DAFinitive® Spotlight: Community Foundation of New Jersey

Here at DAFinitive®, we know that the story behind the philanthropy is just as important as the gift itself. In the first of an ongoing series, we’d like to shine a light on donor-advised fund sponsors and community foundations to see what’s driving philanthropy in our neighborhoods.

The Community Foundation of New Jersey (CFNJ) was established in 1979 after founder Robert Corman saw a need for a community-based approach to grant-making in the state, involving businesses and citizens alike. They currently have more than 1100 funds and a total of $800 million in assets. In 2021, they granted more than $100 million across New Jersey and beyond. They offer donor-advised, legacy, business advised, scholarship funds and even employee crisis funds for local corporations. Current donors can designate their funds to a variety of options beyond 501(c)3s, even to civic infrastructure or public education.

Led by President Hans Dekker (who has been at the helm since 2003), the foundation has a staff of nearly 15 and a board of more nearly 25 who work with more than 1,000 fund-holders from their office in Morristown, NJ.  CFNJ takes an information-forward approach to their website, giving donors a greater picture of how to approach their philanthropy for everyone’s benefit. The foundation has a large network of legal, wealth, and tax advisors, accountants and other wealth managers to help their clients make the philanthropic decisions that work best for them.

Other useful aspects of their website include detailed information on the benefits (or not) of more regular avenues of giving, such as cash and securities, as well as less common avenues, such as IRA rollovers, transfers from one community foundation to another and gifts of real estate. Additionally, many of the funds listed are hyperlinked to the beneficiary’s website so that donors can see where their money truly goes.

Currently, the foundation has focused on Changemaker Projects, which address pervasive issues within the state such as tenants’ rights, juvenile justice reform, prevention of human trafficking and access to healthy food and breakfast in low-income communities. Supported by the foundation’s Changemaker Fund, donors can contribute outright through the website or through their own donor-advised fund to support these efforts, which partner with universities, local government programs, and other nonprofits within New Jersey.

Other notable projects that CFNJ has led have included the Neighborhood Leadership Initiative (1992), which trained community members in leadership and organizational skills as Community Foundation Fellows. At the end of their training, participants received grants for projects in their communities. Agency endowment funds allowed nonprofits to invest in CFNJ and keep the earnings, boosting the endowments of both organizations. Another role of CFNJ was as an incubator for NJ nonprofits, including Impact100 Garden State, Jersey Cares, the Morristown Festival of Books, Miracle Feet, and Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund. It has also partnered with larger national organizations such as the Ford Foundation and Charles S. Mott Foundation to strengthen ties between parents and their children’s schools, as well as a program bridging new immigrants and longtime local residents. CFNJ has taken the local and made it global.

Some of the programs are donor-inspired, such as the Alkemede Fund, which was funded through a donor’s estate to aid those with vision impairments. Thanks to the the Alkemede Fund’s bequest, Helen Keller International brought their ChildSight program to urban areas within the state to distribute eyeglasses, as well as supporting art and music lessons for the vision-impaired. The Star-Ledger, one of the state’s largest newspapers, established a fund after 9/11, leading to more than $1,000,000 of support towards community organizations leading relief efforts. In addition to advising donors’ philanthropic efforts, CFNJ also awards nonprofit leaders within the state for their service.

The diversity within the Garden State has informed CFNJ’s efforts over the years, allowing for a wide range of programming from the organization, their donors and their partners. As CFNJ moves forward, their mission will remain crucially important: to “create and scale custom solutions for purpose-driven individuals, families, and businesses.”

Are there sponsor organizations or funds that you would like to see profiled in the DAFinitive® blog? Let us know!