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The Intersection of Life and Philanthropy

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Conservation. Education. Health Care.

Those were the three areas in which I had the most interest in working after I decided in 2004 to change careers after a 19-year tenure as a sportswriter with the Los Angeles Times.

A move from southern California – where I had lived my whole life – to southern Michigan – where my wife was born and raised – was not part of my original plan. But once we arrived in Michigan with our 5½-year old daughter and 15-month old son, I focused my attention on getting a full-time job in one of those three previously mentioned fields.

My first inclination was to look for a job in public relations but a nearly year-long search led to an entry-level fundraising position with the Michigan state office of The Nature Conservancy. That was followed by development jobs with Michigan State University and the Jackson College Foundation before I joined the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation as a marketing specialist in 2017.

I had always valued the importance of health care but working here has taught me how little I knew about the inner workings of a hospital and the critical importance it can play in a community, particularly when you are in the midst of a global pandemic. I have also witnessed the enormous amount of teamwork required for a hospital such as McLaren Greater Lansing to function.

Much of my job involves writing articles and profiles about individuals, organizations, and businesses who support the Foundation. I enjoy doing that because I find it interesting to learn why private citizens, as well as leaders of organizations and businesses, choose to give.

Another part of my position allows me to work with people who have designated the Foundation as a beneficiary in their estate plan. I admire those who support the hospital philanthropically while they are alive but have extra special admiration for those who plan to make a gift to the Foundation after they have passed away.

While I enjoy what I do, there can be times when I become frustrated at work. During those moments, however, I will often turn toward the bulletin board in my office and read a piece of paper pinned to it that has the following handwritten words on it: Philanthropy is about a love for humankind. We always need to remember that.

I always will.

You can reach John Ortega, Marketing Specialist at

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