Executive Director, Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

Michelle Saddler

Grand Rapids, MI



The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (Johnson Center) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) was established in 1992 with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Grounded in 30 years of impact, the Johnson Center plays a marquee role in elevating the visibility and renown of GVSU well beyond Michigan and the Midwest region. Today, the team operates as an externally focused unit within the university’s Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, primarily serving an audience of philanthropy practitioners through professional education offerings; research, evaluation, and consulting services; and bold thinking to advance the field.


As one of the few centers of its kind in the nation, the Johnson Center stands out for its engagement with every seat at the philanthropic table: nonprofits, foundations, donors, advisors, government, and grassroots organizations. The center partners with these entities as clients for their research and training, co-developers of programs and services, and thought partners.


The next Executive Director will serve as the visible leader that personifies and champions the Johnson Center as a unique “bridge” between theory and practice in philanthropy. The Executive Director will serve as the key thought leader and external spokesperson for the Johnson Center’s work, including a strong commitment to advancing equity.


The Johnson Center seeks an accomplished, inspiring, and strategic leader who is passionate about the center’s work and the opportunity to make a lasting impact. This individual will display a genuine intellectual curiosity, an exceptional degree of interpersonal effectiveness, and wisdom borne of experience. The next Executive Director will lead with humility and understated self-confidence. Leadership experience both in foundation and nonprofit management is strongly preferred.


The ideal candidate should be an expert manager with a minimum of 10 years of senior leadership experience. This person will possess demonstrated management skills, including fiscal, human resource, communications, and programmatic skills. Experience in navigating the complexities of an institute of higher education would be preferred.


The well-qualified candidate will be a strong and careful listener with a commitment to fostering an organizational culture where the voices of staff, donors, volunteers, Leadership Council members, university colleagues, and other stakeholders are encouraged. They will have experience and the ability to foster a collaborative and welcoming work environment in leading and working with a skilled staff. The candidate will also have a keen ability to develop, maintain, and enhance strong positive and productive relationships with partners, community leaders, supporters, and volunteers.


The strong candidate will demonstrate an ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with a broad and diverse spectrum of stakeholders. We seek a practitioner who is equally at home engaging with nonprofit, foundation, and community leaders as well as with thought leaders in the philanthropic and academic spaces. This individual will exemplify the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and will have experience integrating DEI principles in all aspects of an organization.


He/she/they will be a leader who inspires others and recruits and retains top talent. They must be able to demonstrate effective management approaches in understanding others’ opinions, building consensus, and acting with integrity and decisiveness.


A track record of achievement in developing diversified revenues is required, with a demonstrated focus and achievement in managing according to a business plan, diversifying revenue, and long-term sustainability. A proven history of successfully cultivating relationships with funders and donors is essential.


To apply, please send a current resume and letter of introduction to Kittleman & Associates, LLC at the Apply button at the bottom of the page. For best consideration, applications should be received by January 30, 2023.


For more information about the Johnson Center, visit www.johnsoncenter.org/ and for more information about GVSU, visit www.gvsu.edu.


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