One of my favorite projects every year is the re-grant review process for arts and history non-profits in New Jersey. Counties receive block grants from the NJ State Council on the Arts and the NJ Historical Commission to re-grant to smaller non-profits. I am honored to serve on several Grants Review Panels throughout South Jersey. This year these included Gloucester, Burlington, Ocean, and Atlantic Counties. You often see themes or challenges that occur through South Jersey. One of the biggest challenges I see everywhere is how non-profits deal with their historic sites and structures. Sometimes they barely know how to begin - how to research, document and list their structures so they become eligible for State grant funds. Sometimes they may be savvier on this front, but have no clue how to interpret the history represented at their locations or contextualize that history into a fascinating narrative that has wide-ranging appeal. Often, they have an outdated perspective on collections care and are not prioritizing the visitor in their programming.
I view the work I do as a tool to build the competitiveness of these organizations at the state level. If organizations are struggling locally, that means grant funds which South Jersey desperately needs are going elsewhere - to North Jersey or elsewhere. For South Jersey to be competitive we have to take a hard serious look at our deficiencies, recognize and accept them, and figure out what we can do to move beyond them.
If you’re involved in a non-profit that could use this type of conversation, let me know. I’d be happy to help.