By Jillian A. Bogater
On his first day of work last week, Michael Coleman walked to a nearby Ferndale shop and ordered a cup of coffee.
As their barista rang up the sale, he asked where Coleman, 41, worked.
“Affirmations,” he said, with a huge smile.
Coleman began Jan. 8 as Affirmations’ development director, where his duties will include grant writing, overseeing major giving, individual giving, corporate sponsorships and bringing funds into the center.
“To have the opportunity to help an organization like this to grow is … intoxicating,” said Coleman, who came out as gay seven years ago. “Back then I didn’t know there was a place like Affirmations. I wish I had. So to be part of an organization that provides a safe haven for so many people, I couldn’t turn it down.”
With just one week under his belt, Coleman has already jumped head-first into securing additional corporate funds for the Big Bash, set for March 31. He’s also busy writing grants and developing a comprehensive plan for fundraising.
“I’m lucky in that I get to raise money for an organization I really care about,” he said.
While Coleman’s fundraising work is similar to other jobs he has had, he immediately noticed some differences.
“Affirmations is really a place where you can be completely who you are without apologies, no reservations,” he said. “Coming out is an ongoing process. I may have never worked at a place where everyone is so excited about what they were doing.
“I’ve found my sexual orientation has been a recurring issue throughout my career. I finally reached the point that if this is going to be an issue, 24 hours a day, I want to work for an organization that makes a difference in the lives of people.”
Coleman arrived just as Affirmations prepares to move to its new offices, across the street on Nine Mile Road in Ferndale. Affirmations successfully reached and surpassed its $5.3 million capital and endowment goal to build the new community center, which will be a three-level, nearly 16,000-square-foot facility. Construction is expected to be complete sometime in February, with a move-in date to be announced shortly after.
Coleman has a long history of successful fundraising efforts in broadcast media. While at Michigan Public Media in Ann Arbor, he led an effort that increased corporate support from $160,000 to over $1,000,000 annually and reversed a 10-year financial deficit at WFUM TV 28 in Flint. Most recently, he spent a year-and-a-half at WDET-FM (101.9) in Detroit, reworking programming to restore local talent.
Coleman’s work history is not without controversy. Last summer, he pleaded no contest to charges of embezzlement at Michigan Public Radio – involving accepting dinners, plane tickets and money – and is currently finishing a two-year probation.
“I managed to put that chapter behind me,” Coleman said. “Now it’s a new chapter and a new day.”
He now says he’s ready to get going on the nearly $1.5 million operation budget for 2007.
“I’m looking forward to bolstering the center’s efforts in securing additional annual contributions to our Center Partner program, launching a planned giving program and increasing foundation support for Affirmations.”
The transition into Affirmations has been an easy one for Coleman.
“It feels like I’m at home already. It’s a good feeling.”