Planning Year 2020

Victoria Foundation Update for the Community

To say the world has changed since the Victoria Foundation’s last update regarding our strategic planning journey would be an understatement.

The murders of so many Black and Brown people by police continue to plague our communities and has sparked a national movement that demands holistic police reforms which includes redirecting public resources from police departments to vital community-based programming.  The COVID-19 pandemic has infected over 8 million Americans, with over 220,000 deaths and counting. This pandemic has laid bare serious racial and economic disparities in access to healthcare, economic opportunities, and quality education.

The world is on the precipice of major changes.

These moments are not lost on us at the Victoria Foundation. Foundation staff members have worked remotely since March 13th, and the timing of the strategic planning process has been extended through Spring 2021. As we deepen our strategic planning process, we intend to incorporate the lessons and learnings from these times to embrace new ways to use and leverage our resources to work collectively with our grantees, residents, and other stakeholders to affect change here in Newark.  Victoria staff and trustees are trying to listen to local partners on where resources are needed. Since April, we have supported these efforts with $1.2 million in grants that addressed immediate needs stemming from the COVID-19 crisis in Newark and $250K for grassroots organizations fighting to dismantle racial injustice.  

We recognize the Foundation has a lot to learn and it cannot do this work alone. We will need input and direction from partners like you along the journey of the organization’s transformation. The Foundation is working on ways for us to hear directly from ALL of our partners. More will be shared on this effort soon.

Below you will find a snapshot of some of the actions and learning the Foundation’s board and staff have undertaken since the start of the year.

Survey and Interview of Victoria’s Grantees and other Local Stakeholders:

Earlier this year, Victoria Foundation hired CREED Strategies, a Newark-based consulting firm, to conduct a survey of our grantees and to interview community leaders and other stakeholders. The survey, completed by 99 grantees, along with 26 one-on-one confidential interviews, is a comprehensive inquiry of our current grantees about: their respective organizations; identifying the most pressing issues facing the city of Newark and, in the case of our statewide environment grantees, the most pressing environmental issues; opportunities and challenges facing the nonprofit sector; ideas and insights about racial equity; and perceptions about Victoria Foundation. Victoria is in the process of extracting key findings from this research to integrate into our strategic planning process. For a copy of the CREED survey results, visit our website at https://www.victoriafoundation.org/creed-report

Victoria’s Learning Journey:

Victoria staff and the chairperson of our Planning Committee engaged in a nine-month Fellowship program organized by Justice Funders (http://justicefunders.org), an intermediary that works in partnership with philanthropic organizations from across the country to reimagine and embrace operational and funding practices to reshape philanthropy and the society. This intensive series of four-day retreats introduced foundation staff and trustees to transformational on-the-ground leaders and organizations engaged in racial justice work in the San Francisco Bay area, Boston, Upstate New York, and South Dakota.

Since the start of the pandemic, Foundation staff has participated in dozens of virtual conferences and webinars, including: Resourcing Strategies to Dismantle White Supremacy and Invest in Regenerative Economies;  Models to Increase Philanthropy’s Accountability to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and Low-Income Communities; and How and Why Philanthropy Must be Bold for Frontline Communities Rising Up Against Police Brutality.  

As part of the planning year work over the past seven months, the Foundation has held nine full board meetings and numerous committee meetings to delve into current and past practices and to consider how we might address the root causes of generational poverty and racial injustice. Examples of board meeting content include:  

  • Conducted an historical trends analysis of our grantmaking and governance.
  • Engaged in a conversation with Abby Levine, Director of the Bolder Advocacy Program at the Alliance for Justice, on how foundations can and should support advocacy and organizing efforts.
  • Met with Nat Williams, PhD., Executive Director of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation and one of their grantee leaders, Jitu Brown, National Director for Journey for Justice Alliance. They spoke passionately about why supporting community organizing efforts can lead to policy changes that impact the lives of many, especially the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • Convened focus groups conversations with local experts to learn ways Victoria can allocate its PRI Fund (low-interest loans) to support small Black-owned businesses and affordable housing in Newark.
  • Initiated a conversation with the Foundation’s outsourced chief investment firm to align the $280M endowment with our emerging environmental, social, and governance values.

What is Coming Up:

  • Victoria Foundation has engaged Frontline Solutions (frontlinesol.com), a Black-owned, community-driven firm, to help with the development of our strategic plan. Trustees and staff are working to: recast our Mission, Vision, and Values; interrogate our internal culture and practices; ingrain racial and economic equity into our grantmaking practices; authentically engage the community; explore new areas to fund; and consider how to responsibly sunset some program areas. Frontline Solutions will engage a cohort of grantees, community residents, and other local stakeholders for input on the strategic plan. Victoria anticipates having the plan completed and ready for release by June 2021.
  • The Foundation has hired a Human Resources consultant to review personnel policies and other practices.
  • On September 15th, Victoria released a new, streamlined grant update questionnaire for its current grantees. If you did not receive it, please feel free to reach out to our Grants Manager, Erin Johnstone (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
  • Victoria is in the process of determining grant awards for 2021 for its current grantees and anticipates making an announcement by December 18th. Please note, current grantees will not be asked to submit new applications for 2021.
  • Victoria Foundation staff will continue to work remotely through the end of 2020 and will let you know when and how we plan to return to our office. For a staff directory, please visit our website, victoriafoundation.org/about-us/our-staff

We realize a lot of time has passed since we reached out with a status report on our strategic planning journey. Going forward, Victoria will share updates on our work, learnings, and other important announcements more frequently. Please know that even as this pandemic does not allow us to meet in person, you all remain in our thoughts. 

Frank Alvarez             Irene Cooper-Basch                Craig Drinkard

President                     Executive Officer                     Deputy Director

vf split small

Location

Victoria Foundation
31 Mulberry Street, 5th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102

Contact

Ph. 973-792-9200
Fax 973-792-1300
e-mail info@victoriafoundation.org

Search