Nonprofit Profile: N.J. Chamber of Commerce Foundation — Helping young adults become successful students and workers

(Editor’s Note: This story was published prior to the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing measures.)


The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation is the nonprofit arm of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. Established in 1996 by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that has used the power of the business community as future employers to influence student outcomes for over 20 years. We provide engaging, thought-provoking programs that result in young adults (ages 12-24) taking education seriously, getting and keeping jobs, and improving employer competitiveness. The flagship program of the NJCCF is Jobs for New Jersey’s Graduates, the state affiliate of the national Jobs for America’s Graduates program.


The NJCCF supports current and future members of the workforce in becoming globally competitive, successful members of society and fuels New Jersey’s economy by sustaining a qualified workforce.


The need and demand for JNJG exceeds the resources of the NJCCF. Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has been presented with a proposal to phase-in an appropriation over a five-year period to expand JNJG to 45 programs serving 2,000 young adults. (New Jersey is the only state affiliate of JAG that is 100% privately funded.


Most recently, NJCCF President Donna Custard was selected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation as part of its invitation-only January 2020 Business Leads Fellowship Program: Elite Cohort.

The highest achievement for a JAG program is called “5 of 5,” an annual assessment of individual program attainment of five benchmarks for the program: graduation rate, employment rate, positive outcomes, full-time employment and full-time placement. For the Class of 2018, six of the 10 participating programs received the 5 of 5 award in 2019.


JAG is dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people with multiple challenges to success. New Jersey currently has 11 programs serving more than 350 high school and out-of-school youth.


The NJCCF submits grant proposals to corporate and private foundations. We are currently working with the Governor’s Office and various state departments in pursuit of public funds.


The foundation receives financial support from AT&T, Investors Bank Foundation, PSEG Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Wells Fargo, M&T Bank, NJM Insurance, Allergan Foundation, Sterling National Bank, Withumsmith+Brown, PNC Bank, Jesra Foundation, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Colgate-Palmolive, Atlantic City Electric — an Exelon company, Peapack-Gladstone Bank and TriState Capital.


In order to be eligible to participate in JNJG, students must have at least five of 36 predetermined challenges that could prevent them from graduating from high school. The most common challenges among our students are: chronic absenteeism, low academic performance, low income, challenges at home and lacking motivation. Since the class of 2013, in all but one program in one year, JAG students have out-graduated their peers — all the other students in their respective schools — by 6.6 to 53 percentage points.

In brief

Location: Trenton
Area served: Entire state
Key members: Donna Custard, president; Sandra Strothers, executive director of Jobs for New Jersey’s Graduates; Steven Rose, chairman of the board of directors

Conversation Starter

Reach Donna Custard, president of N.J. Chamber of Commerce Foundation at:, or 609-789-5274.