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2020 Philanthropist of the Year Gregory Johnson



Greg Johnson is an assertive, critical and independent thinker, researcher and an avid student of history, politics and movement building. As director of place-based investments and grants at The Rockefeller Foundation, Greg works to help low-wage workers in 26 U.S. cities achieve economic stability and build a path to economic mobility, using the levers of public policy and private investments within a multi-billion dollar private foundation.


Before becoming a professional practitioner of philanthropy, Greg was a community organizer and attorney. Greg worked with the Campaign for Youth Justice as federal field organizer, providing technical assistance and support to seven states on policy campaigns to end the practice of trying and sentencing young people as adults.

“As someone who grew up in a working class community---the kind of place where there is less concern about your title or 'what you do' than how committed you are to working hard and doing what you do to benefit your family and community. I know that we all do better when we put community interest above self-interests. Philanthropy is a representation of these values; a reminder that when you learn, you teach. When you get, you give.”

After leaving the Campaign for Youth Justice, the Holmes County native worked with the Administration of President Barack Obama as a liaison between the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education on the School Supportive Discipline Initiative and the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Violence Against Children.


Greg’s career as a philanthropist is ever evolving. He was the program officer at the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock where he maintained a portfolio of grants and grantee relationships within a multi-million dollar congregation-based social justice funding program. He is a former manager of VIP relationships, corporate responsibility, and philanthropy in the corporate social responsibility office of a Grammy award-winning recording artist that supported access to clean water in Africa and Flint, Michigan and higher education. Greg also worked with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, where he served as a member of the Mississippi and New Orleans team, managing a portfolio of nearly 140 grants totaling more than $90 million. He serves on the board of directors of the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, a community-based social justice working to impact the lives of the most vulnerable citizens in the Mississippi Delta. He also supports a number of other Mississippi-based and Washington, D.C.-based charitable organizations by providing strategic and financial support.


Greg is a graduate of the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., and Tougaloo College. He has done further studies at the University of Cape Town (Cape Town, South Africa), Nazare Paulista (Brazil), Wesley Theological Seminary and Howard University School of Divinity.

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