Mary McDonald

  • PhD, Michigan State University, Family and Child Ecology
  • MS, Western Michigan University, Counseling and Personnel
  • BS, Eastern Michigan University, Secondary Education

Mary McDonald, Ph.D., is an adjunct faculty to the Department of Leadership Studies and collaborates  with faculty and students on nonprofit sector-focused research and evaluation projects.

Dr. McDonald’s research focus is nonprofits and philanthropy. She was lead researcher for the “Diversity in Philanthropy” project of the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF). She is one of the researchers nationally working with the Foundation Center to develop diversity measures for foundations, presenting results of her diversity research as part of a national panel. In 2009, she submitted two chapters for Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: A Reference Handbook (2010, Sage Publications). The chapters are "Philanthropic Leadership at the Community Level" and "Understanding Social Capital and Community Assets."  McDonald research projects include a curriculum audit of nonprofit graduate programs, a case study of the Office of Foundation Liaison in the Michigan Governor’s Office, and an evaluation of CMF’s Transforming Michigan Philanthropy Initiative. She does consulting in the areas of board development, coalition building, and strategic planning.

Dr. McDonald was formerly the director of the Community Research Institute (CRI) at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. In that capacity she was regularly involved with both community-based and university-based research in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. She earned her Ph.D. at Michigan State University in Family and Child Ecology in 2002.

Recent Publications:

Recent Research:


McDonald, M. (2010). Philanthropic leadership at the community level. In K. Agard (Ed.), Leadership in NonProfit organizations: A reference handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


McDonald, M. (2010). Social capital and community assets. In K. Agard (Ed.), Leadership in NonProfit organizations: A reference handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


McDonald, M., and Bleckley, D. (2009). The trustees speak: The role of philanthropy in Michigan. Council of Michigan Foundations.


Bleckley, D. and McDonald, M. (2009). Philanthropy 3D: A functional and message audit.  Council of Michigan Foundations.