Tending Our Backyard

In sports, playing on home turf usually provides an advantage. For national philanthropies, the opposite is true: grantmaking on home turf presents a distinct disadvantage. Potential grantees in a home town or state often have very high expectations, because the distinctions between a local philanthropy and one with a national vision are difficult to understand. The Foundation's staff members, many of whom are active volunteers in local charitable organizations, can have conflicts of interest. And if an initiative close to home does not go well, relationships with neighbors can easily sour.

In this chapter of the Anthology, Pamela Dickson, a senior program officer at the Foundation at the time this chapter was written, who oversees a number of the Foundation's New Jersey grants, tells the story of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's experience with grantmaking in New Jersey.

Dickson has a unique vantage point; before joining the Foundation's staff in 1997, she was assistant commissioner of health for the State of New Jersey and a grantee. Dickson reports on how the Foundation has tried to maintain the legacy of its founder, how it supports worthy local organizations that may not share the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's priorities or may not be competitive in responding to its Funding Opportunities for national programs, and how the Foundation has tried to deal with the unique challenges of local grantmaking.