Johnson Center appoints new Executive Director of Philanthropy

Teri Behrens. Courtesy / GVSU

Teri Behrens. Courtesy / GVSU

Alexandra Loyd

Grand Valley State University recently announced its appointment of Teri Behrens to Executive Director of Philanthropy. Behrens assumed the new role as head of GVSU’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center on Oct. 22.

Established in 1992, GVSU’s Johnson Center is an academic center within the College of Community and Public Service that aims to be a global leader in helping individuals and organizations understand, strengthen and advance philanthropy. 

Behrens said that she was appointed to the position because she has been working with the center for almost 10 years and is very committed to sharing and upholding their mission. 

“I have worked in the philanthropic sector for most of my career, including launching our peer-reviewed journal (The Foundation Review) in 2009 and serving as Director of Evaluation for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for seven years prior to joining GVSU,” Behrens said. “The combination of my commitment to the organization and my deep background in the field, made this position a good fit.”

Behrens has a doctorate in psychology with a focus on organizations and program evaluation. Her background in consulting for evaluation and planning and working in state government for several years also qualifies her for the position. 

In her new role as executive director, Behrens is responsible for making sure the center has the right human and financial resources to carry out their mission. 

“In practice, this means lots of meetings — with internal staff, clients, current and potential funders, and of course leadership of GVSU — to make sure our work is both doing things right and doing the right things, and that our work is understood and valued,” Behrens said. “It requires staying current on trends in the field and working with our great staff to respond to emerging needs and opportunities.”

Behrens’ goals focus heavily on collaboration — both across the center’s area of focus and with community stakeholders. That collaboration is key to making the best contributions to the sector while considering the opinions of all involved.

Behrens’ initial focus will be to communicate with stakeholders to continue to improve the center’s community-based research, including the VoiceKent survey which works on developing competency models for foundation program officers and nonprofit leaders, aligns the center’s professional development with the competencies and deepens the center’s expertise in a few key areas, such as approaches to philanthropy. 

“Philanthropy –which we define as including nonprofits, foundations and others working for the common good – is critical to healthy communities,” Behrens said. “We are what is commonly called an ‘infrastructure organization’ or a ‘philanthropic support organization’ where we support others through research, education, consulting and dissemination of ideas — to do their work better.”

The Johnson Center’s staff includes people from a broad variety of backgrounds, including GVSU students, who share the common goal of wanting to commit good work toward philanthropy. 

Behrens replaces Kyle Caldwell, who is now serving as the Executive Director of the Council of Michigan Foundations. 

Behrens will be welcomed to her new role at the Johnson Center on Dec. 18 at 4 p.m.