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Washtenaw United: 'Catchafire' Program Helping Area Nonprofits Survive Pandemic Economy

Chris Lemon
Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

The pandemic, and its impact on the economy, has forced some nonprofits to close.  Others are just hanging on.The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation has partnered up to bring the services of "Catchafire"to the area, and it is making a difference.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair talks with the foundation's Chris Lemon about how the partnership with Washtenaw Coordinated Funders and the Michigan Health Endowment Fundis creating a path forward. 

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


As an inaugural member of the very first AAACF Youth Council in the 1989-1990 school year, Chris came full circle when he joined the Community Foundation in 2009 as the Youth Council Advisor.  Now, as the Senior Community Investment Officer, he works to create impact in Washtenaw County, focusing on AAACF’s strategic grant programs and evaluation.  Chris' experience as a Youth Council member continues to inspire the work he does today; he believes deeply in the potential of youth to serve their communities when they are empowered to do so.  Chris continues to invest in youth through his ongoing coaching of youth lacrosse in Dexter.  Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Chris took a short “leave of absence” to obtain his BA in psychology at MSU before returning.  Having also been a local business manager with an extensive volunteer history and a deep involvement in conversations about issues facing local youth, Chris is invested in the health of Washtenaw County.



Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

Washtenaw Coordinated Funders

Michigan Health Endowment Fund


Catchafire is the largest online tool that connects social good organizations with talented professionals looking to donate their skills.  In January of 2020, the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders worked to bring this resource to Washtenaw County at no cost to local nonprofits.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, operational and financial constraints on nonprofits have grown even more.  Resources like Catchafire, which enable skilled volunteers, from the comfort of their homes anywhere in the nation, to connect and support Washtenaw County nonprofits, support the growing need for technical assistance during a time of social distancing.

Since its launch at the top of 2020, we’ve already seen a significant return on investment to the Washtenaw County nonprofit community, as the below metrics illustrate.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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