By now I am sure you have heard me or one of the CNJG team mention that 2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ founding. While we will not be making a really big splash, we are certainly celebrating and highlighting our twenty years of leadership and impact in our state.
From creating the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook, born out of our work in response to Hurricane Sandy; to the establishment of 15 different affinity groups where funders come together for shared learning and collective action; from shepherding the creation of the Community Foundation of South Jersey; to working in partnership with the Attorney General’s office on juvenile justice strategies, the Council is clearly assisting and empowering our philanthropic community to tackle many of our state’s most pressing needs.
Moreover, grantmakers have shared with us their stories of impact that have led the way to big changes in their organization. There was the learning lab on affordable housing strategies that helped one funder completely redesign its work and focus; and the Funder Briefing on school bullying that shifted another grantmaker’s support for education and after school programming.
Some of our most impactful and, frankly, ever more essential work can be seen in the relationships we have established with government officials and policymakers. Conversations with the Cabinet, the series of private convenings for our members with a Commissioner, remains one of the most important outreach opportunities we coordinate and promote. Periodic briefings for the Office of Legislative Services continue to prove an enormously powerful mechanism for teaching legislators and their staff what philanthropy can do well and what it can’t …such as fill state budget gaps. From the early days of Foundations on the Hill when we had to plead for a meeting with a new legislative aide, the dynamic has shifted to now having senior staff expect our visit and often having the Congressional Representative or Senator see us personally. We have proven time and again how philanthropy can provide leadership in ways others cannot; most obviously with our groundbreaking Facing Our Future work to look at the systemic, long-term fiscal challenges facing all levels of government in New Jersey, and the national study of best practice in healthcare conversions. Of course, our Newark Philanthropic Liaison remains a national model and the envy of many, many Mayors across New Jersey and the country.
As our country moves into what appears to be an entirely new operating platform when it comes to the Federal government, and as our state prepares for its next Governor, the Council has built a solid reputation of strong partnerships, exceptional opportunities for grantmakers to convene and learn, and innovative problem-solving on which the philanthropic community can be proud.
This year we hope you join us in looking back at our many accomplishments over the years – growing from a small organization with less than 80 members and 15 programs a year, to the robust organization we are today – serving nearly 130 members and offering over 70 programs a year including issue briefings, workshops, signature events, panel discussions, webinars, and affinity group meetings. We also hope you will join us in considering what our next 20 years holds as we embark upon a year-long visioning process to ensure we meet the needs of philanthropy tomorrow. But more on that in the next few months. In the meantime, Happy 20th Anniversary to all of us.
Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers