Michael Johnson: 2022 Outstanding Fundraising Professional

Madison Community Foundation was happy to see Michael Johnson, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County, recognized as the 2022 Outstanding Fundraising Professional at AFP's National Philanthropy Celebration.

Tom Linfield and Michael Johnson pose with Michael's 2022 Outstanding Fundraising Professional award

As President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County (BGCDC), Michael Johnson’s infectious enthusiasm and ability to inspire donors have made him an extraordinarily successful fundraiser. This has led to an incredible impact on Madison, which is why MCF nominated him for the Association of Fundraising Professionals' (AFP's) Outstanding Fundraising Professional award, which he received at the National Philanthropy Day celebration on November 10.

A Vision for Brighter Futures

Johnson has a vision for how BGCDC can help open doors to brighter futures for the youth they serve. When Johnson meets people, he shares with them the impact the Boys and Girls Clubs already have, and then inspires them to imagine what would be possible with stronger programming, new clubs or innovative academic achievement programs.

Because of this, and supported by a strong development staff, time and time again Johnson has been able to imagine big, audacious projects – and then make them happen by helping BGCDC raise tens of millions of dollars.

Boosting Success Through AVID/TOPS

One of BGCDC’s most successful programs is AVID/TOPS, a partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District designed to support students in grades 6 through 12 to excel and graduate from high school, and then attend and stay in college. The program began in 2008 at East High School with 28 students. Michael raised $18 million to grow the program, which now serves nearly 900 students annually.

Last year, 100% of AVID/TOPS participants graduated and had at least one college letter of acceptance.

A Dramatic Changemaker

Johnson regularly finds ways to make dramatic changes, often on a very short timeline. When he sees an opportunity to have an impact, he acts quickly, inspiring donors to give their time and talent, as well as their treasure.

Looking at the explosive growth of Sun Prairie, he saw the need for a Club there, and set out to make it happen. He found a church that was being sold, and was able to capitalize on the opportunity, work with a new donor on a leadership gift, and within two years open a full-functioning club and childcare center.

Recognizing the Past and Looking to the Future

More recently, Johnson has been involved with two very different high-profile projects: The idea for the first was planted during the protests following the murder of George Floyd. Johnson was downtown talking to some of the young protesters, who expressed their unhappiness with the fact that there was no Black representation at the state Capitol. So he got to work.

Johnson contacted Gov. Tony Evers and wrote a letter to the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board, advocating for the addition on the capitol grounds of a statue of Vel Philips, the first woman and first African American elected to statewide office in Wisconsin.

Johnson also worked to raise almost $300,000 to have the statue made, so it can be gifted to the state. “That would not have happened if the activists did not bring that to my attention.”

Most recently, BGCDC has teamed up with the Madison Area Builders Association to create the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center and provide a career pathway in the trades for Madison-area youth. Johnson is leading the efforts to raise $35 million for the Center and is also on track to raise a $20 million endowment for its support, which will become one of the largest nonprofit endowments in Dane County.

Shining a Light Where There Is Need

Johnson is one of the most visible leaders in Madison and is fearless in his work to shine a light where he sees a need.

  • For several years, he spent a week living on top of a truck in a grocery store parking lot to bring attention to BGCDC’s annual fundraising bike ride.
  • Once, Johnson and several colleagues lived on the streets to highlight the problem of homelessness and the fact that 300 youth in Dane County are living on the street on any given night.
  • When he learned that young women were having difficulty finding menstrual products, causing them to sometimes miss school, he led a community campaign that provided free supplies in every middle school and high school in the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Johnson understands the interconnection between the issues facing Dane County’s young people, and he has worked to address them: After school programs, mentorship, nourishment and nutrition, sports and recreation, school and college retention. He cares about the youth in our community, and continues to bring about significant results to support them.

We would love to connect with you! Get our newsletters.