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About the Organization

The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy is an externally-oriented unit of Grand Valley State University, working with nonprofit and foundation practitioners, scholars and students, and partners in business and government to bridge the gap between the information communities need and the change they want to make.

The Johnson Center was established at Grand Valley in 1992, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The center’s mission is to be a global leader in helping individuals and organizations understand, strengthen, and advance philanthropy. We offer:

  • Competency-based professional education through public and private courses
  • Cross-sector research, evaluation, and strategic services
  • Bold thinking and insights to advance the field of philanthropy.

Position Description

The Johnson Center now seeks nominations and applications for the Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy. The Chair was established at the Johnson Center in 2008 as the world’s first endowed chair for family philanthropy. The Chair is a leading voice on family philanthropy issues, trends, and innovations while serving as a resource for all who seek to advance the many elements of family giving and engagement. Working in this dynamic field, the incoming Chair will develop and implement a creative and comprehensive applied program of research, thought leadership, service, and teaching designed to explore and advance the field of family philanthropy, broadly defined, and to actively advance the dissemination of their scholarship.

Ideal candidates will have a passion for and a deep understanding of the intricate ecosystem of philanthropy, as well as a distinctive combination of academic credentials and senior-level career experience within philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. They will combine not only a nuanced understanding of the history and evolution of philanthropy, particularly family philanthropy, but also its current practice and evolution, including its equity-focused work. A doctoral-level degree is required.

The Johnson Center is committed to inclusion and equity and encourages candidates with diverse lived experience and perspectives from underrepresented communities to apply. The ideal candidate will have experience working effectively across a diverse and broad range of stakeholders, must be comfortable navigating in complex environments, and must be able to demonstrate how they can contribute to and help extend a culture of inclusivity within our organization and the broader field.


The incoming Chair will have the opportunity to:

  • Plan, devise, and execute applied research projects and disseminate results.
  • Develop and implement avenues for speaking engagements; media placements; thought leadership; advising and consulting projects; professional development and training; and other field-building efforts for diverse local, national, and international audiences.
  • Serve as an active member of the Johnson Center leadership team, helping develop and support the center’s overall vision, growth, and impact.
  • Be an active collaborator with other programs and initiatives of the Johnson Center and the University.
  • Contribute to learning and professional development programs of the Johnson Center, including The Grantmaking School, workshops and webinars, and The Foundation Review journal.
  • Help solicit and secure external funding to support the center’s projects and initiatives.
  • Teach one 16-week course each year in a degree-granting unit of GVSU.

The incoming Chair will bring his/her/their own interests to the role and will have the opportunity to work on exciting emerging areas of practice such as:

  • How will the historic transfer of family wealth and the emergence of a new and distinct generation of donors that we are experiencing today impact nonprofits, communities, and giving practice? What new or familiar methods of engagement, measures of impact, or other indicators will emerge from new donors?
  • How can we better understand and strengthen the philanthropic engagement of families locally, nationally, and internationally?
  • How is family philanthropy changing in a globalizing world? How is family philanthropy evolving to meet the challenges of a divided nation and a digital world?
  • What approaches show the most promise as family philanthropy seeks to address issues of dignity, equity, and belonging?


Ideal candidates will first and foremost demonstrate a commitment to building the field of family philanthropy and bring a distinctive combination of academic credentials and relevant senior-level career experience to the work. The Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy must have the knowledge and expertise to participate meaningfully as a scholar and intellectual mentor in a university setting, while also possessing the skills and experience to engage as a reflective practitioner, advisor, and partner with other leaders in philanthropic practice.

Required Qualifications:

  • Doctoral-level degree required.
  • Minimum of five years of relevant experience in family philanthropy.
  • Record of scholarship and/or reflective practice in the field of family philanthropy, including publication in relevant scholarly, philanthropic, public administration, business journals, or periodicals.
  • Commitment to applied research, and to building bridges between scholarship and practice.
  • Outstanding research, writing, and communication skills.
  • Proven ability to work across organizational lines and in a team-oriented setting, and also to supervise graduate assistants.
  • Demonstrated commitment to inclusion and equity (i.e., personal commitment to knowledge-building, work with diverse communities, projects that support and further the advancement of equity).
  • Willingness to travel nationally and internationally and to be a resident of West Michigan.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience teaching, developing new curriculum, and serving as a faculty member.
  • Training and/or experience in raising funds to support applied research, convenings, or other programs.
  • Experience leading project teams and supervising diverse students and/or staff.

Salary & Benefits
Salary Range

Compensation package with attractive benefits package; Minimum starting salary of $120,000; commensurate with experience

How to Apply

Apply online at and select "Apply now". Please include a cover letter and resume. The online application will allow you to attach these documents electronically. On the application, you will be required to provide names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for three professional references. If you have questions or need assistance, call Human Resources at 616-331-2215.

Application Deadline Date: Review of applications will begin immediately, and the deadline for applying is February 4, 2024.

Anticipated Timeline: The Committee will review applications and invite selected candidates to participate in virtual interviews in March, 2024, with finalists to attend in-person interviews in April. We anticipate making an offer by May 1, with the start date of the new Chair to be negotiated. Note: these dates are subject to change and reflect our current best estimate.

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