Sustainable Jersey: School nurses take on asthma in Trenton providing needed link between healthcare, school and home

Posted on by Renee Haider, Associate Director, Sustainable Jersey

Trenton Public School- School Nurses 2017

With 13 elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools, the nurses of the Trenton Public Schools have their hands full.

Despite the daily challenges, Micah Freeman, the Supervisor of Nurses for the Trenton Public School District, decided to take action and worked with the school nurses to target asthma in the district. Freeman said “Well, I added ‘achieving the Six Steps of the Asthma Friendly School’ to my list of goals for the year. Basically, we want to keep the kids healthy and keep them in school and this issue needed attention.”

Asthma is a chronic disease in which airway inflammation makes breathing difficult when a person is exposed to one or more triggers. It is a serious condition with no cure that needs on-going medical care and patient education, in order to manage asthma both at home and in school or at work. Schools play a major role in keeping children with asthma safe, healthy and actively involved in everyday activities, such as sports. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program includes addressing asthma as one of the 87 actions that schools do to achieve points toward certification across.

The New Jersey Department of Health’s analysis of asthma-related emergency department visits by municipality showed that Trenton’s rate was 3.8 times the state average and accounted for 76 percent of Mercer County’s asthma emergency department visits, although Trenton residents comprise only 23 percent of the county’s population. Asthma affects all races, ages and genders. But, blacks, Hispanics and urban residents are more likely to be affected with asthma symptoms, as are individuals with a family history of the disease.

Trenton School District Receives Asthma Friendly School Award

After a year of hard work, the school district was honored with the Asthma Friendly School Award in recognition of the district’s efforts to enhance the quality of education for students and staff that face the challenges of asthma. As part of this commitment to excellence, all 24 school locations completed the six steps toward establishing an asthma friendly school environment and have become part of the nearly 15 percent of schools in New Jersey to qualify for the award. Twenty-six of the schools that have received the Asthma Friendly School Award have also achieved the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification designation including all eight schools from the School District of Egg Harbor Township (Atlantic County) and 13 schools from the Wayne Township School District (Passaic County).

The Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey, a project of the American Lung Association in New Jersey provides the award. The coalition develops educational programs that build a partnership with students, staff, physicians and families to work as a team to manage asthma in the school setting. The Trenton Public Schools, led by the school nurses, completed the educational programs and took a proactive approach to implementing a program on indoor air quality by establishing an Indoor Air Quality Team in their school, as well as signing the No Idling Pledge for school buses in an effort to reduce pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks. Taking these steps can lead to a reduction in school absenteeism as well as a decrease in the number of asthma episodes. There are six steps to qualify for the Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey   Asthma Friendly School Award, read more: Six Steps.

Micah Freeman is also leading Trenton School District’s application to become certified with Sustainable Jersey for Schools. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification action called Asthma Friendly School models the six steps of the Asthma Friendly School Award. Freeman clarified that her asthma training and education did not just focus on nurses and teachers, it included the whole staff and especially the custodians. She is proud of the complementary new policy that was developed, the Trenton Board of Education Green and Healthy Schools Cleaning Policy, as cleaning chemicals can be a trigger for asthma.

We applaud the efforts of the Trenton School District and the nurses who worked hard to influence change in their community.  They now have a proactive response to asthma in the schools rather than a reactive response and this will make a difference with health and wellness for the whole community.

For more about Sustainable Jersey for Schools: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn


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Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Sorting through the dreaded 501c3 reporting obligations

Posted on by Christine Michelle Duffy, Pro Bono Partnership

Paperwork cc Erich Ferdinand
Paperwork. Reporting requirements.

I know. This isn’t a very captivating topic. But many tasks that nonprofits need to attend to aren’t captivating.

But this is an important topic, one that if ignored could put your nonprofit at significant risk of losing its charitable status and the rights that flow from that status.

In this post, I review five of the most common reports/registrations New Jersey 501(c)(3) public charities might need to file periodically and a few of the consequences for failing to do so. I also offer an easy solution for avoiding these consequences.

Reporting/Registration Obligations

  1. Internal Revenue Service Annual Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax

Every 501(c)(3) nonprofit must file an annual informational return with the IRS, using one of three different forms (Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-N), by no later than the fifteenth day of the fifth month after the close of the nonprofit’s tax year. For more details, see Pro Bono Partnership’s Tax and Filing Considerations for Small New Jersey Nonprofits.

  1. New Jersey Division of Revenue Annual Report

Every New Jersey corporation must file online an annual report with the New Jersey Division of Revenue by no later than the last day of the anniversary month of the nonprofit’s incorporation or registration to do business in New Jersey (a/k/a foreign registration). To learn more about this, see

If you don’t know in what month your nonprofit was formed or registered, go to, select “Business Entity Documents” and then “Business Name.” Enter the first one or two words of the name of your nonprofit and then click “Continue.” If you entered the name as recorded by the Division of Revenue, information about your nonprofit should appear. For example, among the organizations that I found when I searched for “Geraldine” is:

Business Name Entity ID City Type Original Filing





0900022790 MORRISTOWN NP 10/1974

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation was incorporated in New Jersey in October 1974, so its annual report must be filed by October 31 each year.

Pro Bono Partnership is incorporated in Connecticut and is registered to do business in New Jersey. This is how the Division of Revenue lists the Partnership:

Business Name Entity ID City Type Original Filing




0100834618 PARSIPPANY NF 11/2000

“NF” stands for “Foreign Non-Profit Corporation.” A chart listing the different codes is at

  1. New Jersey Charities Registration and Investigation Section Annual Renewal Registration

Every nonprofit that is registered with the Charities Registration and Investigation Section of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs must file an annual renewal registration within six months after the close of its fiscal year.

If your nonprofit received contributions in New Jersey, and the total gross amount of contributions received nationwide by your nonprofit exceeded $10,000 during the fiscal year, then your nonprofit should have been registered with the Section. To learn more about charities registration in New Jersey and in other states, see the following two publications on the Partnership’s website:

If you aren’t sure whether your nonprofit is registered with the Section, you can do a search at For nonprofits that are up-to-date with their filing obligations, the search result will look as follows, with additional columns showing the street address, zip code, and phone number:

NJ Reg. # Federal EIN Charity Name City State File Standing
  1. New Jersey Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission Biennial Registration

Nonprofits that conduct games of chance must renew their registrations with the New Jersey Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission biennially and must file reports of operations by no later than the 15th day of the calendar month following the month in which a game of chance was conducted, except that reports relating to special door raffles need to be filed annually.

  1. Triennial Municipal Property Tax Exemption Application

If a nonprofit obtains a declaration from a municipality that its property is exempt from real estate taxes, then every three years after the year in which the initial application for exemption was approved, by no later than Nov. 1, it must file with the municipality a Further Statement that reaffirms that the exemption, granted for past years, should remain in effect. Municipal tax assessors normally mail a blank Further Statement to nonprofits in advance of the filing deadline.

  1. Other Reporting Obligations

There are other periodic reports that nonprofits must file, depending on the nature of their activities. For example, these might include:

  • If a nonprofit has entered into government contracts, periodic reporting is often a condition of such contracts.

Consequences for Not Filing

In addition to potentially having to pay late filing fees and/or penalties, failing to timely file required reports/registrations might have other, more significant consequences.

For example, if a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fails to file one of the Form 990 returns for three consecutive years, it will automatically lose its tax-exempt status as of the original filing due date of the third annual return.

See the IRS’s Revoked? Reinstated? Learn More. Donors thereafter will lose their charitable contribution deduction on their Form 1040, which might result in the nonprofit losing donors. And the nonprofit might also lose its sales tax exemption. See the New Jersey Division of Taxation’s Exempt Organization Certificate Form ST-5.

Similarly, pursuant to a provision of the New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation Act (see N.J.S.A. 15A:4-5(c)), a corporation that fails to file its annual report with the New Jersey Division of Revenue for two consecutive years is subject to having its Certificate of Incorporation or Certificate of Authority to do business in New Jersey revoked.

If a nonprofit’s corporate status is revoked, it will lose its entitlement to any property tax exemption it might have obtained. See Section 412.18 of the New Jersey Division of Taxation’s Handbook for New Jersey Assessors. In addition, it is conceivable that a court could hold that the nonprofit and its volunteers (including trustees) are no longer eligible to claim in litigation that they are entitled to immunity under the New Jersey Charitable Immunity Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-7 et seq.

What Should Nonprofits Do?

To help avoid missing filing deadlines, a nonprofit’s executive director should appoint a senior manager to be primarily responsible for ensuring that all required registrations and reports are filed on a timely basis. A second senior manager should be selected as a backup. The executive director and these two managers should enter on their calendars the filing due dates and advance reminders of forthcoming deadlines. If one of these three people leaves the nonprofit, a replacement should be designated.

Christine Michelle Duffy croppedChristine Michelle Duffy is a senior staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership.  Christine is editor-in-chief and contributing author ofGender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Practical Guide, and a contributor to the treatise New Jersey Employment Law.  To learn more about Pro Bono Partnership, or to donate, please visit or call (973) 240-6955.




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Art Pride NJ: One Big Tool for the Arts Advocacy Toolkit

Posted on by Ann Marie Miller, Art Pride NJ

Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey_Red Velvet

Did you attend an arts event last year? A performance, exhibit, music festival, or poetry reading?

If you did, you are in great company. New Jersey nonprofit arts groups drew more than 7.5 million people to their programs in 2015 — that’s four times more than all New Jersey professional sports events. And those same groups and audiences generated a half billion dollars for the state’s economy.

When you went to an arts event, did you by any chance stop for a bite to eat? Pay for parking? Fill the tank? Pay a babysitter? What about that gift shop nearby; did you stop in to buy a birthday gift? Maybe you purchased a lovely scarf at the museum store? Nearly all arts participants spend something more than the ticket price — much more.

AEP5 infographic

ArtPride New Jersey is proud to have recently released the results of year-long research that studied spending by New Jersey arts and cultural organizations, along with the spending habits of people who attend their events. The project is part of Americans for the Arts’ national Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, supported by funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the NJ State Council on the Arts, and an anonymous donor. It examined how nonprofit cultural groups contribute to the economy, from meeting payroll and mounting productions down to office supplies and professional services like accounting, custodial, and legal.

But why, you might ask, is this important? Simply put, because it gives the arts a powerful tool by which to demonstrate yet another way that they have profound positive impact on our lives and communities, and deserve public and private support.

It is now very clear that New Jersey’s arts mean business. They mean jobs. They mean downtowns that are more vibrant, and the impact continues to grow.

It all started with the 1993 Port Authority of NY & NJ study The Arts as an Industry—Their Economic Importance to the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan Region.  Jaws dropped to learn that the arts at that time contributed more than $5.6 billion to the regional economy. Yes, that includes Broadway, but that is still billions.

New Jersey leaders were among the first nationwide to explore the impact of the arts for an entire state. In 1994, under the auspices of the NJ State Council on the Arts and the South Jersey Cultural Alliance, a report was released using data from Arts Council grantees, which showed that direct spending by arts groups and patrons totaled $272 million. The study was updated in 2001 and 2009, each one revealing sizeable increases in economic activity from the previous report.

It is now very clear that New Jersey’s arts mean business. They mean jobs. They mean downtowns that are more vibrant, and the impact continues to grow.

This data, especially when we marry it to compelling personal stories that illustrate how art changes people’s lives, can be tremendously helpful and persuasive to policy makers and elected officials who face hard choices. It reminds government and business leaders why investment in the nonprofit arts is an investment in healthier communities.

For instance, the recent study shows that the arts generate more than $41 million in local and state tax revenues — nearly triple the amount of funding annually appropriated to the NJ State Council on the Arts. Thus, state spending represents about 3 cents of every $1 dollar of economic impact.  This is a tremendous return that can only grow with larger state investment.  The Art Pride website holds all the delicious study details.

Art Pride New Jersey is using this new data as part of its campaign to make a difference in the upcoming gubernatorial and legislative elections. All 120 seats are up.

Each candidate was just mailed a survey that asks about arts policy and funding (also available online).

Your active involvement is needed to urge candidates to complete their survey. Responses will be posted online to inform voters in the November election.

And guess what? The recent study also revealed that nearly 90 percent of over 4,000 people surveyed voted or planned to vote in the 2016 election.

The arts and arts voters mean business and ArtPride NJ is dedicated to making sure they have all the tools they need to remind policy makers that when you invest in the arts, you in invest in a better NJ and in concrete ways that improves everybody’s bottom line.

Posted in Advocacy, ArtPride New Jersey, Arts, Arts Advocacy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry Friday: Join Us in Military Park This Thursday!

Posted on by Dodge Poetry
L-R: Poets Marina Carreira, Robert Hylton and Dimitri Reyes.

L-R: Poets Marina Carreira, Robert Hylton and Dimitri Reyes.

Newark Voices Poetry Reading & Open Mic
Thursday, July 20th at 12:30
Military Park in Newark

IMG_8107This Thursday, July 20th join Dodge Poetry in partnership with Newark’s Military Park for Lunchtime Poems: A Summer Poetry Reading Series. Thursday’s reading will feature a selection of dynamic poets from Newark’s long-thriving poetry community.

For the first time, the reading will be followed by an Open Mic for interested audience members to read their own work or the work of another poet. So bring a poem if you’d like to share!

Admission is free, and no tickets are necessary, just join us on the Plaza in Military Park, Newark, NJ. In case of rain, readings will be cancelled with no rain date, and cancellation will be announced by 10am. Co-sponsored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Military Park Partnership.

Poet Bios

MARINA CARREIRA is a Luso-American writer from Newark, NJ. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University; is the curator and co-host of Brick City Speaks, a monthly reading series in Newark; and is a poet in the Dodge Poetry Visiting Poets in Schools program. Her work has appeared in Paterson Literary Review, The Acentos Review, Writes of the Portuguese Diaspora: An Anthology, among others. Her first chapbook I Sing to that Bird Knowing He Won’t Sing Back: Fado Poems has just been released by Finishing Line Press.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica ROBERT HYLTON has been performing poetry since 1996. He has been an English teacher in Newark NJ for over 17 years as well as a poetry club curator in many public schools, universities, community centers, and churches in the tri-state area. He has performed at renowned venues, such as, the former Serengeti Plains, The Poet’s Corner (Bogies), Euphoria Café and NYC’s The Nuyorican Poet’s Café. Respected by his peers and younger poets alike, Hylton prides himself in mentorship and introducing writing and the art of slam poetry to young people across the tri-state area.

DIMITRI REYES is a SortaRican PuertoVegan poet born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. He establishes his poetic identity through personal, experiential meditations that focus on subjects such as veganism, eco- ethics, being Latino, and growing up in the inner city. Dimitri is currently a candidate in the Rutgers- Newark MFA program. His poetry has been published in Acentos Review, DryLandLit, Radius, Maudlin House, and others.



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The Power of Using Talent for Good

Posted on by Michael Bzdak, Executive Director, Global Community Impact, Johnson & Johnson


When considering the ways in which the private sector can advance global health and development and improve our world, a few obvious options come to mind.

Funding is usually high on the list, as is research and development, but other interventions are in demand. Business acumen, supply chain knowledge and monitoring and evaluation expertise are among the competencies that nonprofits are seeking from the private sector to make a stronger and more sustainable impact.

As most companies know, however, one of the most precious resources any organization has is its people. And their talents and altruism are important tools to leverage when seeking to make progress toward any philanthropic platform.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a perfect case in point. On the surface, the goals seemed overwhelming. Critics charged that there were too many goals, and that they were too broad to be achievable. But once understood, it became clear there are manageable sub-targets that provide a path forward.

From a Johnson & Johnson perspective, our employees will play an increasing role in meeting the targets in our own commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, and making a difference on the front lines of care.

Building the global health workforce 

Valeria Del Canto is on a six months J&J Secondment building the capacity of the North Star Alliance (North Star) in Kenya. North Star, a Flagship Partner of our Global Community Impact Team in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, connects hard-to-reach mobile populations — such as truck drivers and sex workers — with primary health care services, HIV testing and health education in 10 countries across Africa through their Blue Box Roadside Wellness Centers.

In March, Valeria temporarily transitioned from her management role in external manufacturing for Johnson & Johnson in Zug, Switzerland, to lead North Star’s laboratory development efforts in Kenya. North Star has been hosting J&J Secondees in EMEA since 2014.

Addressing Global Disease Challenges

When Zika started to spread across Brazil late last year, Johnson & Johnson medical teams partnered with Brazilian health authorities to identify how best to mobilize and combine our resources with those of local collaborators to help stem the outbreak at the source.

In partnership with public and private entities, Johnson & Johnson is implementing a program to help train public healthcare professionals, nurses, and physicians to care for women who are pregnant and at risk of delivering babies with microcephaly as a result of becoming infected with Zika. The goal is to train 1,650 healthcare workers in six priority regions with the highest concentration of infections: Recife, Salvador, Cuiaba, Araguaina and Campina Grande.

Improving access to surgery

According to data from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 5 billion people —particularly in low-income and lower-middle-income countries — lack access to safe, affordable surgical and anesthesia care. Cleft lips and cleft palates, birth defects in which a piece of the lip or palate (the soft tissue at the top of the mouth) are missing, is an area where safe surgery is particularly needed — especially in remote parts of the world like the highlands of Guatemala.

Reinhard Juraschek, Associate Director of Research & Development, Ethicon, has taken advantage of the Extended Volunteer Leave Policy and boarded a plane bound for the Guatemalan highlands every February for the past six years. In a small town with little access to healthcare, he joins the Rotary International’s Iowa MOST (Miles of Smiles) team, which performs cleft lip and palate surgeries on children.

In each case, employees who have participated in volunteer or secondment programs have reported that the opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge in settings other than their everyday place of work gave them a great deal of satisfaction. In turn, the nonprofits they’ve served have reported their appreciation for the opportunity to work alongside and benefit from the talent of our employees.

We are also encouraged by the advent of Impact 2030, a global, private sector-led collaboration to mobilize employee volunteers in support of the SDGs, which Johnson & Johnson joined this year. This ambitious agenda includes the development of open-source measurement frameworks, benchmarks, and reports on how volunteer efforts impact the SDGs. According to their charter, “IMPACT 2030 was created in response to UN Resolution A/RES/66/67 that encouraged further engagement with the private sector ‘through the expansion of corporate volunteering and employee volunteer activities’.”

As the practice of HR becomes more closely aligned to CSR in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development, there are tremendous opportunities for private sector employees to accelerate progress toward the Global Goals.

A smart, skilled, dedicated employee base has the power to create a ripple effect that can achieve key targets within the SDGs, meet a company’s philanthropic goals, and leave a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the wider world. When considering the contributions private sector entities can make in achieving the SDGs, the talent and passion of employees must not be overlooked.


As executive director on the Global Community Impact team at Johnson & Johnson, Michael Bzdak manages the Corporation’s employee engagement strategy and has previously led Johnson & Johnson’s health care workforce strengthening efforts. He also manages the Corporation’s philanthropic support for K-12 education, including a signature school-to-career program. Michael is now a visiting part-time lecturer in the School of Communication and Information Studies at Rutgers University and an adjunct faculty member at New York University.  Johnson & Johnson is a longtime member of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the center for philanthropy in the state, serving corporate foundations and giving programs as well as private and community foundations.

Posted in Collaboration, Community Building, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, Philanthropy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arts Ed Now: Lessons in Dance to Help Choreograph Your Future

Posted on by Claudine Ranieri, Paramus High School dance educator

Dance Hernán Piñera CC

As a dance educator and choreographer, my mission is to use the art of dance as a powerful tool that is beyond entertainment — conveying stories and meaningful messages about ourselves and the world around us.

That mission was on full display at the Paramus High School dance department’s Power of The Dance 4- concert, an event filled with a collection of intriguing pieces of choreography, which educated, inspired, and ignited the audience’s imagination. Each piece at the June 1 concert reflected on our history, past, and shared our hopes for our future.

This year dance at Paramus High School was filled with so many exciting and amazing opportunities in dance and for our community. In this post, I’d like to highlight some of these opportunities.

The Paramus Chamber of Commerce Dream Grant Foundation provided us a grant supporting Broadway Meets The Artist Dream, an opportunity for students to experience full-day professional dance experiences in New York. In addition to taking part in Broadway step-by-step workshops for An American In Paris and Hamilton, students also attended An American In Paris and Paramour on Broadway. Dancers met cast members, learned original choreography and participated in Q&A sessions sharing their wisdom from the field.

On the trip, we were also fortunate to have guest artists Laurena Barros, a former Rockette, for a precision kick line workshop and Kid Glyde, of Broadway Dance Center, for a hip hop and breakdancing workshop.

During the holiday season, The Spartanettes began a new tradition — Sharing The Gift Of Dance assembly programs performed at all schools district-wide. This new program gave students an opportunity to perform in addition to the school’s annual holiday concert.

Dancers this year also visited NJPAC twice to see live professional performances of Ballet Hispanico and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and to participate in professional workshops with Dance New Jersey.

In April, another magical moment was a collaborative performance sharing the stage with the school’s wind ensemble to bring An American In Paris to life on stage for our K-12 Arts Festival.

This year’s Power of Dance concert featured original pieces of choreography created by our dance honors students. Each piece was created to raise awareness about particular social issues our youth face today, part of our dance for democracy and social consciousness unit.

Throughout the evening concert, students shared mission statements as well beautiful dances about 9/11, bullying, body image and adversity. They also performed Identity, a piece inspired by the poem I Am A Jew by Franz Bass, from the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944.

We were beyond proud of Emily Pagano, Paramus High School senior and the recipient of the 2017 Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Excellence in Artistry & Leadership in Dance, who performed her solo work to Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” In her mission statement she shared:

“Confucius once said, ‘our greatest glory is not in never failing, but rising in every time we fall,’ this couldn’t be any closer to what I focused on when choreographing my piece too ‘Still I Rise.’ I created this piece to let people know it’s okay to fall. We live in a world where people have this preconceived idea that to fall, is to be weak. However, I’m here to let you know that it’s not the struggle that determines your inner strength, it is your willingness to rise from the fall.”

The evening concluded with all dancers performing to an instrumental version of Imagine, utilizing sign language and dance to convey powerful message of unity.

It has been an amazing year for the dance department that has reaffirmed the power of dance as a universal language that all can comprehend.

Thank you to Paramus Board of Education, Dance New Jersey, Dance New Jersey-Dance PLC, Arts Ed Now and all the dancers for your endless hard work , dedication and commitment to the Dance program and Arts Education.

Nietzsche said, “We should consider each day lost in which we have not danced at least once.” For me, every day has been found.

Claudine RanieriClaudine Ranieri is a dance educator at Paramus High School and artistic director of The Spartanettes. This post is part of our Arts Ed Now series presented in partnership with the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership sharing insights and stories on innovative arts education taking place in New Jersey schools.



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Poetry Friday: Thanks for a Great School Year!

Posted on by Ysabel Gonzalez


Ysabel Gonzalez

Ysabel Gonzalez

As we launch ourselves into vacations, beaches, and summer book reading, Dodge Poetry is taking some time to reflect on the classroom excitement we had this past Spring, bringing Dodge Poets into high schools.  These visits are a chance for high school students to explore poetry with dynamic poets who give students a way to relate to poetry that is interesting and relevant to them, focusing on the immersion into the art form of poetry through conversation, readings and discussions.  One of our favorite things to say here at Dodge is, you don’t have to write poetry to appreciate it.  This is certainly true for our young people, too, and these visits are an opportunity for some high school students to meet their first “real live poet.”  I’ve discovered firsthand here at Dodge from high school poet visits and mini-festivals, that students are hungry and curious about the lives of poets—asking questions about everything from decisions in crafting poems to what music poets enjoy.

One of our favorite stories this Spring comes from Sayreville War Memorial High School whose teachers and students attended the Dodge Poetry Festival in 2016.  Their Poetry Club’s president found the page in our Festival program that detailed our poetry in the school’s program and the work we do bringing poets into classrooms.  She reached out to us, wanting to know, “How do I make this happen for our school?”  With the combined efforts of the Sayreville High School Poetry Club and Dodge Poetry, we were able to host the school’s first mini-festival.  One student shared with us, “It was really nice to see real poets recite to us like we were close friends, the way they were sharing with us.  I enjoyed the experience so much, I’d put the assembly as the best assembly I’ve seen in all of high school.”

cindy goncalves 2017 mini fest

Cindy Goncalves

We are thankful to all the high schools this year who put in great effort, went above and beyond to bring poets into their classrooms, including:

St. Dominic Academy in Jersey City [Hudson County] hosted a Dodge Poet visit with Naomi Extra; thanks to teacher Dena Arguelles.

West Windsor Plainsboro High School in West Windsor-Plainsboro [Mercer County] hosted a mini-festival with Dodge poets Grisel Acosta, Emari DiGiorgio, Jonterri Gadson, Cindy Goncalves; thanks to teacher Lorraine Seiben.

Seneca High School in Tabernacle [Burlington County] hosted a mini-festival with Dodge poets Marina Carreira, Emari DiGiorgio, Charles Johnson, Christine Salvatore, and Paul-Victor Winters; thanks to Assistant Principal/Supervisor Dave Knecht.

Barringer STEAM Academy in Newark [Essex County] hosted a Dodge Poet visit with Ellen Hagan and Robert Hylton; thanks to Vice Principal Taiisha Swinton.

grisel acosta 2017 mini fest (002)

Grisel Acosta

Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner [Hunterdon County] hosted a mini-festival with Dodge Poets Laura Boss, Marina Carreira, Jonterri Gadson, Khalil Murrell, and Gretna Wilkinson; thanks to teachers Bonnie Beneszewski and Michael Crane.

North Star Academy College Preparatory High School in Newark [Essex County] hosted a mini-festival with Dodge Poets Jonterri Gadson, Roberto Carlos Garcia, Cindy Goncalves, Khalil Murrell , and Amy Meng; thanks to English Department Chair Mike Taubman.

Sayreville War Memorial High School in Sayreville[Middlesex County] hosted a mini-festival with Dodge Poets Marina Carreira, Christine Salvatore, and Vincent Toro; with thanks to the Poetry Club, teacher Theresa Chuntz, and Supervisor Kimberly Grossman.


Poet visits and mini-festivals are co-sponsored according to each New Jersey high school’s financial need.  We identify and schedule Dodge Poets, ensuring that your event is meaningful for your students. If you think your school would like to host a Dodge Poetry event in the Spring of 2018, or would like to know more, please contact Ysabel Y. Gonzalez, Poetry Program Assistant Director, at


Stay updated on the Dodge Poetry Program!

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Poetry Friday: CantoMundo Retreat in NYC

Posted on by Ysabel Gonzalez


Ysabel Y. Gonzalez

As a Latinx poet, I’m always searching for little homes.  For myself and for my poems.  So several years ago when I heard about CantoMundo, an organization which celebrates and cultivates Latinx poets through workshops, symposia & public readings, I knew I had to apply.  I knocked at their door for 5 years, determined to attend the retreat, determined to be a part of this family. I admired the Fellows’ work. Wearing my hat as the Assistant Director here at Dodge Poetry, I had witnessed their evocative readings at the Dodge Poetry Festival and our Lunchtime Poems in Military Park.  So, when I was accepted to the Fellowship this June, I put on a different hat—that of CantoMundo Fellow.

With this Fellowship hat, I was inspired by our instructors, Rosa Alcalá and Rigoberto González, and by all the other 29 Fellows who arrived from across the nation, including New York, California, Indiana, and Texas.  Over the four days we spent living, working and eating together on the Columbia University campus, I felt a connection to the other poets and to my own writing that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I believe it was tied to the commitment and purpose we all shared: working to create space for Latinx poetry throughout the United States.  From conversations about poems that inspire us over lunch from Malecon, to conversations on immigration on the steps of the campus library, we continued to learn over and over how similar we all were, despite the many differences.

The retreat also served as a reminder that the poet does more than just publish.  Latinx poets can also rise to the challenge of engaging with our communities in other ways, including volunteering and serving in our communities.  And that is not to say that publication isn’t a wonderful thing; in fact, it is a crucial tool to participate in the conversations being had. It’s easy to get caught up in the business of poetry, and CantoMundo reminded us not to lose sight of why we started writing in the first place, whatever that reason might be, whether  to share and document ancestral stories, to protest, or to contribute towards a larger conversation.

I left the CantoMundo retreat wanting to continue to write the kind of poem I want to read: the one that influences change and the kind that sparks transformation in my reader.  I’m very excited to read poetry that does exactly that, written by so many CantoMundistas who will be debuting work in first and second books soon, including poets: Sara Borjas, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Andrés Cerpa, Joshua Escobar, Carmen Giménez Smith, Sheila Maldonado, Jennifer Maritza McCauley, Jasminne Mendez, Brenda Nettles Riojas, Joseph Rios, Erika Sánchez, Natalie Scenters-Zapico, Nicole Sealey, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, and Javier Zamora.

It also excites me that there are so many, many Latinx poets writing and sharing their work— and CantoMundo Fellows are just a fraction.  In fact, CantoMundo received over 100 applications this year for the 10 open slots for new fellows. There are so many Latinx poets in our nation writing and working, experimenting and doing amazing things with language.  There are so many poets, period, exploring ways to use language in poems in a way that challenge their readers and call us to action.

If you’re interested in applying to CantoMundo, and identify as a Latinx poet, they will be accepting applications for 2018 fellows from September through December 2017.  Visit for more information.


Posted in Poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sustainable Jersey: Commit your town to climate progress, instructions included

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Executive Director, Sustainable Jersey

Helping NJ cities and towns meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement


At the recent New Jersey Sustainability Summit over 300 local and statewide leaders convened to pledge their commitment to a sustainable future and learn the practical strategies that can get us there. The theme of the summit was “collective impact.”

As a theory, collective impact suggests that by working together we can achieve results that are greater than the sum of the parts. But what does that mean in practice? Do communities know how to fulfill that pledge?

New Jersey Sustainability Summit keynote speaker Chris Daggett, President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation said, “Achieving these goals will require making changes beyond city hall. It will impact every person and every business in our communities. It will change the cars we drive, the buildings we build, the taxes we levy and the personal choices we make in our daily lives. And to achieve the goal, it will require buy-in and collaboration from citizens and countless organizations such as religious congregations, social clubs and business groups, among others.”

cd sj

A specific example is the collective impact we can have locally on the global issue of climate change. You may have heard that the federal government has decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. In response, cities and towns all over the country have pledged to fill the void. Here in New Jersey, over 15 municipalities have pledged to uphold the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement through local action.

Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standard in Energy provides a roadmap to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the local level. It gives a performance standard and guidelines for municipal action that correspond to our best, evolving, understanding of what is a fair and feasible share of the collective effort to expect from each borough, town and city.

Sustainable Jersey municipalities are on the cutting edge of making real-world decisions that are required to achieve climate goals at a local level. Their actions will have a crucial impact, because most of the initiative on reducing carbon emissions is currently happening at the state and local level, regardless of federal policy. The Gold Star Standard in Energy is intended to achieve the Sustainable Jersey goals for energy set forth in the 2017 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report.

The primary goal of the Sustainable Jersey Gold Star Standard in Energy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate that will achieve New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act: an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by the year 2050. To meet the target, New Jersey has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate of 3.6 percent a year, every year. The Sustainable Jersey Gold Star Standard in Energy is calibrated to achieve this target. By comparison, the Paris Climate Agreement set the United States’ target for greenhouse gas reductions of 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, or about one percent per year.

There are two elements of the Gold Star Standard in Energy. Municipalities will be held responsible for achieving the 3.6 percent target rate of greenhouse gas emission from their own operations and facilities to meet the first part of the Gold Star Standard. Towns can accomplish this by working on Sustainable Jersey actions from three categories: renewable energy generation, vehicle fleet management and building energy efficiency.  They are also encouraged to demonstrate how their own local innovations achieve the same result.

Not only do municipal operations contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, municipalities also play a key role in influencing greenhouse gas-emitting behavior in the broader community. So, towns working toward Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star in Energy must also meet a second standard: take effective steps to bring down energy consumption in the broader community.

To meet the community-wide emissions standard, municipalities must implement six Sustainable Jersey actions (or approved alternatives): Make Your Town Electric Vehicle Friendly, Public Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, Make Your Town Solar Friendly (new action), Community-Led Solar Initiatives (new action),  Residential Energy Efficiency Outreach and Commercial Energy Efficiency Outreach. Research indicates that these six actions, taken together, can lower community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by one percent a year or more.

Want to go for gold? Register for a free webinar

To learn more about the municipal actions that can help your town achieve climate commitments, take part in the free on-line webinar on June 28 at 1:00 pm: FREE WEBINAR: Commit Your Town to Climate Progress: Go for the Sustainable Jersey Gold Star in Energy.

REGISTER. The recorded webinar will be available on-line after June 28: Webinar Recordings and Presentations.

To Rise Above, We Need to Work Together


Sustainable Jersey hero Ralph Cooper of Upper Township Green Team with Randall Solomon and Lauren Skowronski at NJ Sustainability Summit.

We envision a very near future where New Jersey municipalities are taking the lead on climate and many other issues and delivering meaningful results that can scale up and have statewide impacts.

“We believe that the leadership and progress needed to meet the goals will come from all of us working together,” Daggett said in his address. “Imagine the impact we could have if we used collective resources from around New Jersey and beyond, in a framework of collective impact, to help…communities achieve their climate goals. And imagine the impact on our statewide goals, and on the world, to have communities making deep systemic change to achieve broader statewide and national goals.”

For New Jersey municipalities to have a meaningful impact in achieving measurable emissions reductions, they will need to ensure compliance, coordination and successful implementation. New Jersey is well prepared to meet the climate challenge as Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standard in Energy provides the framework needed.

“Working together across political and ideological lines, citizens can put aside their differences to focus not only on achieving the sustainability certification but also on going deeper and resolving complex social issues like climate change,” Daggett said. “If we are going to break the cycle of rancor and partisanship, it must start at the local level, which is the bread and butter of the Sustainable Jersey program.”

Sustainable Jersey’s Gold Star Standards and the Gold Star Standard for Waste are now on our website for viewing:

If your town is interested in applying, contact us – our team is eager to work closely with yours: or 609-771-2921.

For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn

Posted in Collaboration, Environment, Green Ideas, Leadership, Nonprofit, Philanthropy, Public Policy, Sustainable Jersey | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Civic Info Bill would create fund to spark local journalism projects

Posted on by Meghan Jambor, Dodge Foundation


What would happen if you had the chance to reinvent local reporting?

A bill was introduced in the state Legislature earlier this month that would create a fund to promote local journalism projects, the kind imagined by residents at community forums hosted by Free Press as part of News Voices: New Jersey.

The Civic Info Bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, would establish the Civic Information Consortium, a nonprofit institution run by several state universities in partnership with digital innovators, community groups, local journalists, and residents.

The consortium would receive $100 million — $20 million annually over a five-year period — from the sale of New Jersey’s old public media stations, which netted the state $332 million. The consortium would be designed to fund essential news-and-information projects throughout the state to benefit civic life and meet the needs of underserved New Jersey communities.

The bill’s fate is to be decided this week, with a state-budget deadline looming on June 30.

In a New York Times op-ed late last year, Dodge President Chris Daggett called the public airwaves auction “an important opportunity to invest in new ways to meet the information needs of the public.”

“These airwaves are the public’s, and their use has always come with public-interest obligations,” Daggett wrote. “A significant portion of any proceeds should be deployed strategically to meet the public’s real need for news and for information that helps citizens live their lives.”

Free Press last week invited residents to join them in Trenton to urge support for the bill at Civic Info Bill Lobby Day, where they delivered a letter signed by more than 60 organizations and petitions signed by more than 1,700 New Jersey residents, according to its website.

“The hundreds of millions received from the recent sale of old public-media stations represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give New Jerseyans the news and information they need to participate fully in our democracy,” said Mike Rispoli, Free Press Action Fund’s journalism campaign director and the director of the News Voices: New Jersey project, which has organized public support for the Civic Information Consortium. “Thousands of newsroom jobs have disappeared and dozens of news outlets have shut down throughout New Jersey over the last decade. By passing this legislation, we can take a significant leap toward restoring local news coverage, elevating the voices of the state’s most marginalized residents, increasing civic participation, and making local politicians more responsive to the needs of their constituents.”

Through News Voices, Free Press has brought together residents and journalists to reimagine local news in Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Camden, Glassboro, Hackensack, Montclair, Morristown, Newark, New Brunswick, and Tuckerton.

The forums have provided residents an opportunity to share their thoughts on the type of local news reporting they’d like to see more of and brainstorm potential ideas for using the money.

In a blog post this week, Free Press shared the following ideas raised at the forums.

Potential ideas for using the money:

  • Squarespace for New Jersey: Create a set of user-friendly, attractive templates for town, county and school-district websites, built to convey the kinds of essential information residents crave. By choosing a template from this resource, a town or school system could quickly and cheaply do a much better job of providing needed information in a timely manner.
  • #ReadLocal campaign: Help New Jersey journalists and outlets doing good work grow their audiences and revenue by promoting quality homegrown journalism on legacy and social media. Working with an entity such as NJ News Commons at Montclair State University, the campaign could pick the best stories each week and share them statewide.
  • Media literacy: Create curricula and workshops to help people of all ages, from middle schoolers to adults, become discerning media users who are able to identify fake news. Forum participants saw the state’s libraries as a valuable ally in this effort.
  • Civic education institutes: Develop materials and a format for local communities to establish institutes where residents could learn how local governments and school systems really work, and how to engage with them effectively and appropriately.
  • AmeriCorps for journalism: Identify promising young journalists, initially via outreach to New Jersey high schools and colleges. After graduating from college, these individuals would receive two-year fellowships to report on undercovered communities or issues, working with established media outlets that would provide mentoring and training.
  • Mini-grants for reporting: Offer grants to independent journalists and newsrooms to enable them to work collaboratively on in-depth reports on topics that might otherwise go uncovered.
  • Digital public radio for New Jersey: Return quality audio storytelling to New Jersey by offering seed money for podcasts that would cover topics unique to New Jersey. A platform would gather all of these podcasts in one place for state residents to access.
  • Local data apps: Create a digital-app template that a community or county could use to provide mobile access to key government data, e.g., restaurant-inspection records, social-service contacts, environmental data, roadwork and traffic data, etc.

The Dodge Foundation supports Free Press for its News Voices project through its Informed Communities program. Photo at top courtesy of Free Press.

Posted in Community Building, Community Engagement, Grantee Spotlight, Informed Communities, Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Me/We’ Mindset: Collaboration can move mountains at Creative Camden

Posted on by Kacy O'Brien, Creative New Jersey



Engaging young people, creating jobs, teaching tech innovation, improving transit and improving education are just a few of the fifty-seven strategic discussions that sparked new collaborations and strengthened partnerships during the two days of our Creative Camden Call to Collaboration.

Over the course of those conversations, I heard a theme emerge, most succinctly captured in the words of three Creative Camden participants in videos below, which I’ll paraphrase by saying, “The Me/We mindset moves mountains.”

What I heard at Creative Camden got me thinking differently about how I frame the idea of “collaboration.”

The flip from using the word “I” to using “we” is an essential one in building community because it means individuals start to identify with a larger collective and start to build a sense of belonging. When I heard Christopher Hampton, Founder of ChampIAm, use the phrase “me/we” on the second day of Creative Camden, something about that shift in language crystalized for me: it’s about the individual but inseparable relationship between “me” and “we.”

Using a phrase like “me/we” shows identification and belonging, but also mutual benefit in a way that still puts the greater good first.  Motivating change is often much easier when people can see and experience direct benefit to themselves, but that key ingredient might well be a personal benefit that is still in service to community benefit.  Here’s how Chris puts it:

Christopher Hampton, Founder of ChampIAm

When Chris’ comments are viewed in conjunction with those of Michael D’Italia, Program Coordinator for Engaged Civic Learning at Rutgers University-Camden, who spoke about collaboration and cooperation, we start to see how the “me/we” mindset generates the kind of collective partnerships that can help move ideas forward:

D'Italia video

Michael D’Italia, Program Coordinator for Engaged Civic Learning, Rutgers University-Camden

Zulma Gonzalez-Lombardo’s comments brought it all home for me, when she discussed the collective impact that is possible from everyone bringing their individual talents in support of a greater cause:

Lombardo video

Zulma Gonzalez-Lomboardo, Executive Director of The Rachel & Drew Katz Foundation

Collaboration is hard. Collaboration takes time. And in our experience, collaboration never looks the same way twice.

But we know that it works, and when it works the payoff can be transformational because it can change:

  1. The way we view our place in our own communities and
  2. Mutually beneficial change for ourselves and those around us — the “me/we” of thriving communities.

I learned from the participants of Creative Camden, as we do from every community, and so we want to learn from you, our readers. I want to pose a question to you all:

What does the “Me/We” mindset look like to you?  Have you had a collaborative experience that changed the way you saw yourself in relation to a larger collective? When were you most motivated to help move a mountain?  Did you see personal benefit in some way as part of the goal of collective benefit?

Please share your experiences and thoughts on this idea — we’d like to learn how collaborative work has impacted you!

If you want to become involved with the Creative Camden members, please email us at and we’ll be sure to connect you. There’s a new Creative Camden Facebook group that recently launched and you can check out photos and videos there. A compendium of the notes from all discussions across both days of the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration is available online and can be accessed here.

Kacy O'Brien

Kacy O’Brien

Kacy O’Brien is Creative New Jersey’s Program Manager and is a Lead New Jersey 2015 Fellow.

Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy. Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog.

Posted in Camden, Collaboration, Community Building, Creative NJ | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Board Performance and Inertia

Posted on by Kent E. Hansen

Change Legosz

I tend to be uncomfortable with change. I know I am not alone.

People’s resistance to change has spawned many different uses for the word “inertia” that have nothing to do with physics. There are cognitive inertia, business inertia, organizational inertia, and psychological inertia, to name a few. The common thread is that they all have some element of resistance to change.

While there is a strong tendency to continue doing what you are already doing, it is essential for a nonprofit board to periodically take some time to evaluate how well it is performing as a board, address individual board members who aren’t contributing and assess the effectiveness of the board’s stewardship of the nonprofit. Perhaps nothing needs to change and everyone is performing well.

On the other hand, perhaps the board can identify ways to improve. The board will never know unless it takes the time to assess its own performance.

There are, of course, the operational responsibilities of nonprofit boards that require regular attention during the year. If the organization is small and operates without an executive director, the board manages the day-to-day operations. Larger organizations will have an executive director. In either case, operational performance, including the executive director’s performance, should be reviewed at regular intervals during the year.

Overall assessment of board performance is a different matter. Certainly, a major purpose of the evaluation should be to assess how well the nonprofit is accomplishing its mission under the board’s direction.

There are other areas which should be evaluated as well, which may include, for example:

  • how effective the corporate governance structure established by the board is working;
  • whether it is time for policies established by the board to be reviewed;
  • how well the board performs its operational reviews;
  • how well the board’s meetings are organized and run;
  • whether members are receiving necessary information in a timely manner to meet the board’s oversight responsibilities; and
  • whether the board should create committees for more effective oversight of certain functions.

This evaluation should not be part of a regular meeting. It should be a meeting held solely for the purpose of the self-assessment. In advance of the meeting, board members should be provided with materials that will encourage them to think about how the board is fulfilling its duties and areas that may be in need of improvement. The assessment should be critical but in a positive and constructive way.

A board must also address any performance issues relating to board members. Timing and process for any action on such issues will likely depend on the facts and circumstances. In any event, if board members are missing meetings, not participating in a constructive way, or don’t fully appreciate their function and responsibilities, this should be addressed.

As with other board programs, no one evaluation process will suit all nonprofits. The timing and structure of the process should be tailored to the specific needs of each nonprofit, the stage of its development, the resources it may have available for the process, and similar considerations.

A mature nonprofit may want to hold a one-day retreat for its board and retain a professional to present and facilitate the assessment program. The board of another nonprofit may find it appropriate to simply schedule a board meeting with board performance being the only item on the agenda.

The important thing is to be intentional and thoughtful about developing a process of self-assessment that is robust, not just perfunctory, and following it on a periodic basis. That process should emphasize an honest assessment and constructive review of board performance.

Pro Bono Partnership has resources available for boards that want to develop a self-assessment process.

Kent Hansen

Kent E. Hansen is a senior staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership, Inc.  Pro Bono Partnership provides free business and transactional legal services to nonprofits serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.



Posted in Board Leadership, Nonprofit, Pro Bono Partnership | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Survey of the Social Sector: Rising Demand, Resource Gaps, and Opportunities

Posted on by Guest Blogger



The Center for Non-Profits has been surveying the New Jersey non-profit community at least annually since 2001 to gauge the effects of the economy, funding and programmatic trends, and other issues in our field. This year’s report, New Jersey Non-Profits 2017: Trends and Outlook, based on the responses from 300 organizations, reveals familiar themes as well as some new concerns and opportunities.

Rising Demand, Lagging Funding

Similar to prior surveys, three-fourths (75%) of responding organizations reported that demand for services had increased during the past year, but only 40% reported increased funding during the same period. And while 76% expected demand to continue rising in 2017, only half expected their funding to grow. This persistent gap has significant implications for the ability of non-profits to provide needed programs and services when more is being expected of them by the government and the public.

Concern about Capacity, Infrastructure

2017AnnualSurveyRpt_CoverInfrastructure, capacity and financial concerns dominated the issues identified by organizations as the top challenges facing individual non-profits and the sector at large. These included:

    • Financial uncertainty
    • Corporate/Foundation funding
    • Attracting/retaining stronger boards
    • Branding/communications
    • Non-profit infrastructure
    • Ability to hire/retain good staff
    • Federal & state government funding and fiscal policy

Less Optimism about the Future
Less than half (48%) of nonprofits indicated that their overall circumstances had improved over the past year, notably lower than our survey of two years ago (57%). They were more guarded about their outlook for the future, with about half (53%) predicting improvement in their organizations’ circumstances in the coming year, down from 64% in 2015.

In open-ended comments, non-profits voiced a number of reasons behind their concerns, such as:

  • Proposed government policies, budget cuts and their impact on non-profit programs in communities
  • The need to shore up non-profit infrastructure and provide adequate overhead funding
  • Calls to simplify the government contracting system and for payments that cover the costs of providing services
  • Concern about federal proposals to permit partisan political activity by 501(c)(3) organizations
  • Concerns about federal tax reform and possible curtailing of charitable giving incentives
  • Shifts in individual organizational leadership, leadership development, adaptability to the changing environment

What Can We Do?
Given the seismic shifts in our external environment, the current anxiety is hardly surprising. While many of the survey findings are not new, they’re especially troubling on the heels of our long, painful efforts to recover from the 2008-09 financial collapse – a path that has been especially slow in New Jersey.  Calls for non-profits to “do more with less” are already becoming louder, while government leaders are explicitly and implicitly suggesting that non-profits and philanthropy can fill gaps left by proposed funding cuts.

So what can non-profits and their supporters do?

Educate.  We need to ensure that public officials, the media and the public recognize how important non-profits are to the social and economic well-being of our communities, state and nation. Now is not the time to be humble or timid.

Advocate.  Remember, it’s legal and appropriate for 501(c)(3) public charities to engage in advocacy and limited lobbying. If we don’t stand up vocally and consistently for our organizations and constituencies, no one else will. There’s too much at stake for us to sit on the sidelines.

Partner.  Finding new partnerships and strengthening existing ones is vital, and not only in times of resource scarcity. It’s also sound practice that leverages efficiencies and strengthens clout.

Invest. Capacity building, technology, communications, planning, professional and leadership development, diversity and equity, are just some of the indispensable investments needed for success.

Give. Philanthropy certainly can’t fill all the gaps, but funding – especially unrestricted support – is crucial. Volunteer assistance, provided it fits with the organization’s needs, is also vital.

Finding efficiencies and leveraging resources is clearly essential, and non-profits have a long history of doing both.  But we can’t keep accepting “doing more with less” as the main solution.  Let’s stand together and call for more.  The communities and causes we serve depend on it.

Linda M. Czipo is President & CEO of the Center for Non-Profits, New Jersey’s statewide umbrella organization for the charitable community. Through advocacy, public education, technical assistance and cost-saving member services, the Center works to build the power of New Jersey’s non-profit community to improve the quality of life for the people of our state. 

New Jersey Non-Profits 2017: Trends and Outlook was made possible by the generous support of Sobel & Co., LLC, Certified Public Accountants and Advisors.  The report is available at

Posted in Center for Nonprofits, Collaboration, Community Building, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, Leadership | Leave a comment

Board Leadership: Relationships Among the Parts

Posted on by David Grant


Faithful readers of the Dodge Blog know that I have repeatedly urged practitioners in the social sector to “plan backwards” from a shared vision of success, using qualitative assessment rubrics as a tool. If you make time for the process and keep saying to yourselves, “Be more specific,” you’ll find a lot of important ideas and issues emerge in those little boxes of the rubric.

I recently ran across a line in David Peter Stroh’s Systems Thinking for Social Change (light bedtime reading) that seemed to invite such an approach. Stroh writes: “In conventional thinking, in order to optimize the whole, we must optimize the parts. In systems thinking, in order to optimize the whole, we must improve relationships among the parts.”

If you see yourself as being part of multiple systems, this observation might add a question to your assessment practices. In addition to asking what makes a great staff and what makes a great board, you ask what makes a great relationship between staff and board. In addition to asking what makes a great program and what people do we serve, you ask what is the most effective and productive relationship we could have with those we serve.

“Quality of relationship” lends itself perfectly to qualitative assessment. People will say “you can’t measure that,” and you respond, “but I can describe it.” And out comes the rubric, and everyone involved in the relationship has a role in shaping it by defining criteria for success and then painting specific pictures of performance in relation to those criteria along a spectrum from low to high, from disappointing to aspirational.

I was in Delaware last week and was heartened to see a great example of this practice at an early stage. Members of the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement (DANA) and the Delaware Grantmakers Association (DGA) created a working group to write a rubric titled, “Grantmaker and Nonprofit Relationship for Creating Community Impact.” The title identifies the purpose of the system they are in and why their relationship matters. The exercise rests on a systems-thinking question, “if we changed some aspects of our relationship, might we increase the mission-based impacts we all seek?”

The DANA/DGA draft rubric evokes a spectrum (the columns of the rubric) in four short words. The lowest level is “Transactional.” The second level of success is “Engaged.” The third level is “Partnership.” The aspirational level of success is “Transformative.”

Remember that at the highest level of the rubric, it is not just their relationship that has been transformed; it is the community they serve. As far as criteria to be measured along that spectrum (the rows of the rubric), the task force went to the critical dimensions of the relationship: the Alignment of beliefs in the purpose of the relationship; the Mutuality of feeling about its importance; the levels of Trust and Transparency in their interactions; and the quality of their Communication.

Given that structure, it is no surprise that the draft rubric is both honest about disappointments (relation tied only to terms of the grant; power dynamics funder-driven; little transparency or trust and defensive about results; no feedback) and aspirational in its description of the possible (working together independent of funding; leveraging collective influence; full disclosure and transparency; ongoing formative feedback on progress).

It seems to me this rubric is “shaping the path,” as the Heath brothers say in their book on change, SWITCH.  There are practical matters of staff capacity and numbers of proposals that force many grantmakers to be transactional in their dealings with grantees, but the rubric points the way towards a larger vision of effectiveness in the social sector.

As state-wide organizations, DANA and DGA are appropriate leaders of this effort to “optimize the whole.” I’ll be following their progress closely and will report back courtesy of the Dodge Foundation’s own ongoing efforts to (from the Delaware rubric) “seek each other out and make things happen.”

DG Headshot

David Grant is the former President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. He is the author of The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations (2015).

Posted in Board Leadership, Collaboration, Leadership, Nonprofit, Philanthropy, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

ArtPride NJ: Mapping the needs of a strong arts ecosystem in New Jersey

Posted on by Dodge


On May 11, thought leaders from within and outside New Jersey’s arts community gathered at Express Newark to discuss trends and conditions affecting New Jersey artists and the future of support for their work. The catalyst was the National Endowment for the Arts through their Creativity Connects program, which asked the group to examine the current and future ecosystem of support for artists with an eye toward alliances that can anchor value for creativity throughout the state.

The NJ State Council on the Arts and ArtPride New Jersey coordinated the roundtable with the help of Newark Arts and Express Newark. The discussion was held in the stunning and newly opened Express Newark, located in the iconic former Hahne’s department store.

Express Newark is an arts incubator conceived by Rutgers University/Newark faculty, staff and students, and community arts leaders, and is part of a bold plan to cultivate local artistic expression through artistic engagement and public scholarship. Express Newark is a home to Rutgers Newark video, photo, design and art classes as well as a partner to community arts organizations like the Newark Print Shop. This dynamic and collaborative newly redeveloped space brought the discussion to life as an example of what is possible made real.

cc table 2

The gathering intentionally included individual artists across disciplines, business leaders in banking and finance, housing and community development leaders, educational leaders, and connectors in the nonprofit arts arena. All brought their unique perspectives on the current support system for artists and what innovative partnerships both within and across sectors would work best in New Jersey. Some examples of creative new collaborations where artists are currently supported include:

Some examples of creative new collaborations where artists are currently supported include:

  • Together North Jersey, where there is respect for artists at the planning table for creative live and work spaces
  • Art galleries in hospitals as well as performing arts and healthcare facility partnerships, enhancing the quality of patient experience and care
  • Art reflected in city growth, including in the Office of the Mayor, where global cultural sharing is part of economic development

Looking to the future, the following areas posed potential win/win alliances between the arts and other fields:

cc table (002)

  • Business: Funding businesses to include artists in development and redevelopment efforts or increased use of arts participation as a human resource perk for corporations
  • Healthcare: Medical alliances that include artists helping to visualize complex scientific processes
  • Diverse capitalization: Funding for arts from other entities viewed as investment priorities outside of the traditional “grant” model or microlending

The lively discussion often returned to the critical need for affordable artist live/work space with property owners who are flexible enough to allow the specific work requirements of different artists, i.e., the use of power tools and machinery.

On the opposite side of that equation, there is a need to equip artists with business tools and provide them with the ability to gain personal and professional financial stability.

The group of 25 thinkers were fully engaged in the four-hour discussion and generously donated their time and bright minds to a deep dive on a topic that often surfaces, but does not benefit from focused attention. Many expressed a desire to continue the conversation about new and increased ways to assure that New Jersey artists have an ongoing support network that is

Many expressed a desire to continue the conversation about new and increased ways to assure that New Jersey artists have an ongoing support network that is broad-based, inclusive, and responsive to changing needs and evolving technology.


 Ann Marie Miller is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ArtPride New Jersey and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. Email her at 







Posted in ArtPride New Jersey, Arts, Arts Advocacy, Community Building, Community Engagement, Creativity, Nonprofit, Public Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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