Edwards named new director of Center for Philanthropy

James Edwards- New assistant director of philanthropy center going over information with an assistant

Kate Kaurich

James Edwards- New assistant director of philanthropy center going over information with an assistant

Lauren Ringger

James Edwards was named the new executive director of Grand Valley State University’s Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

“I am very excited about this new position,” Edwards said. “My career path hasn’t been a straight line in the past, but I am really excited that I have landed here at the Johnson Center. I came here a couple years ago, and now I’m glad to have this opportunity.”

Edwards will replace Kathy Agard, who retired in December. Since coming to GVSU in 2003, Edwards has served as an assistant professor of social work and as director of the Johnson Center’s Community Research Institute.

The Aquinas graduate, who holds advanced degrees from Western Michigan University and Michigan State University, has direct service experience in child welfare and juvenile justice. He has served as a foster care worker, juvenile court probation officer and investigator for the county Family Drug Court Task Force. Edwards also assisted in expanding the mental health home-based services in Kent County.

“Those are core industries for whom we serve as a philanthropy center – the nonprofit sector and the foundations that support those sectors – and so my experience has been on the other side of receiving the grants, implementing and running programs that serve communities,” Edwards said. “So my experience from working on the ground has increased my understanding in how to manage a nonprofit, how to manage an organization, how to balance funding — all come into play in this process of grant making.”

The Johnson Center is a unit of the College of Community and Public Service at GVSU in downtown Grand Rapids. The Center was established in 1992 with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It promotes effective philanthropy, community improvement and excellence in nonprofit leadership through teaching, research and service. The Center is recognized for its applied research and professional development benefiting practitioners and nonprofits through its Community Research Institute and other programs. The Johnson Center’s work involves conducting research, teaching effective practices and providing pathways to service. The mission of the Johnson Center is to serve nonprofits, foundations and other organizations that seek to transform their communities for the common good. The center is adapting constantly to changing conditions.

“Like everyone else we have to be conscious of the economy, so we are going to make sure we are operating as efficiently as possible, but at the same time our goal is to grow,” Edwards said. “As we continue to grow, we will continue to impact, and not just in Michigan but beyond. We have two primary national programs already. The “Foundation Review” is our journal, so we want to increase our subscriptions across the country, and we want to increase our citations for the articles that are within that journal. Our second national program is our grant-making school, and we want to make that service available to foundations across the country.”

The Johnson Center also provides training and education in the areas of data management, board certification, grant making, philanthropy, nonprofit management and leadership. Each program offers valuable information that can further students’ growth and development.

“The Johnson Center is important to GVSU and West Michigan because we provide original research and professional development for the community,” said Robert Shalett, the Johnson Center’s director of communications. “Our workshops, courses, publications and reports provide foundation and nonprofit leaders – both regionally and nationally – with information they use to increase success in their work.”

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