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Leader Profile:

Karin Tice

Karin Tice evaluated projects for many of the large Michigan philanthropic initiatives focused on building charitable and volunteer capacity. As a cultural anthropologist, Tice's approach was inclusive of all stakeholders, transparent in process and results, and designed to assist both funders and the people implementing the project to adjust strategies and judge results. Tice engaged deeply in assessing outcomes, providing feedback, and seeking to understand what and why projects succeeded or failed.

Leadership Highlights

Dr. Karin Tice talks about the development of community foundations and philanthropy across the state of Michigan.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about the importance of developing relationships and wearing multiple hats in philanthropic leadership.
Karin Tice on the importance of sharing philanthropic values and trusting local leadership to implement a model that works best for them.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about her longitudinal study in youth philanthropy and the success of the Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project (MCFYP).
Karin Tice describes Michigan's leadership in community foundation development through initiatives like Michigan Ventures and WINGS.
Karin Tice talks about the national and global effects of the Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project.
Dr. Karin Tice provides an anecdote and discussion about servant leadership in Michigan philanthropy.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about Michigan's value of bringing diverse groups together across different siloes.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about the Michigan CARES project and the importance of working together through difficult issues.
Karin Tice talks about the impetus and development of Learning to Give.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about the impact Michigan's nonprofit sector has had on national and global philanthropic initiatives.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about her career in philanthropy.
Karin Tice on about the importance of a sustainable infrastructure in youth philanthropy and the nonprofit sector at large.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about how important building relationships was to the success of the Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project (MCFYP).
Dr. Karin Tice talks about the importance of adults letting youth lead on youth advisory committees.
Dr. Karin Tice talks about the paradigm shifts spurred on by Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project (MCFYP).
Karin Tice talks about focusing on collective impact or benefiting the state as a whole rather than benefiting a particular organization.


Karen Tice’s early undergraduate studies at the international Friends World College (now LIU Global) were formative to an understanding of and interest in the nonprofit sector. Students there were encouraged to work in other countries alongside local nonprofits and grassroots organizations to study and apply philanthropic solutions to existing social problems. This interest in social change was further stimulated by graduate studies in Latin America.

Tice earned a Master of the Arts in applied anthropology from Columbia University and Teachers College in 1982. She completed a Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University and Teachers College in 1989, with a concentration in Latin American studies.

Philanthropic Biography

Tice’s first experiences with philanthropy took place early in life during family car rides to visit relatives in Chicago. The drives gave Tice the opportunity to observe differences between the poorest and richest neighborhoods — often coexisting right next to each other — and generated discussion on social problems and philanthropic solutions.

In early college years, Tice planned to become a doctor, as she was highly influenced by work in Latin America with a barefoot doctors program. During this experience, she realized “that you could give kids all the medicine in the world, but if they were going back to the same social conditions (if their families didn’t have enough land to feed them and they didn’t have the proper nutrition), nothing was going to change. What I realized is that … applied anthropology is really a vehicle to further social change and to start addressing some of those conditions.”

Contributions to the Field

Tice’s first experience in Michigan philanthropy was in 1991 as lead evaluator for Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project (MCFYP). The MCFYP evaluation was both formative and longitudinal. Tice worked closely alongside the project managers and community foundation leaders, and provided insights during the development of the project that also helped shape MCFYP. Her contributions to the early MCFYP program left lasting impressions on the field. After working with the Michigan program, Tice helped with the development and evaluation of youth grantmaking programs in Colorado, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. These programs were imperative in educating and empowering youth in their ability to create positive change within their own communities. Tice’s longitudinal reports on these projects were used nationally and internationally to help develop youth grantmaking programs.

 “I think MCFYP really started a paradigm shift in how young people were viewed in the state. When MCFYP started, young people were really viewed as problems to be solved. Now they are part of the solution. This was part of a larger shift in the country to a more assets-focused approach.”

After a 10-year longitudinal follow-up study with MCFYP participants, Tice found that 95% of the youth were giving back and 26% were serving on a nonprofit or community foundation board. Through the advocacy of those involved with MCFYP, the “young people actually helped to change the law here in Michigan so that younger people could serve on nonprofit boards,” said Tice. “What MCFYP did was to put resources into young people’s hands and give them an opportunity to be assets, and to develop and create positive change in their communities.”

“For the youth piece, the spin-offs have been amazing, just amazing … By 2003, there were 30 other states that had created youth philanthropy initiatives. There are at least a dozen countries — and probably more by now, because every time I talk to people from around the world I keep hearing, ‘Oh, we’ve started the youth philanthropy initiative in our and we read your report.’ It’s really amazing. From South Africa, to Northern Ireland, to Australia.  The entire country of Australia has engaged in youth grantmaking. In Canada, every community foundation has engaged young people in grantmaking.”

Tice worked with the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) as evaluator of their first grant, helping to document the grantmaking process and program results as a model for successive MCSC initiatives. At the time, “it [the commission] was innovative and new in the country — a new idea.” The state of Michigan had one of the very first community service commissions, appointed by Gov. John Engler prior to the passage of the federal legislation forming the Corporation for National and Community Service. Since the 1990s, she has supported a broad range of innovative philanthropic efforts by Michigan foundations and their partners.

A background in applied anthropology gave Tice a unique perspective into the evaluation process and the interconnections among philanthropic initiatives and existing social conditions. That is, how philanthropic initiatives influence existing social conditions and vice versa.

Her approach to evaluation was to include all of the stakeholders in early conversations to determine project goals, discuss measurement, and identify purposes for the report. The MCFYP evaluation is rich in contextual detail along with identification of lessons learned. Her insight into the complexity of community and the many layers within is something that marks these evaluations as truly insightful.

Since 1986, Tice has served as president of Formative Evaluation Research Associates, located in Ann Arbor, Mich. She has special expertise in community-based and youth philanthropy, and innovative approaches to create racial equity through community and systems-level change.

Latin American Studies

Throughout her career, Tice has had a strong interest in Latin American culture. This interest was sparked by her engagement as a young adult in a foreign exchange program to Oaxaca, Mexico. Tice stated that she felt her life was coming “full circle” when she revisited Oaxaca as a program evaluator for their youth philanthropy efforts.

“I had an opportunity to go back and do a case study of the Oaxaca Community Foundation through the International Youth Foundation evaluation that FERA was doing at that time. To be able to go back … and give something back professionally to a community that had given me so much as a young person meant a lot.”

Tice completed field studies in Guatemala, Panama, Mexico, and Spain and speaks four languages: Spanish, Catalan, Kackchiquel, and Kuna. In 1995, Tice published Kuna Crafts, Gender and the Global Economy, which was awarded the Outstanding Academic Book award by the American Library Association.


Tice was interviewed regarding her insights and experiences in working with Michigan’s philanthropic community and the Our State of Generosity (OSoG) partners. The following quotes specifically relate to the five organizing themes of the OSoG project.

Human, Financial, and Knowledge Resources

“What MCFYP did was to put resources into young people’s hands and give them an opportunity to be assets and to develop, create positive change in their communities.”

“I think that people have been able to manage wearing multiple hats because of the real authenticity of the relationships.”

National & Global Implications

“Michigan took a very lead role in developing standards for community foundations nationally.”

“I think the community foundation leadership has had a huge impact nationally and even globally, I would say, on the community foundation movement. Things like Michigan Ventures, which supported the engagement of professional advisors in community foundations, and developed a whole series of materials. Those were shared around the country with other community foundations that didn’t have a Kellogg Foundation to support that work. There are many examples.”

“One of the reasons I think that the impact of engaging youth in grantmaking was so widespread and successful … was because it started not with a model and not with a set of rules for implementing a model, but more with an openness to share the guiding principles and to say, ‘Here’s what we’ve learned. It may not work where you are. You’re going to have to figure out how it looks in your context, but here’s what we did.’ … A real willingness to share very honestly and openly, maybe not everything, but most of the things that we had learned.”

Practical Wisdom

“Work across silos, which I think the state has done, is still working toward, and continues to grapple with. It’s not always easy to work across silos. Another thing would be to sit down with people in the community and have a cup of coffee — really talk to them and get to know them. I think a third thing would be to recognize that everybody has something to bring to the table.”

“Applied anthropology is a vehicle to further social change and to start addressing some of those [social] conditions.”

On Michigan

“There was a real spirit of engaging people in the work, that everybody was important and had a role to play. I think that was something that was very special in Michigan.”

“I think there’s a willingness to sit down and have some difficult conversations, as well as to have some fun together. I mean, you all really enjoyed each other, but I also remember you having some difficult conversations and being willing to disagree or to figure out where to go with the work.”

“The partnerships between the nonprofit sector and philanthropy I think is another thing that has been very key in the state. I believe leadership has been fairly intentional about creating opportunities for funders, for nonprofits, and even for evaluators.”

“I think MCFYP and the early work in the state around philanthropy was really focused on collective impact, well before it was a buzz word or a term that people were talking about. The idea that it wasn’t about your organization, it wasn’t about you, it was really about trying to move and create positive social change and a positive living conditions for people in the state. Michigan has been very challenged in many areas, but the leadership in the state has never ceased to look at the possibilities instead of just the problems.”

This profile was last updated: 03/19/2020