Doing Good Better - Deepening Philanthropic and Nonprofit Partnerships in NJ

Doing Good Better, a partnership of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers and the New Jersey Center for Nonprofits, is a community of funders and nonprofits taking action against the power imbalances and racial inequities in philanthropy, nonprofits and government. Accessible, equitable, and mutually accountable relationships are primary and indisputable building blocks for a stronger society and thriving communities. Our goal is to shift the culture of the New Jersey philanthropic and nonprofit ecosystem by encouraging funders, nonprofits, and government to create shared power rooted in collaboration, mutual trust, and respect. 

Why Now?

For many years, but particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the heightened outcry for racial equity and social justice, funders have been urged to embrace more flexibility and transparency in their grantmaking. Practices such as general operating support, simplified application and reporting procedures, multi-year funding and others have been shown to level the power imbalance, advance greater equity, strengthen partnerships between funders and their nonprofit partners, and thereby improve community impact.

Many grantmakers temporarily embraced flexible practices in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and during the height of the pandemic, and these structural changes empowered nonprofits to become more resilient and have a greater impact in their communities. But while some funders have retained the flexible practices, others have reinstated previous restrictions.

In New Jersey and across the country, there is a renewed urgency to NOT return to business as usual. It’s long past time.

Doing Good Better invites all of us to reflect on how power is distributed in our partnerships, learn from our peers, and make adjustments that position all community partners for transformative, equitable change in New Jersey.

How?

Guided and informed by 50+ advisors from New Jersey who represent a broad range of perspectives from nonprofits, philanthropy, and beyond, we are approaching this work through the concurrent lenses of immediate, effective action and long-term systems change – the recognition that transformative change can only occur after power structures have been addressed collectively. Specifically, Doing Good Better encourages funders to consider the power dynamics that underpin their policies, practices, and resource flows. To do this, we provide resources and a space for dialogue centered on changes in key practices and culture shifts.

Quick practice changes funders can make now.

The road to systems change begins with changing practices that impede nonprofits’ pursuit of their missions, and implement practices that demonstrate respect for and trust in the expertise and experience of nonprofits and the communities they serve. Several key practices have consistently been shown to be particularly effective. Many of these have been requested by nonprofits for quite some time, and are reflected in the principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy and Community-Centric Fundraising, among others. Here are a few practice changes funders can make now:

Type of Funding

  • Give multiyear and unrestricted funding, especially for grantee partners with which you’ve had long term relationships.

Access to Funding

  • Create alternative processes for organizations too small to submit audits to reduce barriers to obtaining grants.
  • Set aside funding pools for BIPOC-led organizations that may not have access to traditional funding sources.

Simplifying the Process

  • Simplify and streamline application and reporting processes.
  • Eliminate annual requests for organizational information that does not change from year to year.

Learning

  • Engage with the community through participatory grantmaking that aligns with the community’s goals.
  • Open dialogues with nonprofits by soliciting and acting on feedback

How do we know?

We’ve asked the experts: nonprofits, foundations, and community members who are working directly in our community as well as peers from across the country who are eliminating power imbalances in their own communities.  

  • Feedback from over 50+ advisors
  • The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers survey
  • The New Jersey Center for Nonprofits survey
  • The Trust Based Philanthropy Project
  • The Community-Centric Fundraising movement
  • Thought leaders and advocates throughout the nonprofit community in New Jersey and nationwide
  • Case studies from across the US

Want more information? Have feedback or stories to share?

Your questions, insights, and suggestions are critical as this work continues to evolve. Contact Rosalía Velázquez at rosalia @ njnonprofits.org (remove spaces when emailing) with your input.

Our deep thanks to Nancy Burd, whose experience and expertise have been instrumental in moving this initiative forward.