From the early 1970s to the early 2010s, Michigan’s philanthropic leaders 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. With extraordinary vision and unending resourcefulness, these leaders 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.
This story of Michigan Philanthropy is documented here in Our State of Generosity. 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.
In a Letter from the Editor, Joel J. Orosz wrote “We could squander by forgetting and discarding the enormous and hard-won achievements of the past 40 years — but far better to remember, understand, preserve, and nurture them for a future made brighter by the gifts we have inherited from the past. OSoG makes possible that remembrance, understanding, preservation, and nurturing, and therefore brightens the future for us all.”
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. View a historical timeline.
Dr. 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, 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, 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, technology coordinator for Our State of Generosity, was the liaison between the core team and Grand Valley State University’s Library and Archives. Bauer organized, managed, and created metadata for the historical documents.
Connor McLaughlin, student assistant and fellow 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, 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.
The first Agard and Orosz Student Fellows in Philanthropy were recruited and appointed in the fall of 2012, with support from endowment funds established by friends of Joel J. Orosz and Kathy Agard upon their retirement from Grand Valley State University. More information about fellowships can be found here.
The student 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.
This online platform is made possible through the technical and creative skills 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.
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.