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. As Chris Daggett said in his keynote address: “We believe that the leadership and progress needed to meet the goals will come from all of us working together. 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

As Chris Daggett said in his keynote address: “We believe that the leadership and progress needed to meet the goals will come from all of us working together. 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. Chris Daggett concluded his remarks saying, “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. 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.”

Chris Daggett concluded his remarks saying, “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. 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

Arts Ed Now: From Armenia With Love

Posted on by Argine Safari, NJ Teacher of the Year


The most important life lessons I have ever learned came from my music teacher in Yerevan, Armenia.

When I was 15, Rita Israelovna Petrosian was my music theory and solfege — the study of singing and musicianship using solmization syllables — teacher.

Soft-spoken and kind, Rita Israelovna was a brilliant musician, hard-working single mother, and most importantly, a remarkable teacher. She encouraged curiosity in her students. She taught us how to connect the most complicated music theory concepts to the real life. She pushed us to be the best we could possibly be and made each and every one of us believe in ourselves.

But the most important lesson I learned from her is that with passion, drive, and hard work, anything is possible.

One of my first projects was about a musical form. As I started digging deep into the topic of my choice — the prelude form — I got excited to learn about the evolution of this form and before I knew it, my project turned into a research paper.

Flipping through 60 pages of my handwritten work, Rita Israelovna gradually raised her eyebrows in an amusement, gasped, slowly looked at me and said: “Բալիկ ձան (my dear child), there is nothing you cannot accomplish if you work hard.” I stood there in wonder. What does she mean? Why is she saying this?

Day after day, Rita Israelovna made me work harder than I could have ever imagined. She gave me the toughest assignments and expected more from me than from any other student in that class. She knew right away I was hungry for challenges, so she accepted her own challenge of supporting me in my passionate journey of discovering music and what it meant to me. She encouraged and helped me in my struggles, making sure I never lost faith in myself.

Three years later, I became a student in the dream school for anyone pursuing a music career, Moscow Conservatory. Rita Israelovna changed my life in the most profound and insightful way.

Music teachers have a unique platform to inspire and influence their students because the power of music is penetrating and everlasting.

Music is the force that keeps me going, and this force motivates me to inspire my students to stay strong and never give up. Music’s transformative power is evident in the way my students grow and mature, and it gives me pure joy to watch them blossom.

Through music, I teach my students to recognize beauty, have more love, compassion, respect, integrity and understanding. Through music, I teach my students how to be truly human.

The author with her students.

The author with her students.

As a State Teacher of the Year, mother and, musician, I want to thank all my colleagues in arts education for making this world a better place by bringing beauty, passion, and love to our students. We should never forget what got us into education and why we do what we do every day. We should always remember that we have an enormous power to influence our students. Let’s not take a single day for granted but use it as an opportunity to help our students discover their passions and help them use the power of their dreams to find their voices.

Twenty-two years later after my graduation from Conservatory, I received a package in the mail from one of my classmates, Gohar, now a movie director and a producer. It was titled, “From Armenia with Love.”

My heart palpitated as I unwrapped the protective bubble paper and discovered a VCR video. The video contained Rita Israelovna’s last interview, only a year before she passed away.

In that interview, she was asked to name the proudest accomplishment of her career.

“Argine Safari,” she said. “Argine inspired me to be the best teacher I could possibly be.”

Tears came down my face as I thought of all that Rita Israelovna did for me. You taught me that with passion and hard work, anything is possible. You taught me that my dreams and goals were worth all the hard work and pain. You taught me that music can change the world.

Rita Israelovna, I am forever grateful to you.


Argine Safari

Argine Safari

Pascack Valley High School’s Argine Safari is the 2016-17 N.J. Teacher of the Year. Safari has taught students about music theory, led concerts, and launched a nationally recognized vocal program at the school. An award-winning music educator and advocate, vocal coach, clinician and conductor, Safari is also a pianist and vocalist.


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New Jersey Sustainability Summit 2017: Build your local action for increased collective impact  

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Executive Director, Sustainable Jersey

SJ summit2

Where will leadership and progress come from in an era of declining federal interest in sustainability issues? We believe that it will come from all of us, working together.

If a more sustainable, prosperous and equitable New Jersey sounds like a good goal, I hope you will attend Sustainable Jersey’s 2017 New Jersey Sustainability Summit on June 21, 2017. We will share a vision for the future, update our progress and renew our commitment to a joint approach to making progress for achieving this vision through collective action.

Sustainable Jersey is fueled by our participating local communities — 444 municipalities and 897 schools and districts. As an organization, we are a connecting force between municipalities and schools, and scores of public, private and governmental entities.

Where once sustainability wasn’t present in the local conversation, now there are hundreds of new green teams and sustainability commissions created as formal bodies of local government and in the public schools, all charged with driving change on these issues. Where once local leaders felt isolated, now they can move forward supported by a vast network of allies providing technical assistance, grants, political support and recognition for their efforts. Where once they saw their effort as part of a local initiative, now they can see how their local progress contributes toward achieving a broad vision for the future of our State.

Collective impact initiatives require a common agenda, a backbone infrastructure to coordinate action and participants from across all sectors of the community. The fact that collectively municipalities and schools have implemented and documented nearly 8,000 discrete actions as part of their Sustainable Jersey efforts is a direct result of commitments and efforts made by diverse individuals and organizations throughout New Jersey at all levels.  Sustainable Jersey looks to collaborate, support and amplify the efforts of the existing resources in New Jersey to achieve a shared vision.

SJ summit 3

Create a Vision and Inspiration for the Sustainable New Jersey Movement

Working with experts, partners and local leaders, Sustainable Jersey has over 300 best practices and performance standards for communities that are intended to move us toward sustainability. Thousands of local volunteers and officials have dedicated their time and resources to implementing the best practices and meeting the standards. All of this is done by people relying on an intrinsic belief that things need to change and a broad unwritten consensus about the general direction in which we need to go.

Track Our Progress

Agreement on the ways success will be measured and reported is also significant. Sustainable Jersey has indicators to track progress so that we can ensure that over time our work is yielding results that are commensurate to the long-term challenges.

The goals and indicators in the 2016 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report, provide us with a better picture of why we are engaging in sustainability efforts, and help guide the future creation of Sustainable Jersey’s standards and actions. The establishment of “Gold,” Sustainable Jersey’s highest level of certification, forges the link between the municipal program and the broader, long-term outcomes desired.

This is outlined in the Sustainable State 2016 Update & the New Gold Standard. A 2017 update on our progress will be provided at the Summit on June 21.

2017 New Jersey Sustainability Summit Highlights


Chris Daggett, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, is the keynote speaker at the Sustainability Summit.

The Sustainability Summit keynote speaker will be Chris Daggett, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Chris directs efforts to build the capacity of grantees by connecting leaders across sectors to foster a culture of collaboration. Chris comes with decades of experience leading regional efforts in the federal and state government, nonprofit and private industry arenas. Chris will share his insights on the long-term implications and relevance of collective impact on today’s climate.

Sustainability Summit participants will have a choice of attending one of six breakout sessions and one of six information sessions.  Led by practitioners and community leaders, these sessions will present what is being done, and what can and should be done, at the local level in areas ranging from water resources, energy, waste, civic engagement and local economies to school and municipal green teams. Each session will include the collective action that can take your local action to the next level. Read the full descriptions of the breakout and informational sessions

Each session will include the collective action that can take your local action to the next level. Read the full descriptions of the breakout and informational sessions here.

2017 New Jersey Sustainability Summit: Breakout Sessions

  • Complete Streets: Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
  • Need Help? Strategies and Resources to Support Local Sustainability Initiatives
  • Promoting A Clean Energy Future at The Local Level
  • Protecting Our Natural Resources: Local Action, Regional Impact
  • The Art of Sustainability: Turning Creativity into Problem Based Solutions
  • Waste Not, Recycle More! Waste Management Strategies at The Local Level

2017 New Jersey Sustainability Summit: Information Sessions

  • Coding for Community Demonstrations
  • Funding Helps! Tips for A Successful Grant Application
  • Helping Your Local Businesses Be More Sustainable
  • LEAD NJ: Strengthening Leadership at The Local Level
  • New Jersey Clean Energy Program: Save Money and Energy at The Local Level
  • Shining the Light on Solar

When communities act individually, they can solve their own problems. When they act together, they strengthen their ability to make local progress and are also able to address challenges across New Jersey and then make progress on national and global problems.  Be a part of this movement and register for the 2017 New Jersey Sustainability Summit:

The 2017 Sustainability Summit sponsors are Investors Bank and Church & Dwight. Summit partners include New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Future, New Jersey League of Municipalities, The College of New Jersey and Together North Jersey.

For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn

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CNJG: Embracing Philanthropic Future Shock or Bracing For It

Posted on by Nina Stack, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers
Ah, for a crystal ball. The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers has set out on a strategic visioning process to imagine how the organization and philanthropic sector will transform in the next 10 years. Photo courtesy Creative Commons/ Ed Schipul

Ah, for a crystal ball. The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers has set out on a strategic visioning process to imagine how the organization and philanthropic sector will transform in the next 10 years. Photo courtesy Creative Commons/ Ed Schipul

We are doing a lot of thinking about the future at the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers these days — the future of New Jersey (with a new Governor next year), the future of philanthropy (with new forms of giving showing up weekly it seems), the future of the social sector (with social entrepreneurs redefining approaches), and the future of the Council itself.

Even our upcoming Conference for the Social Sector “The Next 20: Places, Places, Perspective” will consider the New Jersey of tomorrow.



This year the Council marks its 20th anniversary. In those two decades, CNJG has grown from a loosely based “lunch bunch” of foundation leaders to a highly regarded leadership organization offering valuable and comprehensive educational programming for grantmakers and donors of all shapes and sizes. The Council is recognized by policymakers and elected officials as a reliable, connected, informed representative of New Jersey’s social sector. And, the Council maintains its standing as the “go-to” resource for thoughtful, knowledgeable, and informed perspective on the best practices of philanthropy.

This is why our membership makes up over 80 percent of the private foundation assets in New Jersey. As the center for private philanthropies working in New Jersey, we recognize how essential it is that the Council consider now what it needs to be, what it needs to look like, at the end of its next decade of service.

Ah…for a crystal ball.

A Shifting Field

While it may not seem so different on the outside, the changes we have seen in the philanthropic sector in the past 15 years have been dramatic, most notably in the form in which strategic giving is structured.

For instance, in 2002, private foundations and donor-advised funds at community foundations were the primary way in which philanthropy worked. Staffed foundations might have program officers who brought experience on the issue areas in which the foundation’s giving was focused. Unstaffed family foundations might accept unsolicited applications, but more likely the funding decisions were made during a family convening (Thanksgiving perhaps) or by directing the family accountant or attorney to issue a check. Community Foundations were working only occasionally with fund holders on special initiatives and designated community-based funds.

And, while over the years, other states saw a jump in the number of community foundations created (Ohio has over 50, Michigan over 60), here in New Jersey only a handful were at work with limited assets and little discretionary money.

So what has changed in the way philanthropy operates and giving gets done? A great deal.

  • The rise of national charitable funds for DAFs that hold the majority of charitable dollars (Fidelity Charitable is the now the largest charity in the world) but not transparent, not tied to a community, nor providing on-the-ground counsel to fund holders
  • Corporations embracing the concept of Shared Value, a corporate social responsibility approach that directly aligns corporate giving with the company’s line of business
  • Impact investing that promotes a foundation using its corpus investments as a tool to advance its mission beyond grantmaking
  • Venture philanthropy where high-net worth donors employ a variety of approaches and significant resources toward their issue (i.e. ChanZuckerberg Initiative LLC, Omidyar Network )Online giving technology, apps, and campaigns where
  • Online giving technology, apps, and campaigns where GoFundMe appeals out raised giving to tax deductible charities like Red Cross and Salvation Army post Louisiana flooding

And the list goes on.

A Strategic Vision for the Future

To help us understand how our field will change in the coming decade we’ve set out on what we are calling a Strategic Visioning process. This goes beyond a strategic plan in the traditional sense — as we are pushing ourselves, our members and our stakeholders to consider how we and our sector will transform in the next ten years. Our working group has been thinking about the evolution of how philanthropy operates AND how our world operates.

We’ve seen some significant shifts; here are just a few:

  • Charity model → Strategic model
  • Institutional donors → Crowdfunding
  • Fewer players → More players
  • Logic model → Fluid, nimble
  • Closed source → Open source
  • More gov’t support → Less government support
  • Isolated decision making → Community decision making

We’ve also been thinking about philanthropy’s role in the world:

  • Little attention → Heightened scrutiny
  • Hidden → In the spotlight
  • Little support for policy → Encouraging advocacy and policy work

We are still deep in the “discovery” stage of our process but it is leading to some interesting questions and considerations including:

  • Will foundations be around in 50 years?
  • Where will new places of power and influence come from?
  • How will we define the field?

These are just a taste of the themes, evolutions, and conversations we are having about the future work of philanthropy of our country and our state.

It is fascinating, especially at a time when it seems all our assumptions about how government works are being disassembled…which adds a whole other element to the idea of visioning.


Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 130 funding organizations working in and for New Jersey. The Council is the center for philanthropy in the state, serving the leading independent, corporate, family and community foundations as well as public grantmakers of our state. CNJG supports its members by strengthening their capacity to address New Jersey and society’s most difficult problems.


Posted in Advocacy, Collaboration, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, Leadership, Philanthropy, Public Policy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: How to Spot and Address Conflicts of Interest in the Board Room

Posted on by Dodge
Avoiding board conflicts of interest can feel like a tug of war.

Avoiding board conflicts of interest can feel like a tug of war.

We’ve all seen the headlines about possible conflicts of interest in the news lately, in stories of national interest and importance.  The topic is also important for all nonprofits to understand and address properly, regardless of whether those organizations’ activities may make the headlines.

Pro Bono Partnership receives frequent questions about what may constitute a conflict of interest and the board’s responsibilities in the face of potential conflicts.  Conflicts of interest arise any time a board member’s duty of loyalty to make decisions and enter into transactions that are in the best interests of the organization may be at odds with the trustee’s personal or financial interests, or with their other volunteer or professional obligations.

Here are a few examples to consider.  A board member might own a restaurant and offer to have it cater all board events at a “good price.”  Another trustee’s family member runs a software company, and the Technology Committee, which this trustee chairs, has decided that the best software for the nonprofit is provided by this company.  Your landlord, an individual who has always been supportive of your organization’s work, wants to serve on the board.

Do any of these situations present a conflict of interest?

All of the situations above are examples of potential conflicts of interest, because each situation creates a tension between the board member’s (or their family member’s) financial interest and the interest of the nonprofit.  The fact that the situations present conflicts does not, however, automatically require that the nonprofit avoid these transactions.  To the contrary, it will often be in the best interests of a nonprofit to receive services from an interested party, particularly when the services are offered at below-market rates.

What should the thoughtful board do?

The board should follow the procedures in its conflict of interest policy.  A conflict of interest policy is one of the most important corporate governance policies an organization can have.  So if your board doesn’t have a conflict of interest policy, it should strongly consider adopting one.  It may be a standalone policy, or contained in the organization’s bylaws.

While New Jersey doesn’t have a specific requirement, having a conflicts policy clearly supports good governance and compliance by the board with its fiduciary duties.  New York nonprofits are required to have a conflict of interest policy that conforms to certain statutory requirements.  At the federal level, the application for tax-exempt status, Form 1023, and the long form annual informational tax return, Form 990, also ask organizations if they have a written conflict of interest policy.

How do conflict of interest policies work?

These policies outline a procedure that boards must follow when conflict transactions are proposed.  In such a situation, the board member must disclose the conflict and all the pertinent facts to the rest of the board, and the board member should not participate in the deliberations and vote of the independent board members.

Disclosure is a critical step, because if board members aren’t aware that a transaction could present a conflict, they will not raise the issue with the rest of the board.  Some boards have an agenda item for each meeting that reminds members to disclose potential conflicts for any items on the agenda, and many policies require that board members complete an annual certification as to conflicts.

Conflicts may be less obvious than the examples above, such as where an individual sits on the boards of two different nonprofits.  Even if the organizations are not providing the same type of services to the community, there may be conflicts over applying for the same funding, or one of the organizations may make grants to the other.

The independent board members must satisfy themselves that the services are of the quality and quantity that the nonprofit needs.  They also must decide whether the compensation or cost of the services is appropriate, which requires that they understand whether the cost of goods or services provided is at, below, or above the market rate.

The independent board members then must make an informed judgment as to whether it is in the nonprofit’s best interest to enter into the transaction, taking into account not only cost, but also how the transaction might impact the board’s or organization’s dynamics, and how it will appear to those in the larger community.  For example, if many local software vendors have expressed interest in selling their product to the nonprofit, might the community see a decision to award the job to a trustee’s relative as unfair competition?

If a decision is made to move forward with a transaction, the nonprofit should take steps to make sure that the services or goods that have been ordered are delivered and that the interested board member has no involvement in the transaction.

Last, but importantly, the rationale for the board’s decision should be documented in the minutes of the meeting.  While documentation may not protect the organization from criticism, it can provide an important shield to claims that the board violated its conflict of interest policy or the board members violated their fiduciary duties.

Please contact Pro Bono Partnership if you have questions about conflicts of interest or if you’d like to see a sample conflict of interest policy for board members.  To read more about conflicts and view a sample policy, see the article on our website.

20160108_Nancy_025cNancy Eberhardt is New Jersey director of Pro Bono Partnership and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog.  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.  To learn more about Pro Bono Partnership, please visit or call (973) 240-6955.

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Creative Camden: Putting Ideas into Action

Posted on by Diana Mendez, Community Organizer & Communications Specialist, Creative New Jersey

Consider the words of Wesly Taveras, a student at Camden’s Creative Arts High:

“I’ve learned here that I don’t have to wait to be old to make a difference.”

Wesly shared this sentiment during Creative Camden Call to Collaboration’s closing session. Earlier, he moderated a breakout based on a question he posed — “How can we reunite our community?”


Wesly Taveras speaks during the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration.

Wesly’s thoughtful comments made a lot of people smile. Maybe because it made them feel old, but also because they could understand how he was feeling. They don’t want to wait either, and this is why many decided to come together to build a shared vision of the future for the city.

The event, held at Rutgers University-Camden on March 16, was the first day of a two-day gathering in Camden, part of Creative New Jersey’s statewide series of community-based convenings, aimed at helping to fuel new ideas and current efforts already in action; and to foster creativity, collaboration, and inclusion by facilitating cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture.

In this Call to Collaboration, participants had the opportunity to engage in 34 breakout sessions that sparked new collaborations and strengthened partnerships. Attendees brainstormed topics that fell under the central guiding question:
As our city evolves, how can all of us who live and work in Camden collaborate to creatively leverage our assets, ensure accountability from all, fuel economic opportunities for residents, and strengthen our neighborhoods in order to create a safer, prosperous Camden for all?

Some of the topics discussed included job creation and training, helping youth attend and graduate college, collaboratively increasing the availability and accessibility of services for those in need, and engaging community members to be actively involved in the transformation of Camden, just to name a few.

“I love the idea of having this platform [Call to Collaboration] as a place where we can take our individual aspects, aspirations, and all our goals and put those into play and actually do something about it,” said Zulma Gonzalez-Lombardo, executive director at the Rachel & Drew Katz Foundation.


Zulma Gonzalez-Lombardo, executive director at the Rachel & Drew Katz Foundation, speaks during the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration.

The first day of Creative Camden Call to Collaboration brought together over 140 residents, business owners, nonprofit leaders, and others intersted in shaping Camden’s future. Creative Camden community members will have the opportunity to keep the conversation going during the second day of this Call to Collaboration, which is focused on action planning, on Monday, May 8,

Creative Camden community members — and those interested in joining the conversation — will have the opportunity to keep the conversation going during the second day of this Call to Collaboration, which is focused on action planning, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, May 8 at the Camden Salvation Army Kroc Center. New community members are welcome, whether or not they participated in the March gathering.

Readers, if you or someone you know should be a part of the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration, please share this blog and registration info. We have a few spaces still available.

You can learn more about what participants experienced and discussed during the first day of the Creative Camden Call to Collaboration, as covered by SNJ Today, NJTV and the Courier-Post by clicking here, and also through the Creative Camden Facebook group.

Creative New Jersey would like to thank the Creative Camden host venues, the Camden Salvation Army Kroc Center and Rutgers University-Camden, our media partner, NJTV, and special thanks to the Sixers Youth Foundation for its help and support of the event.

If you want to become involved with the Creative Camden members, please email us at and we’ll be sure to connect you.

The compendium of notes from Creative Camden (Part 1) are available here.

fotoDiana Mendez is Creative New Jersey’s Community Organizer & Communications Specialist. She has over 10 years experience empowering communities to solve specific social issues from the non-profit, public, and private sector. 

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 Arts, Collaboration, Community Building, Creative NJ, Events & Workshops, Nonprofit | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Lawyers Giving Back to Their Communities

Posted on by Christine Michelle Duffy, Pro Bono Partnership


Volunteers help make our communities stronger and nicer places to live.

Their extraordinary efforts are the impetus for National Volunteer Week, celebrated this week, April 23-29, a time to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community.

In designating the first such week in 1974, President Nixon observed that American volunteers’ “efforts most frequently touch the lives of the poor, the young, the aged and the sick, but in the process, the lives of all men and women are made richer.”

Each president has carried forward this tradition of honoring volunteerism, with President Trump noting last week that National Volunteer Week provides us the opportunity to “celebrate the spirit of compassion and generosity that drives us to care for others, and [to] recognize America’s volunteers[, who] … are often unsung and unseen, but they are heroes.”

Celebrating Pro Bono - Change the World

Become a volunteer lawyer to strengthen nonprofits.

In honor of all the volunteers that make our work at Pro Bono Partnership possible, I’m going to share a story of a recent program that would not have been possible without the dedication and passion of volunteers, and highlight some of the individuals we’ll fête later this week.


On April 6, we held SmorgasbonoSM, one of our legal Q&A programs for nonprofits. This installment of the program was co-sponsored with the Association for Corporate Counsel–New JerseyVerizon, and Jackson Lewis.

Twelve nonprofits — including Dodge grantees Dance/New JerseyFreespace DanceGreater Newark Conservancy, and New York – New Jersey Trail Conference — had the opportunity to meet with up to five different teams of lawyers to discuss the nonprofit’s practices with respect to contracts, corporate governance, employment, intellectual property, internet and websites, privacy, and real estate.

Thirty lawyers from nine corporations — Brother International, Chubb, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Datapipe, Dun & Bradstreet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Merck, SUEZ, and Verizon — and two lawyers from Jackson Lewis participated.

A program such as SmorgasbonoSM requires a substantial amount of behind-the-scenes work to pull off successfully. Thankfully we have an able team of partners who helped us facilitate the April program, including Leslie Wolfson, executive director of ACC-NJ); Val Camara (chair of the ACC-NJ Pro Bono Committee); Promila Chaudhari, Celeste Como, Karen Francis, and Susan Schachman (from Verizon); Jim McDonnell (from Jackson Lewis), and our own Kate Marchese.

I’ll let the words of Rebekka Zydel, executive director of Child & Family Resources, speak for themselves:

“I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to participate in SmorgasbonoSM.

“The event was well organized, thoughtfully planned, and extremely beneficial.  Having the opportunity to meet with a variety of attorneys from multiple areas of expertise at one coordinated event is unique. Speaking with the employment attorneys was validating and confirmed many of the practices we have are appropriate. Being able to reflect with two attorneys helped me to identify areas for improvement, confirm my instincts, and build my confidence as a leader. The intellectual property and real estate attorneys shared valuable insights that will be key to running a successful organization. The privacy attorneys were a blessing and could not have come at a better time. They helped put a new, very overwhelming state-mandated policy into perspective.

“Pro Bono Partnership’s commitment to supporting the nonprofit sector is admirable. You continue to exceed expectations. I wholeheartedly believe that the services provided by the Partnership are integral to Child & Family Resources success over the past 15 years. As an organization who receives approximately 90 percent of our funding from a state contract with level funding year after year, there is no way our organization could access the legal services we’ve required without the Partnership. Because of Pro Bono Partnership, Child & Family Resources can remain focused on providing child care financial assistance to low-wage earning families, professional development to an underpaid child care workforce, as well as help parents and caregivers of young children to change or improve their parenting practices and create safe, stable, nurturing environments for children that protect them from violence, abuse, and its long-term consequences.”

Volunteers of the Year

This Friday, we will honor our New Jersey Volunteers of the Year, at an event hosted by Jackson Lewis.

Dun & Bradstreet’s Legal Department will receive our Volunteer of the Year honor as a group for their collective efforts to launch their pro bono program and work with the Partnership to provide pro bono service to the nonprofit community. Since their program launch in 2015, 16 Dun & Bradstreet lawyers, including Chief Legal Officer Chris Hill, have already answered the call to volunteer their time on 15 projects covering a wide range of legal issues for the Partnership’s nonprofit clients. Their incredible efforts reflect the strength of Dun & Bradstreet’s commitment to volunteerism.

Brian Ginsburg, assistant general Counsel for Sanofi US, will receive our Volunteer of the Year award for 16 years of active volunteerism with the Partnership dating back to Brian’s tenure at Schering-Plough. Brian has provided guidance on nearly 40 projects, allowing clients to devote their resources to programming. Brian has been a volunteer we frequently, and gratefully, rely on. Brian so enjoyed working with one nonprofit, Bridges Outreach, that Brian joined its board of trustees.

In addition, we will honor the following Founding Volunteers, who commenced providing free legal services through Pro Bono Partnership within the first two years of the opening of our New Jersey office in 2000 and who continue to volunteer with us today: Lee Braem (Evonik), Vance Camisa (Merck), David Cohen (Honeywell), Phil Crowley (Johnson & Johnson and Law Office of Philip P. Crowley), Justin Cutlip (Jackson Lewis), Brian Ginsburg (Sanofi), Stephen Greene (G&W Laboratories), Michael Hughes (Prudential), Dave Islinger (Jackson Lewis), Theresa Kelly (Day Pitney), David Richter (PSEG), and Larry Rickles (Teva Pharmaceuticals).

Please tip your caps in honor of these wonderful volunteers and the thousands of other volunteers whose efforts we couldn’t do without.

Christine Michelle Duffy croppedChristine Michelle Duffy is a senior staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership. Christine is editor-in-chief and contributing author of the critically acclaimed treatise Gender 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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Arts Ed Now: 2017 National Arts Advocacy Day

Posted on by Ann Marie Miller, Art Pride New Jersey


Just days before National Arts Advocacy Day, news hit of President Trump’s plan to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts in 2018.

The announcement, though not entirely unexpected, sent a surge of energy into the day’s mission: connecting arts leaders with Congressional representatives to share stories of the importance of the arts and humanities, their impact and transformative power in communities, and the value of federal partnership.

Some 40 New Jersey arts leaders — the largest delegation ArtPride NJ has ever coordinated — joined the more than  700 people who gathered in Washington DC for the annual event sponsored by Americans for the Arts,

Veterans and first-timers alike together reviewed data on how the arts improve our lives and tips on how best to make the case for continued support for the arts and humanities. We learned about how NEA funding affects the arts in New Jersey — last year more than $1.9 million in grants that supported 40 projects in communities across the state — and from each other we learned how to make the best use of our time with fresh approaches to storytelling so leaders could better understand the importance of the arts to their constituents.


A highlight of the two-day event was the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, this year presented by Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president.

Mr. Walker’s powerful remarks were compelling and portrayed how he became familiar with the arts as a child, perusing art magazines that his mother brought home from her job as a domestic in a wealthy household where attending cultural performances was a part of life, far removed from his own experience. He emphasized what we all felt deeply as arts advocates–that the arts are not a special interest, but a national interest that strengthens who we are.

“You see, all of us here tonight: We are all the lucky ones,” Walker said. “Because there are children across the country growing up in circumstances, not unlike those of my childhood — children who, day after day, experience in their lives the most terrible manifestations of inequality. For them, exposure to the arts, to imagination and ambition, remains a matter of chance or circumstance. But it shouldn’t be. It can’t be. Not in a democracy like ours.”

The New Jersey delegation’s outreach to the Congressional representatives on this day also focused on arts education as critical to a well-rounded education, and complementary to advancing objectives of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Representatives who are not currently part of the Congressional STEAM Caucus were invited to show their support for the arts in STEM by joining over 75 other members. The fact that arts programs are now eligible for through ESSA for Title 1 funds and other federal resources, was also stressed to elected officials.

The federal budget process is a long one that extends throughout the summer months to come. For more detailed information on how federal arts funding and cultural policy affect the nonprofit arts industry in New Jersey, visit

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

Carpe NPM

Posted on by Dodge Poetry Staff


There’s just about one week left in April; if you’re looking for ways to savor the end of National Poetry Month, check out the Academy of American Poets’ 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month. This list includes suggestions ranging from memorizing a poem to using the Academy’s special poetry event search engine to find poetry near you.

We have one more item to add to the list: if you are an educator, sign up for Spring & Fountain Online by the end of today (Friday, April 21st). Spring & Fountain Online is a free program designed to help you bring more poetry into your life, on your timeline and from the comfort of your home. If you’re not an educator, share the sign-up link with someone who is, and check out our post on the Dodge Blog last week for a few poems and a fun poetry activity you can try today.


Photo by Eugene Kogan

National Poetry Month serves as an excellent reminder to make time for poetry as we move about our increasingly busy lives, but the fun doesn’t have to stop on May 1st. We’ve all heard that “April showers bring May flowers.” We hope that the seeds of poetry you’ve planted and tended this month bring color and beauty to your life all year round.


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Posted in Poetry, Tidbits | Leave a comment
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