Skip to main content

Strategic Plan for Johnson Center

Context For Planning

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy is an academic center within CCPS that brings engaging relevance to the educational dimensions of GVSU undergraduate and graduate student experience. 


The work and vision of the Johnson Center reflects a recognition that philanthropy is growing globally and increasingly becoming engaged in ever-more complicated, inter-connected, and growing community problem-solving. There are emerging markets developing that need support. The Johnson Center’s drivers need to mirror the global evolving context and respond the emerging markets by putting in place programs, frameworks, tools and thought leadership that can help build an understanding, strengthening and advancing of philanthropy. 

 Developing and implementing a solid and relevant strategic framework for the Johnson Center is essential to ensure the Center remains a valued and sustainabile center of excellence for GVSU. The plan provided will guide the Johnson Center's work through 2021.

Mission

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy is a university-based center leading a systems-based, comprehensive approach to serving nonprofits, foundations, and others seeking to transform their communities for the public good.

Vision

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy envisions highly valued, effective philanthropy, equipped with expanded knowledge and resources to advance the public good and transform communities.

Value Statement

Strategic Priorities, outcomes, and key objectives

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 1.A.1

Provide graduate and undergraduate students genuine community experiences through fellowships and internships.

Baseline

Develop a graduate and undergraduate student opportunity in every program area.

Progress

2021 Status
Achieved
The Johnson Center employed 10 undergraduate and graduate students: four Agard/Orosz Fellows in Philanthropy; one graduate assistant each for the Frey Chair in Family Philanthropy and the W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair; one MSW intern in learning services; one student research assistant in CDRL; and two administrative student assistants. Students engaged in substantive projects to advance their understanding and knowledge of organized philanthropy and nonprofit research, community capacity building, customer service, writing for publications, and other key skills. Scholarships were awarded for Orosz and Agard student fellowships in philanthropy. The Johnson Center worked closely with colleagues in the School of Public, Nonprofit, Health, Hospitality, and Tourism Management to advertise the fellowships to Honors Project students.

2020 Status
Achieved
In 2020, the Johnson Center employed eleven undergraduate and graduate students: two Agard/Orosz Fellows in Philanthropy; one graduate assistant each for the Frey Chair in Family Philanthropy and the W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair; one MSW intern in nonprofit services; one student research assistant in CDRL; and three administrative student assistants. Students were able to engage in substantive projects to advance their knowledge of nonprofit research, community capacity building, customer service, writing for publications, and other key skills. Additionally, this year, the Johnson Center received approval from GV’s accounts payable to pay one-time stipend awards for Orosz and Agard student fellowships in philanthropy instead of hiring students for hourly, paid engagements. This transition reduces the administrative burden on students to track and log their hours worked, on their mentor to approve their time, and on the Johnson Center’s staff to set them up in the system. The Johnson Center is also now working more closely with colleagues in SPNHA to advertise the fellowships to Honors Project students who are likely to be ideal candidates for these opportunities.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 1.B.1

Review, analyze and revise the Johnson Center's publications and curricula to ensure they embrace and celebrate diversity, inclusion, and culturally competent practices.

Baseline

Current materials were created without a lens toward diversity, equity or inclusion.

Progress

2021 Status
Achieved
In 2012, we launched a completely redesigned Johnson Center website. The process of redefining, reprioritizing, and reorganizing our content sharpened our vision for our programs and partnerships. Visitors to our homepage are now greeted by a clear articulation of the key pillars of our mission. As part of this process, we created a new section of our website devoted to our work in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This new section includes links to the Johnson Center's statement on Equity, to GVSU's Partners in Action Against Racism, and to the work of our Distinguished Scholar in Residence for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Philanthropy, Juan Olivarez, who completed his three-year term with the Johnson Center in June 2021. 2021-2022, Dr. Olivarez worked with research associate Trish Abalo to complete needs assessments for local BIPOC-led nonprofits and research into inclusive growth. He also collaborated across teams and projects, helping to redesign our professional development offerings. We are still in the process of preparing the results of the needs assessments for publication. Upon his retirement, the Johnson Center established the Juan Olivarez Learning Equity Endowment to honor his work and to enable us to continue pursuing this work with small nonprofits in West Michigan. We raised over $50,000 in the fall of 2021 to functionally endow the fund. Additionally, the Johnson Center diversified its Leadership Council in January 2022 on geography, age, area of focus, and race so that we more completely represent our sector. We added two new members with experience in community philanthropy and engagement in the national philanthropy community.

2020 Status
Achieved
2020's multiple crises pushed the Johnson Center (as with so many others) to take a renewed look at our programs, offerings, and statements to ensure we support equitable outcomes and systems through our work. In 2020, we shared a statement, "Our Commitment to Equity," which can be found on our website, along with several personal and sector-based reflections on racial justice from our Executive Director and Scholar in Residence for DEI in philanthropy. We also conducted an audit of the research projects conducted by our Community Data and Research Lab to identify areas where we did well and where we could improve our practices for inclusion, asset framing, and supporting communities. During our website redesign in 2020, we worked intentionally with our web design firm to achieve the highest standards of digital accessibility. This year, we also recruited a new, far more diverse cohort of instructors for The Grantmaking School; redesigned our Financial Analysis offerings to begin with a review of equity principles; and significantly expanded our relationships with external instructors for our nonprofit training programs.

Outcome F: The College of Community and Public Service is a celebration and exemplar of community engaged teaching, research and service.

Objective 1.F.1

1. Provide graduate and undergraduate students genuine community experiences through fellowships and internships. 2. Provide relevant and user-friendly data for individuals and community decision makers (CRI). 3. Provide nonprofit and leadership support to volunteers, practitioners, and leaders in the nonprofit sector (NPS-Strategic Leadership Series). 4. Educate and engage leaders and advocates of philanthropy in the Johnson Centers areas of expertise in through classroom and online experiences (IFDL).

Baseline

1. Host a graduate student in every program area. 2. Conduct annual signature survey and evaluation projects. 3. Conduct quarterly workshops to the public. 4. Teach and publish culturally relevant best practices in grant making.

Progress

2021 Status
Substantial Progress
1) In 2021, the Johnson Center employed 10 undergraduate and graduate students across our program areas and in opportunities such as fellowships, internships, and research assistantships. 2) Support from GVSU's Provost's Office allowed us to develop and launch a new community data platform, Community Insight, which advances data understanding and equity in local decision-making. 3) We offered a wide range of online programs for nonprofit and foundation practitioners, with several free to the public. Programs were offered online monthly. 4) We continued to draw good attendance at courses of The Grantmaking School; our Lunch & Learns were well attended and drew a national and international audience. Our pool of instructors for The Grantmaking School continued to expand and diversify, drawn from a network of expert practitioners.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
1) In 2020, the Johnson Center employed 11 undergraduate and graduate students across our program areas and in opportunities such as fellowships, internships, and research assistantships. 2) Support from GVSU's Provost's Office allowed us to spend 2020 developing a new community data platform, Community Insight, which advances data understanding and equity in local decision-making. That platform launches April 2021. 3) We offered a range of new programs for nonprofit and foundation practitioners in 2020 to help them adapt to the COVID-crisis environment, such as Lunch with the Johnson Center, a workshop on Scenario Planning, and several blog series related to resilience, sector health data, and at-home learning opportunities. 4) We moved all of our professional development online in 2020. We have seen a substantial increase in attendance at courses of The Grantmaking School; our Lunch & Learns are now drawing a national and international audience; deliberate efforts were made to expand and diversify our pool of instructors for The Grantmaking School, drawing from a network of expert practitioners; and additional experts were engaged to participate in focus groups validating our Program Officer Competency Model.

Strategic Priority Area 2: Further develop exceptional personnel.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 2.B.1

Progress

2021 Status
Substantive Progress
This year, two adjunct positions were converted to regular AP positions and searches were completed for two out of three new positions. Searches are also in process to fill three vacated positions. We implemented a peer mentor program in 2020, which continued in 2021. The program is intended to improve the onboarding experience for new staff in the first year. Peer mentors have periodic check-ins with new employees to help them navigate their new work environment. The program has received very positive feedback, and new employees in 2020 have now volunteered to be peer mentors for new employees in 2022. The Operations Director also has a 60-day check-in with new employees. Feedback from new employees during this process is incorporated into the onboarding of future staff. We also employed students in our program areas, including international students, who bring a global perspective to our work. The Johnson Center's DEI Committee has also put significant effort into developing a more inclusive version of our Position Announcements so that they will appear more welcoming to a more diverse group of applicants. This includes following best practices, such as stating the position's salary range, removing degree requirements where possible, and including a DEI statement in the announcement.

2020 Status
Substantive Progress
The Johnson Center hired six new personnel in 2020, including two directors, two program managers, a new chair in Community Philanthropy, and a new research analyst. These team members bring with them a range of experiences, age diversity, gender identity, and professional expertise in regional, national, and global philanthropy. We continue to employ a number of students in our program areas, including many international students, who bring a global perspective to our work.

Outcome C: Grand Valley has mutually beneficial relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and connections with local, state, national, and world communities.

Objective 2.C.1

1. Recruit and retain talent with quality experiences in local and global philanthropy. 2. Recruit and realign talent to increase the effectiveness of data, evaluation and research services.

Baseline

Several open positions in CRI and IFDL.

Progress

2021 Status
Substantial Progress
The Johnson Center hired six new employees in 2020. Since that time, one person has left their role, and another person has been converted from a temporary/adjunct position to a full time role. Two additional departures from our CDRL team created an opportunity for us to consider our current project and skillset needs. We therefore declined to fill the vacated Senior Database Administrator role, but replaced it with two data analysts who were onboarded in January 2022. We are currently hiring for the two additional vacant roles, and for a newly created role in Digital Marketing.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
The Johnson Center hired six staff members in 2020 with a variety of backgrounds in data, policymaking, global philanthropy, capacity building, and other key skillsets. Positions included two directors (CDRL and Learning Services), two program managers in Learning Services, a research associate (CDRL), and a new W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair. Our new chair, especially, brings an impressive global network of community philanthropy organizations and practitioners to his work at the Johnson Center, including career-long engagements with philanthropy in Mexico.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 2.E.1

Develop a talent agenda that grows new leaders by proving management and leadership support opportunities to new and existing Johnson Center staff.

Baseline

Senior Accountability Team Members have identified needs and a plan for changing existing staff engagement opportunities to create growth experiences. Professional Support Staff continue to be encouraged to take advantage of grow opportunities both internally and externally via conferences, workshops, and trainings.

Progress

2021 Status
Substantial Progress
In 2021, we implemented a new structure for our leadership teams in order to provide more opportunities for staff to participate in the Center's strategic decision-making and to increase transparency between staff and leadership. This experiment has been largely successful in facilitating internal communications, however the structure is not perfect. One committee was deemed unnecessary, and the other two are fluctuating in their membership. We are now considering a new iteration of committees to try to improve their overall efficacy. Additionally, the Johnson Center provides staff with 2 hours per month, or 3 days per year, for nonprofit board service and volunteer work. We encourage staff to take advantage of GVSU's professional development resources, frequently share free webinars and reports with one another, and have active conversations regarding career goals during our annual performance planning and evaluation processes.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
Onboarding 6 new staff members in a remote environment presented new challenges and opportunities for leadership and professional development among staff. Each new hire was partnered with a peer mentor to help them acclimate to the Johnson Center and to provide staff with mentoring/leadership opportunities. Our DEI Committee is also led by a broad-based group of staff from across teams. In 2020, we reimagined our leadership team structures for a new launch in 2021, including the creation of new committees dedicated to different aspects of our work (coordination and accountability, field engagement, and West Michigan connections) and bringing in more staff outside of traditional directors to participate in and lead these committees.

Strategic Priority Area 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 3.A.1

Provide affiliate faculty to broaden the SPNHA curriculum in the areas of philanthropy.

Baseline

Two Johnson Center staff serve as affiliate faculty to SPNHA.

Progress

2021 Status
Achieved
Two Johnson Center staff members serve as affiliate faculty to SPNHTM. Our engagements with SPNHTM go beyond the formal classroom. Our colleagues Dr. Huafang Li was awarded a Mawby Fellowship in Philanthropy via the Johnson Center, which provides support for a faculty member and two undergraduate fellows to pursue a research project. Dr. Li also served as co-leader of the Johnson Center's Lunch and Learn program, helping to choose topics, coordinate speakers, and host programs. This year, we also included two graduate assistants in the development of our 11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2022 report.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
We are continuing many of our fruitful partnerships with colleagues around the university, and are participating as appropriate in conversations regarding the merger of the Colleges of Community and Public Service and Education. The Johnson Center continues to co-lead a very successful monthly Lunch & Learn program with our colleagues in SPNHA. The program moved online in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic, with the result that these free programs now attract audiences from all over the country and even the world. Patty Janes, a professor in the Hospitality & Tourism Management program, is in her second year as the Mawby Fellow at the Johnson Center. She and graduate student Olivia Rau contributed an article to the Johnson Center's annual "11 Trends in Philanthropy" report in 2020, and we are looking for ways to present the results of her fellowship research through workshops or free programs. We are also pursuing conversations with the Seidman College of Business, the College of Education, and others related to developing non-credit-bearing badges for professional development (one of our team members is serving on the university's LMS Search Committee), and we have worked with GVSU's community engagement team to feature Johnson Center resources on the Laker Effect Map and Community Service Directory.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 3.B.1

Develop and enhance the Johnson Centers cultural competence and workplace inclusion practices.

Baseline

The staff and students are not provided, nor encouraged to engage in professional development opportunities (individually or as a group) that would increase awareness and appreciation for the diversity of cultures and perspectives.

Progress

2021 Status
Substantial Progress
The DEI committee continued to lead our internal work to promote a culture of belonging among our staff with staff meetings and retreat programs. Book and movie club meetings continued and resources were shared with all staff and students. We are developing close working relationships with a number of scholars in the field of diverse philanthropy, collaborating with them to develop inclusive curricula, to diversify our pool of instructors, and to generally increase our awareness of philanthropic practices among communities of color. We are also working with a small group of Michigan leaders to bring the national exhibit "The Soul of Philanthropy" to Grand Rapids and Detroit in 2022-2023. This exhibit specifically examines and celebrates giving traditions among Black American communities.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
The Johnson Center's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee continues to lead our internal work to promote a culture of belonging among our staff. This work includes: book and movie club meetings that encourage staff to engage with issues relating to DEI (such as criminal justice and the Flint water crisis) to expand their own knowledge and encourage personal and collective reflection; an annual Johnson Center climate survey; and engaging a GVSU Wellness colleague to present a three-part series on interpersonal communication. During the summer of 2020, we also built space into our regular team meetings to reflect on the historic nature of the summer's events, the ongoing racial equity crisis, and renewed civil rights movement. As a center, we issued several statements to the public outlining our position as a staff and unit of GVSU in supporting racial equity.

Outcome C: Grand Valley has mutually beneficial relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and connections with local, state, national, and world communities.

Objective 3.C.1

Collaborate with SPNHA faculty to attract and host premiere academic conferences (ARNOVA-2107).

Baseline

The ARNOVA Conference is scheduled for November, 2017 in Grand Rapids.

Progress

2018 Status
Achieved
The conference was well executed. It was the largest event in ARNOVA history with close to 1,000 participants from all over the world. The Johnson Center’s 25th anniversary was celebrated during a reception at the conference with funding from five local foundations.

2017 Status
Substantive Progress
Partnered with SPNHA to host ARNOVA with near record-breaking registration rates.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 3.E.1

Maintain a business model with an earned to contributed income ratio of no less than 75/25.

Baseline

Current budget is based on 65% earned revenue model.

Progress

2021 Status
Substantial Progress
In the first half of 2021, the Johnson Center worked with a consultant hired by President Mantella to assess our business plan. The consultant ultimately endorsed our direction and encouraged the university to invest in the Johnson Center’s emerging areas of work on data for the nonprofit sector and badging (credentials) for foundation staff and nonprofit leaders. President Mantella committed to providing additional financial support for fiscal year 2021-2022, with the expectation that that support will decline over the next several years. Our strategic workplace includes a robust strategy for engaging partners like our Leadership Council and University Development to raise additional philanthropic funds to reach our goals. So far, during the first six months of the fiscal year 2021-22, the Johnson Center achieved 63% earned income. Based on our current contracts, our earned income is expected to increase in the second half of the fiscal year.

2020 Status
Substantive Progress
While the global pandemic significantly shifted our strategic plans for 2020, we were able to make some progress toward this goal. We hired several new staff who are bringing their expertise areas and networks to bear on our revenue models - including the development of a database of IRS 990s and a body of work around foundation payout rates. We completed our Market Scan in Q1 which is informing our ongoing fundraising strategies, messaging, and the completion of our redesigned website. In 2020, we also secured a renewal of several existing contracts and one grant for general operating support. The Foundation Review continues to attract significant sponsorships. Community Insight, our new community data platform launching in 2021, is positioning us well for new earned revenue streams around data managements. And courses from the Grantmaking School saw a considerable uptick in attendance with the move to virtual learning.

Strategic Priority Area 4: Enhance the institution's image and reputation.

Outcome C: Grand Valley has mutually beneficial relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and connections with local, state, national, and world communities.

Objective 4.C.1

Convene leaders in philanthropy on critical topics related to the Johnson Center's expertise and disseminate findings with key stakeholders and the general public.

Baseline

Host premier conferences in Family Philanthropy,Nonprofit Management, Collective Giving circles and Equity in Evaluation.

Progress

2021 Status
Achieved
All of our professional development offerings are online, resulting in increased attendance at courses of The Grantmaking School and our monthly Lunch & Learn series to a national and even international audience. We continued to convene the leaders of spend-down foundations through virtual meetings. We worked with the Council of Michigan Foundations to inform conversations about foundation and donor-advised fund payouts, nonprofit financial health, and resilience indicators. The Program Officer Competency Model© and the Nonprofit Competency Model for Inclusive Leadership are available for free download.

2020 Status
Achieved
Our work in this Objective area was severely impacted by the global pandemic. However, we found new ways to convene practitioners in a virtual world. In spring 2020, we moved all of our professional development offerings online. This has resulted in significantly increased attendance at courses of The Grantmaking School and opened our monthly Lunch & Learn series to a national and even international audience. We also offered "Thursdays with Tamela" during the early months of the pandemic, and "Lunch with the Johnson Center" later in the year in order to serve our colleagues in philanthropy who were in desperate need of camaraderie, guidance, and capacity building in the midst of so much change and trauma. We continue to convene the leaders of spend-down foundations through virtual meetings. We also initiated several important research projects in 2020 to highlight the health and weaknesses of the nonprofit sector's financial situation going into the pandemic, and are now working with the Council of Michigan Foundations, especially, to continue to inform conversations about foundation and donor advised fund payouts, nonprofit financial health, and resilience indicators.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 4.E.1

Collaborate with GVSU Development to ensure positive engagement with philanthropic institutions and other donors where appropriate.

Baseline

Regular communication between Development and the Johnson Center.

Progress

2021 Status
Substantial Progress
The Executive Director and Director of Communications and Engagement at the Johnson Center continue to meet quarterly with University Development colleagues. The new vice president for University Development joined GVSU in September, and we look forward to developing a productive relationship with her. We are relying on University Development to help us achieve the ambitious fundraising goals set out in our plan with President Mantella. We are energized by the opportunity to work more closely with our colleagues in that office.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
Our relationship with University Development continues to deepen. Johnson Center staff meets quarterly with University Development staff to share information and coordinate strategic priorities, such as the endowment of a chair in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Philanthropy; general operating support from private foundations; and sharing relationship contacts as relevant.

Outcome F: The College of Community and Public Service is a celebration and exemplar of community engaged teaching, research and service.

Objective 4.F.1

The Johnson Center serves as a center of excellence for nonprofit and philanthropic engagement, research and best practice.

Baseline

The Johnson Center is recognized nationally as one of the leading Centers for Philanthropy.

Progress

2021 Status
Achieved
Website traffic increased 16% in 2021, over 2020. Traffic to the 2021 "11 Trends" report increased approximately 34% over 2020. Our followership on LinkedIn increased 68%. Johnson Center experts are now routinely called upon for commentary and information by journalists from prominent media outlets such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Associated Press. The Foundation Review continued to see downloads of ~5,000/month globally and sponsorships continue to make up a significant percentage of the journal's revenue and partnerships. We continue to develop long-term or multi-part partnerships with peer organizations on research, professional development, and promotional partnerships.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
The Johnson Center's status as a leading center for applied research in philanthropy continues to grow. Website traffic increased 17% in 2020, over 2019. Traffic to the 2020 Trends report increased approximately 14.5% over 2019. Our followership on LinkedIn nearly doubled, with an increase of 94%. Our experts are now routinely called upon for commentary and information by journalists from prominent media outlets such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Associated Press. The Foundation Review continues to see downloads of ~3,000/month globally and sponsorships continue to make up a significant percentage of the journal's revenue and partnerships. We continue to develop long-term or multi-part partnerships with peer organizations on research (such as the foundation payout series conducted with Plante Moran with sponsorship from the Council of Michigan Foundations), professional development (such as our pool of course instructors for the Grantmaking School), and promotional partnerships (we are routinely reposted and retweeted by prominent peers like Candid, Giving Compass, and GEO).

Objective 4.F.2

Provide high quality, accessible analysis of community needs for the greater Grand Rapids area. (VoiceGR).

Baseline

Conduct a biennial community survey of community needs.

Progress

2021 Status
Achieved
Our new interactive data portal, Community Insight, will be a huge asset to communities and networks working to visualize and address systems change. The portal now holds over 49 million individual data points.

2020 Status
Substantial Progress
Support from the Provost's Office enabled us to spend much of 2020 developing and refining the new Community Insight platform. We will be ready to launch the platform with a robust range of datasets for Michigan and the Great Lakes region during the spring of 2021, and are developing a plan to continually add more datasets to make the platform more useful for viewers around the country.

Back to list