Over the past nine months or so, my colleague Connie Ludwin and I have had some very big shoes to fill.
Nina Stack led the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers for 13 years and through that time the organization served as a strong, distinctive voice for the varied philanthropies that do so much for this state. I was honored to take the role of interim president/CEO in June 2018, with Connie assuming interim CFO responsibilities. Previously, my career had included founding and running a nonprofit – New Jersey Policy Perspective – and working for a national nonprofit. Now I’d be seeing the social sector through the lens of funders, not grantees. It sort of felt like going from a teaching job to the board of education.
It turns out the difference was not as great as I anticipated. Grantmakers and the people they support are really two sides of the same coin. They share a deep commitment to helping New Jersey communities thrive. They both have a vision of a state where hard work is rewarded, quality education is available to all, our environment is preserved, everyone has the opportunity to be healthy, and more.
Neither side of this coin could exist without the other, a reality that’s reflected in the strong relationship between the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers and the Center for Non-Profits. If you’re looking for a rivalry here, you won’t find it. And that works to the benefit of our state.
Over these months, I’ve come into contact with many, if not most, of the 130-plus members of the Council. From corporate foundations representing the biggest names in New Jersey business to small family foundations, they work tirelessly for our state’s betterment. On behalf of Connie and me, I thank them all, as well as the dedicated members of the Council’s board — and the people I’ve come to know best in this milieu: the staff of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. The spotlight doesn’t always shine on Theresa Jacks, Patricia Foo, Craig Weinrich, Kevin Callaghan, Anna D’Elia, and Kari Williams. Behind the scenes, though, they do more for the Council’s membership — and, by extension, New Jersey — than our members could ever know.
Getting to know them and working side by side to meet our goals has been a distinct pleasure. I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of them or of the Council’s Board and members. The good news is that neither Connie nor I will be far away. We’re back full time at Taft Communications, a firm that has been serving New Jersey nonprofits and foundations for more than 35 years, and we’re always interested in providing ideas, advice, and trainings to help the social sector develop strong, compelling messages to inspire people to action.
As you’ll read below, we’re handing over the reins to as talented and experienced a person as there is to lead the Council to its next chapter. Maria Vizcarrondo has done a lot and will do more to help make New Jersey a better place to live. We wish her, and all of you, the very best.
Jon Shure, Interim President/CEO
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers