Helping Funders Pursue their Missions: Taking Stock of 2011

December 14, 2011

By Nina Stack
President, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers

According to the Council on Foundations, in 2008 there was nearly $18 billion in philanthropic assets in the state of New Jersey. We don’t have a clear sense of where those assets are today with the stock market’s rollercoaster recovery of late. Whether up or down, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ (CNJG) mission remains the same: to strengthen and promote effective philanthropy. As the state’s forum for learning, sharing ideas, and advancing the field, CNJG worked throughout 2011 to inspire our members to be responsive, proactive and effective funders.

CNJG offered grantmakers over 50 roundtable and panel discussions, workshops, teleconferences and webinars in 2011. We hosted 140 New Jersey non-profit and foundation leaders at our annual conference where we explored the powerful role philanthropic networks play in advancing issues and causes. During our popular Conversations with the Cabinet sessions, CNJG members discussed opportunities to partner with state government on mutual issues of concern with Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez, Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa and Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. And, last week, our 2011 Annual Meeting featured Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, a Camden doctor in the national spotlight for his work to reduce healthcare costs by “hot spotting” or “super serving” chronic healthcare system users. The Nicholson Foundation‘s Charles Venti and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation‘s Gretchen Hartling offered their insight into seeding this type of work and rewards of working with such an innovative champion.

In addition to our programming and services for grantmakers, work progressed significantly on several CNJG leadership initiatives this past year. For example, the Board Bank, which I’ve written about on this blog before, is just about ready to launch with our partners, the American Conference on Diversity, at the helm. Facing Our Future, the groundbreaking initiative that has objectively examined New Jersey’s long-term fiscal problems, is heading into a second phase of its work. I’ve outlined the findings of our first report as part of Facing Our Future in this column before but in the next few months we’ll be releasing an update to the findings, along with some options or best practices that are underway in New Jersey and elsewhere that could prove promising to help address the fiscal crisis we face.

And we saw the continued advancement of a truly successful partnership with the Council’s Newark Philanthropic Liaison Jeremy Johnson, now in place for 5 years. Among the notable achievements: the rollout of Living Cities $15 million blended investment in the “Strong, Healthy Communities Initiative,” submission of a multi-partner application to the White House-endorsed “Promise Neighborhood” program for the Fairmount section of the city and a commitment by the Mayor’s office for a six-community neighborhood revitalization project. The Newark Funders Group grew to over 25 members and it’s Education Subcommittee created the Newark Public Schools Innovative Investment Fund – a pooled fund to support the school district’s strategic plan priority of building “a system of great schools that serve students, their families and the community.”

We also saw the membership of the Council grow with 16 new members. These foundations and corporate grantmakers recognize the importance and value of engaging with their philanthropic colleagues to leverage their impact and staying abreast of the latest trends and best practices. On behalf of the CNJG Board and staff, we thank the Dodge Foundation for allowing us to share our story through their blog. Dodge Foundation’s noble commitment to our region has spurred social sector growth and education, and it has nourished New Jersey’s soul through their generous support of the arts. For that and so much more, we are grateful.

Nina Stack is the President of Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association for corporate, family, independent, and community foundations. She is a regular contributor to the Dodge blog.