Some might say Mike Goorhouse’s résumé reads like a dream.
The young community foundation executive saw the power of grantmaking firsthand in high school, but he went on to study education in college. After he graduated, the right doors opened, leading to career advancements and his dream job by age 27.
Goorhouse, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area since 2014, was named winner of the Young Executive category in the 2017 MiBiz Best-Managed Nonprofits Awards. In recognizing his leadership, numerous accomplishments and community service, nominators described Goorhouse as a rising star in both the nonprofit and foundation sectors nationally, regionally and locally.
A skilled communicator and multigenerational leader, Goorhouse has gained national attention and exposure in The Chronicle of Philanthropy for an ambitious and innovative campaign to increase the foundation’s estate gifts and boost unrestricted funds for the community’s endowment.
“It’s certainly a privilege — I know I have been fortunate,” he said. “They took a big chance. They hired a 27-year-old to run a $55 million community foundation. I’ve done my best and hope they felt they made the right decision.”
The “Today. Tomorrow. Forever.” campaign goals are to increase the community’s endowment from $15 million to $20 million through $5 million in “Today” gifts, while increasing the number of estate gift commitments to the endowment from 25 to 125 through 100 new “Tomorrow” gift commitments. This initiative, expected to be a three-year campaign, has raised $4.75 million toward the $5 million goal and generated 73 estate gift commitments in 15 months.
“It’s really taken off,” he said. “These dollars don’t come in for a long time, but it’s going to significantly benefit our community for decades to come.”
Goorhouse said it’s “pretty special to be able to sit across the table with someone who is looking to give away resources” and help them think that through.
“The most rewarding part certainly, for me, is to be able to be involved with people who are giving back and working with both donors and nonprofits,” he said. “You really get, in my mind, a very positive, uplifting view of the world. I get to work with people when they are at their best, either giving away their money or trying to solve a problem.”
The Holland native attended Holland Christian High School and served four years on the community foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee, which gave out grants. He went on to chair the committee, which involved attending full board meetings, and as a sophomore began traveling around with a mentor board member to help solicit funds from businesses and individuals.
“This program really invested in me and taught me a lot about fundraising and nonprofits and board service, making real decisions about dollars,” he said. “I was involved in that program and when I finished high school, I thought that was the end of the run.”
It turns out it was just the beginning. While pursuing an education degree at Calvin College, Goorhouse interned at the Council of Michigan Foundations in Grand Haven and worked part time at organizing and leading training programs for youth grantmakers across the state. The council offered him a full-time job upon graduation, and he moved into various roles working with community, corporate and family foundations and then served as director of memberships. He also earned a master’s degree in public and nonprofit administration at Grand Valley State University.
Goorhouse said he wanted to return to his hometown to make an impact and joined the Holland/Zeeland community foundation as vice president of donor development in January 2012. There was talk of the president and CEO retiring soon, and the organization soon eyed Goorhouse as her successor.
“As a new college student, my dream job was to run a community foundation,” he said. “This was before I got the internship, before I started working part-time. I was 25 when I got approached to come work at the community foundation, and I got hired as president and CEO of the community foundation at 27 — a job most people don’t get until way later.”
Goorhouse credits a series of mentors, being at the right place at the right time, and hard work for his success. He also works with an executive coach and a board of trustees that has invested in him.
As president and CEO, he works with the board and staff to steward the organization’s resources to best meet the mission and address community needs.
“If you look at my skill set, it aligns so well,” he said. “We work with donors and facilitate the giving that happens. It’s a lot of fundraising, a lot of people skills. I love numbers. I love the internal finance side. All of that is just awesome.”
Goorhouse described himself as more of a generalist when it comes to nonprofit work and enjoys helping people invest their money in ways that will help the greater community.
“I care about the community broadly, but I like economic development as much as anti-poverty programs,” he said. “It’s a place to care about all of those things.”
Goorhouse said the toughest part of the job has been around personnel decisions, and trying to support staff while also making hard calls.
“I want to be the kind of leader that my employees want to work with, and feel valued, but also be honest and open about things,” he said. “They know what’s going on — good, bad and other — and that allows them to be more invested. It’s not a one-man show over here.”
Employees and board members appear to agree.
“Mike is an inspirational, energizing leader and mentor to so many,” said Nicole Paquette, the foundation’s communications manager. “He works tirelessly for the benefit of our community locally, regionally and nationally, and it’s especially meaningful to see him recognized for his accomplishments in this way.”
Goorhouse also has been instrumental in helping the foundation become singularly focused on building the community’s endowment and helping its donors achieve their charitable goals, said P. Haans Mulder, past board chair.
“Mike is an exceptionally gifted leader who combines a unique ability to cast and communicate a vision with a strong skill set to implement it,” he said.
While the foundation has struggled to raise unrestricted funds — a challenge for community foundations across the nation — the campaign will increase the community’s endowment by a sum larger than it has increased over the last 10 years.
“This will be one of the most significant events in the foundation’s history,” Judy Smith, former trustee and chair of the foundation’s Development Committee, stated in her nomination. “Mike has changed the way donors look at giving to the foundation, which will make a big difference to our local nonprofits both now and in the future.”
Only 5 percent of the endowment is given away each year, but it’s at the foundation’s discretion in the form of grants to nonprofits for the most pressing issues, whether that’s senior housing, early childhood education programs or poverty issues.
Goorhouse feels grateful for the opportunities and responsibilities given to him to help make the Holland/Zeeland area a great community in which to live.
“Find a job that matches your skill set in a way that you feel like you’re utilizing your skills to make the biggest difference in the world that you can,” he said. “I use my time on a day-to-day basis improving the community I grew up in and where I plan to live for a long time. I feel pretty darn good about that.”
Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
- Executive director: Mike Goorhouse, President and CEO
- Mission: The mission of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area is to create lasting positive change. The foundation works to build a permanent community endowment that supports high-impact charitable projects, to help donors achieve their charitable goals, and to lead and partner in community level initiatives.
- Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
- Service Area: Greater Holland/Zeeland Area
- Number of employees: 7
- Annual budget: $800,000; foundation assets, $56 million
- Best practices for management: 1. Establish a clear vision for the future and keep the organization focused on that vision.
2. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver as a leader or as an organization.
3. When managing people, communicate with “truth and love” and when faced with tough choices, always make the decision that you will be most proud of five years in the future.