Philanthropy in NJ Turning Heads Nationally

January 18, 2012

By Nina Stack
President, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers

2012 is already shaping up to be quite a year for New Jersey’s philanthropic community.

We have two national organizations coming to Newark in the next few months. At the end of this month, the Association of Black Foundation Executives will launch its 2011-2012 Connecting Leadership Fellowship program with a Leadership Summit in Newark. The Fellowship, which began in 2005-2006, is a yearlong professional development experience which aims to promote the professional mobility and visibility of mid-career Black executives in the field of philanthropy.

Another first is being planned by Grantmakers for Education. The organization will convene one of its three 2012 Urban Education Study Tours in Newark. These study tours bring funders from around the country together for an extensive, multi-day site visit. Their visit is being designed now.

What these two gatherings affirm is the recognition nationally that New Jersey’s philanthropic community is working in innovative and successful ways — pushing the envelope beyond the traditional operating patterns of foundations. We are seeing members connect more and collaborate more. New Jersey’s philanthropic leaders are taking on national leadership roles as well — serving on the boards of national affinity and infrastructure groups. These include the Schumann Fund’s Barbara Reisman with Grantmakers for Education, the Dodge Foundation‘s Laura Aden Packer with the Grantmakers in the Arts, Novartis’ Rhonda Crichlow with the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, and Risa Lavizzo Mourey of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with Independent Sector.

When I sit at Council on Foundations Board meetings and share with my fellow trustees the exciting things that we are doing in New Jersey, it piques great interest because they are hearing about New Jersey’s accomplishments from their colleagues in the field – both far and wide. For instance, they have learned of the way CNJG brings our members together regularly with key legislative officials in our “Conversations With the Cabinet.” Or, they’ve heard about our other policy work, like Facing Our Future, for which we’ll be releasing updated and expanded information in the next month.

When CNJG advocated for, and ultimately created, the Newark Philanthropic Liaison position, there was only one other in the country. Five years after embedding Jeremy Johnson in Newark City Hall and Mayor Cory Booker’s administration, he’s been directly responsible for attracting more than $45 million and leveraging millions more.

These and many other CNJG programs throughout the state have placed New Jersey’s philanthropy among those providing best practices and successes that will be replicated across the country.

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.