Their creativity, determination, and ability to work together result in finding alternatives that work.

Super Power Two: Peripheral Vision – The BCF team sees the impact of issues on people and organizations throughout the county. While they’re laser focused in executing a project, they do so with insights and vision beyond the task at hand. That’s why their tag line, “For Good For Ever,” is spot on.

Tell us about the leadership of the nominated company and what they do in order to:

A] Keep spirits and motivation high? — When you’re solving a problem and see the impact on people – whether it’s supporting safe spaces or seeing a senior’s smile, it’s easy to keep spirits high. But more than that, the leaders don’t push to work harder than they’re willing to work themselves.

B] Keep innovation and fresh ideas advancing? — Strength comes in working together. Whether it’s a scheduled brainstorming or a quick idea sharing, the collaborative environment fosters creativity and innovation.

C] Keep communications open? — An open-door environment and sharing of success and challenges, keeps the environment cooperative and not competitive. Sometimes communication is scheduled, like in staff meetings, and other times, it’s casual and spontaneous.

Explain a specific “wow!” moment in this company’s history that is virtually “Hall of Fame” or “Best Practices” worthy, as an example to other companies in the region.

One of the annual BCF projects is senior care kits wrapped as gifts in December. Like many volunteer activities, historically, this activity was centralized with volunteers coming to the BCF office. During Covid, the in-office assembly and gift-wrapping were not possible. Instead, BCF invited families to volunteer. Each family received a set of supplies that they took home to assemble and return as wrapped presents, including handwritten notes, for Berrien County seniors. With this change, children joined adults in volunteering and families from Niles to Coloma participated. This “reach out” instead of “bring in” volunteer participation worked so well, the senior holiday gift project and perhaps other volunteer activities will continue to engage residents of all ages throughout the county.

Best Places to Work have a reputation for not only working hard, but also for playing hard.

A] How does the nominated company honor or reward success? — The staff supports and encourages each other. Recently, each employee received a scrapbook-style page that included personal notes from board members. The annual meeting which is open to the public celebrates success. And, often, the rewards come from being able to help a struggling community member find safety or see a child walk a little taller with her new backpack.

B] How does the nominated company socialize as a team? — The team celebrates birthdays including a bag of surprises. They celebrate together for a holiday lunch and periodically order-in a shared lunch when they’ve had a particularly large effort. With an open office and collaborative environment, the BCF staff is often socializing.

C] How does the nominated company get involved in community events? — The BCF team not only gets involved, they lead many of them. For example, everyone on staff gets involved with giving away backpacks.

D] How does the nominated company celebrate life? — By making life better for the individuals of Berrien County – from scholarship selections to improving the resources for the underserved. The culture also fosters an understanding that everyone is a person first then an employee. Sometimes family concerns need to be a priority.

Write a brief, but compelling, recruitment ad telling people about why they should come and work there, too.

The Berrien Community Foundation seeks enthusiastic staff members who want hands-on participation strengthening the communities of Berrien County. If you’re energetic, interested in creative problem solving, and want to work collaboratively with a supportive staff, we invite you to apply to BCF.

What one thing is special about your nominated company that most people in the community have no idea actually happens there, but should be shouted from the rooftops because it’s that cool?

Donors can match their passions to local needs. When community members are planning their donations…whether today or for their estate plans…they can designate funds to further their special interests.

Give us three employee perks or benefits that you think make the company you have nominated worthy of a Best Places to Work trophy?

  • Flexible for families – All employees are seen as whole people not just workers. Family is first and we support each other to make that a reality at work too.
  • 403B with matching funds
  • Summer Friday afternoons out-of-office – employees rotate covering the office on Friday afternoons, so the staff gets most of their summer Friday afternoons off.

If this is your company and you win, write the best headline ever for your company newsletter describing your successful selection to the list, and be as specific as you can about how you would celebrate the win if money were no object.

Our Secret is Out – BCF Best Place to Work

If money were no object, BCF would celebrate by providing funding to support local projects that are personally meaningful to each employee.

Tell us anything else you want about this company that you suddenly realize we haven’t asked you about, but you’re sure will be the thing that puts you squarely into the winner’s circle! (Wait a minute! Can you put a square in a circle?)

Respondent skipped this question