A question for our disrupted times: Will well-meaning white people be able to change?

Posted on by David Grant
Photo courtesy of Martin LaBar via Creative Commons

Last year’s Dodge Board Leadership Series wrapped in the spring with a workshop titled “Turning Learning into Action,” with an emphasis on addressing systemic racism in all aspects of our society. Even at that time, we were wondering, “What sort of world will we be acting in?”

Since then, the question has only become more pertinent and the need for change more stark. George Floyd was killed nine days after our workshop, followed by months of demonstrations across the country. The pandemic has grinded on, with data of its impact making the inequities in our society strikingly clear. We have learned just this week that life expectancy for Black Americans has dropped at three times the rate for whites. As we watched power and water restored in Texas after the devastating storms, we saw it come last to communities of color.

Most dramatically, on Jan. 6, we watched an assault on our Capitol building led by fellow U.S. citizens, many if not most identifying as white supremacists.

So again: What will our society be like on the other side of the pandemic?  Many white people like myself who do not identify as white supremacists have intellectually understood that our “new normal” should begin with a dramatic difference in our racial worldviews – specifically that we should acknowledge a history of white supremacy in the United States, and that we should address and change systemic racism in all aspects of our society.

It feels as if there is momentum for real change. Books like Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist, have been bestsellers for months, and a new vocabulary is bringing clarity to issues long ignored. Every nonprofit I work with has organized, or is participating in, anti-racism training. We have a new president and a female, Black, South-Asian vice-president who have made racial fairness a central value of their administration. The political divisions in our country notwithstanding, we seem poised for change as a society. 

But change is more emotional than intellectual. I wonder how well we understand what it will mean emotionally for white people to give up power and privilege. What will it take for those of us in the position to USE our power and privilege to advance racial justice to actually do so?

In the spirit of DiAngelo’s exhortation for white people to talk to each other about questions like this, I’d like to offer a reality check and a heads-up for people who look like me.  I’d like to explore what gets in the way of change

I used to present a framework for the emotional dimensions of change in the Dodge Board Leadership workshops. It was drawn from the work of psychologist Robert Evans, who wrote about the challenges of change in schools. He says people experience change, no matter how sensible it is, in four ways: as loss, as a feeling of incompetence, as confusion, and as conflict. His framework helps explain why people resist change.

In my years of working with non-profit leaders, I always presented these four dimensions of change in a very general way, observing that when we are in the midst of change:

  • We feel a sense of loss, because the patterns of our lives become our identities, and when those patterns change, we actually mourn what has been lost.
  • We feel incompetent, because whatever the new way of doing things will be, we don’t know how to do it yet; we feel competent in the ways we are doing things now.
  • We experience confusion, because our organizational practices are all part of a complex whole. When we change something deliberately on Tuesday, something we hadn’t anticipated changes on Thursday; to combat uncertainty and confusion, we say, “couldn’t we just do things the way we’ve always done?”
  • We experience conflict, because workplaces are like families. Change can serve as an excuse to bring out long-held grievances; it seems as if we are arguing about some aspect of change, but what is really going on is that years ago one person got the parking place, or the office, or the assignment, that another one wanted.

All these emotional dimensions of change reinforce the status quo. When I read Evans’ work, I don’t see resistance to change as stubborn or uninformed or reactionary – I see it as healthy human behavior. It makes sense to avoid loss, incompetence, confusion, and conflict. This is why change is so hard.

But so what? We find ourselves beginning a new year at the confluence of an ongoing pandemic, economic uncertainty, deep political division, and an evolving understanding of the many ways our old “normal” wasn’t working for people of color. We need change. 

The Evans framework reminds us why it won’t be easy. Let’s look at the psychological dimensions of change through the lens of what will be required of us to create the fairer society we envision:

  • The sense of loss for white people will be profound: We will have to give up a core part of our identities – the notion that we have nothing to do with racism; if we are serious, we will have to give up – actually help dismantle – a system that advantages us.
  • And when it comes to feeling incompetent, just watch. We have had the luxury of not having to think about race every day as we get in our cars or go to our stores. Most of us have little experience talking about race in mixed-race groups; as DiAngelo writes, we have not had to “build our racial stamina.” She further writes, in the only line of the book that made me laugh out loud, “…when white people discuss issues that make them uncomfortable, they become almost incomprehensible.” 
  • Confusion reigns when we don’t know what to do, and changing systems is a complex task. Systems are multi-layered, and it’s never fully clear what is causing what. And at the core of anti-racism work is recognizing our own unconscious biases; by definition they are invisible to us.
  • And if healthy people avoid conflict, it will take an act of will, again and again, to wade into waters full of real and potential conflict: Interactions with people of color who are out of patience, interactions with white people who will claim that it is they who are being disadvantaged by our efforts, policy discussions in a civic sphere characterized by deep political divisions and lack of basic trust.

My takeaway is to be warned – and on guard. If we want to be agents of change, we have to be aware of the forces that can take us out of the game.  When these four emotional dimensions of change come along, as they surely will, it will be helpful to expect them, to name them, and move on. We have to remember that our goal is transformation within as well as in the world around us.

David Grant is the author of The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations. He is the former Dodge Foundation president, a facilitator in the Foundation’s Board Leadership technical assistance workshop series, and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. 

Posted in Board Leadership, equity, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to join us for #DPF2020 and reduce plastic while home

Posted on by Dodge

We are very excited to share information about the virtual Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, taking place Oct. 22 through Nov. 1! 

Our first-ever virtual Festival is free and features over 100 beloved and exciting emerging poets.

You can view a schedule of Festival events here, beginning with the 7 p.m. Opening Celebration tomorrow. These events include poetry readings and conversations on topics such as “Black Futures, Black Pasts,” “Poetry and Climate Justice,” “How to Read a Poem,” and “Poets for Teachers.”

All Festival attendees can access videos on-demand after they air or join us live for Q&A sessions with poets and events in our virtual Community Room, including Community Conversations, Drinks & Discussion, Open Mic, Gentle yoga sessions

Special programming designed for high school students will take place 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST on Oct. 26-30. High school teachers and students interested in attending those sessions will receive more details when they sign up for an Education Pass and mark that they are interested in High School Student Programming in the registration form. 

Here’s how to get your Pass:

1. Visit www.dodgepoetryfestival.org 

2. Click “View Passes” in the top right corner and choose the Pass that’s right for you

3. Submit the registration form

How to reduce plastic waste and COVID-19 from home

Small changes add up to make a big impact when it comes to environmental justice — even during a pandemic. 

Since 2010, Dodge has sought to live our value of sustainability, model leadership in how we run events, and be good neighbors through the Dodge Poetry Festival zero-waste initiative.

This year, we are once again proud to be partnering with Clean Water Action, through its Rethink Disposables program, to make it easy for Festival-goers to use less plastic and produce less trash during their at-home experience while reducing their exposure to COVID-19. 

You can watch The Environment Has No Walls, a behind-the-scenes video about the initiative from #DPF2018, here.

We invite you to put the tips above into action and learn more here

Posted in Events & Workshops, News & Announcements, Poetry | Leave a comment

Introducing our new Equity Framework

Posted on by Dodge

Here at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, we envision an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, and sustainable communities. Following the development of our strategic vision, we created new equity theories of change for our program areas. 

Informed by research, evidence, and best practices in the field, we also developed our new Equity Framework to deepen conversations and track progress within our grantee organizations. 

We are excited to host a 75-minute webinar where we offer grantee leaders, staff, and board members a first look at the Equity Framework, share how it advances our commitment to racial equity and anti-racism, and answer questions. 

Will you join us?

We invite you and your staff and board to register through the links below:

Noon to 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7 

After your registration is approved, you will receive a confirmation email from Zoom containing information about joining the meeting and a preview of the Equity Framework. 

Click here to forward this invitation to board and staff Click here to forward this invitation to board and staff

About the webinars

These webinars are designed for leaders, staff, and board members of grantee organizations. Please help us reach your colleagues by forwarding this invitation to colleagues at your organization.

Individuals need not register for both. In an effort to include as many people from our partner organizations as possible, we are offering two options to attend. Each webinar is open to the first 300 people that register on a first-come, first served basis. A recording of the session will be available on our website. 

We look forward to working with you for our shared vision of racial equity and anti-racism in New Jersey. Together we can learn, grow, and improve our practices for a more equitable state.


You may send registration questions or questions for the Q&A session prior to the webinar to: jkim@grdodge.org or listening@grdodge.org. 

Posted in equity, Events & Workshops, News & Announcements | Leave a comment

Join our Culturally Responsive Arts Education & Anti-Racism 25-Day Challenge

Posted on by Dodge

It’s not too late to join the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s new Culturally Responsive Arts Education and Anti-Racism 25-Day Challenge, which launches today.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has built a learning community to gain a shared understanding of what Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) and Culturally Responsive Arts Education (CRAE) look like in action. This work requires a mindset shift that can’t occur without first understanding the structural and historical inequities in our education system and how our own individual identity shows up in our work and lives. 

The Dodge Foundation’s Culturally Responsive Arts Education and Anti-Racism 25-day Challenge was designed to help us all “know better” so we can “do better.”

Through daily activities and an online learning community, the Challenge is designed to help you create dedicated time and space to build your social justice habits and look at issues of race, culture, identity, gender, power, and privilege, and their effects on schools, classrooms, and youth.

We hope you will share this challenge with your staff, board, and constituents as a shared inspirational activity as we head into the new school year.

How it works

After you sign up for the Challenge, you will receive a welcome email and then daily emails for each day after. If you sign up after the Challenge launch on Sept. 14, you can follow along at your own pace through the link to the whole challenge in the welcome email.

The daily Challenges include videos, articles, and reflections on topics including unconscious bias, structural racism, culturally relevant education, and the power of arts and identity.

You will also receive a link to a handy Reflections Log and an invitation to a NJ CRAE Facebook group to connect and learn from your Challenge companions.

Why we’re doing this

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has recently deepened its commitment to holding ourselves accountable to anti-racist values and actions. 

Our new Education goals are aimed at addressing how educators can advance equity in their schools, and specifically how arts-based, culturally responsive and relevant education can improve school culture and student learning. 

Use this link to sign up for the Challenge to join us today!


Contact Wendy Liscow, Dodge Education program director, or Richard Simon, Arts and Education senior program associate.

Posted in Anti-racism, Arts Education, equity, News & Announcements | Leave a comment

President’s Message: Imagine a new way

Posted on by Tanuja Dehne
Photo by Dan Hofmann

On the eve of my first anniversary as the first woman of color president and CEO of the Dodge Foundation, I reflect with solemnity on an unprecedented year while I imagine with hope the possibilities of a new future for the Dodge Foundation.   

While there is much more to deeply understand, the collective work and learning of the board and staff over the last four years has positioned the Dodge Foundation to take responsibility for becoming an anti-racist organization and reimagining the role of philanthropy in New Jersey. 

As the dual crises of racial injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed, the systems built to serve society are yielding dire outcomes and require urgent reformation. With crisis comes opportunity and we embrace this opportunity to imagine a new way of bringing all of our resources to bear – including our power, privilege, and voice – to make the greatest impact in service to our community. 

We know effecting change takes time and we know it takes resolve. The critical strategies developed by Dodge’s dedicated and experienced staff, fully supported and endorsed by our board and our board’s Leadership Transition Committee, continue. As we near the end of the first year of our three-year program theories of change, as we continue to share our Equity Framework with current and potential future grantees, and as we develop our next phase of COVID-19 response and recovery, we move forward on our equity journey. 

However, we are still an aspiring anti-racist organization. We have much more work ahead of us to better understand and embed racial justice and anti-racism in our mindset, goals, and systems. Today we share the next actionable step since our declaration of intent in June with the announcement of the search for two new senior leaders to join the Dodge staff on our transformation to becoming an anti-racist organization.

Vice president of programs will lead the Foundation’s grantmaking activities as we transform program priorities to focus on equity, anti-racism, and justice. The vice president will be well versed in issues of equity, justice, advocacy, organizing, and movement building with experience in creating new and different ways to power build and share decision-making, particularly as it relates to grantmaking and resource allocation. 

Vice president of people, culture, and equity will lead the implementation of the over-arching diversity, equity and inclusion vision of the Foundation and will ensure continuous learning within the organizational culture and practices, as well as engagement with community and external stakeholders.

Both leaders will have experience and familiarity working with organizations in transformation and will have demonstrated ability to lead major organizational change initiatives with tact, empathy, and alignment with the vision and values of the Dodge Foundation. 

Both positions will have an annual base starting salary of at least $160,000 and will be eligible for the suite of competitive benefits available to the Dodge staff. Assisted by the Diversified Search Group, the Dodge Foundation is committed to an open and transparent process. We invite anyone who wants to be part of our transformation and imagining a new way and role of philanthropy to apply for these new positions, including all Dodge staff no matter their current roles. To apply for either position, to offer suggestions or nominations, or further inquiries please send an email to DodgeVP@divsearch.com and see the links for vice president of programs and vice president of people, culture, and equity for the full position descriptions.

Transforming any organization, including the hearts and minds it comprises, is no easy task. We have put in the work and have become more resilient and self-aware as we approach the next phase of our journey with curiosity, humility, compassion, and determination. 

I am grateful for the support, expertise, and leadership of the Dodge staff and board over this past year.  I am also grateful for the encouragement and advice from our community, partners, grantees, advisors, and many new friends I have made while we have been sequestered at home. Thank you for your support as we embark on the next phase of our journey.

Tanuja Dehne is president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Posted in News & Announcements, President's Message | Leave a comment

How to help get out the word to assist in your local Census count

Posted on by Dodge

The 2020 Census is almost over, but almost 1 in 5 New Jersey households are not yet counted. If they are not counted, our communities, especially communities of color, risk missing out on the federal and state funding and the political representation they deserve. 

Even a small undercount will leave our entire state without the fair funding and political representation they deserve. At stake for New Jersey: more than $45 billion a year in federal funding and 12 Congressional seats.

Census takers are knocking on doors right now, but many of the communities you serve may be unwilling or reluctant to open the door to a federal employee, especially during a pandemic. 

You, as a trusted messenger and member of the Dodge grantee community, can encourage turnout in a way that “official” sources might not.

Please consider these easy action steps to help assist in your local Census count.

1.      Send the below email to your network, encouraging them to be counted. (You’re welcome to adapt the wording to make it your own.)

2.      Call or text your service population asking if they have been counted. A simple message of “Just checking to see if you completed your 2020 Census yet” can make a difference coming from a trusted source.

3.      Host a Mobile Questionnaire Assistance site. The Census Bureau will send its representatives to a physical site to help people complete the Census. Examples of events have included a parked ice cream or food truck, community meetings at apartment complexes, food distribution sites, or outdoor house of worship gatherings. Email New.York.rcc.partnership@2020census.gov if you would like to host a questionnaire assistance site.

Thank you so much for all you are doing for our communities!


SUBJECT: Have you done your Census yet?

You STILL have time to respond to the 2020 Census. This takes less than 10 minutes and can make sure all of us are seen, heard and counted.

Over $1.5 trillion in federal funding is divided up based on who is counted in the Census.

You can complete the Census in three ways:

·         Online at my2020census.gov

·         By phone in English by dialing 844-330-2020 or in Spanish by dialing 844-468-2020

·         By mail (you should have received a paper questionnaire in the mail). Make sure the envelope is postmarked by September 30

Remember, that the sooner you complete the Census, the less likely it is that a Census taker will visit your home.

If you have already completed the Census, call or text five friends or family members to remind them to complete the Census as well. Every census counts!

If you have questions about the Census, you can call the NALEO National Bilingual Hotline at 877-EL-CENSO.

Thank you so much.

Posted in Advocacy, Community Building | Leave a comment

Margaret Waldock named Duke Farms’ new leader

Posted on by Dodge

Margaret Waldock, Dodge’s Environment program director, will leave the Foundation on Sept. 4 to lead and evolve the stewardship and sustainability practices at the nationally recognized Duke Farms

Margaret will become the executive director of the Hillsborough-based center, a 2,740-acre native landscape for public exploration, outdoor activities, education, and research for ecological sustainability. 

“Margaret has not only led our environment program at Dodge for nearly a decade, she has connected Dodge’s work in sustainable water infrastructure to national philanthropic partnerships and co-led the Foundation’s disaster response after Hurricane Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tanuja Dehne, Dodge’s president and CEO. “We are sad to see her go and thrilled that she has found the perfect opportunity to build from her experience in conservation and bring a focus on equity and inclusion to the programming and experience at Duke Farms.” 

Since joining Dodge in 2011, Margaret has overseen the distribution of more than $20 million in grants to environmental organizations in New Jersey, most of which provided general operating support to organizations focused on land and water resource protection and stewardship, improving environmental public policy, and supporting community-driven sustainability. 

Working with Naeema Campbell, Dodge’s Environment and Informed Communities program associate, Margaret developed a racial equity-focused strategy to increase funding to grassroots organizations working with and reflective of communities of color and low-income White communities and collaborative, cross-sector campaigns and partnerships led by environmental justice leaders, particularly leaders of color. 

“I could not be more grateful to and proud of the Dodge Foundation for its legacy of supporting healthy, sustainable communities and its shift to racial equity,” Waldock said. “Duke Farms is an extraordinary opportunity to engage the public and the professional environmental community in developing and implementing solutions for a sustainable, inclusive, and resilient future.” 

Before Dodge, Waldock was the executive director at Hunterdon Land Trust and also worked at the Trust for Public Land, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the American Farmland Trust. She has served on the steering committee for Jersey Water Works and on affinity groups for the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities’ Urban Water Funders and Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ Environmental Grantmakers group. She is also on the board of the 1772 Foundation. 

“Margaret is an exceptional leader who has helped make Dodge a philanthropic leader supporting the power of community to drive solutions,” said Preston Pinkett III, Dodge’s board chair. “We look forward to intersecting and building our partnership with Margaret through her work at Duke Farms.” 

Naeema will support Dodge’s environmental grantees in the fall. Naeema can be reached at ncampbell@grdodge.org.

Posted in Environment, News & Announcements | Leave a comment

Dodge Q&A: Ysabel Y. Gonzalez on creating, dismantling the why during times of crisis

Posted on by Dodge
On Martin Luther King Boulevard between the Essex County Historic Courthouse and the Veterans’ Courthouse in Newark, the words “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY” were installed and painted in bright yellow traffic paint from curb to curb. On Halsey Street, east of the Rutgers campus the words “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER,” in the same font as the MLK street mural, taking up a City block. Learn more here. Photo credit: Photo Credit: Isaac Jiménez 

The Dodge Q&A series is designed to share what Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff are learning and thinking about as they engage with social sector leaders from throughout the state. They’ll also reveal a few things about themselves you might not have known.  

Ysabel Y. Gonzalez is assistant director of the Dodge Poetry Program.

Today we talk to Ysabel Y. Gonzalez, Dodge Poetry Program assistant director, about what’s keeping her moving forward in a time of multiple crises, how she is prioritizing racial justice, the virtual Dodge Poetry Festival, her hidden talent, and more. 

Before we jump into the conversation, how are you navigating the multiple crises we’re experiencing, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and community uprisings demanding justice? 

It’s been a really difficult period for us all. This spring and summer have been particularly difficult for me since I lost my uncle to COVID. But I have been grateful for my community, and family, gathering together around the pandemic as well as standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. A group of poets and I are working on a project entitled, Broadsides for Breonna, where we will be offering broadsides by local and national poets for large donations that support organizations doing work with the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly in support of Black women. I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve been able to create new work during this time that is in conversation with this period of our lives — including poetry and an essay.  So, I’ve been busy, however, I do think it’s important that we acknowledge that if we’ve been unable to create during the last few months, that’s okay, too. I know some folks are simply trying to survive right now, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.   

What is important to keep in mind right now? 

In terms of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s important to remember that this is more than just centering a conversation around a historically marginalized and impeded group of Black and Brown lives, it is also about stepping aside and supporting those lives by serving as co-conspirator. We keep hearing the word ally, but it’s much more complex than simply standing by Black and Brown people’s sides. It’s taking the heat, it’s doing the work, and it’s giving up power. These are all incredibly difficult things to do, so if it doesn’t feel hard, then you may not be putting in the kind of work to grow, develop, and challenge the impediments that exist preventing Black and Brown lives from thriving.   

What is something you are proud you helped achieve? 

I’m so excited to have helped the Dodge Poetry Festival go virtual this year. It was a difficult decision for us because we cherish the DPF in-person experience and have some fantastic poets lined up for this year’s Festival. We are working hard to think about ways we can re-create what makes the Festival feel unique, such as the connections that occur off the stage, along with the incredible conversations that occur in sessions amongst a diverse set of poets. And I’m very excited about making the Festival accessible to more people. This is really important to me.  I’m excited to see folks who may not have been able to join us due to lack of resources or location, now be able to find us online. We are offering live sessions at no cost to our public, so I hope that’s encouraging to people who have had the price of a ticket held as a hurdle. I’m also excited about being able to provide accessible programming to individuals who live in other wards of Newark and other parts of the state of New Jersey — heck, I’m excited about us providing poetry to other parts of the world! It’s an opportunity for Dodge Poetry to provide engaging, interesting poetry and touch someone who maybe has thought, for years, that poetry wasn’t for them. Or provide a reading and conversation amongst poets who people typically wouldn’t see in conversation with each other. It’s an exciting time to host a Festival because there are so many possibilities. I think if audience members remain hopeful and positive, they will get something new out of this year’s virtual Festival. I’m excited for our audience to engage with a very special experience we’re putting together.  

Dodge Poetry Festival will be all-online this year.

What is an example of how you have prioritized racial equity and inclusion in your work? What was the most challenging part of that work?  

I’m constantly challenging myself and my colleagues on how we can place equity at the forefront of all the things that we do at Dodge. Sometimes, the reason it’s so difficult is because we’re used to doing things the way we’ve always done them. I applaud my colleagues who, since we’ve begun the DEI journey at Dodge, have questioned processes that have been in place for years. It’s quite difficult to push the question around why we do things. It’s difficult because sometimes dismantling the why is rooted in things much deeper and far more grounded in a larger more complex system.  

As far as my own work, I believe that transparency and accessibility are two really important values for me at Dodge. I have been working with our Poetry team here in thinking about ways that we can be more transparent with our different constituents so that there is more understanding around Dodge Poetry’s values and decision-making, particularly around the work we do with poets in the schools. I also continue to think about ways the Festival itself can be made more accessible to those that wouldn’t typically be engaged or involved — either as performers/readers or as attendees.  There are lots of challenging parts of equity work, but getting it wrong, and being okay with getting it wrong and learning from that, is challenging, especially when perfectionism is embedded in our everyday culture.   

What would people be surprised to know about you?   

Between the ages of 8-18, I was a virtuoso accordion player! I’ve won many, many trophies in my accordion-playing days and loved to play everything from polkas to pop music. I competed in bands, in combos, in a duet and, of course, as a solo instrumentalist. The accordion remains a very important instrument to me, although I haven’t played in years. I learned after I picked it up that my grandfather used to play. I’m determined to pick up the accordion again one day and play for enjoyment! 

What do you love most about New Jersey? 

I love New Jersey’s expansive landscape. It’s such a large state and you can find pine barrens, lakes and oceans, and city life, moving from one county to the next. I grew up in the city of Newark, riding mass transit to Jersey City and NYC easily. I also have lived closer to the shore in Old Bridge, then the bustling little city of Somerville; and now, finally I reside in Warren County. I never would have expected to own a home so far from city life. There is just so much land here and I’m privileged to have a large backyard filled with a peach tree and fig trees and lots of flowers that the deer love to eat! Living in New Jersey, you can have many different experiences with the state’s geography. This great state’s land produces such fresh produce — lots of homegrown fruits and veggies available at the tips of our fingertips. 

Do you have a question for Dodge staff? Leave it in the comments or send us an email at listening@grdodge.org.

Posted in COVID-19 pandemic, Dodge Q&A, equity, Poetry | Leave a comment

Dodge TA: Building the board you need to grow in tumultuous times

Posted on by Laura Otten
Boards that put in minimal effort or that were working on the wrong things, like doing management’s job, before the lockdown orders are likely to be the ones who have remained so or have become even more so. Photo by Roy Bisschops Creative Commons

Pennsylvania went into “lockdown” first. Within a week, New Jersey, and New York had followed suit. 

My conversations with board members and executive directors started on March 13, the day Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf announced that the Commonwealth would go on lockdown. 

The conversations kept coming, and have yet to stop. Very quickly, it became apparent that there were two dominant modes of operation for nonprofit boards: stepping up and leaning in or they went (or remained, as they had been) AWOL. 

As recently as last week, I have had more executive directors than I care to count tell me they haven’t heard from a board member, let alone the board president, since this whole thing started. 

What can we learn from the differences between these two responses? 

To start with the obvious, boards that were at the less engaged or disengaged end of the continuum — doing perfunctory things with minimal effort or feeling as though they were working hard but were working on the wrong things such as doing management’s job — before lockdown orders are likely to be the ones who have remained so or to have become even more so. 

The boards in the middle of the engaged spectrum were likely to have remained engaged and/or stepped up their games. 

Thus, it came as no surprise that many of the boards that were working on themselves and that had a higher degree of self-awareness are among those that have stepped up. 

Successful engagement isn’t a switch that can be readily flipped. 

There are lessons to be learned from this experience and others that have transpired over the last several months that can inform the next phase of adjusting to life in a time when a pandemic is a reality. This list of lessons is by no means exhaustive.

  1. Virtual board meetings work.  

Virtual board meetings where everyone has a camera and the camera is turned on so everyone can see one another live work even better.

While I’ve not seen data to support my hypothesis, it goes like this: virtual board meetings are convenient. In pre-COVID-19 days, a 90-minute board meeting easily became at least a two-and-a-half hour chunk of a day between driving to and from, parking, traffic, and parking lot conversations. That’s a big difference. 

Someone with limited resources, such as lack of childcare or transportation, can more easily attend a virtual meeting. Replicate this time commitment for committee meetings, and you can see why some board members might be doing a better job of engaging. 

As an aside, the dynamic of a meeting where 100 percent of participants are attending virtually is very different than a meeting where some are face-to-face and others are attending virtually. Do not equate the two. 

Whenever we move back to being able to have face-to-face gatherings, consider a meeting schedule that is a mixture of face-to-face and all virtual.

  • Board leadership really and truly matters. 

This is no news flash, but leaders make a difference. As Jim Collins put into our lexicon: the right people in the right seats is part of the equation for exceptional organizations. 

The board president who understood their true role and responsibilities and fulfilled them before COVID-19 continues to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. The failure of board presidents to step up and rally others to step up underscores the lack of care and attention that too many boards bring to the selection of their leaders. 

Choosing a board chair/president should never be about “who” but always about “what.” What are the skills, talents, and attributes that are needed in this position now — in the times in which that person is being elected and for the period of time they will serve? 

While there are some constants — like being a good listener, a facilitator, a strong communicator, well-respected, having the time, and being willing to commit the time — there are some things that will vary depending upon where the organization is in its current lifecycle and its current strategic priorities. For example, if an organization is engaged in activities that demand garnering wide-spread support — such as a major fundraising campaign, building/renovating new space, branching into a new community — the board president should be a strong public speaker, and comfortable glad-handing.

If the focus is on internal concerns — such as strengthening the organization’s business model or handling an executive transition — the board president should be both detail- and process- oriented, while also have the ability to move things to conclusion, rather than kicking the can down the road. 

Going forward, don’t just select a person to be board president — identify those assets that are needed to be a superb board president and elect those assets. And, if those assets can’t be found all in one person, elect co-presidents.

  • Board comfort with fiduciary, strategic, and generative governance is essential for successful boards

It is not enough that board members are present at board meetings. Presence ensures neither engagement nor that the right work is taking place. 

It is imperative that boards are doing their work and working in all three modes, moving seamlessly from one to the other as the work demands. 

Many boards operate only in the fiduciary mode, a mode of governance that, essentially, ensures compliance, that boxes are checked: we have the necessary policies, we are reviewing the performance of the executive director; we are approving the budget and looking at financials throughout the year, and so on. When done right, fiduciary mode ensures the status quo, nothing more. 

Strategic governance, a mode too few boards employ, allows for the path forward. The strategic thinking boards may engage in during strategic planning is not strategic governance. Strategic governance is needed throughout the year, and moves the thinking from the simple question of “do we have x?” (fiduciary) to “is X the best way to do Y?” 

Generative governance takes things a step further and opens the door for innovation, moving from “is X the best way to do Y?” to “is Y really the right end goal?”  If ever there were a time for generative governance, it is now.

Unfortunately, a board does not move from operating in one mode to operating in all three overnight. There must be intentional recruitment of board members capable of working in at least two of these three modes and leadership that facilitates board and committee meetings that facilitate the use of the modes that are most needed for each situation. Boards must create a culture that understands and values the contributions and strengths of each mode. This is what makes the difference between being present and being engaged and leaning in. 

As you move to bring on new board members, be mindful of their ability and interest in working in these three modes.

  • Boards must have a culture of philanthropy

There is board member giving and there is a board culture of philanthropy — successful organizations have the latter. 

Philanthropy is a philosophy of life and not a measure of one’s wealth.  Philanthropy — giving/caring that incurs some degree of sacrifice on the part of the giver — is an understanding, a way of life, a core value for many. 

Philanthropists join boards with the desire to share with that organization their time, talents, and treasure, and are surprised when that isn’t the expectation of them and everyone else. 

As with any value, it cannot be legislated, so we must look for it in board candidates. Finding it can be as simple as asking questions that explore their understanding of what philanthropy is, their family experience with philanthropy, their approach to philanthropy. As with anything, what is not said is as informative as what is said.

  • It is imperative that board members deeply understand the work of the organization

Board members can’t help, no matter how much they are trying to lean in, if they don’t truly understand the work of the organization and understand how the mission promises are translated into action. This understanding requires more than reading about it or being told about it. It requires witnessing it. 

Like many of the items above, witnessing it doesn’t happen overnight, but rather over time. It begins with board candidates witnessing the mission in action, some or all, depending upon the nature of an organization. 

It continues with regular witnessing of the mission. Think “Take a Board Member to Work” day, or even half day, along with opportunities to interact with clients — that’s intentionally plural.

But no matter how engaged they are, how well they can jump from generative to fiduciary to strategic, how good board leadership is, and how philanthropic they are, all efforts will easily go astray if they are not grounded in a deep understanding of the work and culture of the organization.

  • A board must lead the organization as it works on DEI

As the top of the organizational chart, a board must model the behavior it expects of the rest of the organization and live the values of the organization. Nowhere is this more important than with diversity, equity, and inclusion. This was exceedingly important before the killing of George Floyd, and now it is an absolute imperative. 

It has always been a best practice that a board be reflective of the constituency it serves, a constituency that is rarely monolithic.  

Becoming an inclusive organization is not as simple as recruiting people who are “different,” it requires active work to make sure that the organization, and in this case, the board culture, is truly open to and ready to embrace different ideas, philosophies, ways of thinking, and doing things.

This requires that the board take a hard look in the mirror and consider how well it handles new ideas, change, and difference of opinions and perspective. Boards are best served by a civil clash of ideas than acquiescing to follow the leader or the loudest voice. 

In addition, the culture must be free of structural impediments that prevent others from joining. For example, would the giving expectation preclude some people from joining the board? Would the expectation a person know and be in close relationships with wealthy people preclude people from joining the board? Would meeting times make it difficult for a someone employed or a single parent or a parent of young children to attend meetings? Would getting to the meeting location be a challenge for someone dependent upon public transportation? 

Once a board is sure its culture will be inclusive, it must then make sure its recruitment process is inclusive. Instead of looking in current board members’ phones for potential new board members, the board must look in new places, and use new ways, such as tabling at events in the community the organization serves or reaching out to the communities’ civic and faith leaders, or advertising in media outlets that reach different populations.  The options are quite plentiful once the importance of doing things differently is recognized. 

With the possibility of the first item on this list, none of this is a new “ah, ha!”

It may feel new to some because the pandemic and protests brought them out of the shadows. Now that they are called out and named and the pandemic and protests have made visible a clear path forward, it is time to get to work so that your organization can benefit from the best board possible, in good times as well as bad.

Laura Otten, a Dodge Technical Assistance faculty member, is executive director at The Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University.

Posted in Board Leadership, COVID-19 pandemic, equity, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

President’s Message: Imagine a new future

Posted on by Tanuja Dehne
Stories of the Pandemic is a collaboration between the Newark Board of Education and Newest Americans, a storytelling project about migration and identity based out of Rutgers University-Newark, created in partnership with Talking Eyes Media. Photo Courtesy Rutgers Center for Migration and the Global City.

As our worlds keep changing, as we grieve what once was, and as uncomfortable truths are revealed and continue to be experienced, there is hope because our shared humanity is being activated.   

The pandemic has laid bare racial health disparities in our systems and policies, leaving behind those without access to funding and aid as a result of geography, race, status, or their intentionally designed invisibility in our institutions. As the protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis began to mount, calling for justice for Black lives, many organizations, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, made statements condemning racism and white supremacy. For us, it was time for Dodge to take a public, unified, and explicit stand to commit to becoming an anti-racist organization. We are embracing this opportunity to imagine a new future as we live up to this commitment.    

The pandemic has exacerbated longstanding structural inequities in the systems that we all rely on for basic human needs, including food, shelter, healthcare, and education. With curiosity and humility, and in collaboration with community leaders, we seek to understand the intersections of these systemic challenges that perpetuate structural social, racial, and economic injustices. In so doing, we are also determining what role we should play, and how we can share our resources and power to make the greatest impact toward an equitable recovery. 

The pandemic has required us to communicate, engage, and work in new ways — an unexpected bright spot. The inability to be together in person has allowed us to make time to meet and get to know new partners, strengthen relationships, and to think beyond boundaries of past practices and norms. The desire for basic human connection and the permission to check in and ask how people are doing has, in many ways, accelerated relationship building. Our Zoom check-ins with our nonprofit partners and philanthropic peers, affinity group meetings, and webinars have also had a direct impact on how we are responding to the pandemic. 

Over the past two weeks, we announced $3.5 million in new grants, including more than $500,000 in our second round of COVID-19 relief and recovery grants. We also shared that the Dodge Poetry Festival is going virtual for the first time ever.   

Below are some highlights of our COVID-19 response grants and upcoming programming as we continue to center our work on equity. 

We are focusing immediate cash resources supporting immigrants and undocumented people as well as Black and Latinx people in Newark and beyond burdened by the greatest risk and giving voice and power through storytelling:

We made a $200,000 grant to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund to provide cash assistance for undocumented and immigrant individuals and families in New Jersey. While immigrants are big drivers of New Jersey’s economy and many are essential workers, a disproportionate number of immigrant families have not received any federal stimulus support during the COVID-19 crisis and find themselves at higher risk for income, housing, and food insecurity.  Given Dodge’s mission to serve people and communities of color, it was imperative that we provide support during this perilous time. It is also an opportunity for Dodge to learn and collaborate with trusted community leaders and organizations that advocate for immigrant and undocumented rights.   

A $25,000 grant supports the Center for Migration and the Global City at Rutgers-Newark. The Center’s projects provide tools, training, media, production, and platforms for Newark residents and community organizations to share their own stories, conduct their own community-based projects, and to share Newark’s history through digital media projects. In April, the Center launched Stories from the Pandemic, chronicling the nuanced lives of young people in Newark and beyond under quarantine; how our families, friends, and neighborhoods are being impacted by the pandemic; and how our stories can connect us across the globe. The project is a collaboration between Newest Americans, the Center’s storytelling project about migration and identity, and Newark Board of Education created in partnership with Talking Eyes Media. Based in Newark, a city shaped by migration and home to the most diverse university in the nation, the Center’s projects afford a glimpse into the worlds of the newest Americans and a vision of our demographic future.  

We are investing in two collaborative funds serving the arts and local news and information ecosystems:

A $200,000 grant to the newly formed New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund at the Princeton Area Community Foundation supports cash assistance to New Jersey artists and arts organizations for short-term recovery and long-term sustainability. The mission of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund is to ensure the survival and strength of the state’s arts and culture sector during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fund was developed collaboratively by a coalition of arts funders across the state, including the Dodge Foundation, Grunin Foundation, Prudential Foundation, and New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The Fund recognizes that the more than 30,000 arts and culture workers and hundreds of arts organizations in New Jersey, who together generate more than $600 million in annual revenue to the state’s economy, are experiencing catastrophic financial losses as a result of the pandemic, yet are still using their entrepreneurial and innovation skills to play a critical role in the economic recovery in the state.   

A $50,000 grant to the New Jersey Local News Lab Fund at the Community Foundation of New Jersey provides strategic support for journalists of color and people of color media organizations in response to the pandemic. The New Jersey Local News Lab Fund is a collaborative fund that supports people and organizations working to build a more connected, collaborative, and sustainable local news and information ecosystem in New Jersey. The Fund is locally led and is managed by an advisory group made up of local stakeholders, the Dodge Foundation, and Democracy Fund. It is housed at the Community Foundation of New Jersey. In its third year, the New Jersey Local News Lab Fund is focusing its resources to support people of color media organizations and nonprofit organizations whose work tells untold stories and shapes new narratives through a racial lens to bring voice and visibility to communities of color. 

We are also proud to support Sustainable Jersey and Foundation for Education Administration to address the growing mental health crisis and technology gaps in our schools and communities.   

A grant of $50,000 to Sustainable Jersey supports its new Digital Schools Program, a partnership with the New Jersey Department of Education and New Jersey School Boards Association, to provide best practices, technical support, and a certification framework for schools to address the digital divide. 

A $25,000 grant to Foundation for Education Administration supports the Trauma Informed ACES Collaborative for Schools initiative in partnership with the Burke Foundation and the Turrell Fund.   

We also continue to advance our equity work in other Dodge program areas, including Poetry and Technical Assistance programs.

As previously announced, the 2020 Dodge Poetry Festival will be virtual. The Dodge Poetry Festival has always celebrated the great diversity of voices that make up contemporary poetry. A virtual festival allows us to reimagine the Dodge Poetry Festival, expand the Festival community and provide greater access to contemporary poetry and poets to audiences across the globe. We will continue to support diverse poets by also providing relief for COVID-19’s impact on nonprofit organizations that support poets of color, the LGBTQ community, and poets with disabilities. 

Dodge Technical Assistance is designing a “Putting Racial Equity at the Center” capacity building series that will begin with a summer/fall communal reading and three-part discussion of Ibram X. Kendi’s book Stamped from the Beginning. This reading circle will be followed by a sequential five-month anti-racism and anti-oppression learning, adaptation, and applied practice training. Organizational teams will be invited to participate in a learning community focused on understanding structural racism, building empathy through facilitated discourse, and developing action plans for an organizational shift.  

In addition, Dodge created an Equity Framework as a tool to help deepen and facilitate conversations with grantees on how well their work is achieving overall equity and how well that work furthers the equity goals of the Foundation. Over the next few months, the Dodge staff will host a series of webinars to share the Equity Framework with various key stakeholders, including grantees and funding partners.   

While we have made progress on our equity journey, we know we will not be able to undo racism and deeply entrenched systemic and structural impediments in our state and country by ourselves.   

We will continue to listen, learn, engage, and act with partners and communities and to imagine a new way of leveraging and sharing our resources and power. We also know that by leaning into and living our core values, we will be able to imagine a new future and help build an equitable New Jersey.    

Will you join us?

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.

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Dodge Board welcomes new trustee

Posted on by Dodge

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Eleanor Horne to the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s Board of Trustees to a four-year term. 

Eleanor Horne is former vice president at Educational Testing Service’s Social Investment Fund.

“I am delighted to join the Dodge Board of Trustees because of its focus on New Jersey, its long-standing commitment to creative, sustainable, and engaged communities, and its focus on equity and inclusion,” Eleanor said. 

Eleanor, of Lawrenceville, serves on several boards, including the Princeton Area Community Foundation, The College of New Jersey, D&R Greenway, and the Lawrence Hopewell Trail. She retired from a 41-year career at Educational Testing Service in 2010, when she was vice president of the company’s Social Investment Fund, which provides financial support to charitable activities in communities in which ETS has offices. 

 “Eleanor is a well-respected and much-admired community volunteer and leader with extensive governance expertise and demonstrated commitment to New Jersey,” said Preston Pinkett III, board chair.   

Eleanor has been lauded by the National Urban League, who presented her with its highest honor, the Donald H. McGannon Award, and she received Princeton YWCA’s Tribute to Women in Industry Achievement Award, among others. She graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and has completed course work for a doctorate in educational anthropology at Rutgers University. 

“We are thrilled that Eleanor has joined the Board at this important time in Dodge’s history,” said Tanuja Dehne, Dodge president and CEO. “Each trustee brings new voices, perspectives, and a shared commitment to an equitable New Jersey.”  

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Going virtual with #DPF20

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

Every other year since 1986, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival has often gone off with hardly a discernible hitch. But life, of course, has its twists and turns, and the Festival has prevailed through some really unexpected ones.

Who could forget the Festival in 2004, when a deluge of rain turned the grounds at Duke Farms into a muddy poetry wonderland?

High School Students at the 2004 Dodge Poetry Festival held at Duke Farms.

And you might recall that during our last Festival in 2018, an underground transformer fire in downtown Newark caused the entire Festival footprint to lose power on Saturday evening. We cancelled our programming that night, but resumed first thing Sunday morning!

Now, in the 2020 Festival year, we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic that makes large gatherings like our Festival potentially dangerous for the people we care about so much: our audiences, Festival Poets, Dodge personnel, New Jersey Performing Arts Center staff, and Newark residents who support us as volunteers and site crew.

Some 2018 Festival Poets at dinner. Photo by Alex Towle Photography.

So, how are we adapting to this unexpected turn of events?

This year, we’re going virtual.

A fully-online 2020 Dodge Poetry Festival will stream into homes around the globe this fall. We’ll share readings and conversations, panel talks, performances, and opportunities for you to interact with Festival Poets and other attendees.

The Festival Poets and Academy of American Poets’ Chancellors, announced last fall, will still be joining us, and we’ll be announcing additional poets and performers over the next few months. 

Dodge Poetry Festival 2018 681 Dodge Poetry Festival Newark, New Jersey 10/18-21, 2018 Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.net

In the name of access and equity, live streaming of the 2020 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival will be offered online at no charge. Performances on-demand will be available to the general public for a nominal subscription fee. Schools and teachers that register in advance will have free full access. We will continue to support diverse poets by also providing relief for COVID-19’s impact on nonprofit organizations that support poets of color, the LGBTQ community, and poets with disabilities.

Representatives from the NJPAC Box Office will be reaching out to current ticket holders in the next few days to issue them a full refund.

NJPAC Box Office staff and volunteers assisting attendees at the 2018 Festival. Photo by Alex Towle Photography.

Over the years, each time a big curveball has come our way, we’ve watched as Festival Poets and attendees, venue partners, and volunteers have responded with graciousness, good humor, and dedication to making something beautiful out of the change in plans. Without a doubt, the poetry community is remarkably resilient and kind.   

We’re sad that we won’t all be together in-person this year, and disappointed that our 10-year anniversary of hosting the Festival in Newark won’t take place physically in Newark.

But we’re also excited to expand the Dodge Poetry Festival community and provide greater access to contemporary poetry and poets. As we design the virtual Festival, we will keep at its core everything that makes the Dodge Poetry Festival so special: poetry, community, connection, and heart.

Thanks for making the Festival so special for over 30 years. We can’t wait to see you online this fall.

To stay up to date, please join our mailing list and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Posted in Poetry, Tidbits | Tagged | 2 Comments

Dodge celebrates Elizabeth Duffy as a visionary and pragmatic trustee who stands for good governance

Posted on by Dodge

Dodge’s board and staff recently celebrated Elizabeth Duffy’s 16 years as a Foundation trustee at its virtual June meeting.

The meeting marked the transition for Liz from trustee to trustee emerita, a four-year term at Dodge in which trustees continue to be engaged in the work of the Foundation.

Liz Duffy is president of International Schools Services.

Liz joined the Board in 2004 and led it in refreshing its governance structures and policies, most notably establishing term limits, and developing a robust board recruitment strategy.

 “I am retiring from the board because I feel strongly that we need to model good governance,” said Liz, president of International Schools Services, an international nonprofit specializing in starting schools, teacher recruitment, leadership searches, and school supply. “I’m sorry that I’ve reached my term limit because Dodge is on an exciting path forward with a real commitment to creating an equitable New Jersey. It has been a privilege to serve on Dodge’s Board over the past 16 years and to see the impact it’s had by supporting nonprofits throughout the state and helping to build coalitions and programs committed to arts education, sustainability, creativity and the arts, local media, and poetry.”

A lifelong learner with deep experience in education, Liz for many years chaired Dodge’s Education Committee, focusing the Foundation’s attention and funding on arts education. She recently served on the Board’s strategic planning and equity committees.

“Throughout her tenure, we have benefited from Liz’s insightful, intuitive questions and her ability to bring a breadth of perspective — both global and local—to the conversation, which helped the team find solutions in a complex and changing environment,” said Preston Pinkett III, board chair. “Liz consistently brought a clear sense of how Dodge could leverage its relationships, networks, and financial assets to make life better for the people of New Jersey, challenging us — respectfully and with good humor — to be better philanthropists.”

Wendy Liscow, education and technical assistance program director, credited Liz with being both a visionary and tactical thinker.

“Liz fulfilled many of the attributes of great board members, such as her commitment to Dodge’s mission and areas of giving, her skill sets including her background in philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and education; her willingness to allocate her time and talent to the organization, even while running a school or schools across the globe,” Liscow said. “She is a leader and a follower, enjoys learning new things, she is also a great listener and strong mediator of group discussions, which made her a strong consensus builder.”

Tanuja Dehne, Dodge president and CEO, thanked Liz for her sharing her leadership, integrity, humor, and curiosity which helped pave the way for Dodge to continue its equity journey and commitment to becoming actively anti-racist.   

“This is a bittersweet moment for us,” Tanuja said. “We are grateful for Liz’s integrity and leadership that helped pave the way for the next phase of Dodge’s equity journey.”

Tanuja Dehne, Dodge president and CEO, thanked Liz for her friendship, humor and curiosity which allowed us to navigate through challenging and courageous conversations.    

“This is a bittersweet moment for us,” Tanuja said. “We are grateful for Liz’s integrity and leadership that helped pave the way for the next phase of Dodge’s equity journey and becoming actively anti-racist.” 

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Dodge Q&A: Sharnita Johnson on New Jersey’s arts community through the pandemic

Posted on by Dodge
Art from the DearFrontline.com project on the side of a building.
Photo Courtesy of DearFrontline.org

The Dodge Q&A series is designed to share what Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation staff are learning and thinking about as they engage with social sector leaders from throughout the state. They’ll also reveal a few things about themselves you might not have known. 

Today we talk to Sharnita Johnson, Arts program director, about the impact of the pandemic on the arts in New Jersey.

Sharnita Johnson is arts program director.

Before we jump into the conversation, how are you navigating the multiple crises we’re experiencing, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and community uprisings demanding justice?

It depends on the day and time. I think we are all experiencing a broad spectrum of emotions these days. As a Black woman, I vacillate between feelings of deep sadness, anger, and sometimes helplessness as I watch my community ravished by COVID19, systemic racism, and oppression. But then I remember I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, and I get up to do what I can to contribute to the change. 

What is your perspective on how the coronavirus is affecting the arts in New Jersey?  

The magnitude of financial loss experienced by individual artists and arts organizations continue to grow and are becoming economically unsustainable. The financial devastation is likely to cause irreversible damage to many artists and arts organizations.  

A March 2020 survey of New Jersey artists and arts organizations by the New Jersey Council on the Arts (NJSCA) to assess the need for funding support over a 30, 60, 90-day period, revealed individual artists estimated losses of between $2 to $5 million if shutdown lasted 90 days. And arts organizations estimate losses between $12 to $25 million in 90 days. Organizations’ earned income capacity has been devastated with upwards of 50-90 percent of their revenue-generating programming decimated. The pandemic has more than underscored the vulnerabilities of the sector and society. Some organizations will close as a result of the pandemic, and what goes away will not come back. 

How are arts organizations you are speaking with through your virtual travels, meetings, conversations adapting? 

Despite the challenges, New Jersey arts and culture organizations remain resilient and innovative. Our grantees are moving content online, communicating with constituents and donors differently, getting noticed by people they have never reached before, using technology in new ways and providing education programs for youth and adults. 

Many organizations are prioritizing people over institutions by delaying layoffs, paying out contracts, and in some cases, management at the highest-level are taking pay cuts. 

What’s important to keep in mind right now? 

We need to inspire people’s generosity and community spirit. Even during the devastation of the pandemic, the thousands of lives lost, the majority of whom are Black and Brown people, our creative community serves as the documentarians, witnesses, storytellers, and futurists.  

We know people are consuming the arts at an increased rate during stay-at-home orders. If you have binge-watched anything, danced in your living room at one of  DJ D-Nice’s Club Quarantine regular dance parties or logged onto your favorite national or local dance, theater or music organization’s website to watch a production on the internet, you will know people are deeply engaged with the arts.  

Throughout the state, COVID-19 is requiring arts organizations to get out of their institutions and to become more relevant and accessible to communities. Now is our opportunity to stop thinking about the arts in a narrow frame as we rethink broken systems. This is an opportunity for artists to help us reimagine how we rebuild. They should be at the table to help us engage community, inform how we think about the environment, education and economic recovery.

What are some of the questions you’re asking yourself or talking about with others? 

Some of the questions that keep coming up again and again and for which the field continues to grapple:

  • How can technology be maximized to reach new audiences, and how can organizations monetize its offerings? 
  • How do we support organizations to merge or close gracefully, preserve their legacy, and make their work available to the public? 
  • Where can we turn for additional legal support and consulting?
  • What innovative solutions or partnerships can we forge, perhaps with colleges and universities or libraries, to digitize and/or archive materials and ephemera, video, etc. for continued engagement and for posterity? 
  • How do we center equity in the sector recovery?
  • How do we rebuild a system that is better able to support the sector in times of deep crisis and beyond? 

What are opportunities are you excited by right now? 

Several successful funder convenings by the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers Culture Funders Affinity Group, which I co-chair, resulted in the establishment of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund to support artists and arts organizations impacted by COVID-19.

The Fund was developed  by a steering committee that includes representatives from the Grunin Foundation, NJSCA, The Prudential Foundation, and Dodge. The Grunin Foundation made a lead gift of $250,000. I am proud the Dodge Foundation is making a $200,000 investment.  

We hope the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund will provide resources to the arts community now and in the future, as we aspire for it to eventually become an enduring fund that will grow over time.  

What are you reading right now?  

In this episode of Grantmakers in the Arts podcast series Coronavirus Response: Into the Weeds Ruby Lopez Harper, Senior Director, Local Arts Advancement, Americans for the Arts; Brian McGuigan, Program Director, Artist Trust; and Trella Walker, Director, Advisory Services, Head of Social Innovation and Equity Council, Nonprofit Finance Fund, discuss funding practices that center equity and reframe the recovery. 

In a conversation Linda Harrison, president of the Newark Museum, hosted for funders in April, she said the museum that closed as a result of the pandemic won’t be the museum that opens after. That resonated with me, the profound realization that arts organizations, particularly large, mainstream institutions will have to change at an even more rapid pace to remain relevant. She is interviewed in this Christie’s Magazine article with three other museum leaders about the future of museums post pandemic. 

I was honored to be part of the Grantmakers in the Arts 2020 Webinar Series as a panelist on this webinar Coronavirus Response: Building a Future that Reimagines Systems for Justice with colleagues Randy Engstrom, Director, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Dana Kawaoka-Chen, Executive Director, Justice Funders and Justin Laing, Principal Consultant, Hillombo, LLC. We discussed funders flexibility and trust in response to the pandemic. Funders are more nimble with limited to no requirements for applications, repurposing current grant project awards to general operating support, increasing payouts above the 5% minimum, and centering the experiences of their grantees. This webinar explored what is necessary to re-imagine systems, power and practice as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing crisis of racial inequality. 

What can we do as individuals to support the arts and artists? 

Buy art. Tune into your favorite arts organization’s website and pay for the offerings you want to view. 

If you can, make tax-deductible donations.

Check on your artists friends. Ask them what they are working on, how the pandemic has influenced their work, what do they think they might do differently in their practice? If you know they have lost income, send a gift card to a grocery store or Zelle them some cash if you can.  

Don’t stop engaging, the art is to be engaged with in real-time. So much art has resulted from the pandemic and the protests. Take it in, interrogate it, get inspired by it. 

Do you have a question for Dodge staff? Leave it in the comments or send us an email at listening@grdodge.org.

Posted in Arts, Community Building, Dodge Q&A, What We're Learning | Leave a comment

“The way anger dwells in a man / Who studies the history of his nation”

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

On Tuesday, our President & CEO Tanuja Dehne took to the Dodge Blog to state the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s commitment to anti-racism and condemnation of white supremacy. You can read her full remarks here.

In addition, Dodge Poetry is sharing just a few videos from our archive that speak to the impact of centuries of systemic violence against black lives.  

The title of today’s blog post comes from Jericho Brown’s poem “I am a Virus.”

Jericho Brown reads his poem “I Am a Virus” for Dodge Poetry’s “Whose Body?” project, March 2018.
Lucille Clifton reads “What Haunts Him” and “Sorrows” at the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival.
Rita Dove reads her poems “Canary,” “Teach Us to Number Our Days,” “Cholera,” and “The Spring Cricket” at the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival.

Posted in Poetry, Poetry Archives, Poets, Tidbits | Leave a comment
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