It is with a great deal of enthusiasm and hope that today we are releasing a new strategic plan for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, guided by the vision of an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, and sustainable communities.
As is clear from demographic trends, New Jersey will soon become one of the first states where no single racial or ethnic group will be in the majority. As a foundation focused exclusively on New Jersey, we must work continually to understand the shifting priorities and needs of communities, and how our programs and operations reflect and serve the people of our state.
Dodge’s strategic plan is the culmination of a comprehensive effort by our entire board and staff to examine how the Foundation’s expertise, influence, and relationships can address challenges and leverage opportunities facing New Jersey.
During this process, we spent a great deal of time examining our intercultural awareness as individuals and as an organization; exploring issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; reviewing current social, economic, and cultural trends in New Jersey; and talking with grantees, colleagues, and peers. We challenged each other and our assumptions about our grantmaking, our programs, and our organizational direction. The conversations were transformational.
We have identified four goals that center equity at all levels of our organization — program, internal, external, and financial — as well as initial strategies we will pursue over the next three years. Because we know equity is a word with different definitions to different people, we defined what it means to our organization.
At the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, equity means aligning our resources to address historical, institutional, and structural impediments so that New Jerseyans of all races and communities have what is needed to realize a quality life.
We recognize that the completion of this plan is actually just the beginning. We now enter a period of exploration and intentional change as we implement our new vision, mission, goals, and strategies. It also will be a period of risk-taking and learning from successes and failures we experience along the way as we figure out our role in an equitable New Jersey.
As I shared in my strategic planning update in October and again in March, for the next three to five years, Dodge remains committed to our current program areas, supporting initiatives and nonprofit organizations in arts, education, environment, informed communities, and poetry that are innovative and promote collaboration and community-driven decision-making.
We also are committed to being open and transparent, to broaden our intercultural knowledge and skills, and to keep you informed of our progress on the next stages of this work.
For the remainder of 2018, we will continue grantmaking under our current guidelines and criteria while laying the groundwork to examine our programs, technical assistance, operations, investment strategies, and organizational structure through an equity lens. In 2019, we will be moving to our new vision as we explore and experiment with new collaborations and initiatives. In 2020, we hope to be living our vision as we integrate the results into our work through refreshed grantmaking guidelines. Our intent is to be respectful of the relationships and investments we have made throughout our 44 years, while we listen, learn, and reimagine new ways of working to advance our vision for an equitable New Jersey.
Along the way, we want to hear from you — grantees, stakeholders, and anyone else who would like to share their thoughts. Many of you are on the ground every day, doing work that matters to people across the state. We acknowledge and applaud you, and hope that you will let us know how Dodge can support and enhance those efforts.
What is your response to our new vision and mission, and what might that look like in your own organizations? What changes in our practices might help you advance these elements in your work? What are your concerns and questions about this new direction? What might Dodge and/or your organization do to foster more connections between and within communities? What does an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities mean to you?
Our first formal effort to get your thoughts will be in a grantee webinar on June 12, details for which will be sent out shortly. We will follow up that session with other formal and informal feedback opportunities as we move forward with our work.
As I said at the outset, we are enthusiastic and hopeful. Enthusiastic about the new direction of Dodge and the renewed purpose of our work. Hopeful about the prospects ahead and the opportunity to help increase the impact of the nonprofit community in New Jersey.
In closing, and in keeping with Dodge’s tradition of incorporating poetry into our everyday lives and in anticipation of our Poetry Festival in October, I share with you the poem read at our April board-staff retreat when Dodge trustees approved the strategic plan with a refreshed and renewed commitment to our home state.
You, Reading This, Be Ready
By William Stafford
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?