We hope you are enjoying the start of another great summer here at the Central Jersey Shore! Our strategic planning process has begun and as part of our promise to be transparent, we wanted to provide an update of where we are and also introduce you to who is guiding us on our journey. We will be putting together a more detailed account of our strategic planning process, but for now, we’ll give you the highlights.

We’ve gotten many questions from our nonprofit friends about how we got started with finding and choosing our consultants. It was important for us to keep it simple for those applying. Rather than ask for a formal proposal, we developed a short questionnaire that potential consultants could easily fill out and gave them space to ask one burning question they had for us at this stage in the process. We posted the application on our social media profiles, our blog and emailed our contact list, asking anyone with strategic planning consulting experience to apply or to help by sharing within their networks. Using a rubric, we narrowed down the responses to a list of potential consultants and scheduled a 20-minute Zoom meeting to ask a few more questions, get to know each consultant and hear examples of how they have successfully reached into community through their strategic planning experiences. We then chose candidates for one last virtual interview where each Grunin Foundation team member could ask questions. Finally, we met as a team to discuss our internal thoughts, questions, concerns, and outlooks. When we thoughtfully came to a consensus, we excitedly chose the Novalia Collective. And just to note – everyone we met was so incredible, we are happy to now have a list to share with anyone looking for great consultants!

With all that said, we are thrilled to introduce the Novalia Collective to you and talk a bit about the initial stages of our strategic planning process. 

The Novalia Collective was co-founded by Odelia Younge and Vina Vo, who came together over their shared love for stories and social change (and also good food). Their team is a hybrid group of educators, facilitators, storytellers, organizers, strategists, and network builders. They have a decade of experience working across cultural and geographical differences to strengthen communities to connect, collaborate, and thrive by addressing inequities in systems and environments. They provide facilitation, program design, and strategic support for teams and organizations ready to transform their communities and work environments into inclusive and equitable spaces.

When we first met with Odelia and Vina during our interview process, we were excited not only by their dedication to being a true partner and their commitment to equity, but by their joy-based approach. This work can be difficult, so it was important to our team to have an environment that fostered creativity, authenticity, curiosity, optimism, and hope – which are just some of the incredible qualities Novalia brings to the table.

Odelia and Vina came from the West Coast to New Jersey the second week of June to hold conversations with Central Jersey Shore nonprofit leaders, social service providers, policy makers and spiritual leaders to learn about the needs of the community. These conversations were facilitated by Odelia and Vina – the Grunin Foundation staff were not present as we wanted to encourage as much transparency as possible in the room. The outcome of our strategic process will be shaped by community input, so we wanted it to start with listening and learning from community.

When it was time for our team to sit down with Odelia and Vina, we went through a thoughtful and creative process to answer specific questions from each team member’s own perspective. We mentioned our love of Novalia’s joy-based approach, and we saw it in action. Part of the Q&A process involved us drawing out our thoughts on tiles that we all put together in one, cohesive picture. Some of our reflections were:

  • What does a thriving Central Jersey Shore look like?
  • What are you most proud of during your tenure at the Grunin Foundation?
  • How could the future look? 

It was not only thought-provoking, but a fun and creative way for us to explore our past, present, and future of the Foundation individually, but most importantly, together as a team. The goal of this strategic planning work is for us to become a better funder and community partner. In addition to thoroughly examining our grantmaking pillars and mission, we also need to understand how our capacity building and equity, inclusion, diversity and belonging (EDIB) work all weave together. This is the jumping off point for us to look deeper into the work and how we do it.

The Novalia team is continuing to meet with our staff, board, and community members to uncover community strengths, assets, challenges, most pressing needs and how family foundations like the Grunin Foundation can better help nonprofits achieve their missions and visions.

We will have updates for you as we move through this journey. As always, we are thankful for those who are out in the community doing the work each day to serve others, create impact and make the world a better place. Stay tuned - lots more to come…