One Hundred New Philanthropists: Jason Franklin

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New to Grand Rapids, Jason Franklin, PhD, is exuberant about philanthropy, his new house in Eastown and community philanthropy. In less than a year, the first W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University is making his mark on his new hometown.

“I’m a philanthropy geek and spend most of my personal and professional hours focused on moving money for social change. After 14 years in New York City and five as executive director of Bolder Giving, I was ready for a change of pace and place. I’m so happy that, after nine months, I can say that I love my new life here in West Michigan and my work with the Johnson Center,” Jason said.

When he’s not geeking out on giving, he serves in a wide range of volunteer roles. He’s a board member at Proteus Fund, Solidaire Donor Network and 21st Century School Fund and a member of High Impact Documentary Funding Circle and Funding Queerly giving circle. Now he’s also on the advisory committee for Our LGBT Fund at Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Jason was influenced by something the late Boutros Boutros-Ghali said while UN secretary general: “Deprivation is a multi-dimensional concept. In the sphere of economics, deprivation manifests itself in poverty; in politics, as marginalization; in social relations, as discrimination; in culture, as rootlessness and isolation; in ecology, as vulnerability. The different forms of deprivation reinforce one another.”

Jason explained, “This quote helped organize my thinking about our world’s social justice challenges and how to work toward a world of abundance. In the sphere of economics, this will manifest as self-sufficiency and growth; in politics, as engagement and empowerment; in social relations, as inclusion and acceptance; in culture, as rootedness and connection; in ecology, as resilience. I give today hoping that we will someday experience a world of abundance rather than deprivation.”

Over the last decade, he has narrowed his financial giving:

  • Organizing for economic, environmental and social justice
  • Human rights, with a focus on gender, sexuality and political self-determination
  • Social justice philanthropy and donor organizing
  • Supporting high-quality public education for students from all backgrounds
  • Progressive political and electoral work
  • Arts and cultural activities

“My giving has grown since I began giving strategically. I give from my wages, by directing small gifts through my family’s foundation, by volunteering and through my ongoing professional work in philanthropy and social justice advocacy,” he said.

 Here’s how Jason describes his giving practices:

I give with others. Joining the Community Foundation’s Our LGBT Fund is my first local West Michigan giving experience.
I focus my volunteer time on a few groups for bigger impact. I serve on boards of progressive social change and philanthropic organizations and offer fundraising/strategy support for small nonprofits.
I keep some money set aside for discretionary giving so I get the joy of just saying yes when I’m inspired or to support the work of friends and family.
I make my giving public. Sharing my philanthropic story and giving plan may spark conversation and encourage others to join me in giving.

What do you get from giving?

“I believe in the simple saying ‘to whom much has been given, much is expected.’ I have been blessed with a loving family, work I love and incredible opportunities. I give as one way of paying forward all the gifts that have come to me. My giving is an investment in the tomorrow I want to live in.”

Why do you support Grand Rapids Community Foundation?

“I’m new to Grand Rapids and was looking for a way to connect with my new community. Our LGBT Fund offered me a perfect chance to combine my skills and experience in collective giving with a chance to support my new community and build relationships with the local LGBT community. The money I donate locally will be put to best use because of the shared insight and experience of the LGBT Fund’s advisory committee and fabulous Community Foundation staff.”