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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
The clocks have been turned ahead, the sun is shining past 5pm and warmer weather is finally in sight. Springtime seems to sneak up on us each year, but always bringing a sense of hope as it arrives. The birds are singing and the trees are blooming once again. The air is fresher, the grass is greener and the feeling of renewal is upon us.
As Spring began last year, none of us realized the word normal would become unfamiliar. Our new vocabulary included quarantine, two weeks, social distancing, stay home, we are all in this together, new normal and the one we love to hate – PIVOT. And who would have thought toilet paper would become the most sought after item in the world? This past year ironically feels like it has been an eternity that has gone by in the blink of an eye.
Throughout the unknown, fear and loss, we saw strength, collaboration and hope. We have never been more proud to be a part of the Central Jersey Shore Community. Going along with the theme of Spring revival, we wanted to share some of the silver lining moments and positivity we’ve experienced over the last year.
We gained insight – We’ve all had the thought, “What would we have done differently if we could have seen this coming?” Although we can’t go back, we do have the insight to move forward. As part of our Catapult Institute Workshops, we’ve held many virtual sessions for our nonprofit partners on COVID-related topics that were impacting their operations. We talked about keeping employees engaged while virtual, fundraising during COVID, using Zoom to its fullest and planning for the future. We also facilitated Virtual Lunch Hours where nonprofits could stay connected to their peers but most importantly, have candid talks about the successes and challenges they’ve faced throughout the pandemic, among other valuable topics. Through these open discussions, we’ve shared tools, resources and have learned from one another. While we hope we never have to face anything like this again, we are all better equipped to handle future challenges.
We collaborated more –One of our Foundation’s core values is collaboration and we are inspired when people work together to increase impact. We have seen so much collaboration throughout the pandemic with the goal of serving more people in need. The selflessness in this sector makes us proud. No one was concerned about their own piece of the pie, but rather how can we make MORE pie and make sure everyone gets a piece. Local businesses stepped up and also played an important role in helping during the COVID crisis. As the saying goes, “alone we are strong, together we are stronger.”
We found new ways of operating – It took a while for all of us to adjust to the new ways of doing things. We all thought Zoom meetings, drive through services and virtual appointments would be temporary, but some have been working out so well, we may be seeing a hybrid model moving forward. Without the commute, board and other meeting attendance has certainly increased. We’ve had a chance to feature guest speakers from around the globe at virtual events. And, even though in-person fundraising events were forced to cancel, organizations found ways to make it happen online and raise funds while cutting out some of the typical event expenses.
We felt a great sense of community – When disaster or tragedy strikes, it tends to bring people together as we all look for ways to help and heal. The Central Jersey Shore is no exception. We are grateful and proud to live, work and play in such an incredible community.
Necessary DEI work is being done – We have all learned a lot about social justice issues across our nation over the past year. At the Grunin Foundation, we have been doing the work internally – both individually and as a team – to become an antiracist organization. We are working with partners to identify obstacles to DEI in our region as well as finding effective strategies or solutions to address them. We are committed to making essential changes to facilitate continuing development and dialogue in our DEI journey and we are proud of our nonprofit partners who are doing the same.
Time to spring forward
2020 has given us some of the most trying times we’ve ever been through. It’s also strengthened our partnerships, our passion to serve and our community. We will take and apply all of the lessons learned with us as we move forward.
We have some exciting partnership and program announcements to come in 2021 – all with the goal of driving economic excellence, increasing the quality of life for all residents of the Central Jersey Shore and championing a just and equitable society. As always, we are grateful to our nonprofit partners for being on this journey with us and making our community healthier, stronger, safer and more inclusive.
And before we sign off, we’d like to give a HUGE shoutout to our hospital systems, doctors, nurses and all the healthcare workers who kept our community as healthy and safe as possible. None of us could do what we do each day without having a strong healthcare system as our backbone – THANK YOU!
Here’s to brighter days…
2020 was a challenging year, but we are grateful for our partners and community who really stepped up, worked together and helped those in need. Check out some of our incredible partner highlights from last year as well as words from our Chairman and President on what’s to come.
Click the image below to download the Grunin Foundation 2020 Year in Review.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on every single aspect of life as we knew it. The impacts to health, lives, jobs and businesses are obvious and devastating.
COVID-19 has also impacted other areas of life that may not be quite as obvious, such as the arts. While we know theaters have temporarily closed and many have lost their jobs, we may not realize that if we lost the arts, cultural and historical sector entirely, this will devastate our communities, educational systems, mental health and economy.
The New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund was created to help ensure the survival of the state’s arts, cultural and historical sector during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Co-Chaired by Jeremy Grunin, President of the Grunin Foundation, and Sharnita Johnson, Arts Program Director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the fund is growing and will provide grants directly to nonprofit organizations and, indirectly through an intermediary partner(s), to artists and sector workers negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
It’s hard to believe we are in the month of November. Time is flying while we continue to try navigating our way through 2020. As we approach Thanksgiving, we are extra focused on gratitude this year. We could not do any of our work without our nonprofit partners, healthcare systems, business leaders and community members.
YOU are doing the work to create lasting, positive impact for everyone in our community. In spite of the pandemic, you have not missed a beat and even increased your services to ensure those who need them most have access. You have been on the front lines to keep the vulnerable safe, provide meals to those who are food insecure, help the isolated feel connected, give children a safe place to learn and so much more.
You have worked around the clock, tirelessly to keep our community safe. You have helped so many COVID-19 patients face and overcome their battle. Not only were you there to take care of them medically, you were there FOR them when family members could not visit due to restrictions. You kept the hospitals safe for other patients and your staff. We can’t thank you enough for all of the sacrifices you have made and continue to make to keep our community’s health a top priority.
2020 has been filled with uncertainty. The balance between staying safe and continuing to operate normally has been a challenge to say the least. You have remained positive, creative and continued to help others while trying to make the best of the changing business landscape.
You are the reason the Grunin Foundation exists. It is 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 are grateful for your ideas, hard work in our community and for your support.
Each and every one of you is helping our vision come alive – a Central Jersey Shore where people come to visit and stay to live…where businesses and nonprofits work together in a thriving community where everyone has access to an abundance of exemplary arts, culture, education, healthcare and economic opportunities.
Thank you for all you do. We are grateful to work, live and play in such a collaborative, supportive and amazing community.
Wishing you good health, happiness and prosperity as we move into the holiday season and close out 2020. May 2021 be a year of brightness, peace and love.
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:
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:
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.
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.