A Look at the Russell Berrie Foundation’s New Jersey Grantmaking

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Grantmaking in the Tri-State Area is often overshadowed by what’s going on in New York City, a top philanthropic hub for the entire world. However, there are foundations in the region that specifically prioritize the needs of New Jersey communities, such as the Russell Berrie Foundation in Teaneck, New Jersey. The Berrie Foundation’s giving directly reflects its founder’s passions and perspectives, which lend themselves to grantmaking in some non-traditional areas.

To guide New Jersey grantseekers, here’s an overview of the Russell Berrie Foundation and its approach to philanthropy on the statewide level.

Topics of interest

Russell Berrie lived from 1933 to 2002 and was the CEO and chairman of Russ Berrie & Company. He was a lifelong entrepreneur, adept salesman, and a philanthropist with very specific ideas about how to change the world. His earliest philanthropic endeavors involved writing checks to Jewish organizations and diabetes centers. He was also very interested in recognizing New Jersey volunteers and rewarding them for their charitable efforts.

Today, the foundation’s grantmaking is centered on the following five ideas:

  • Promoting continuity and enrichment of Jewish communal life

  • Supporting advancements in medicine, especially diabetes and humanism in medicine

  • Fostering the spirit of religious understanding and pluralism

  • Recognizing individuals who have made significant differences in others’ lives

  • Elevating the profession of sales

Geographic reach

Most Russell Berrie Foundation grantmaking takes place in New Jersey, the state where Berrie established roots as a young businessman. New Jersey grantees include Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Holy Name Medical Center, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Berrie Fellows Leadership Program. Sales-related grantees are often based in New Jersey, as well as the Russ Berrie Making a Difference Awards.

However, the foundation also supports organizations in the New York City metropolitan area and Israel. Typical grantmaking in Israel is centered on transforming how the next generation thinks about Jewish identity, culture and heritage. Grants in New York tend to be rather few and far between. The Berrie Foundation also helped provide critical services for vulnerable populations in New Jersey and Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No unsolicited grant proposals

Even for nonprofits based in New Jersey, the Berrie Foundation will not consider unsolicited requests for grants. It typically gives to familiar and well-established organizations that had a personal connection with the founder or directly relate to its niche funding areas. The foundation is led by a six-member board of trustees and makes itself available for general inquiries by email and phone.

Grantseekers can find a full profile of the Russell Berrie Foundation in IP’s Grants for New Jersey Nonprofits guide.