Last summer, DTE’s Volunteerism team was in search of nonprofits that employees could help through skills-based volunteerism.  

Examples of skills that people across our company can put to use in their volunteering include business strategy, financial analysis, marketing, communications, process design and project management. 

DTE found a partner in The Minority Freedom Community Fund (MFCF), which is a new organization dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans in the U.S. through economic support, social programs and holistic wellness.  

Through the skills-based volunteer process, organizations apply for assistance to DTE’s Volunteerism team via a form that helps nonprofits identify the unique needs they’re looking to learn more about.  

Internally, team members follow a similar process, by completing a form where they catalog their professional skillsets to help community organizations. The Volunteerism team then matches up nonprofits with DTE teams that can help reach their goals.  

With help from seven DTE volunteers, MFCF was hosted for a two-day session to help with the organization’s priorities – event planning and project management.  

Frank D’Angelo, DTE Community Outreach manager who handles DTE Foundation community events, partnered up with DTE Senior Program Manager Erica Schlenker, to help MFCF plan its first in-person fundraising event. With DTE team members’ vast knowledge in this space, they helped the organization identify the location, build out the guest list and provide them with best practices for a successful event. 

The second session was focused on project management and was a collaborative effort by members of the company’s Renewables and Volunteerism team. Initially, the Renewables team reached out to support community organizations by offering insight on project management, so this partnership was the perfect fit. DTE’s teams helped MFCF build a detailed project management process that will guide their organizational practices and initiatives for years to come. 

“Everything about our experience exceeded our expectations,” said MFCF Founder and COO TeQuion Brookins. “Usually, nonprofits have to overcome all sorts of barriers to even apply for the level of support DTE gave us.”   

“Working with MFCF was such a unique opportunity because our team got to use our skillsets to help an organization that does such important work in the community,” said Erica.  

Following the event, TeQuion of MFCF thought of different ways to thank our teams for their work and pitched an idea to the organization’s board about establishing the ‘DTE Community Champion Award’ in honor of this new partnership.   

“The board absolutely loved the idea because it has longevity and commemorates our time together,” TeQuion stated. “For years to come, the award will be a reminder for future volunteers, team members and award recipients that DTE did this for us.”   

At MFCF’s annual meeting in December, the nonprofit presented the inaugural DTE Community Champion Award to Erica who took part in the skills-based training session.   

Erica explains, “To hear they created an award on our behalf, and then get presented with that honor, was extremely special, and we’re so grateful to have built this new, meaningful relationship. In future years, the MFCF will present the award to partners who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to supporting racial justice.”