Ecosystem for Nonprofit Leadership

An Initiative to Build Nonprofit Board Service Capacity

While leaders of nonprofit organizations know that their board members can have a significant impact on the work an organization does, few resources exist to help leaders build their own abilities to work with board members and select board members who can effectively foster success.

We believe that building the capacity of organizations to work with diverse board members and the capacity of a more diverse group of individuals to serve on boards, then creating mechanisms to bring them together, can effectively address this challenge. Not only will individual nonprofit organizations benefit, but the entire ecosystem of the community will deepen its capacity for leadership.

The Johnson Center is working with Ferris State University’s Latino Business and Economic Development Center and many Grand Rapids-area organizations to help the nonprofit sector develop more diverse and inclusive boardrooms while ensuring effective board experiences that will help organizations thrive.

Nonprofits are intrinsically connected to governments, funders, education, and business in what amounts to an ecosystem of interrelated organizations and individuals.

The initiative is driven by leaders from local organizations and aims to develop a curriculum that can be integrated into existing leadership programs, making board service training more accessible to the community.

The Ecosystem for Nonprofit Leadership initiative seeks to:

  • Prepare nonprofit organizations to include diverse voices on their boards
  • Prepare a diverse group of community leaders to serve on boards
  • Create opportunities for connections
  • Build a replicable, ecosystem-based model for expanding and improving board service

The Johnson Center’s Tamela Spicer, co-chair of this initiative, says, “We know that nonprofits are vital to healthy communities and are instrumental in the success of local governments and businesses. However, governing boards can be the deciding factor in the success or struggles of a nonprofit organization despite competent leadership and staffing. We want to ensure that community members are equipped for board service and can easily connect to organizations that will foster that service.”

Project Co-Chairs:

Tamela Spicer
Program Manager
Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy
Grand Valley State University

Carlos Sanchez
Latino Business and Economic Development Center
Ferris State University


This program is supported by leaders from many area organizations, including Mercy Health, Kids’ Food Basket, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Urban League, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Amway and more.