Last week, like many of you, I took the opportunity to witness the events commemorating Congressman John Lewis’s inspiring life, culminating with the memorial service at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
I had the privilege to cross paths with the Congressman on a number of occasions throughout my career in New Jersey. His calm and gentle in-person presence belied the fiery spirit that drove his relentless energy to champion against injustice – or, as he liked to say, “getting into good trouble.”
Most importantly, for those committed to justice and equity, the memorial service invoked a call to action at a critical time in our nation’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing social and economic inequities existing for decades and driven by government policies that undervalue the dignity of work and reduce economic and social opportunities for communities of color.
The social sector has a major role to play in defining the new normal in post-pandemic America. In that regard, how will the New Jersey philanthropic community show up?
Now, even more than ever before, the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers is working in partnership with our members to inform and facilitate opportunities for communities that depend on funding from our membership.
- We partner with the Center for Non-Profits to periodically survey service providers to determine their most urgent needs as they provide indispensable services.
- We provide briefings to assist philanthropies with information to drive their decisions on where to send desperately-needed financial resources.
- We ground our work in principles developed by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy by establishing a Learning Community to share best practices for members managing relief funds.
- We encourage our members to sign onto the Council of Foundations’ pledge to release funding restrictions, freeing nonprofits to meet the rapid-response needs of their communities.
These are a few of the major efforts the Council undertakes to address the COVID pandemic. Now, we need to show up just as intentionally to address the institutional racism that still impedes the true liberation of our vulnerable communities.
In recently launching a Racial Justice Task Force, CNJG’s Board seeks to create a blueprint to help our membership examine all aspects of its philanthropic culture through the lens of equity. By doing so, we’ll be purposefully inclusive in every decision we make. We’ll constantly ask ourselves questions aimed at making sure we take equity into account in every action we take and look for it in every result we bring about. CNJG will look to members who have championed work focused on equity in the past to provide us with guidance and examples of the internal efforts required to achieve these goals.
Our ultimate aspiration is that this work will provide New Jersey philanthropy the ability to build bridges within its institutional culture, enabling grantmakers to contribute in a meaningful way to – once and for all – attain racial equity.
Please stay safe and healthy!
Maria Vizcarrondo, President and CEO
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers