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Department of State

New Jersey Cultural Trust

The Hon. Tahesha Way, Lt. Governor and Secretary of State

Trust Information

The New Jersey Cultural Trust was created in July 2000 as a public/private partnership to help ensure a stable and healthy nonprofit cultural industry in New Jersey that is sustainable even in the toughest of economic times.

The Trust provides grants to support capital projects, endowments and institutional and financial stabilization of arts, history and humanities organizations in New Jersey. Funding for the grants comes from interest earned on the Cultural Trust Fund, which is a permanent investment fund.

With the FY 2024 grant awards, the Cultural Trust has awarded over $10.4 million to qualified organizations throughout the State for institutional and financial stabilization and historic preservation projects. The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the New Jersey Historical Commission, and the New Jersey Historic Trust develop programs that recommend projects for such grants to the Cultural Trust. Please see the “Grants Awarded” section of the website for a complete listing of recipients and funded projects.

In order to participate in the programs of the Trust and be eligible to apply for grants, organizations must be “qualified.” At this exciting time in the development of the Trust, we encourage all nonprofit arts, history and humanities organizations throughout the State to seek qualification. See the “Grant Opportunities” section for qualification and sample grant guidelines and applications.

Qualified Organizations

A copy of the qualified list can be found under the Grant Opportunities Section

What is the Cultural Trust?

The Cultural Trust is many things, including:

  • a State agency, created by the Cultural Trust Act in July 2000, to ensure a stable and healthy nonprofit cultural industry in New Jersey,
  • a funding source for grants to strengthen arts, history and humanities organizations and provide much needed dollars for capital improvements,
  • a permanent investment fund that will yield annual income for distribution to cultural organizations,
  • a public-private initiative,
  • an incentive to increase philanthropy to New Jersey's nonprofit cultural organizations,
  • a Governor-appointed board and professional staff dedicated to promoting and strengthening New Jersey's cultural resources,
  • stewardship that ensures our state's cultural legacy, and
  • a source of pride in New Jersey.

Why was the Cultural Trust Created?

New Jersey has an extraordinary cultural landscape. Orchestras, theaters, artists, scholars, historical landmarks and museums and so much more enhance our quality of life, revitalize our cities, enrich our children's education, boost tourism, celebrate our achievements, commemorate our lives and make us proud.

Talented people and successful companies gravitate to places where culture thrives. And, as study after study has shown, the nonprofit arts and history organizations contribute over $1.5 billion annually to our economic activity and to our economic health. The arts and humanities are part of what makes New Jersey great.

These important nonprofit organizations, as well serving and well run as they are, are also severely undercapitalized. They are particularly vulnerable to economic fluctuations. In a previous economic downturn when the arts and history communities lost precious state funding, too many were forced to close their doors and valuable cultural resources in our State were lost forever. Research revealed the need for more than $1 billion in new and focused funding to ensure that our cultural organizations can both fight off bad economies and realize their full potential.

Since the mid-1990's, people in New Jersey have been talking seriously about how to establish an additional source of funding to help stabilize the arts, history and humanities. One way to do this, they agreed, was through a permanent endowment that would grow and provide income year after year, but for specific new purposes.

In the year 2000, the State created a unique and innovative way to ensure that New Jersey's rich cultural heritage thrives well into the future.

Without a single dissenting vote in either legislative house The New Jersey Cultural Trust was created as a State agency governed by a 15 member board to receive and invest funds and protect and nurture the State's cultural legacy for generations to come.

What is the Purpose of the Cultural Trust Fund?

The New Jersey Cultural Trust Fund is a permanent investment fund whose earnings will be given in grants to support three specific purposes:

  • Build the endowments of nonprofit arts, history and humanities organizations
  • Finance important capital projects, and
  • Improve the organizational and financial management of cultural organizations.

Are grants being awarded?

Yes, with the FY 2024 grant awards, the Cultural Trust has distributed over $10.4 million to qualified organizations throughout the State for financial stabilization and historic preservation projects. (See a listing of grant recipients under "Grants Awarded" in this website.)

How can cultural organizations apply for grants?

Organizations must first be designated "qualified" in order to be eligible to participate in the programs of the Trust.

Any private, nonprofit, tax-exempt, arts, humanities, or history organization that is incorporated in New Jersey and has been operating and incorporated for at least 4 years, and has appropriate financial records is eligible to be designated a "qualified" organization. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are presented to the Cultural Trust Board for its consideration at the next available opportunity, several times each year. Forms may be obtained from the office by calling 609-292-6403 or from this website - see “Grant Opportunities” Section.

As called for in the Cultural Trust Act, grants are made based on the recommendations from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, the New Jersey Historical Commission and the New Jersey Historic Trust.

The recommending agencies establish criteria and guidelines for the grants programs, manage the application process and make recommendations annually to the Cultural Trust.

Qualified organizations will be notified when new grant programs are announced.

Building the Fund, how does it work, what is the financial goal?

The Cultural Trust is a public-private initiative that seeks over ten years to develop through equal contributions from state and outside sources at least $200,000,000 that can be invested either in the Fund or the endowments of qualified organizations

How do donors give to the Trust?

Donors are able to give in one of two ways. They can either give directly to the Trust Fund, or they can give to a particular qualified group or groups for endowment purposes. Each private sector contribution will trigger the State funds, subject to available appropriation, into the Fund.

As an example, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation made a lead gift of $1 million to the Fund the very day the legislation was signed into law and that was matched by the State with $1 million transferred into the Fund. The Cultural Trust Fund started that day with $2 million.

How Donations are Matched

Is there any incentive for donors to give large gifts?

Yes, to encourage large gift donations to endowments of qualified groups, when a qualified organization receives and certifies a single endowment gift of over $100,000, the gift is matched, subject to available appropriation, with State dollars into the Fund. Twenty percent of the State's match then goes to that organization. The other eighty percent is kept in the Cultural Trust Fund. This is a powerful way for cultural groups to encourage the private sector to make larger gifts.

How and When are Donations Certified and Matched?

In order to certify a donation, an organization must first be designated “qualified.”

A donation that is money, property, or other object(s) with monetary value given directly to a qualified organization that is expressly dedicated for endowment may be certified.

Only donations received since January 1, 2000 are eligible for certification.

An application to certify donations must be completed, signed by the appropriate officials of the organization and submitted with required documentation on or before the deadline, as established and announced by the Cultural Trust.

The Cultural Trust then certifies the donation to the State Treasurer who transfers any available State appropriations into the Cultural Trust Fund. At that time, any 20% large donation matches (or available portions thereof) are distributed by the Cultural Trust to the eligible organization.

Documentation includes:

  • A copy of the donation documents received by the organization from the donor, designating the gift for the organization's endowment.
  • A copy of the board minutes accepting the gift for the permanently restricted endowment of the organization.
  • In the case of the donation of real property or other item(s) of monetary value, a certified appraisal, deed, or other documentation describing the real property or item of monetary value that states its fair market value as of the close of business on the day the donation is made. (The Cultural Trust Board reserves the right to require additional proofs of value.)
  • Proof of receipt of the donation and its deposit into the organization's permanently restricted endowment fund, the financial institution and account numbers.
  • A copy of the official organization board minutes establishing an endowment.
  • Copies of the organization's policies and procedures governing the use and management of the endowment.
  • The donation must be held in the organization's endowment in perpetuity and be classified as "permanently restricted" in audited financial statements of the organization.

Once certified by the Cultural Trust, future annual audits of the organization must identify in audit notes that the amount certified as well as any large gift matching funds received from the Cultural Trust are held in the permanently restricted endowment(s).

All qualified arts, history, and humanities organizations are strongly encouraged to plan to have their endowment donations, no matter how large or small, certified. They all help build the Trust Fund and speed us to our goal of stable cultural organizations able to do their best.

As of September 2003, the certification process is on hold pending the ability of the State to provide matching funds for previously certified donations. However, when the process is resumed, notification of deadlines and application guidelines and criteria will be broadly distributed and may be obtained from the Cultural Trust through this website.

What is the status of the Fund?

As of November 2023, the principal in the Fund itself has reached nearly $25 million and has earned over $10 million in interest. Certified donations to endowments of qualified organizations plus 20% large gift matching dollars from the Fund exceed $46 million.

Where is the money?

Where has the money come from?

The Cultural Trust Act called on the State of New Jersey annually, beginning in FY01, to appropriate $10 million for ten years for a total of $100 million to be leveraged into the Fund when private donations directly to the Fund, or to the endowments of qualified organizations, are certified.

To date, the State has contributed $32,771,000 toward the purposes of the Trust with the following annual appropriations.

State Appropriations

FY24 - $2,189,000 FY23 - $720,000 FY22 - $720,000 FY21 - $621,000 FY20 - $500,000 FY19 - $500,000
FY18 - $500,000 FY17 - $500,000 FY16 - $500,000 FY15 - $500,000 FY14 - $500,000 FY13 - $500,000
FY12 - $500,000 FY11 - $500,000 FY10 - $500,000 FY09 - $621,000 FY08 - $720,000 FY07 - $720,000
FY06 - $720,000 FY05 - $720,000 FY04 - $500,000 FY03 - $10,000,00 FY02 - $10,000,000 FY01 - $3,020,000

The New Jersey Cultural Trust, a national model, does much to ensure that the State preserves and nourishes New Jersey's invaluable cultural resources well into the future.

Who can Participate and How?

NJ based nonprofit arts, history or humanities organizations.
Apply to be qualified. It makes you eligible to participate fully, including applying for grants.

Qualified organizations with an endowment or building one.
Seek to have every contribution certified. They build the Cultural Trust Fund faster, bolster interest earnings and increase the grants making impact.

Individuals, Corporations, Businesses, Foundations, Municipal and County Governments who care about the health and vitality of NJ and the future of its cultural community.
Support the Cultural Trust and its goals. Gifts given directly to the Cultural Trust Fund leverage a 100% State match to grow the Trust Fund. Gifts directed to the endowments of qualified organizations also leverage an equal State match into the Trust Fund, and when that gift is $100,000 or more, the recipient receives an additional 20% from the State match.

Board members of nonprofit cultural organizations.
Encourage your organizations to become qualified and your donors to contribute to their endowments, thereby leveraging matching dollars directly into the Trust Fund. Strategize now about how to stabilize fully your organizations and pursue appropriate future opportunities for Cultural Trust support.


Page Last Updated: 12/26/23



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