As the philosopher Heraclitus said: the only thing that is constant is change.
In a world that seems to be turning completely upside down (the Brexit vote; “sit-ins” on the floor of the Congress; education funding “fairness”; shut down of all highway repairs; talk of building walls; and mass deportation), the need for grantmakers to keep a steady head and hand seems all the more necessary and urgent. Hang on… the next few months are going to be quite a rollercoaster. Heraclitus is right; change is a the only constant. This is why flexibility, the ability to adapt, and the need to pivot are all traits that breed success. So are resourcefulness and entrepreneurialism – all the things we look for in nonprofit organizations.
I’m thinking about all this for a number of reasons, but two most directly related to the Council. First, we are in the midst of planning for CNJG’s 2016 Investment Forum for Foundations and Endowments this October. One of the responsibilities we as grantmakers have is to ensure we are good stewards of the foundation’s corpus. After all, for most it is the endowment that enables the grantmaking, which is the very purpose of the work. A key topic for discussion at this year’s Investment Forum will be how stewards of an endowment need to think about and manage risk. We are thrilled that Josh Fenton, Director of Investments for The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will open the Investment Forum on this very topic. And we’ll close the day with a plenary presentation on investment fraud and how to keep it from happening in your organization.
The second reason I’m obsessing these days about upheaval that seems to be happening is that we always need to plan for the future, knowing that we’ll need to be flexible. To that end, CNJG is about to undertake a Strategic Visioning process to help us understand how the field of private philanthropy and grantmaking is changing, and how the Council will need to adapt in order to continue to be the vital resource and innovative leadership organization we are today. As part of this visioning process, we’ll be reaching out to many of you for your insights and good counsel. Through focus groups, stakeholder interviews, surveys and more, we look forward to charting a course that will serve funders working through the next decade to improve lives and outcomes in the Garden State.
I’ll wrap up with one highlight of the past few weeks. I had the opportunity to tour the new B.E.A.T. Center in Toms River, a marvelous example of collaboration and innovation, with lots of good grantmaking. Housed in a strip mall along Hooper Avenue with easy access by bus, the Center is a unique resource hub in Ocean County where families and individuals in need can access food, education, and other resources that will help end the cyclical causes of hunger. It includes The Peoples Pantry (a food pantry born out of Hurricane Sandy that has become an anchor in its community); a satellite distribution and training facility for The Food Bank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties (another essential anchor); and a second Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant, the brainchild of CNJG Member Jon Bon Jovi and his JBJ Soul Foundation.
So, yes, only change is constant. And the social sector – grantmakers and nonprofits – are champions at making sure the change is for the better.
Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers