The Opposite of Hate

Posted on by Dodge Poetry



For a direct response to the events in Charlottesville, see Dodge President and CEO Chris Daggett’s blog.

As a team of poets who have read, written and presented poetry throughout our lives, we believe it can do the opposite of hate speech: poetry can put us directly inside someone else’s state of mind, perspective and emotions. Poetry increases our ability to understand someone else’s experience, and, as a result, expands our capacity for compassion.

When we worry that we may not be up to the challenges before us, we can think of the poets, writers, actors, artists, and musicians who have endured terrible hardships and, instead of bringing more suffering into the world, chose to bring art. We can think of teachers, nurses, physical therapists, counselors and other care-givers that we’ve met, some who suffered abuse themselves, who have dedicated their lives to nurturing, supporting and healing. They confront human frailty every day, and do it with gentleness and compassion; these brave people remind us that whatever happens, our responses can be destructive or creative.

Assembled by the Dodge Poetry staff, here are some reminders of what we can do when we choose the latter:

To Live in the Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa

On the Gallows Once by Kofi Awoonor

Poem Resisting Arrest by Kyle Dargan (video)

from The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay

Remember by Joy Harjo

Frederick Douglass by Robert Hayden

Black Confederate Ghost Story by Terrance Hayes

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes

male bonding by Quraysh Ali Lansana

Instructions on Not Giving Up by Ada Limón

For the Confederate Dead by Kevin Young


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After Charlottesville, moving toward a more equitable society

Posted on by Chris Daggett, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation President & CEO


All who believe in a just and civil society have a duty to stand up and condemn the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. Violence of any kind is abhorrent — violence bred by racism, white supremacy, and other forms of intolerance is simply unacceptable and must be called out for what it is and overcome.

Ours is a society fiercely protective of free speech and assembly. Rightly so, as they help form the foundation of a democracy. But the language and the props of white supremacists and neo-Nazis are repugnant and morally wrong.

For anyone who was there or watched news coverage, and particularly those who have seen the full 22-minute Vice News Tonight report of the protests and violence in Charlottesville, it is clear that we need to respond firmly and resolutely to xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.

We need our leaders to say that hate-filled speech is wrong and that it will be countered on every front. It is easy to say that the event happened in another community and is not our issue. But what happened in Charlottesville is everyone’s issue.

We also need education and empathy — education that helps bring people together, that helps us see the world through others’ eyes. At Dodge, we have been working to better understand diversity, equity, and inclusion for ourselves, our organization, and our work. We are listening to each other and to those who are able to advance our understanding, working to build greater cultural awareness.

At the same time, we are exploring the support and assistance we might provide to our grantees, our partners, and the communities they support, so that we can all move together toward a more equitable society.

New Jersey will soon become one of the first states where no single racial or ethnic group will be in the majority. As we do so, we must continually work to understand and address the shifts that will be taking place in every sector of our society. It is hard work, it is difficult to discuss, it is emotional, and, ultimately, it is transformational.

We need to celebrate and embrace our diversity. It is what makes New Jersey a great state. It is also why we have such vibrant arts and culture, creative and successful businesses, stellar schools, and strong communities.

Let’s work together to move away from the divisive and destructive words and actions of the marchers in Charlottesville and strive toward the greater ideal and promise of our country’s motto — e pluribus unum — out of many, one.

Chris Daggett is President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. For more than 40 years, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has nurtured leaders, ideas and institutions that foster sustainable, creative and engaged communities. We fund ArtsEducationEnvironmentInformed Communitiesand Poetry initiatives that are innovative and promote collaboration and community-driven decision making. For more information, please visit

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Detroiter feels kinship with Newark on 50th anniversary of rebellion

Posted on by Guest Blogger
Creative Commons / From "Radiophonics of the Vietnam War. A Collection" by Jan Philip Müller

Creative Commons / From “Radiophonics of the Vietnam War. A Collection” by Jan Philip Müller

This year marks a somber anniversary for many urban communities around the United States. It’s the 50th anniversary of 1967 rebellions that occurred in cities across the nation, including Newark, Oakland, and Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

As a native Detroiter, I’ve heard stories most of my life of the “67 riots.” As an adult with the lived experience of growing up in the City and understanding the time historically through the memories of my family, I characterize the four days of violence and fear that began on July 23 as a rebellion.

I believe the enormity of the occurrence has been embedded in the collective DNA of many of us, even those of us who were not directly involved. I have siblings that were youngsters during that time who have vivid recollections of the dawn-to-dusk curfews, looting at businesses on the commercial strip, and the National Guard patrolling their neighborhood.

I’ve also lived with the aftermath of the once vibrant commercial corridor on 12th Street, the epicenter of the Detroit rebellion that never recovered. My parents and family elders would talk about the activity on 12th Street — now Rosa Parks Boulevard — and how the sidewalks were sometimes so crowded with people you had to step off the curb to get around them.

As an adult, I understand the decline of Detroit and other urban cities was not the result of the rebellions, yet somehow they came to define Detroit. I talk about how those perceptions and stereotypes impacted me in my 2014 TEDx talk, Connected Fates.

I believe we as residents internalize those myths. I grew to know better.

Detroit is a large city — 147 square miles — that yes, had pockets of disinvested and blighted neighborhoods, but for the most part had strong, intact neighborhoods. In fact, growing up, most of the people I knew lived in single family homes on tidy, tree-lined streets. The automotive industry and other supporting industries created the largest numbers of middle class families in Detroit, a majority of them Black.

Disinvestment in urban communities began in earnest after World War II as a result of federal programs like the GI bill that perpetuated and funded housing discrimination. Police brutality and lack of economic opportunity contributed to the rebellions. The subsequent and exponential population loss, dwindling tax bases and shifting political attention in Detroit and other similar communities resulted in decades of decline, and lack of opportunity for citizens.

I’ve come to learn more about Newark and its rebellion through numerous conversations with educator, historian and author Junius Williams. I’m currently devouring his book, Unfinished Agenda: Urban Politics in the Era of Black Power.

As a newcomer to New Jersey, I felt a certain kinship with Newark. Perhaps because it, too, like my hometown, is an older industrial city that became home to thousands of Southern blacks fleeing the Jim Crow South as part of the Great Migration, and looking for a better way of life for themselves and their families. It was considered a place of opportunity, but many found a still harsh reality and oppressive conditions.

Williams has created RiseUp North, a multimedia website to collect and share stories of the resistance movement in Newark and other Northern U.S. cities. As the nation appears to be speeding backwards toward policies and ideologies that separate us, the website reminds me that we are more similar than different, and the country has the capacity for great change. But the struggle is not over.

Ironically, the 1967 rebellion likely contributed to my family’s stability. My father was able to buy a small grocery store in Detroit as white merchants started to move their businesses to the suburbs. He opened the business in 1969 and operated it for more than 40 years before he retired. As a result, my parents were able to purchase a home in a working-class neighborhood and raise me and my five brothers and sisters.

The film Detroit premieres this week.

But in the meantime, I encourage you to view a colleague, friend and native Detroiter, Bruce Harper’s documentary Summer 67. The film debuted on Detroit Public Television on July 25, and will kick off a series of community conversations and engagement throughout the rest of the year.

The retelling of these stories, remembering the lives lost, and the neighborhoods and people forever changed are important commemorations this year.

As Detroit and Newark are characterized as the next “Brooklyns” de jour, we must remember those that came before, sacrificed and perhaps never received the return on their investment.



Sharnita C. Johnson directs the Foundation’s Arts grants, which foster a diverse and vibrant arts ecosystem, create broad-based public support of the arts, and support communities engaged in creative placemaking in New Jersey.

Prior to joining Dodge, Sharnita managed a $25 million grantmaking portfolio in education, health and family economic security at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Michigan.

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Board Leadership: Want a Stronger, More Diverse Board? Start Here

Posted on by Laura Otten, Dodge Technical Assistance


Diversity on boards has long been a hot topic. While it has always been a best practice to have a board of directors that is reflective of your constituency, too few have lived up to that best practice.

In the last decade or so, however, more and more nonprofits have been paying attention — from serious to lip service — to diversify their boards, in part because there has been increased pressure coming from external sources, primarily funders.

But, creating a strong, diverse board is more challenging than it might at first appear.  Sometimes an organization’s failure to do so isn’t for lack of trying, but rather misguided efforts. Other times, there really hasn’t even been any trying. But when an organization tries and fails, it is due to several reasons.

  1. Too few boards have a solid, thoughtful on-boarding process, essential if an organization wants a strong, well-performing board, regardless of its diversity. Rather, most boards replace outgoing board members by asking those already on the board whom they know.  Sadly, in this country, people’s networks still tend to look like and think as they do.  If that is how a board “recruits” new board members, diversification will be a long time coming.
  2. Too few boards give careful, intentional thought to what diversity means for their board and how that diversity will be of benefit. If we don’t truly believe in something, if we don’t truly understand its benefits, we are far less likely to pursue that outcome with any degree of vigor.
  3. Too few boards think about the conditions necessary to be a welcoming culture to diversity.

To build a good, solid board that has the capacity to be a high performing board, the board — not the executive director — must begin by being strategic. The board, with input from the executive director, must identify what is needed on the board to help increase the chances that the board and organization will be successful in achieving its strategic priorities.

It must consider what is needed in terms of: demographics; skills and knowledge areas; those to whom they wish access, as the need arises, through board members; and what kinds of characteristics/personality traits will be necessary for the group and successful group dynamics.

Once all the needs are identified, a board must prioritize. By thinking of specifics — such as a younger female or someone from this region of our service area or someone who has access to a politician — board members will be forced to think beyond their smart phones and into particular places.

For example, every profession has at least one professional association, to which many in our local communities belong. Reaching out to the local chapter of a professional association with a request to find board members stretches a board well beyond its own spheres. Going to faith organizations in new communities to extend an invitation to consider board service reaches beyond current circles. With clear priorities identified for new board members, the process of finding new board members moves from “who do we know” to “where should we look.” That, in and of itself, may add diversity.

But achieving diversity is far more than adding those who look different from everyone else in the room.

Diversifying boards needs to be tied to something beyond the push to diversify. It must first and foremost come from a position of understanding what diversification will bring to the board and the organization. It must come from a place of knowing why this is important and not simply that it is important to do if we want to be funded.  Diversification looks different to different organizations.

For some, it may be diversifying along race and age, or sex and communities or any number of axis. But it all must be led by what is it we need to achieve in order to be the best stewards and protectors of our mission. Thus, diversifying a board should very much be driven by an organization’s mission.

While there is absolute important value in clients seeing themselves on the board of directors, it is equally important to understand what diversification will bring to the board table.

We think of diversity bringing a variety of perspectives to the table: those who are different, be it because they grew up in different neighborhoods, different financial situations or different generations, will bring different ways of thinking about a situation.  The more ways we have to consider a situation, the thinking goes, the more thorough we will be in our decision making. (This, of course, assumes that people listen and hear what others are saying, even if it is foreign or different than their own thinking.)

But some of the diversity that would be of value to a board is difference that we cannot see, such as a person’s political views or the way s/he approaches a new situation or how s/he deals with disagreement.

To be a successful diverse board, boards must, before they go looking for that diversity, be clear as to the goals of the diversity they seek. If we simply want to look diverse, the on-boarding process may be more superficial: we bring in candidates, interview them, make sure we “like” them, and bring them onto the board.

If we want our board to be diverse at a functional level — by which we mean in how the members think, discuss and make decisions — then the on-boarding process will be more involved and would necessitate greater opportunities for interaction and observation before extending an offer. It might even include some of the personality and problem solving tests favored by HR departments of many for-profit companies. And/or, it could become a requirement that a potential board member serve a year on a board committee before being eligible even to be considered for board service.

(Requiring time on a committee as a pre-requisite for board nomination is always a good strategy for helping to bring on only the good-to-great board members.)

Being clear as to why we want to be diverse should not only influence the on-boarding process, but also the degree of commitment to achieving the goal. When diversity is simply a public relations gesture as opposed to an understanding of the value of being a diverse group, neither board member selection nor achievement of the goal get the attention they need. Organizations that seek diversity simply to put a number larger than zero on a grant application, or to pat themselves on their backs that the board doesn’t all look alike, will fail to achieve true diversity, and the benefits thereof.

When boards have not reflected on the what and why of diversity, they also won’t be sure that they have a culture that is welcoming of diversity, even if they have to create it from scratch. A group that isn’t prepared to be diverse is a group that won’t even have a semblance of being diverse for very long.

First and foremost, to be successful as a diverse group, a board must be a group that is open to learning and change. By adding “different” you are almost guaranteed to have things questioned, the “way we have always done things” challenged, and alternatives viewpoints raised. If the knee jerk response is to quash these new ideas, dismiss them as “not how we do things,” diversity will quickly leave.

If, however, the group is a learning one, one that stops, listens, and considers and isn’t threatened by the possibility that there are alternative — and perhaps even better — ways to do things, the diversity will stay.

A culture that welcomes isn’t one that puts up a divide between the we who have been there and the you who are new; instead, it expands the we to include the you. Part of the way we do that is by never bringing on just one of whatever it is on which we seek to diversify.

One is a token, and a token is never a commitment to being a truly diverse group. One cannot and does not represent the whole, nor speak for the whole. One also increases the chances that the diversity will either a) never feel comfortable honestly speaking up or b) speak up, but very quickly shut down, if not in fact leave.

If true diversity is the goal, we must bring “newness” in groups, so that until the integrated we happens, the newness has a we of its own and its ideas and concerns are harder to dismiss.

We want to hear from you!

If you have a board diversity success story to share, we’d love to hear from you.

laura-head-shot-500Laura Otten, a Dodge Technical Assistance faculty member, is Executive Director at The Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University. 

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Feeling Burned out? 7 Steps to Get Back Your NGO Mojo

Posted on by Yvette R. Murry

Stressed CC aaayyymm eeelectriik

You’re probably so busy that you don’t have time to read this post. But, please stop multi-tasking and resist the pull to check your phone.

I have an important question: Lately, when you walk into your non-profit job in the morning, what’s the first feeling that hits you?

If your answer was some variant of “stress,” you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization, stress causes 300 billion dollars in lost productivity each year for US businesses due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and employee turnover. Over 75 percent consider it to be a major concern; half aren’t taking vacations; and half are looking for new jobs.

Non-profit employees are certainly no strangers to workplace stress. Whether your organization is large or small, your employees are likely to wear several hats. You may wear at least 10 yourself, from running board meetings to changing toilet paper rolls. But even big-hearted, tolerant, non-profit staff have a breaking point.

Financial uncertainty, infrastructure, attracting and retaining board members, improving branding/communications, affording and retaining quality staff, the changing public policy landscape, and meeting the increased demand for program services — some of the biggest concerns cited by non-profits in the Center for Non-Profits’ most recent non-profit survey — and countless other day-to-day issues all fuel to heightened anxiety in our teams.

How do you know if you or your staff are at risk for burnout? If you’re currently suffering from three or more of these symptoms, you need to take a closer look and consider making adjustments.

  • Absenteeism – While supervisors should encourage staff, and themselves, to take sick days and mental health days when needed, you’ve got a real problem when employees continue to show up late or if no one is showing up at all.
  • Inability to concentrate – Are you not crossing off even the small tasks on your to-do list? Are you easily distracted by social media, noises in the hall, bagels left in the conference room? Do you have brain fog?
  • Loss of memory – Are you forgetting meetings, co-workers’ names, to pick up your child from school, etc.?
  • Anxiety – Are you no longer confident in your ability to handle familiar tasks? Are you easily panicked?
  • Depression – Just can’t shake a bad mood? (Don’t take this symptom lightly. Take a look at Symptoms from the Mayo Clinic and talk to your healthcare provider- Free, confidential mental health information and referral available at New Jersey Mental Health Cares.)
  • Inappropriate outbursts – Do you take it out on others, no longer following office etiquette, engaging in excessive office gossip, etc.
  • Lethargy/exhaustion
  • Avoidance – Lately are you procrastinating, missing deadlines, always having an excuse?

There’s no way to completely rid ourselves of stress and it’s actually not all bad. But here are seven steps we can take to manage stress and bring back enthusiasm for the mission.


Work smarter, not harder

Try separating your day into productive chunks of time. Tackle the most important tasks during your natural energy peaks. If you need total brain power and a quiet office for grant writing, schedule that task for early morning before the rest of the staff arrives. Procrastination is often the result of not wanting to do something or not knowing how. Discuss realistic deadlines with your staff and check in on progress. Lack of planning is a huge cause of stress. Learn more about project management for non-profits.

Show technology who’s boss

Is technology truly our friend? The reality is technology is how we work and how we play (we like the birthday post from our college roommate; glad the library sent us a ping our book is in). However, too much IT, or out-of-date equipment and software, can make our day harder, not easier. Take technology breaks – make a phone call instead of sending an email and enjoy a two-way, human connection. Give yourself a social media timeout and stop comparing your “status” to others. Technology moves rapidly but our brains don’t. Just because someone sends you a message doesn’t mean you have to respond immediately. Consider checking email only three times a day instead of continuously. Set limits with a new staff policy: All emails will be responded to within 24 hours.

Get organized!

While some of us claim to thrive with a messy desk, we’re in trouble if we can’t find our to-do list or our car keys. Make prioritizing a priority. Ask for your supervisor’s input on what needs to be done that week. Have your supervisor work with you on priorities. When managing capacity, think of the “triple constraint” of scope, cost and time. Most likely you won’t have all three so pick two and work within those parameters. By not over promising, you’ll feel more in control and less stressed.


Go with the flow. Easier said than done, but our approach to stress is how we see the world. When something unforeseen happens, is the world against you or is it just an isolated moment? I’m a magnet for the longest grocery store lines. It’s not my intention, but I always pick the one that will soon be changing cashiers, the paper will get jammed, the person in front of me will need a price check, etc.  I can stand there huffing and puffing and rolling my eyes, or I can take a moment to relax and catch up on my magazines.


Take care of yourself

Get your 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Don’t skip that healthy breakfast. Strap on a pedometer and take your 10,000 steps per day — get everyone moving by initiating walking meetings. Drink enough water! Do what you can to make your workspace healthy with gentle full-spectrum lighting, cross ventilation — open a window — cut back on noise pollution by instilling quiet hours, etc.

Take breaks — 15 minutes in the morning, afternoon and at least 30 minute lunch. Help build a culture of health in your organization.

Be present in the moment. Find time to laugh, have an organizational puzzle to work on together or by yourself for quiet time in the corner of the office. For adults, play is often considered “goofing off” but it’s where creativity can start.

Inoculate yourself from toxic individuals

Poor relationships at home or at work can cause burnout. Acknowledge your own feelings and protect yourself. While some of us may have supervisors with unrealistic expectations, we often put time pressures on ourselves. However, it’s not uncommon to see post-traumatic stress disorder come from the workplace. We can be traumatized by clients that come in for services, coworkers, etc.

  • Reacting versus responding – In a difficult situation, start with taking a deep breath. By responding and not reacting, we’re moving from our primitive brain to an executive brain.
  • Share the responsibility  Take turns having someone on call if you’re a crisis organization. When dealing with negative people, remember you’re going home to your life, not theirs.

Learn to say NO

Just because you’re legally allowed to work 50-60 hours a week doesn’t mean you should. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you someone who knows your limits. Take charge of your own work/life balance. At the end of the day, you will never conquer your inbox.

Take your allotted vacation and actually “vacate” from work. Even if you can only afford, or prefer a “stay-cation,” make sure to stay away from work. No checking emails while gone. Make the day before you leave the office a prep-day without taking on new projects and don’t schedule anything for the day you return to catch up. Leaders must respect their staff’s time when they’re not in the office and must lead by example by not staying late themselves.

Don’t be a work martyr!

Understand that good self-care makes you a good provider. Talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to creating more work/life balance. Take steps toward changing policy and procedures to put wellness front and center as an integral component of your organization’s culture.

Talk to your board and staff about implementing a variety of work format options including flex-time, telecommuting and job sharing which can significantly boost morale. Consider making wellness plans part of each staff member’s performance measures. Your staff absenteeism, health care utilization costs and turnover may go down, while staff productivity will upswing. Start by putting your life vest on first so you don’t drown, and then your staff won’t drown and you can focus on keeping afloat the people, causes, and communities you serve. 

And think about leaving work on time tonight. 

Yvette_Murry_headshot (002)

Yvette R. Murry (MSW, LCSW) is the president and CEO of YRM Consulting Group, LLC, a firm specializing in the areas of non-profit excellence, executive leadership, team engagement, cultural competence and community engagement. Yvette is also the chairperson of the Center for Non-Profits, New Jersey’s statewide umbrella organization for the charitable community.


Posted in Center for Nonprofits, Leadership, Nonprofit, Philanthropy, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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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!

Dodge Poetry Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | dodgepoetry

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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.


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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
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