Thinking About the New Guidelines

November 9, 2009

David Grant, President and CEO

Every morning, on my way to my e-mails or the news, I pause over the Dodge homepage. This Sunday, November 8th, I did more than pause, for there, finally, were the revised guidelines and all the accompanying materials people need to apply to Dodge for grants in 2010. We’ve been working on them for months.

It doesn’t take four or five months to write seven or eight pages and redesign some forms. But it could take forever to decide what’s in them, such is the freedom foundations have to choose among worthy ideas and efforts to support.

At this point in time, I hope we have found that sweet spot where change is so based on current practices and opportunities that it feels logical and right. These guidelines reflect what we have learned from our grantees, and I believe almost all of those organizations will find themselves in this new presentation of what Dodge supports.

At the same time, the new guidelines encourage big-picture thinking, which is different from our supporting discrete programs in different disciplines. They reflect a long-term vision of New Jersey as a creative place and, as a result, a more sustainable place. And they are built around the importance of having well-run and well-governed nonprofit organizations serving that vision both alone and, increasingly, with others.

Thus you will notice some new language about “high-potential, innovative, collaborative programs and models.” What do we mean by this? We think of the Sustainable Jersey coalition of local governments, universities, state government, businesses and nonprofits now working so effectively to give people on the local level the tools they need to make their places more sustainable. We think of the work Young Audiences of New Jersey and the Foundation for Educational Administration is doing to launch a state-wide creativity initiative. We think of the work The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education is doing to involve schools, school-systems and their communities in understanding the mind-sets necessary to create a sustainable future together.

And we believe there will be other important ideas and effective approaches that will come our way because of the new guideline language about creativity and sustainability. As we say elsewhere on this site, quoting playwright David Mamet, “We steer where we are looking.”

I hope somewhere out there my successor is looking — and liking what he or she sees.