CFNJ 35 YearsThe Community Foundation of New Jersey was founded in 1979. More than thirty-five years and 1,100 funds later, we have made enormous progress in solving problems in communities across our state. We are pleased to share the below 13-part series detailed our more than three decades of simplifying giving and amplifying impact.

Click here for the full history with accompanying pictures.


Part 1: The Community Comes Together

Sparked by a simple idea – that members of a community could come together, pool their talents and resources, and effect positive change in the neighborhoods around them – the concept of a community foundation was catching on across the United States and made its way to New Jersey in the late 1970’s. Read more »

Part 2: New Leadership in the Community

During Sheila Williamson’s tenure as executive director, from 1979 to 1993, the Foundation codified its mission, expanded its reach, and embraced its role as a community leader. Perhaps most importantly, the Community Foundation went from an idea to a reality, and one that was actively working to improve the community. Read more »

Part 3: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

One of the signature programs of this era was the Neighborhood Leadership Initiative (NLI), which was founded in 1992 while Christine Todd Whitman, the future governor, served as president of the Foundation’s board. Read more »

Part 4: Jumpstarting Great Ideas

For the Community Foundation of New Jersey, going from a simple idea to a multi-million dollar force for good has not been without its mix of successes, challenges, and lessons learned. In fact, the wealth of knowledge that the Foundation’s staff picked up over the years made it a natural repository for best practices in philanthropic giving, community organizing, and nonprofit management in the state. Read more »

Part 5: Creating Philanthropic Assets for New Jersey

By the early 1990’s, CFNJ had a long record of effecting significant positive change in communities across New Jersey. As a leader in nonprofit development and programming, the Foundation came to be viewed as an agent for change, rather than simply a responder to need. Read more »

Part 6: The Role of Corporate Philanthropy

For philanthropy to be truly effective on a wide scale, it requires more than just the work of nonprofits, foundations, individuals, or corporations – but, in fact, all of these entities working together. CFNJ has long placed a priority on helping businesses and foundations collaborate while encouraging new generations of committed philanthropists. Read more »

Part 7: The Role of National Foundations

While major corporations have supported much of CFNJ’s programming, so too have national foundations that seek to address community issues on a wide scale. Given CFNJ’s strength in community programming in New Jersey, it has been a natural partner to numerous national foundations seeking to make a difference in the state. Read more »

Part 8: Realizing a Fundholder’s Wish

Like all community foundations, CFNJ maintains its commitment and loyalty to its individual fundholders, many of whom seek to make an important difference in the community, but need a trusted partner to help realize their philanthropic goals. Read more »

Part 9: Responding to Tragedy

In the weeks and months after September 11, 2001, the issue at the forefront for nearly all Americans was coping with and responding to that day’s tragic attacks. Early on, emotions ranged from pain and anguish to patriotism and duty. These feelings all contributed to a period of strong national unity and presented an unprecedented opportunity to do good in the community. Read more »

Part 10: New Leadership, New Focus Areas

Hans Dekker joined CFNJ as the new president in 2003. During his tenure, the Community Foundation has continued to expand its number of fundholders, its asset base, and its programmatic areas. It has also tripled its assets (from approximately $90 million to well over $300 million), despite an occasionally challenging market. The number of funds stands at more than 1,100 today. Read more »

Part 11: Responding to Disaster

When a disaster strikes, the work of a community foundation takes on added importance.  And in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Community Foundation took on an important leadership role in harnessing the good will of thousands of New Jerseyans seeking to help their friends and neighbors recover. Read more »

Part 12: Focus on Leadership

While the Board’s Leadership Committee has long sought out interventions on complex, often overlooked issues, this work gained added significance. For many years now, the Community Foundation has engaged interested fundholders to take on several particularly vexing issues with discretionary dollars. Read more »

Part 13: CFNJ Today

The Community Foundation’s recent history has been just as rich and success-filled as its founding, thanks to the strong involvement of fundholders and the deepening of relationships with the state’s key nonprofits and other drivers of change. Read more »