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Our State of Generosity

Cut out paper family standing in an open book

Truly, Michigan is a State of Generosity.

Over the past 40 years, Michigan’s philanthropic leaders have developed an integrated framework to support the nonprofit sector across both a statewide geography, and over time. How was such a dynamic powerhouse of philanthropic giving, volunteer human capital, and nonprofit management training created? Can the lessons be replicated?

The answers are found in the behaviors and qualities of remarkable community and institutional leaders. These are people with extraordinary vision and unending resourcefulness. They are men and women who continue to inspire and organize the benevolent impulse of a large state — from the small, rural hamlet to the complex city of Detroit. The specifics of how these leaders work — and the good that they accomplish — offer important lessons, not only for the future of Michigan, but also for others who wish to improve/increase philanthropy in their own part of the world. Through their efforts, large-scale, permanent, and systemic change has occurred. These lessons had never been captured, preserved, analyzed, or shared — until now.

Our State of Generosity (OSoG) is a partnership of four organizations — Council of Michigan Foundations, Michigan Nonprofit Association, Michigan Community Service Commission, and Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy — that collectively form the backbone of the state’s philanthropic, voluntary, and nonprofit infrastructure. Each has invested financial and human resources in the start-up and ongoing operation of the OSoG project.

OSoG’s mission is to capture, preserve, analyze, and share the developments, achievements, and experiences that, over a period of 40 years, made Michigan a State of Generosity.

OSoG includes:

View a historical overview of Our State of Generosity. 

Read a Letter from the Editor, by Joel J. Orosz, about the importance of OSoG.


CMF_Logo  JCP_Logo


Community Foundations:

Individual Gifts:

Core Team

Dr. Kathy Agard

Kathy Agard, primary author for Our State of Generosity, was part of the core administrative team for the project, assisted with fund-raising, handled partner organization relationships, interviewed key informants, and wrote the analysis organized as Chapters. Agard, a published author and editor in philanthropy, retired as executive director for the Johnson Center for Philanthropy and former faculty member in the School for Public, Nonprofit, and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University. Previously Agard spent a decade as founder and leader of the K-12 philanthropy education project Learning to Give, and over 30 years in a variety of nonprofit and association leadership positions.

Dr. Joel J. Orosz

Joel J. Orosz, managing editor for Our State of Generosity, was part of the core administrative team for the project, chaired the advisory committee, assisted with fund-raising, and was the final editor and arbiter on content. Orosz, a published historian, is the only Distinguished Professor of Philanthropic Studies Emeritus at Grand Valley State University.  Previously, Orosz was the director for the Philanthropy and Volunteerism programming area at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he provided funding for state and national projects that resulted in long-term, significant growth in the philanthropic sector.

Robin Leonard

Robin Leonard, project coordinator for Our State of Generosity, managed the day-to-day operations of the project, supervised the fellows, coordinated the work of consultants, and providing direction and leadership for creation of the web-based platform. Leonard served several years in an executive administrative capacity at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University. Previously, Leonard held various positions at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, including eight years of service in the Philanthropy and Volunteerism programming area.

Kallie Bauer

Kallie Bauer, technology coordinator for Our State of Generosity, was the liaison between the Our State of Generosity core team and Grand Valley State University’s Library and Archives. Bauer organized, managed, and created metadata for the historical documents.

Connor McLaughlin

Connor McLaughlin, student assistant for Our State of Generosity, assisted with the day-to-day operations, conducted research, copyedited, and wrote many of the leader profiles. Connor also assisted in processing historical documents for the partner organizations.

Nicole Fisher

Nicole Fisher, project assistant for Our State of Generosity, edited video interviews, copyedited, and ensured that content was ready for the web-based platform. Fisher plans to attend graduate school for Rhetoric and Composition and teach writing at the post-secondary level.

Advisory Committee

Agard and Orosz Fellows in Philanthropy

The first Agard and Orosz Fellows in Philanthropy were recruited and appointed in the fall of 2012. The fellows are supported by permanent endowment funds established by the friends of Dr. Joel J. Orosz and Dr. Kathy Agard upon their retirement from Grand Valley State University. The fellows can be undergraduate or graduate students with both experience and interest in philanthropy and nonprofit careers. More information related to the Joel J. Orosz Fellowships in Philanthropy and the Kathy Agard Fellowships in Community Philanthropy can be found here.

The fellows worked as a team on a number of tasks, and drafted profiles, conducted research and fact-checked Our State of Generosity’s written work, drafted summaries of major Michigan philanthropic projects, and prepared materials for the web-based platform. Without the hard work, dedication, and exceptional skills of our fellows, this project would not have been possible.

Kathy Agard Fellows in Community Philanthropy:

Joel J. Orosz Fellows in Philanthropy:

This online platform is made possible through the technical and creative wizardry of Tera Qualls (production management), Tiny Blue Sky (web design and strategy), and Taproot Pictures (videography). A special thanks, as well, to Susan Harrison-Wolffis for her contributions during the early stages of creating content for Our State of Generosity.


Our videos feature the songs “Led by the dress colored in red” by Augustus Bro & Gallery Six, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, and “Illuminations (radio edit)” by Lee Rosevere, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.
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Our State of Generosity, powered by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.