As a community-based funder that has been serving Morris County for over 80 years, we have witnessed firsthand the unique spirit of collaboration that is embraced by local nonprofits. United in their dedication to serve a shared population, Morris County nonprofits have long been maximizing their impact with creative partnerships, shared resources, and collective expertise. In recognition of the power of partnerships, the F. M. Kirby Foundation partnered with another community funder, the Mimi Washington Starrett Foundation, to host Common Grounds ~ Common Goals, a convening to foster nonprofit collaboration across Morris County. Representatives from over 80 different organizations – representing the arts, health, environment, education, community services, and human services – heard from panels of nonprofit and philanthropic leaders about their experiences with successful collaborations and partnerships in service to our community.

The focus of this event calls to mind the many Kirby Foundation partners who are exemplifying this spirit of collaboration to better serve our community members. Two longtime Foundation partners, Cornerstone Family Programs and Macculloch Hall Historical Museum, have found a way to creatively enrich Cornerstone’s Social Adult Day Center participants. After undergoing intensive training, led by Arts and Minds of New York City, MHHM staff created an arts enrichment program designed to improve creativity and fine motor skills in participants, including those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This program, called “In the Moment with Macculloch Hall,” is an example of how two seemingly different nonprofit groups came together to meet a unique need of their shared constituents.

We have also learned how funders can maximize impact with partnerships. In 2023, we were proud to partner with eight other Morris County funding organizations to pool $325,000 in collaborative funding for a shared cause. Despite having ranging programmatic areas of interest, this funders’ coalition worked together to address an urgent need: teen mental health. Together, we supported Youth Mental Health First Aid training, facilitated by the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, for local nonprofit groups, religious organizations, and school districts. Youth Mental Health First Aid is a holistic training designed to teach adults who interface with young people the skills and resources necessary to identify and react effectively to rising mental health needs. To date, nearly 300 people have benefitted from the fruits of this partnership.

We are grateful to our nonprofit partners who attended this event and we look forward to the collaborations that might spring from this gathering!

Thank you, especially, to our panelists and speakers: Sarah Ahart, President, Mimi Washington Starrett Foundation; Joann Bjorson, CEO, Family Promise of Morris County; Liz DeCoursey, CEO, Morris Habitat for Humanity; Carmine Deo, CEO, Community Hope; Kasey Errico, Director, Morris County Human Services; Kelley Stephens, Director, Morris County Housing Authority; and Aaron Turner, Chief Philanthropic Officer, Community Foundation of New Jersey.