For 45 years, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has nurtured leaders, ideas, and institutions that use creative problem-solving to promote a sustainable future. The Foundation’s focus has been New Jersey, carrying out its work in program areas that have adapted over time in response to social, economic, and cultural changes.
In June 2018, the Dodge Foundation adopted a new vision for the future centered on equity with a revised mission, values, a new equity definition, goals, and a strategic plan to guide us. We are proud that from this process emerged our vision for an equitable New Jersey through our support of creative, engaged, sustainable communities. Our board and staff together affirmed that, for Dodge, 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.
Following the development of our strategic plan, we entered a deep learning and review process to begin to define how the majority of Dodge’s grantmaking would benefit under-resourced and under-represented communities. Supported by Hillombo LLC and Dragonfly Partners, and informed by research, evidence, and best practices in the field, we developed new equity theories of change for each of our program areas — Arts, Education, Environment, Informed Communities, and Poetry. This learning and exploration process has been both challenging and enriching.
The Foundation supports achieving equity in its many different forms, including but not limited to income, race, gender, disability, and neighborhood. This phase of our work places an emphasis on people and communities of color, and yet equity requires the inclusion of all people and organizations. Therefore, our strategies and processes will include and benefit all of New Jersey and will change and evolve over time.
The program theories of change were approved by Dodge’s board in the fall. I’d like to thank the Dodge Foundation Board of Trustees for their commitment and leadership in this process, starting with our new vision and now with our new equity theories of change.
To help translate our theories of change into the day-to-day practices of grantmaking, we continued our work with Hillombo LLC and Dragonfly Partners and developed an equity framework to guide conversations about each organization’s equity journey and to make our approach more transparent to our partners. We look forward to sharing more about this tool and what we are learning in the coming months.
Dodge has been in transition over the past four years. Throughout this time, most of our grantees have continued to receive funding under our existing guidelines. We know to achieve equity we will need to do things differently. Pursuant to our new program theories of change, we will devote energy and resources to support communities and work centered on equity with both new and current grantees.
Honoring our value of respect and our relationship with grantees, we expect that changes will take place over time as we continue to learn and build new relationships. We recognize that different funding decisions may impact our current and past longtime funding relationships and potentially destabilize organizations or program delivery. Therefore, we strive to be deliberate and transparent as we respectfully phase out grants that are not in keeping with our emerging strategies.
We know our strategic plan is an early step on the Foundation’s equity learning journey and that we have more work to do to align our program, internal, external, and finance goals with this vision. I know from listening to many of you that you are excited that we are centering our work on equity and are anticipating the opportunity to learn more about how that will look in practice.
I am proud of our program directors and staff for their deep respect and commitment to grantmaking and programs that will support an equitable New Jersey. Our work inside Dodge will continue as we lean into our strategic commitment to equity. I am energized and humbled by the progress we have made thus far and the journey ahead.
We look forward to working together with you to achieve an equitable New Jersey.
Tanuja Dehne is the President & CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Established in 1974, the Dodge Foundation has distributed nearly $500 million in grants and technical support to New Jersey nonprofits, with a focus on the arts, education, the environment, informed communities, and poetry. As a former Dodge Trustee, Tanuja helped shape the foundation’s new strategy, which envisions an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, and sustainable communities.