The murder of George Floyd and the vast racial inequities highlighted by the pandemic prompted us to take pause to listen, reflect and reexamine our work as a Foundation. We had many open discussions with our team, nonprofit partners and philanthropic colleagues, to better understand the needs of the community, how others were helping to advance equity through calls for systemic change and what we could do to be a part of the solution.

Transparency and Humility are two of our core values, so when we recognize that we have made mistakes or have fallen short as a funder, we admit it and do our best to quickly right the course. As we started to take a deeper look at our Foundation and grantmaking practices, we realized that equity was not always a primary focus – not because we did not think it was crucial, but because sometimes doing good just isn’t good enough. While we always fund in alignment with our mission to improve the quality of life for ALL residents at the Central Jersey Shore, we had to ask ourselves what we were truly doing to make that happen – for ALL

In order to engage in deep transformative work as a Foundation, we knew we had to support learning at both the individual and organizational levels. From actively learning by gathering resources to attending racial equity trainings and joining task forces, we were embarking on a lifelong journey.

The Journey

We won’t pretend to have the answers when it comes to helping eliminate structural racism and making the world a more just and equitable place. There are so many groups and organizations who have been engaged in this work for decades that we can learn a lot from. We started by consulting with Idea2Form (I2F) to develop a multi-dimensional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy. Our I2F partners have years of experience creating social impact and advancing racial justice and have been a critical part of our work. 

For us to really understand how we could make a significant impact, we started internally with a team survey and one-on-one interviews with our I2F partners. This process helped us to identify blinds spots and differences in how each of us understood issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion. Once we solidified our internal team groundwork, we surveyed regional nonprofits and community partners to identify: 

  1. Obstacles to EDI in our area,
  2. Effective strategies to address these obstacles, and
  3. Individuals or groups interested in collaborating with us on EDI initiatives. 

We believe that it is not our Foundation that should be determining strategic priorities when it comes to EDI., but rather helping to uncover and support the work that needs to be done. Hearing from members of the community who are on the front lines every day is key.

From the survey responses, we learned that 96% identified diversity as extremely important, 81% grapple with issues of diversity in their day-to-day and 43% said they did not know of any current EDI projects taking place in the community. After carefully analyzing survey responses, three core strategies for change were chosen, inspired by the insight of our nonprofit and community partners:

  1. Empowering Youth Changemakers
  2. Amplifying Diverse Leadership
  3. Empowering Communities that Center Equity

The next step to deepening our work was holding three focus groups which were led by our I2F partners. The goal of the focus groups was to fully engage with participants and receive comments in a feedforward manner regarding the three EDI pillars we unearthed from our survey. Feedforward is the process of replacing positive or negative feedback with future-oriented solutions. We received honest and valuable information during these sessions and will be using it to move forward and create working groups in the near future.

Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Vision

As we work towards the ultimate impact of our equity, diversity and inclusion strategy, we envision:

  • Youth being seen as a key driver of change at the Central Jersey Shore and beyond
  • Diverse leaders being plentiful and widespread; and 
  • Equity being seen as an asset at the Central Jersey Shore and beyond.

We vow to stay committed to making our community a more equitable place and will ensure our partners share in this commitment. We know that change is an ongoing process and everyone is beginning their EDI journey at a different point, so we pledge to meet people where they are while remaining a fierce advocate for equity.

Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commitments

As we work to integrate EDI principles into our current and future grantmaking and Foundation operations, we will focus on the following five commitments:

  1. Increasing access as a pathway to wellbeing
  2. Fueling entrepreneurship for those on the margins
  3. Reducing systemic barriers to economic excellence 
  4. Championing a just and equitable society
  5. Investing in and developing diverse leadership

We will not be doing this work alone. Our goal is to partner with those working to build more diverse and inclusive organizations and communities. 

One of our first projects in this space was convening higher education partners from Monmouth University, Georgian Court University, Brookdale Community College and Ocean County College to create the Monmouth University Social Justice Academy. The collective goal is to foster educational equity by bringing a four year Social Justice Academy to support participating K-12 school systems at the Central Jersey Shore. The academy kicked off in July 2021 with a year-long professional development series, including seminars and lectures led by experts in equity, diversity, and inclusion, and a two-week inaugural summer workshop to establish a strong experiential foundation for the program. You can learn more by visiting the Monmouth University Social Justice Academy website

The Future

Our EDI Strategy is not a band-aid solution, nor is it just an “on the surface” change. This is a forever journey that will be integrated into all we do at the Grunin Foundation. This is a chance to do better, to truly live into our mission of making the quality of life better for ALL residents of the Central Jersey Shore. And, in staying committed to our Transparency value, you will see changes and updates to our website, including our EDI framework and coming soon, information about how our projects align with our EDI commitments.

We believe it is essential to our mission to find meaningful ways to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do. As we strive to become a better funder, we pledge to co-learn and work with our partners, colleagues, and communities to help break down barriers, uplift marginalized voices, celebrate diversity, and champion a more just and equitable society.

Sincerely,

Jay Grunin Jeremy Grunin

As we dive deeper into our equity, diversity and inclusion journey at the Central Jersey Shore, we will be creating three working groups, one for each of the strategies below, inspired by the insight of our nonprofit and community partners:

  1. Empowering Youth Changemakers
  2. Amplifying Diverse Leadership
  3. Empowering Communities that Center Equity

We plan to hold monthly meetings from September to December to determine priorities, metrics and near-term goals. Each working group will meet once per month from September through December 2021.  

The goals for each of the working groups for this year will be: 

  • Map projects/activities already being done across the Central Jersey Shore.
  • Gap analysis of the projects & activities.
  • Source ideas for future implementation (e.g., Are there opportunities for enhanced support of existing work? Creation of new program partnerships?)
  • Review opportunities for program measurement.
  • Make recommendations for 2022 activity.

We pledge to remain transparent throughout this journey and share the outcomes of the working groups on our website as we move along.  We also know there will be many opportunities for community involvement moving forward.

Learn more about what we are doing to help break down barriers, uplift marginalized voices, celebrate diversity, and champion a more just and equitable society.

Humility and transparency –  two of the guiding values of the Grunin Foundation. For us, humility means staying humble and always putting our mission before our brand and personal interests. Transparency means conducting our activities openly and communicating clearly and honestly to our partners, grantees and community. While we never want the focus to be on us, we want to share our journey and the actions we are taking as a Foundation.

When 2020 started, we celebrated our brand relaunch, unveiling our new identity and a renewed commitment to driving economic excellence in the region and beyond. Little did we know, that would be one of the last times we were able to come together in person for the foreseeable future. When the global pandemic hit, we quickly shifted our focus, communications and funding.

With each day bringing a new challenge that could not be predicted, we started with what we knew would have the most immediate impact:

  • Shifting Foundation-hosted events to a virtual platform to keep everyone safely connected.
  • Keeping sponsorships and donations in place to support organizations even with events being cancelled.
  • Offering Zoom accounts to local nonprofits at no cost for as long as we need to remain virtual. Since March, we have funded 119 licensed users with more than 5,000 meetings held.
  • Proactively making contributions to organizations that are providing direct services that support basic human needs, resulting in over $100,000 of funding to local nonprofits.

As the days and weeks went on, we realized the pandemic wasn’t something that was going away quickly. We continued to work with our partners and other philanthropic organizations throughout the state to determine the ever-evolving needs of the community. Here are some of the additional ways we have been helping to support COVID-19 efforts:

  • Contributed over a half a million dollars to the healthcare systems supporting the Central Jersey Shore. Of that, $250,000 was given to both the Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health System Emergency Relief Fund and Hackensack Meridian Health to distribute among the hospitals within Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Additionally, CentraState Medical Center received $25,000.
  • Committed $250,000 to provide six coronavirus testing centers to Monmouth County residents in more densely populated, higher risk neighborhoods in Asbury Park, Freehold, Keansburg, Long Branch, Neptune and Red Bank. This is being done in partnership with the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders which has committed $250,000 of CARES Act funding.
  • Contributed $250,000 to the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund at the Princeton Area Community Foundation. The Fund was developed collaboratively by a coalition of arts funders across the state, including the Grunin Foundation, the Dodge Foundation, Prudential Foundation, and New Jersey State Council on the Arts, to assist 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.

In addition to providing funding, we have been participating on committees, calls and collaborative efforts to continue making an impact in our nonprofit and business communities. We have also kept our Catapult Institute sessions going virtually, and even added more workshops than originally planned. We know how important it is for everyone to stay connected, feel a sense of normalcy and have the opportunity to lean on each other for support. The Foundation has hosted several interactive webinars and virtual networking events based on specific feedback from our nonprofit partners, with much more to come.

We have also been actively listening to the racial justice and equity discussions going on in our community and the nation. While we don’t have all the answers, we pledge to be an effective part of the solution and help foster the dialogue within our communities, working towards a more just and equitable society. Not only have we begun to do the work internally as a Foundation, we have convened a diverse group of leaders from higher education institutions at the Central Jersey Shore to discuss ideas on how we can together make impact on this important issue within Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Our goal is to help foster the creation of something that can be used throughout New Jersey and beyond as a shining example of what can be achieved when a community works together to first understand and then, ultimately, eliminate structural racism.

The road ahead is long but one thing is certain, we will continue to be true to our mission to improve the quality of life for all members of our community by using philanthropy to drive economic excellence at the Central Jersey Shore. We could not do any of this without the hard work of our nonprofit partners, businesses and all who are on the frontlines keeping us safe, healthy and making sure our community and economy are thriving.

Stay safe, stay healthy and we look forward to better days ahead.

Sincerely,

Jay Grunin Jeremy Grunin

Fresh Brand, Same Commitment

This is a very exciting time for the Grunin family. It is also a time of great opportunity for the Central Jersey Shore. We have the unique opportunity to re-establish and redirect how we are viewed in the state, the country, and the world.

Over the last year, our family of organizations (Grunin Foundation and Grunin Holdings) underwent a brand overhaul. The process required us to revisit our mission, vision, and values and take stock of how far we have come and the lessons learned along the way. We set out to create a new brand that embodied our personality and unique approach to driving change in the Central Jersey Shore. Our new logo is the visual key to our new identity, which is rooted in our mission, vision, and values. I am exceedingly proud of it. It is fresh and spirited, and it conveys who we are and what we stand for. It also unites our family’s philanthropic and investment efforts with one powerful image. 

When people see our new identity, we want a light to go on. We want them to instantly associate our new logo and colors with our commitment to driving economic excellence in the region and beyond. The Grunin Group logo is actually a collection of logos that represent our Grunin Foundation, Grunin Holdings, and community of partners. Together, they form an ecosystem that works to create a movement like the pieces of a watch. We understand that lasting change is not the result of one single organization or person. We believe to build a strong local economy, we need to work together, and everyone has a role to play. We invite you to join our mission to improve the quality of life for all members of our community by using philanthropy to drive economic excellence at the Central Jersey Shore.

Sincerely,

The Count Basie Theatre (The Basie) has made significant progress on its historic $23 million expansion project which will see the facility nearly double in size and become one of the region’s largest centers for the performing arts.

“The alignment of the Basie’s mission and our Foundation’s mission make this a perfect marriage and one that we hope to continue to build upon for many years to come.”

– Jay Grunin

The Grunin Foundation is a proud supporter of the Basie having invested $2 million to fund the creation of the Grunin Arts and Education Building, which will house studios, classrooms and administrative offices for the Basie’s growing arts education programs, as well as a second performance venue. We are confident the Basie’s expansion is sure to make a tremendous impact on the cultural and educational landscape of the Central Jersey Shore.

On Friday, August 9, we were honored to attend the Victory Garden dedication at American Legion Post 129. This garden is a true labor of love and will positively impact our veteran community by growing and offering our veterans free and nutritious food options that will improve their health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The harvest from the garden will help supply the food pantry at Ocean County College for our veterans.

This was also a wonderful collaborative effort with partners including FulfillToms River Family Health & Support CoalitionOcean County College, Makers Club, Boy Scouts of America, Jersey Shore CouncilOcean County YMCAAmerican Legion Post 129 Legionnaires, The Riders, The Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary.

We had the opportunity to see the Young Audiences Arts for Learning “Dance to Learn” finale today at Silver Bay Elementary. Each of the second-grade classes danced to a different theme (Ocean, Rain Forest, Safari, Jungle) and acted out elements of the theme using their own artistic interpretation through dance. They were able to show their parents and friends what they have been learning and practicing throughout the school year as part of the ARTS LAB program.

The Grunin Foundation is proud to partner with Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania, Dance To LearnSilver Bay Elementary and the Toms River Regional Schools to bring this incredible program to the students.