Dr. Orosz served a total of 15 years at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as executive assistant and as program director for philanthropy and volunteerism programming from 1986 to 2001. During his time at the Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Orosz was instrumental in making grants and providing personal leadership to create key pieces of Michigan’s nonprofit infrastructure, including the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, the Michigan Nonprofit Association, the Michigan Community Service Commission, the ConnectMichigan Alliance, the Volunteer Centers of Michigan, and the Michigan Campus Compact. As a grantmaker and a program director, Dr. Orosz helped guide the development for all six of these organizations, which have become pillars in the Michigan philanthropic community, and models replicated nationally and internationally.
“The great glory of the nonprofit sector is that anyone can look at any problem and say, ‘I’m going to start an organization to fix that.’ I mean that’s how Habitat for Humanity started. That’s how Doctors Without Borders started; all the great nonprofits. So that’s a great glory of the nonprofit sector. The great curse of the nonprofit sector is that anyone could look at any problem and say, ‘I’m going to start an organization to fix that’ … We’re over two million nonprofit organizations now — many of which are overlapping in what they do, others of which leave big gaps that they should be covering. All of whom are tripping over each other fundraising. One of these days, people might sit down and say, ‘Now, wait a minute. Why are there six organizations in my community all dedicated to homelessness relief and yet people are still homeless? What’s going on here?’ So we need to find some way to keep the sector open to social entrepreneurs, but to make sure that they don’t start the seventh or the eighth homelessness relief organization in town. Because if six didn’t solve it, seven won’t solve it either.”
In addition, Dr. Orosz served as the lead grantmaker from 1989 until 2001 for the $65+ million innovative Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project (MCFYP), which created 23 new community foundations in Michigan, 86 permanently endowed Youth Advisory Councils, and brought full community foundation coverage to every person in the state. MCFYP was groundbreaking in not only jump-starting youth philanthropy, but also in encouraging unprecedented rates of community engagement with their matching grant strategy.
“By giving so much ownership to the community on how they raised that money and what they did with it, it made them own their community foundation. There are communities all around the state today where the community foundation is theirs and they care about it. They raise money for it and they volunteer to serve it. If we at the Kellogg Foundation had planned this whole thing and imposed it on people, that wouldn’t have happened. That ownership would not have happened. By letting it go in many ways, by ceding control to the localities, we ended up with something far, far better than we could have ever planned on our own.”
Concerned about the lack of preparation and professional training of grantmakers, Dr. Orosz used his 1999 sabbatical leave from the Kellogg Foundation to write the first, and still one of very few, books on the skills needed and the issues faced in the grantmaking profession. These insights led to his founding of The Grantmaking School, the first university-based, national program in formal grantmaker education. After leaving the Kellogg Foundation, Dr. Orosz brought his experience to Grand Valley State University, becoming the state of Michigan’s first professor of Philanthropic Studies. During this time, he worked closely with the Johnson Center to launch The Grantmaking School. “I had these wonderful opportunities, as Isaac Newton said, ‘to stand on the shoulders of giants.’ … Not everyone can sit in a car with Russ Mawby for three hours or have Pete Ellis take you under his wing,” said Dr. Orosz. “Those were incredible gifts I was given, so passing those along to other people in a more systematic way through The Grantmaking School made sense to me.”
Dr. Orosz has served on numerous local, state, and national boards including: chairing the National Council on Foundations’ committee on legislation and regulations; serving on the advisory committee of the Points of Light Foundation; serving as a charter commissioner (1991–1999) of the Michigan Community Service Commission; serving on the public policy committee of the Council of Michigan Foundations; and serving as a member of the national content advisory committee of Learning to Give. During his time as a grantmaker, Dr. Orosz was deeply involved in advising, supporting, and consulting on virtually all of the major initiatives supporting the field of philanthropy both in Michigan across the nation.
“I think the thing that is most important to learn is that in the ahistorical nature of our field, most people, especially in foundations, think that history began the day they walked in the door. The most important thing to know is that the Michigan story is not the typical story. Most areas have a weak regional association of grantmakers, if they have one at all — a lot of areas don’t. Most states have weak nonprofit associations, if they have one at all — many still don’t. The Community Service Commissions vary in quality all over the map, ours is a particularly good one. Most places don’t have a Center for the Study of Philanthropy in the local university.
To have all four of those, and to have them all networked together and working together and to have them be as strong as they are, none of this is an accident … It drives me absolutely nuts when people come in to the field and just take these resources for granted and say, ‘Oh you know, if we need a strong infrastructure, we’ll fund it ourselves.’ Well, you’ve got one and it’s unusual and you should use it to the full extent. There are people who would kill to have this kind of an infrastructure in their state. So learn a little bit about the world, my friends.”
He is a fellow of the American Numismatic Society and a member of the Rittenhouse Society, both scholarly organizations in the world of numismatics (coin collecting). Dr. Orosz has written seven books and edited another on the topics of museums, numismatics, and philanthropy, including: The Insider’s Guide to Grantmaking: How Foundations Find, Fund, and Manage Effective Programs; Effective Foundation Management: 14 Challenges of Philanthropic Leadership — and How to Outfox Them; and For the Benefit of All: A History of Philanthropy in Michigan.