My debut as President and CEO of CNJG coincided with the first day of our annual Foundations on the Hill meetings. Hosted by United Philanthropy Forum, the gathering brings foundation leaders to Washington for meetings with Congress about key issues of importance to foundations and philanthropy.
This is the 15th year that the Council has joined the philanthropic leadership from throughout the nation to meet with our Representatives as part of FOTH. Our collective presence was fortified by over 250 colleagues from coast to coast, that included CNJG members from our delegation. It was a pleasure attending meetings side by side with Bob Atkins, New Jersey Health Initiatives; Etta Denk, Bank of America; William Engel, Hyde and Watson Foundation; Jeremy Grunin, The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation; Kiki Jamieson, Fund for New Jersey; Marion O’Neill, PSEG Foundation; Michael Unger, Atlantic Foundation; Atiya Weiss, Burke Foundation; and Theresa Jacks, CNJG. I was also able to connect with an old friend and colleague, Linda Czipo, President and CEO of the Center for Non-Profits. Linda has been part of our FOTH delegation for the last 3 years. Her voice helps to highlight and strengthen the nonprofit message during our meetings.
The overall goal of FOTH is to communicate to members of Congress and their staff the important role philanthropy plays in serving the public good, and for us to reinforce and strengthen the relationships we have developed with our elected officials and their staff. As a result of the mid-term elections, we met with four (4) freshmen elected Representatives, an unprecedented number in the New Jersey delegation in more than a decade. While we were able to meet with all the offices, it was especially memorable that on my first two days of leading the Council, we met directly with Senator Menendez, Congressman Gottheimer, Congressman Smith, and freshmen Congressmen Malinowski and Van Drew. Among the many issues we discussed was the universal charitable deduction, 2020 Census, and of course our offer to serve as a resource on issues related to the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. We also extended an invitation for a staff person from their district offices to attend our June conference which will have as its driving theme, the 2020 Census. I hope they’ll take us up on that.
One might think that the whirlwind of my first 2 days has subsided. In fact, the momentum continues as I emerge into the Council’s vast body of work, and lead the dedicated staff that moves this work forward. Top on my list is face time with the membership. My plan is to schedule a meeting with all CNJG members to hear about your aspirations, and how the Council can continue supporting your work.
In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me via e-mail. I look forward to connecting with you soon.
Maria Vizcarrondo, President and CEO
Council of New Jersey Grantmakers