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Re-engaged and Re-energized

Friday, August 4, 2017

I always thoroughly enjoy seeing how re-engaged our members get in their work after attending a CNJG program. Connecting with colleagues, learning new information, hearing different perspectives all help us stay focused and, dare I say, excited about the work that we do, even in the most trying times. For the team at the Council, this experience comes alive for us personally each July when we join our colleagues from across the country at the annual conference of the Forum. It truly does re-energize us.

There were some exceptional standout experiences this year. Hearing Dr. David Williams of Harvard University in the opening speech share comprehensive and compelling research on the impact of racial disparities - especially related to health - told me this was going to be a remarkable conference. Here is a YouTube of his recent TEDMed talk on “How Racism Makes Us Sick.”

Then there was the keynote by Dr. Robert Ross, President of the California Endowment, whose powerful “letter to philanthropy” began by reminding us that “communism gives equality without freedom, but capitalism gives us freedom without equality.” He spoke about the essential role that philanthropy must play to counter the dark, exclusionary, divisive narrative that grows. And he is challenging his foundation colleagues to be willing to risk more. Dr. Ross spoke a lot about how important it is to step out of our comfort zone. It is that willingness to risk that moves our lives and our civilization forward. When he called on the audience to think about our own ancestors and what they risked to put us at the gathering today in the very chair we are sitting in… it may have been a Nazi death camp, a cotton field, an immigrant ship… my eyes were not the only ones wet with gratitude for those that went before me.

This year we met in San Francisco and while we fortunately did not experience an earthquake, the earth did move in a way. You see this year’s conference launched a new era for the field of philanthropy; an incredibly exciting new paradigm has begun. The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, a small but mighty network focused on sister organizations across the country has now become the United Philanthropy Forum, a network for the common good, encompassing not just regional organizations serving philanthropy but now national issue-focused and practice-focused groups as well. What does this mean? It means that organizations like GEO, ABFE, GCIR, Peak Grantmaking, and many, many others serving the field of philanthropy have recreated and reconstituted the Forum family. We are enormously excited at CNJG because this new, bigger galaxy offers us much greater connection and access to people, resources, and learning that we can bring to you - the Council’s membership.

I’m off now to finish packing. As you no doubt saw in my previous email, we are moving our offices over the next few days. The mailing address and phone numbers stay the same as we remain the very grateful tenants of Thomas Edison State University. We are headed to a new building within the campus at the other end of the block.

See you in September,

Nina Stack, President
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers