Dodge Q&A: Chris Daggett answers grantee questions about Dodge’s strategic plan

June 27, 2018


Imagine a New Jersey where all people regardless of their zip code have access to quality schools, to the arts, to a healthy environment, to trustworthy news and information, and where all citizens have voice and influence to make change in their community.

New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the nation. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most segregated. Too many people still live in the shadows, are fearful when they see a police officer, or worry about being able to put food on the table.

These problems are decades in the making, and it will take decades to fix them.

The time to start is now.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation held a webinar on June 12 for grantees on its new direction toward an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities hosted by President and CEO Chris Daggett.

Watch the webinar below or scroll down for a summary: 

Dodge Strategic Plan Grantee Call from dodgefoundation on Vimeo.

“We at Dodge are committed deeply to New Jersey,” Daggett said. “With our resources at Dodge, our goal is to make people aware of these issues and to provide the support to the nonprofit organizations and the individuals who are part of those organizations to move the needle to improve the state of New Jersey.”

Daggett shared changes to Dodge’s vision, mission, and values, and its new goals and definition of equity, as well as insights into the process. In a May 22 announcement, Daggett outlined the changes and the story behind the plan.

Through the end of the year, the Foundation will be developing an equity framework from which to view its five program areas — arts, education, environment, informed communities, and poetry. Grantmaking will continue under its current guidelines for the remainder of 2018 and in 2019, when it expects to experiment with new ideas as it develops strategies to debut in 2020.

After answering participants questions, Daggett invited people to share feedback through email to Dodge program officers or The Foundation is seeking your ideas on questions such as: What is your response to our new vision and mission, and what might that look like in your work? What changes in our/your practices might help you advance these elements in your work? What are your concerns and questions about this new direction? How might Dodge lean into our new vision?

Below are some of the questions and answers covered in the webinar (with minor edits to the transcript). The Q&A session begins at approximately 12:15 in the video recording.

How is this new vision and mission different from what Dodge is already doing?

Chris Daggett: Acknowledging the demographics of New Jersey and recognizing issues of the times, we are trying to figure out how best to position ourselves as an organization. We have chosen to focus on equity and an equitable New Jersey, and it is through this lens that we will be looking at our program areas to determine what shifts, if any, we should make. Initially, we will stay the current course. As we continue to review our work and get additional input, we will be making some changes.

What might these changes mean for current grantees?

This year, no changes. You may see changes and adjustments in the amount of money we give to organizations next year, and perhaps some other shifts. If so, we will make them with respect and with the same approach we’ve taken historically at Dodge. We’ve never made dramatic changes, we try to make them in a way that is respectful to the organizations as well as our own work.

Can you share the names of the consultants Dodge worked with?

For intercultural awareness learning, we worked with Beth Zemsky and Associates. For the strategic plan, we worked with the Interaction Institute for Social Change.

Regarding the program goal, what does it mean that a “majority” of Dodge resources will benefit under-resourced communities?

We don’t know the answer to that question right now. We are in the process of looking at what it means. We want to make sure we use our resources in a way that best benefits the state. Our focus historically has included under-resourced areas, and we will probably continue to do that work. What that means for a particular location, program area, or grantee will evolve over the next year.

Do you have any interests in specific communities?

Not at this time. We’ve been awarding grants statewide and I expect we will continue to do so.

What role do you see grantees playing?

We welcome input from everybody at any point. The best way to provide that input is through your program officers. We likely will use additional questionnaires and formally reach out to people.

Do you anticipate any major changes in the mechanics of grant submission – letters of inquiry, full grant applications, communication with program officers, and/or separate deadlines for the various program areas, etc? Will organizations’ budget size play a role (i.e., might you be supporting more grassroots organizations)?

We are on the verge of changing to a new grants management system. With that, we are hoping that change will make applying and communicating easier.

We will be reviewing all our processes through an equity lens. There may be changes to those processes, and to the types of organizations we support. Traditionally, we ask nonprofits for their certified audit and about their board giving, that might not always be the case. It’s too early to say how they will change.

Do you anticipate that you will open the grants process to nonprofits that aren’t current grantees?

We may, but we will probably keep the letter of inquiry process narrow to our areas of focus. There likely will be a more open process in 2020.

Have you thought about how Dodge will measure its success in improving equity? Do you have any early thoughts?

It will go beyond diversity and numbers. It’s looking at outcomes. We want to get feedback from our stakeholders to ask about measurements that matter to them. We recognize that a plan is just that–a plan, just words on paper. We know that there is a lot of work ahead to realize this vision, and we need to get feedback from all our constituents–both now and as we go forward.

How might Dodge’s Technical Assistance change?

We will continue to do much of the Technical Assistance we have done in our Board Leadership program. We want to add equity, diversity, and inclusion, to help organizations recognize where they are in their own development. We want to hear what kinds of support organizations want. That will enable to help us shape programs.

Will Dodge be doing more collaborating with other funders in New Jersey?

We hope so. We constantly tell grantees they ought to collaborate more. The same is true for foundations. We don’t do it nearly as much as we should.

How does this new mission affect your staffing within Dodge to make sure Dodge is embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion?

We will be looking at all our internal operations — how do we hire, onboard people, shift our organizational culture. The way we hire people and the nature and makeup of our staff has be responsive to that, as well. Over time, as people move on and do other things, we will make every attempt to reflect the diversity of the state.

Has the search for a new leader at Dodge begun?

The Dodge Board will be developing the process. I anticipate they will have a search firm retained that will interview staff, board, and outside folks, to hear what people think are the most important characteristics of a new CEO for Dodge at this point in its lifecycle. Stay tuned; the process will become clear as the summer goes on.

What are the immediate next steps for carrying the strategic plan forward?

Over the summer, we will continue our intercultural development work. We also will start to develop a framework to view our program areas through an equity lens — a Theory of Change, essentially. We hope to have a lot of that work completed by the end of the year so we can experiment with new ideas next year.