I was just looking over some of the feedback we received from last month’s Spring Conference and was reminded again how vitally important the relationship – the give and take -- between funders and nonprofits is to the well-being of our state. Of course, in any sector or industry the need for open communication, mutual respect, and collaboration between all the players is essential for it to thrive. But in our field there is not an adequate culture for this kind of bridge spanning between those with funding, and those on-the-ground actually doing the work that requires funding. Barriers exist -- some are appropriate, others are unnecessary.
The Next 20, the conference theme, clearly succeeded in eliminating some of those barriers as we, the social sector in New Jersey, looked together at what our state will need to advance and what our combined role can and should be. There were a great many comments that came in and I loved seeing these from CNJG members about how their organization might consider addressing issues related to the 2020 Census:
- “Look at how we can fund grantees working on the census and develop more policy solutions on it.”
- “Convening grantees to explore the connections of their work with census reporting/outcomes”
A bold goal of the gathering was to create a forum for social sector leaders focused on New Jersey that may have never met or worked together in any way to explore ideas, crowdsource some strategies, build some connections and gain new perspectives. We seemed to have achieved this as well with the afternoon’s Open Space discussions. Again, here is some of what we heard from CNJG members:
- “We will be reading and evaluating grant applications from a different perspective now that we better understand the needs of prospective grantees in particular areas. We’ll also be open to exploring different kinds of funding opportunities.”
- “….this was a lot of fun and a great chance to meet and have more in-depth conversations with a smaller group of conference participants. That value is not to be underestimated.”
We were so pleased and excited by the response to the conference. The evaluations show that the nearly 300 registrants found it thought-provoking, mind-expanding, at times disconcerting at the challenges we face, but overall quite valuable and worthwhile. (We also heard loud and clear that it was a little too jammed packed!). We’ve put together a photo tour of the day and a Storify recap. Many have asked for copies of the “Trends Tour” I kicked the day off with as well as the power points from our speakers. It is all available on the conference area of the CNJG website and I hope you’ll take a little time to explore.
I couldn’t talk about the conference without giving a final thank you to our incredibly generous sponsors, without whom we wouldn’t have such a robust and meaningful day: PSEG, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Taft Communications, FirstEnergy Foundation, Campbell Soup Company, Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, US Trust, Glenmede, PKF O’Connor Davies, and The Palace at Somerset Park.
Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers