As a professional and as a philanthropist, Leigh Gibson has a longstanding knowledge of Mercer County nonprofit organizations and the community needs they address.
She has worked in the sector for over a decade—as a trustee of Womanspace, as a volunteer and later as Program Director at Isles, and currently, as Director of Operations and Development at New Jersey Policy Perspective, a fiscal policy think tank that examines the state budget and how it affects low income and working families.
Few people bring such careful analysis to bear on charitable giving decisions. Gibson explains, “I’ve always been very attuned to where my philanthropic dollar would get the highest return on investment. I spend a lot of time thinking about what is most effective.”
She was a major supporter of capital campaign efforts at both Womanspace and Isles, using her donor-advised fund to plan and carry out her giving. Yet this year, Gibson tried something new.
“I decided to consolidate my year-end giving into one larger contribution to the Fund for Mercer County at the Princeton Area Community Foundation,” she relates. “I realized that I simply can’t replicate the level of due diligence carried out by the Community Foundation.”
Gibson’s gift joined many others, including endowed Community Grantmaking Funds, and together over $420,000 was distributed in grants to twenty local organizations via Greater Mercer Grants in December.
“The Community Foundation is constantly assessing our region’s nonprofit field, applying demanding standards in order to understand and prioritize community needs,” Gibson notes. “Their work goes way beyond what Guidestar and other tools can tell me about an organization—not just statistics and ratios, but a sense of the difference these organizations really make in my community.”
“From my work at NJPP, I’m painfully aware that state funding and larger trends in our economy mean that we’re likely to continue seeing urgent need in many communities. New Jersey’s nonprofits will face tremendous fiscal challenges in the years ahead,” she cautions.
“It is a critical time for philanthropy to address these needs, and we must make sage decisions about where resources can have the greatest impact. I can’t answer that question better than the Community Foundation, so I’m happy to put my giving into their hands through the Fund for Mercer County.”