Noland announces retirement after 37 years with Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan | #retirement | #elderly | #seniors
When Joe Hudson founded the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in the mid-1980s, he helped conduct a nationwide search to find the perfect person to head the organization. He landed on Mariam C. Noland, who at the time was with the St. Paul Foundation in Minnesota.
“I had worked for large community foundations before, but this one was a startup,” she said, noting her excitement to join the fledgling organization. “Detroit was the last major metropolitan area to form a community foundation. … Joe put together an amazing initial board of trustees.”
Thirty-six years later, the CFSEM is one of the largest community foundations in the country and Noland, who recently announced she intends to retire from her presidency at year’s end, helped bring it to the forefront.
Under Noland’s leadership, the foundation has awarded more than $1.2 billion in grants to nonprofits, as well as spearheaded some of the region’s most transformational initiatives and accumulated assets of more than $1 billion.
“I came here because it was a huge opportunity to make a difference in the community,” Noland said.
Her efforts to make a difference led to hundreds of millions of dollars in support being raised for the regional Detroit GreenWays Initiative, Arts and Cultural Participation Fund, HOPE Fund, New Economy Initiative and challenges to help more than 200 charitable organizations build endowments, including several Grosse Pointe organizations.
“I care about having our nonprofit sector being as strong as it can be,” Noland said, adding without the generosity of people in the region, “We wouldn’t be ranked among the largest in the country, among foundations that have a 100-year start on us.
“It’s amazing to live and work in this community,” she added. “The nonprofits in Grosse Pointe know us well. We’ll be dealing and making grants in Grosse Pointe forever.”
The Grosse Pointe Farms resident said she stayed committed to her role with the foundation because, “I know it works and I know it’s important.”
One of the main reasons Noland feels she’s made a difference is through teaching organizations the value of an endowment.
“We’ve been helping over 200 nonprofits to build endowments,” she said. “During the pandemic we’ve been able to provide flexible dollars to these agencies.”
Noland explained the foundation finds balance among short- and long-term projects. Throughout 2020, the foundation listened to the needs of the community and set up funds through which people could donate to give back, she said. In the long term, the foundation is part of a statewide effort to battle the opioid crisis — a unique situation for a regional foundation.
“If there’s a need there where we can really do well, we can take it on,” Noland said. “We’re working with emergency rooms and jails across the state. We want to give them the tools. We offer a program to hook people up with treatment.
“That’s the flexibility of the foundation; we can act fast or take on long-term, complex issues like opioid prevention. And we have a board that’s willing to take the risk and a staff with the expertise to pull it off.”
Between awarding grants and building endowments, the foundation is invested in strengthening the region. It’s a promise Noland has been happy to keep all these years and one that will continue after her retirement.
“I hope people realize we’re … really committed to carrying out donor intent forever,” Noland said, noting several Grosse Pointers who have left money to the foundation. “Not only is it our legal responsibility, but our moral responsibility too. … We will help continue to make the community a better place for the future.”
Though she still has nine months before her retirement is official, Noland said it will be a time of transition. The foundation is conducting a nationwide search for a new president.
“Hopefully we’ll find the perfect person,” she said, noting she hopes their time overlaps so they can work together for a smooth changeover. “I will be as engaged as is appropriate.”
The incoming president will have big shoes to fill. In 2020, Noland received the Special Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Philanthropy from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Detroit Chapter. She was named 2015 Michiganian of the Year by The Detroit News and received the Eleanor Josaitis Unsung Hero Award. Noland also was honored with the 2010 Women and Leadership in the Workplace Award and the “Others” Award of the Salvation Army.
In 2009, the Community Foundation Board of Trustees established the Mariam C. Noland Award for Nonprofit Leadership, which recognizes a nonprofit president or CEO in southeast Michigan whose service exemplifies the importance of leadership in their organization and the broader nonprofit community.
“Mariam Noland’s leadership in this community cannot be overstated,” said James B. Nicholson, chairman of the CFSEM Board of Trustees. “Her career has been dedicated to building our region’s charitable infrastructure. Along the way, she became a hero in the effort to preserve retiree pensions and cultural assets during Detroit’s bankruptcy. She has helped the community during crises and provided leadership to improve life for all in our region. We owe her so much gratitude. At the same time, we are happy for Mariam and her spouse, Jim. They deserve to catch their breath and enjoy the next chapter in their lives.”
After retirement, Noland plans to stay in Grosse Pointe and find opportunities to keep active.
“I’ll become a good volunteer and take a little bit of time for a spouse who’s been patiently waiting,” she said, noting she plans to travel and visit children and grandchildren when it’s safe. “Otherwise, I will be here, looking for exciting things to do.”