I. Background :
The Wayne Mediation Center (WMC) is a community based nonprofit providing dispute resolution services and training throughout Wayne County. WMC and its predecessor entities have been providing dispute resolution services in the metropolitan Detroit area for more than 25 years. WMC is the largest of 18 independent, non-profit, Community Dispute Resolution Centers (Centers) spread throughout Michigan that receive filing fee revenues through the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO). WMC relies heavily upon volunteer mediators to handle many of its cases.
The great majority of the cases handled by WMC are referred by local courts and schools, and the overwhelming majority of participants are moderate to low income. Courts referring cases include District Courts, the Wayne County Probate Court, and the Family Division of the 3rd Circuit. WMC also receives referrals from several government agencies and handles a small number of self-referrals. Over the last four years, WMC has invested heavily in its youth programs, especially parenting time and school disputes, and has started Restorative Practices programs in a number of schools. In 2013, WMC received over $588,000 in income from eight different funding sources and handled 2,110 cases. WMC successfully resolved 1,093 cases in 2013, 58.8% of those it mediated.
In addition to the cases it mediates and facilitates, WMC also provides three 40 hour General Civil Mediation trainings, a Domestic Mediation Training, numerous two hour advanced trainings and approximately 50 mediator internships each year. WMC also teaches a mediation class and a clinic at Detroit Mercy School of Law and provides internships to Wayne State University Law School and Wayne State’s Masters in Dispute Resolution program students.
II. Current Sources of Funding:
WMC currently has eight sources of income. These sources of funding vary from year to year, but have proven remarkably stable in total amount over the last five years:
1. WMC’s largest source of income is a grant from the State Court Administrative Office that comes through a statutory formula taken out of filing fees paid to courts by parties throughout the state. WMC’s 2014 CDRP (Community Dispute Resolution Program) grant is just above $260,000. By statute, 65% of the filing fees distributed to the CDRPs are based upon the cases filed in each County and 35% are based upon the number and complexity of the cases handled in the previous year. Although the filing fees for Wayne County have fallen in recent years due to population loss, they have stabilized in the last year.
2. WMC receives a “Turnaround High School” grant from the United Way of Southeastern Michigan for providing programs (Truancy Prevention and Restorative Practices) in three schools. WMC’s grant in 2013-4 is for just over $96,000, but is somewhat difficult to predict each year because the grant depends upon the chosen “turnaround” high schools selecting WMC from a menu of programs each year. WMC has received a grant from the United Way for the last six years.
3. An additional source of income for WMC’s Restorative Practices school programs is the Michigan Department of Education’s “S3” grant. This three year grant began the year before last, and is part of a pilot program that could be continued and and/or possibly expanded. Four schools contracted with WMC for the 2013-14 school year for a total amount of $126,000.
4. WMC also receives income by contracting directly with schools for its Truancy Prevention program. Unfortunately, the schools participating have dwindled from three to one this year and this source of income is likely to be less than $10,000 this year.
5. The final source of income for WMC’s school programs is funds from the Department of Education to provide outreach on and facilitation and mediation of Special Education disputes. The money comes through the Michigan Special Education Mediation Program, a non-profit that administers the grant, and has been available for a number of years. WMC bills for every case referred, and has increased its work in this area over the last four years. WMC billed out $25,000 in 2013.
6. WMC receives an Access and Visitation grant from the US Department of Justice that is administered by SCAO to handle “parenting time” mediations. This grant is divided throughout the state, and the total amount available has decreased slightly over the last few years. WMC began receiving this grant three years ago, and was approved this year for the amount of $8,100.
7. Another source of revenue is mediation fees received directly from mediation participants and from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The participant fees are obtained primarily in cases referred by the Probate Court and District Courts, and are set on a sliding fee scale. WMC received over $26,000 from mediation fees in 2013.
8. Finally, WMC receives income from mediation training (General Civil, Domestic, advanced trainings), internships and teaching at UDM School of Law. WMC received approximately $38,000 in training revenue in 2013.
III. Current Programs:
WMC currently has eight separate conflict resolution programs. Below is a summary of each:
1. District Courts: WMC handled 835 District Court cases in 2013. WMC provides small claims mediations on a regular basis at six District Courts (Detroit, Woodhaven, Westland, Taylor, Garden City and Wayne) and receives general civil case referrals regularly from two District Courts (Woodhaven, Detroit). The number of small claims cases referred has declined significantly in the last four years due to population loss and financial realities, but has shown signs of stabilizing in the last year. This program is critical to WMC’s training of interns because it provides the majority of opportunities for them. WMC has been working very closely with the 36th District Court (Detroit) in recent months to increase case referrals.
2. Domestic: WMC handled 728 cases in 2013, mainly through two Friend of the Court programs at the main Courthouse. WMC began participating in these programs two years ago, but for a variety of reasons, the programs have not been very attractive to volunteer mediators. WMC has been working closely with the Court and FOC in recent months, and changes have been implemented that should improve both of these programs for volunteer mediators. In addition, a new parenting time program has just been added, which should allow far more opportunities for volunteer mediators.
3. Probate Court: WMC handled 106 cases in 2013 referred by Probate Court judges. These numbers go up and down occasionally, but have generally been stable for many years, thanks to the great support of the Chief Judge Milton Mack.
4. Special Education: WMC handled 42 Special Education cases in 2013. These cases come from a variety of schools throughout Wayne County. Although these cases have increased significantly in recent years, they declined slightly last year.
5. PPOs: WMC handled 49 PPO cases in 2013, most of them neighbor disputes. WMC has been working with the court recently to increase referrals, because they have gone down significantly in the past two years.
6. Truancy Prevention: WMC handled 170 cases in 2013 at 10 schools. These numbers have gone down recently due to schools facing budget cuts.
7. Restorative Practices: WMC currently has programs in 7 High Schools and handled 102 cases in 2013. Restorative Practices is an area gaining great interest throughout Michigan, and WMC also is in the process of trying to start several new RP programs in courts as well as schools.
8. Child Protection: WMC handled 61 cases in 2013, almost all referred from the West Wayne DHS office. These case numbers have gone down slightly in the last few years.
IV. Strengths of WMC:
1. WMC receives referrals from a wide variety of sources and handles a great selection of complex cases that provide great impact in the community;
2. WMC’s youth programs and funding have been growing steadily and are becoming well established, with the potential to grow further and have even greater impact;
3. WMC has long term relationships with two law schools and a master’s program;
4. WMC has a respected and experienced staff, contractors and volunteer mediators;
5. WMC is in excellent financial condition due to lowering its expenses and increasing its income over the last two years. Over the last year and a half, WMC has doubled its cash reserves and currently has over four full months of expenses in reserves, putting it in position to again make investments in expanding its impact;
6. WMC’s primary financial source is very reliable and supportive, and is dedicated to the expansion of dispute resolution services in Michigan.
V. Major Challenges:
1. Although WMC has made tremendous strides building conflict resolution programs and obtaining revenue in recent years, changes are always occurring with referral sources, and WMC’s programs are vulnerable to being reduced from year to year. This means that WMC must constantly build a range of referral opportunities and create new programs, which requires initiative and financial investments. As a result, WMC needs to make important decisions about its finances (including fundraising) and the direction of its future investments.
2. Although last year’s salary increases for staff were critical, WMC’s salaries are still below comparable nonprofit market rates. As a result, it risks losing its excellent staff members.
VI. Strategic Plan:
Vision & Mission:
Vision: The Wayne Mediation Center will change the culture of conflict resolution in Wayne County and will also serve as a national model for children focused community conflict resolution programs.
Mission: The Wayne Mediation Center strives to provide the community it serves with a process for resolving disputes through:
• Empowerment: Our process provides parties with the opportunity to choose their own solution.
• Education: Through skills training and increased awareness programs, we promote alternatives for conflict resolution.
• Effectiveness: WMC maintains an excellent pool of highly trained mediators and a skilled staff dedicated to ensuring exceptional quality.
Motto: Solving Problems. Empowering People. Restoring Relationships.
After much thought and extended discussion with many of its stakeholders, the following strategies have been adopted as priorities over the next few years:
1. WMC will continue to have as its primary focus the provision of low cost dispute resolution services to the low and moderate income residents of Wayne County.
2. Due to the critical need to stay in front of a constantly changing environment, and in compliance with the priorities and financial parameters indicated below, WMC will strategically target up to five opportunities at a time to expand the impact of its dispute resolution services.
3. Although it is a lower priority, WMC will also continue to invest limited resources into state and national efforts generally to expand the use of alternative dispute resolution programs.
4. A primary goal over the next few years will be for WMC to increase its investment in marketing its Truancy Prevention, Special Education, and Restorative Practices programs with the goal of expanding their impact and increasing revenues.
5. Another important priority for WMC will be to establish court based Restorative Practices programs and expand its Domestic programs. It will make these investments on a three to six month pilot trial basis, and assess the ongoing costs, seeking grants where available.
6. WMC will continue to apply its current level of resources to General Civil, self-referrals and PPO cases, but will continue to look for opportunities to increase referrals.
7. WMC will continue to apply its current level of resources to training programs that are critical to its supply of volunteer mediators and interns.
8. WMC will continue its current level of investment in maintaining and increasing its pool of good, diverse volunteers.
9. WMC will continue to evaluate the fees it charges on a yearly basis, based upon consideration of reasonable market assumptions.
10. WMC will invest funds as needed to support new initiatives, but will balance consideration of making any new investments new with its goal to increase WMC’s cash reserves by the end of 2015 to the equivalent of full five months of expenses.
11. In light of its current financial position, salaries for WMC staff will be raised to competitive nonprofit market levels as soon as possible based upon appropriate, established criteria.
12. An additional initiative of highest priority is for WMC to develop a fundraising plan as soon as possible. The initial strategy will be to add Board members with interest and experience in fundraising and to consult with NEW or another organization with comparable fundraising expertise.
13. The structure of WMC Board committees will be adjusted so that each Board member is primary focused upon one committee only and each committee will have at least three members. The current committees will remain as the Performance Improvement, Fundraising, Nominating and Finance Committees.
14. The Advisory Board Committee will continue to expand and utilization of its members grow.
15. WMC will seriously look into the cost of changing its name to the Wayne Dispute Resolution Center.
16. Progress on this plan will be evaluated on a regular basis based upon the goals established by the Board Performance Improvement Committee.