For two years, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) worked on legislation that would allow a gift to donors for their contributions to the permanent endowments of Michigan’s community foundations. In 1988, Governor Blanchard heard this call to giving and took action, signing the Michigan Community Foundation Tax Credit into law. The tax credit was vital in promoting the spirit of giving in Michigan; it inspired donors from households and businesses of all sizes to give to their communities and provided them with a tax credit based on what they were able to give. In its first year alone, the credit produced more than $2 million in funds that went directly to foundations all over Michigan. This increase in donations has had manifold effects, including the development of Venture Products Fund in 1995 to help support marketing efforts on behalf of community foundations needing new resources to promote their efforts (1).
Although the tax credit was repealed in 2011 to help reduce the state’s budget deficit, its effects are lasting. Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, and Arizona have all instituted a tax credit for community foundations based on Michigan’s. This national influence proves the dedication of Governor Blanchard in promoting Michigan as a model state of generosity.
Beyond his legislative work with the tax credit, Governor Blanchard worked tirelessly while in office to improve the economy, job market, and standard of living in Michigan. During his tenure, he instituted the state’s first Office of the Great Lakes, which promotes the health and wellness of the lakes surrounding the state of Michigan; the office improves the fresh water resources Michigan residents rely on constantly and helps harbor a healthy ecosystem for the animals that reside in the Great Lakes.
During his administration, Governor Blanchard was challenged by leaders such as Dottie Johnson and Russ Mawby to recognize and act on Michigan’s unique and strong philanthropic presence. He responded to this call to service with the creation of the Michigan Youth Corps in 1983. The MYC employed 25,000 young people in its first year. Youth were presented with community-service oriented jobs, such as picking up litter and working in retirement homes. This program not only provided an opportunity for employment, but also instilled an element of service in the hearts and minds of Michigan’s youth.
Beyond his work as a public servant while in office, Governor Blanchard has also recognized the value of private service, particularly through his alma mater. He has endowed both football and basketball scholarships at Michigan State University, but is most widely recognized for the creation of the Spartan Statesman Award for Distinguished Public Service. In 2015, he and his wife Janet donated $1 million to Michigan State University’s College of Social Science to institute the award, which is administered annually by the department of Political Science. The award, which includes the Jim Blanchard Public Service Forum, honors an individual who demonstrates outstanding public service. The award and lecture series serve as a way to involve and educate students about public service and provides students with an opportunity to engage with the most distinguished leaders the sector has to offer.
Governor Blanchard served as Chairman of the Meridian International Center, a nonprofit organization with the goal of strengthening the United States and its leaders to become guides in meeting global goals to promote a positive future. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the National Archives Foundation, which encourages awareness of the country’s history and democratic processes (2).