ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKES

Protecting Water, Sustaining Life

Chicago, IL   |  www.greatlakes.org

Mission

To protect, conserve and restore the Great Lakes ensuring healthy water in the lakes and in our communities for all generations of people and wildlife. We advance our mission as advocates for policies that support the lakes and communities, by building the research, analysis and partnerships that motivate action, and by educating and uniting people as a voice for the Great Lakes.

Ruling year info

1971

President & CEO

Joel Brammeier

Main address

150 N Michigan Ave, Suite 750

Chicago, IL 60601 USA

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Formerly known as

Lake Michigan Federation

EIN

23-7104524

NTEE code info

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (C01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Holding almost 20% of the world’s surface freshwater, the Great Lakes provide drinking water to nearly 40 million people and power the region’s economy. But the lakes and the communities that rely on them face serious threats from pollution, invasive species, failing water infrastructure, and climate change. Clean water is an essential resource and a right for people and wildlife. Yet too many people who live in Great Lakes communities lack access to safe, affordable water and cannot safely access recreation opportunities.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Restoration & Protection

The Great Lakes have suffered from decades of environmental and economic harm due to pollution, fish and wildlife habitat destruction, and unsustainable water use. The Alliance advocates for programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Clean Water Act, and more to ensure cleanup of the most contaminated sites, reductions in pollution, and long-term restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem for people and wildlife. We guard our Great Lakes water from diversion away from the lakes through the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact and Agreement. Our work is designed to ensure restoration and protection programs evolve to address the needs of communities that have borne the greatest environmental harm and address environmental justice and climate resilience goals.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

Invasive species—like zebra mussels and round gobies—have permanently changed the Great Lakes. Once invasive species are established, they are nearly impossible to remove, so our work focuses on prevention. The Alliance works on two fronts to keep invasive species out of the lakes. First, we are advancing toward successful construction of the Brandon Road Lock & Dam project in Joliet, IL to keep invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River. Our focus is on securing federal funding for the project, pushing for completion of engineering and design work by 2024, and cementing agreements among the Great Lakes states. Second, we provide oversight and advocacy on the federal regulation of ballast water in ships, which is the primary way the most damaging invasive species entered the lakes. Our focus is on both preventing oceangoing ships from bringing new invasive species in and preventing the spread of invaders between lakes in the ballast of freshwater ships.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

The Alliance advocates for clean, safe, and affordable water for all people of the Great Lakes region. Across our region, water systems that should protect our drinking water and prevent pollution of our lakes are instead crumbling, outdated, and threatening the health of individuals and families. We work to build and reform the federal and state policies that govern the renewal of water infrastructure and grow support for the funding to rebuild the vital water systems that connect the Great Lakes to homes and businesses. This work is rooted in our commitment to addressing the needs of communities disproportionately affected by water stress. To do this we pursue outcomes such as funding for drinking, storm, and wastewater infrastructure and lead service line replacement, affordable water and sewer rate and billing structures, and growing nature-based green infrastructure solutions.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Economically disadvantaged people

Runoff of chemical and manure fertilizer is one of the largest sources of pollution to the Great Lakes. The Alliance works to reduce agricultural pollution and prevent harmful algal blooms and dead zones in the Great Lakes. Our emphasis is on Western Lake Erie and Green Bay, two of the most critical algal bloom hotspots in the nation. In Wisconsin, we are working with a coalition of community, government, business, and tribal stakeholders to create accountability for pollution reduction and increased funding for pollution control. In western Lake Erie, we helped lead the state-provincial commitment to reduce pollution to Lake Erie by 40% by 2025. Today we are co-leading the development of policy and funding recommendations that would achieve that commitment. Finally, we work to make sure the voices of communities harmed by agricultural pollution are included in state policymaking, as these communities often bear the cost of cleanup but are far away from the sources of pollution.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

Local Partnerships are designed to build more capacity for Great Lakes water protection at the community level. We make commitments where we see a need for water improvement and protection, and where the partners involved are motivated primarily by addressing local issues but have limited capacity. We activate our skills, resources, and expertise in support of community leaders and networks. Our local partnerships are core to how the Alliance builds bridges to front-line organizations and community leaders who are setting local water agendas on issues such as drinking water safety, flood prevention, and water affordability. We collaborate effectively by providing specific resources such as policy research and reporting, advocacy training, financial and communications support, and access to our networks of decision makers. Local partnerships are at the core of the Alliance’s commitment to authentically address our justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion principles in our work.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

Engagement of people is how we grow a credible and lasting voice for the Great Lakes. Our volunteer efforts, including our renowned Adopt-a-Beach program and our Alliance Ambassadors, activate tens of thousands of volunteers every year in service to the Great Lakes. Adopt-a-Beach volunteers participate in hundreds of beach cleanups across all five Great Lakes keeping over 18 tons of plastic pollution out of the lakes each year.

Alliance Ambassadors are a team of volunteers trained to represent the Alliance for the Great Lakes by increasing its outreach and community presence. Through these volunteer programs, the Alliance and the work of protecting the Great Lakes become more relevant to more people and communities. We work to grow awareness and support for the Great Lakes and the Alliance long term, and to reduce barriers to participation to engage volunteers and advocates that have been historically excluded from the traditional conservation movement.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Dollars shared in support of community-based organizational partners by year

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Children and youth, Working poor, Activists

Related Program

Local Partnerships

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Pounds of trash collected through Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-a-Beach program

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Engagement

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

The number dropped dramatically in 2020 and climbed in 2021 due to the lessened participation as a result of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

Number of cleanup events hosted through Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-a-Beach program

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Engagement

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Numbers were dramatically affected by participation fluctuations due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic

Number of volunteer hours reached through Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-a-Beach program

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Engagement

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Numbers were dramatically affected by participation fluctuations due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

Number of unique volunteer experiences achieved through Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-a-Beach program

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Engagement

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Numbers were dramatically affected by fluctuations in participation due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our vision is a thriving Great Lakes and healthy water that all life can rely on, today and far into the future. We aspire to be a voice for the lakes and to support the voices of the communities that depend on the lakes and their waters.

With our three-year strategic plan created in 2021, we envision three broad impacts for people and the lakes:
- Safer, cleaner, more accessible water for all
- People and communities can safely enjoy and rely on all the benefits the lakes have to offer, from safe drinking water to recreation opportunities
- Every community that depends on the lakes is heard and included in our work

Our approach includes four core strategies:

Water Advocacy
o Protecting safe, clean, and affordable water
o Reducing agricultural pollution
o Stopping invasive species
o Restoring the health and resilience of the Great Lakes
o Safeguarding hard-fought Great Lakes protections

Local Partnerships
o Building leadership for Great Lakes protection in communities, using our skills, resources, and expertise in support of local leaders and networks

Engagement
o Growing a credible and lasting voice for the Great Lakes by motivating tens of thousands of people each year to take action

Operations & Fundraising
o Supporting a strong staff and board of directors, and ensuring the fiscal health that enables the Alliance to advance our mission and vision 

As a regional leader dedicated 100% to the health and vitality of all five Great Lakes, the Alliance’s approach combines our strength in influencing and shaping federal and state policy with programs and opportunities that directly engage residents and communities. We leverage the power of a unifying Great Lakes message, relationships with networks of influential leaders, businesses, and community partners, and our policy savvy and deep issue knowledge to encourage decision-makers to improve Great Lakes and water policies. Founded in 1970, we have decades of experience leading and co-leading some of the most critical policy developments to protect the Great Lakes, including the federal Legacy Act, the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the federal ban on plastic microbeads, the commitment to reduce phosphorus pollution to Lake Erie by 40%, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, and the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project to stop invasive carp.

The Alliance recognizes the critical need to elevate voices from Great Lakes communities. We convene people and listen to them on local issues that matter urgently to Great Lakes residents, and partner to adjust our priorities and strategies. We depend on our 25 highly qualified professional staff located in five of the Great Lakes states and Washington, D.C. to lead the day-to-day work. Our board of directors comprises leaders in a variety of disciplines from across the region, each with a passion for our Great Lakes. Finally, we work with dozens of other NGOs across the Great Lakes region to bring a shared and powerful message to the public about the importance of protecting the Great Lakes and clean water.

Building on a 52-year history, the Alliance’s fiscal strength means our momentum can be maintained over time. Dozens of philanthropic foundations and thousands of individuals give to support our work each year. An asset base of $10 million and a growing annual budget approaching $5 million means we can bring the capacity needed to take on major Great Lakes challenges.

2022 Accomplishments:

We secured a historic federal investment to keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now has the full funding to complete the engineering and design phase for, and to begin construction on, a project at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam, a critical choke point for keeping invasive carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

We advocated for – and won – an additional $1 billion federal investment in Great Lakes restoration. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will use the bulk of the funding to clean up and restore Great Lakes Areas of Concern, some of the region’s most environmentally contaminated and degraded sites, by 2030.

We co-convene the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) Advocates Forum, a diverse community working to ensure that federal water funds are allocated to the hardest-hit communities and advance resilience to climate change. Our group of community leaders and policy experts is playing a pivotal role in reforming the biggest state water funding programs to ensure that all Great Lakers have access to clean, safe, and affordable water.

We activated our supporters to speak out in support of Great Lakes restoration. People around the Great Lakes region sent over 13,000 emails to their members of Congress, urging their representatives to invest in fixing failing water and wastewater infrastructure, stop invasive carp, and champion the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Clean Water Act.

Adopt-a-Beach volunteers have collected more than half a million pounds of litter collected at cleanup events since the Alliance began tracking data in 2003. More than 85% of the litter cleaned up is made entirely or partly of plastic, putting our volunteers on the front lines of keeping plastic pollution out of the lakes.

We educated Detroit City Council members about the benefits of nature-based green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in their districts. GSI can reduce basement backups and neighborhood flooding, and help stop sewer overflows. This results in cleaner water entering the Rouge River, Detroit River, and Lake Erie.​

We produced over 20 episodes of our Lakes Chat podcast that have been downloaded over 8,000 times, educating thousands of listeners on topics ranging from plastic pollution to environmental justice to federal policy.

We published a first-of-its-kind case study that found water bills are higher for communities that pull their drinking water from Lake Erie. The additional costs are for monitoring and treatment due to harmful algal blooms caused by farm runoff. The study highlights the fact that water users far away from pollution sources are paying the real cost of protecting their families from a problem they did not create.

We developed a Cleveland-focused civic engagement and advocacy curriculum to support a growing network of community partners working toward shared water policy goals in the largest city on Lake Erie.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    The 40 million people in the Great Lakes region who rely on the lakes for drinking water, recreation, and jobs

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Community meetings/Town halls, Suggestion box/email,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    The Alliance Adopt-a-Beach (AAB) program organizes and coordinates beach cleanups across all 5 Great Lakes, collects and aggregates data (i.e., pounds and type of trash, number of trash pieces collected, etc.), and trains and supports volunteers in leading their own AAB cleanups. In response to feedback, we rebuilt our Adopt-a-Beach website to make it easier for volunteers to schedule and participate in cleanups and to report data on the litter they collect. We also revamped the Adopt-a-Beach supplies process to allow Team Leaders to request the specific supplies they need for each cleanup, including hanging scales.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    The Alliance and others conducted more than a year of collaborative research and a community needs survey that guided the education, communication, and advocacy efforts of the Calumet Connect Partnership (CCP) to reduce pollution and health impacts on the southeast side of Chicago. Through that process, CCP identified and adopted collective goals and continues to gain feedback from partners to ensure program work is aligned with and helping to advance those goals. This feedback strengthens relationships between the Alliance and CCP and between the partners. Over time, as CCP partner organizations increased their capacity, the Alliance has been able to shift from a leadership role to more of a supporting role for the organizations most impacted by and involved in the direct community.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive, We tell the people who gave us feedback how we acted on their feedback, We ask the people who gave us feedback how well they think we responded,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, The people we serve tell us they find data collection burdensome, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection,

Financials

ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKES
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

ALLIANCE FOR THE GREAT LAKES

Board of directors
as of 10/17/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Jo-Elle Mogerman

St. Louis Zoo

Term: 2019 - 2020

Joel Brammeier

Alliance for the Great Lakes

Lauren Bigelow

Growth Capital Network

Claire Castleman

Self Help Credit Union

Sue Conatser

Motorola Solutions

Adrienne Dziak

The Nature Conservancy (Retired)

Aaron Fershee

David Schmahl

SmithBucklin

Quentin James

The Collective PAC

Kimberly Knott

Future Insight Consulting

Thomas Langmyer

Great Lakes Media Corp

Candace LaRochelle

University Hospital Rehabilitation Hospital/University Hospital Avon Rehabilitation Hospital

Susan McDermott

Pavilion - A Mercer Practice

Vanessa Iosue

Burges & Burges

Laura Payne

Citadel

Bill Henry

Amensal Systems

Nicole Chavas

Greenprint Partners

Katherine Jones

Aquarium of Niagara

Daniel King

Oneida Nation

Christopher Winters

Discovery World Science and Technology Center

Tim Frick

Mightybytes, Inc.

Alan Steinman

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 10/17/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/26/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.