Like many other nonprofit groups, the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum receives permanent bequests and needs to preserve endowed funds properly. Between 2003 and 2007, the Friends have established four permanent endowment funds within the Community Foundation.
The group’s executive director, Nicole Jannotte, recalls how her trustees came to their decision. “Our board wanted someplace that was safe, one that was dependable. We needed a place that would care for our endowment in perpetuity, just as we would.
“Looking at the makeup of the Community Foundation and the skills that its board brings, knowing that they are overseeing closely what is going on there, knowing that its trustees include some of the great financial advisers in the area—all of that led to a high level of trust for us. We put our funds in the Community Foundation and we’ve been very happy ever since.
“Their recordkeeping for us has been perfect, which was critical. I can call up on a moment’s notice and get information and results by the end of the day. That has given me more time to focus on the task of raising funds for the Museum.”
Her organization’s assets are pooled with those of the Community Foundation’s other 250 funds. That gives the Friends of the New Jersey State Museum high-caliber financial management and exposure to a wider range of investments. “We also have the option of moving our money into short-term instruments,” Nicole says. “That’s important for special projects, where we might need to start paying out, say, for construction or expansion.”
She sees other benefits. “The Community Foundation staff has been able to guide us in terms of restructuring our board and networking within the community. They’ve been able to pitch ideas to us about whom to talk to. They are entrenched in the region and know what’s going on. We have a personal relationship with them and feel that they are interested in the organization itself, above and beyond taking care of our endowment. Everybody I know who’s involved with them seems to have that kind of experience.
“It’s important that anyone we’re working with be able to articulate our mission and message clearly. I’m getting that from the Community Foundation. They’re able to go out and say what the Museum is doing, what the Friends are doing, what we need, why we’re valuable. We trust what the Community Foundation is saying and whom they’re saying it to.”
Like the Community Foundation itself, Nicole looks beyond her own organization and sees a fabric, not just the thread of her own group’s mission. “You have to. One institution alone is not going to carry itself, or a neighborhood, or a region,” she says. “You have to see yourself within a whole network of people. If you don’t partner with them, you’re going get lost, and they’re going to get lost, and the people you’re trying to help are going to go someplace else.”