Community philanthropist funds innovation

Dorothy A. Johnson sitting at a desk
Dorothy A. Johnson
Image Credit: University Communications

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy will be one step further in its mission to advance the public good and transform communities with a generous gift from namesake Dorothy A. Johnson. 

The gift will create the Dorothy A. Johnson Philanthropy Innovation Fund, designed to support the exploration of innovative programs that will advance the field of philanthropy through expanded knowledge and resources.

"Dottie's gift will allow us to deeply examine ways to address the new pressures in the ever-changing field of philanthropy today," said Kyle Caldwell, executive director of the Johnson Center.

This most recent gift from Johnson will be the catalyst for continued support for this fund, including an additional investment from the university, which will help extend the impact of the endowment over time.

During her notable career in philanthropy, Johnson committed her extraordinary talents to increasing the effectiveness of Michigan's philanthropy and to building additional philanthropic resources for the state and the nation. 

As president and CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) from 1975-2000, Johnson grew the organization into one of the nation's leading champions for philanthropy. Among her many leadership roles, she was a devoted trustee of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for 32 years. 

Johnson helped to create the Michigan Community Foundation Youth Project that provided challenge grants to establish endowed funds across Michigan community foundations for young people to learn grantmaking. This is still one of the nation's largest youth grant programs teaching young people the value of philanthropy. She also helped create Learning to Give, a program providing educators the materials to teach youth about giving which is expanding around the world.

"As a child I was taught to always give back, whether it be of your time or resources," Johnson said. "Mart and I have both tried to give back throughout our lives. The center provides the teaching, research and practical advice to help people serve and give. It provides the seed for future generations to do the same."

The Johnson Center was founded and expanded by previous gifts from Dottie and her late husband, Mart. She has been a supporter of Grand Valley for decades and currently serves as secretary of the Grand Valley University Foundation, as well as being an honorary lifetime member of the university's Board of Trustees.

Johnson's gift is part of the Laker Effect campaign, which is transforming the lives of students and enhancing the West Michigan community. 

Learn more about the campaign at