We will have some major Dodge Poetry Festival announcements to share with you next week! Stay tuned for information on the 2014 poet lineup, special events, ticket sales, special hotel rates and much more!
Daffodils are blooming and arts events are filling calendars all the way until the first day of summer. We’ve survived an exceedingly long and demanding winter season, so now is the time to get out of the office, network with colleagues and renew your perspective and energy!
Two events not to be missed are Arts Day on May 1 in Trenton and the Thrive 2014 arts conference on June 5 at Princeton University. Arts Day activities are condensed this year to create less of a demand on busy workday schedules, so the celebration commences at 2 pm with ArtPride NJ’s annual membership meeting. This is the perfect opportunity to learn what New Jersey’s state arts advocacy organization has been up to on behalf of the non-profit arts industry. From intensive grassroots advocacy campaigns to programs that help arts groups perform at maximum capacity, attendees will get the lowdown on what is new and on the horizon. Following last year’s abbreviated but highly successful Creative Convening coordinated by Creative NJ, speaker Faisal Hoque will help Arts Day attendees gain a more personal perspective on how to lead in this age of creativity, innovation and sustainability. Faisal, an entrepreneur and author of Everything Connects, is no slouch and commends, “To be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to jump into the deep end…” As arts groups are increasingly embracing the entrepreneurial business model, Faisal is certain to offer inspirational insight based on his own far reaching experiences. Arts Day continues with Awards to Distinguished Arts Advocates, a Movers & Shakers reception for Advocate members, and wraps up with even more inspiration as the New Jersey Arts Education Partnership presents the 34th Annual Governor’s Awards in Arts Education to a host of well deserving and talented students and adults. Please join us in Trenton for this statewide arts celebration!
On June 5 at the Friends Center of Princeton University, over 200 arts professionals will convene at the 2014 Thrive arts conference to discuss the ever-present issue of how New Jersey’s arts community can use data to best advantage. We are all engaged in using social media, analytics, statistics, data mapping and visualization, but we also have organizational capacity limitations that include both time and human resources. Thrive will offer practical ways to make these tools work in the most challenging of environments and provide focus to using and managing data in light of swiftly changing technology. Andy Goodman of the Goodman Center will help establish the direct connection between data and storytelling and attendees will also hear about current national research from Sunil Iyengar of the National Endowment for the Arts and about New Jersey’s changing demographic from Patrick Murray of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute. There’s much more to 2014 Thrive, so be sure to check out the full day’s offerings and register now!
I learned a great deal about the power of voice last month in Atlanta. Many funders use their voice and influence to: improve the livability of our communities; search for game-changing ideas; test new program models; and demonstrate philanthropy’s unique power to coalesce resources around an issue. As Faith Mitchell, the President and CEO of GIH (Grantmakers in Health) reminds us, “Voice is one of the most important non-financial tools foundations can use to support change.”
Globally, there are a small number of membership organizations that have the power to convene health funders. Since Johnson & Johnson has been a long-term GIH member, we try to participate regularly in these convenings to share our work and to learn about the work of others. We appreciate that GIH provides a forum to be inspired, learn new things, train our voices and to make new funder friends.
Since the theme of this year’s meeting was The Power of Voice, we proposed a session to highlight the voices of our community partners. Fortunately, our session “Transforming Health Leaders into Change Agents” was selected and we were able to invite four community healthcare leaders from three of our leadership programs.
Our primary reason for designing a session was to highlight the issues of leadership and management development as a means to empower leaders across diverse sectors including early childhood health/education, K-12 school health settings, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), Community Health Centers, and Community-Based Organizations working on disease-specific issues. Our four partners/panelists explained how participation in these Johnson & Johnson-funded training programs gave voice to them as individual leaders, and to the agencies they lead and the populations/communities they serve.
We believe that equipping individual health professionals with the leadership and management skills to actualize personal voice within their organization will ultimately deliver better health outcomes among their targeted populations.
As our partners shared their stories of increased confidence, personal success and leadership victories, it was clear to me that their voices were hard to ignore. It was also apparent to me and to the audience that they developed their own powerful voices in order to speak for those without a voice.
As Faith Mitchell pointed out, “…not every important story gets told—or the hearing it deserves. Too often, it is the stories of unserved and underserved families and communities that we do not hear. Too often, they are voiceless.”
As an Executive Director of Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson, Michael Bzdak manages the Corporation’s building healthcare capacity initiatives throughout the world. He is also responsible for the Corporation’s volunteer support program as well as managing the metrics and evaluation efforts of Contributions team. Michael has been an employee of Johnson & Johnson since 1990.
He serves on the Council on Foundations Corporate Committee, the Conference Board’s Business/Education Council, as well as New Jersey’s Governor’s Advisory Council on Volunteerism and Community Service and just completed a term as chairman of the New Jersey AIDS Partnership Advisory Committee. Additionally, he has served on the board of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation as well as the New Jersey Council for the Humanities where he completed a term as chairman of the board of directors. Michael is also an adjunct professor at Rutgers University as well as New York University.
I am constantly amazed when I see nonprofit organizations that work so hard to define themselves in terms of quality, artistry and customer service, simultaneously pay insufficient attention to opportunities to communicate about their organizational mission and infrastructure when completing the IRS 990 Tax Form.
It is no secret that many folks in the nonprofit world are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with finance and accounting principles. Not as widely understood is that many accountants and accounting firms are not suitably familiar with nonprofit concepts. Just as you probably don’t want an accomplished orthopedic surgeon to perform your heart surgery, an accountant who specializes in small businesses does not necessarily have expertise in the nuances of nonprofit issues.
I recently spent an afternoon reviewing the 990’s of 40 music-related organizations with budgets between $800,000 and $1,800,000 in an effort to provide a client some benchmarking data. Among this pool were people who missed opportunities to sing their own praises and were ignorant of the managerial and fiduciary weaknesses (and sometimes misinformation) their 990’s exhibited for all to see.
There are sections on the Form 990 where you can brag about your accomplishments, yet nonprofits leave this important opportunity to market themselves to their accountants! For example, Part 1 of the form asks you to “describe your mission or most significant activities.” The form does not ask for your mission statement; it offers you the opportunity to editorialize! Smart organizations recognize that the audience is not just the IRS, but also potential foundations, individual donors, future employees, and interested members of the general public. They use this space to tell their reason for being.
The same is true in Part 3, question 4, where you are asked to describe accomplishments in your three largest program service areas. Again, you have the opportunity to brag, to explain your strengths (and perhaps defend weaknesses) but many leave it to their accountants to answer this question. Is your accountant really the best person to describe your value in the community? Do they know how many people you served? What kinds of transformative experiences you created?
And then we get to the ugly stuff, which could raise red flags: Part IX of the form, the Statement of Functional Expenses, in which organizations are supposed to indicate how much of their expenses fall into the categories of Program Services (the mission work); Management and General Expenses (the stuff you do to keep the lights on and the paychecks written); and Fundraising Expenses (the money you spend to raise money). The rules on how to make these allocations are quite liberal and allow organizations to largely define their own allocation processes (such as hours spent or square footage allocable, etc.). There is a fear that allocating too much to Management and General or Fundraising will act as a red flag for funders and others, so organizations have every incentive to understate these costs.
Of the 40 organizations I looked at, four of them (10%) reported zero fundraising costs! Yet these same organizations reported fundraising income between $320,000 and $570,000 despite not spending one penny on fundraising!!! Even if these folks are raising money by standing under money trees, I would argue that the staff shaking the tree and collecting the money as it fell should have some of their time allocated to fundraising. I think they have accountants who don’t know much about nonprofit accounting and that their managements and Boards are not fulfilling their professional and fiduciary roles, and I would hope they clean it up before a regulator comes to ask questions. If I were a potential donor in their community, I would certainly be concerned, and as an advisor to donors I would not recommend these organizations.
This is why it really pays to understand your 990 and use it to your advantage.
David Gray is President of the consulting firm Finance Arts, LLC, and author of the Finance Arts Guide to Nonprofit Cash Flow, published in 2010. He teaches nonprofit finance at Brookdale Community College and is a frequent speaker on nonprofit finance and management. In addition to being a Certified Financial Planner, he has twice served as Executive Director of nonprofit organizations. David is host of NonprofitNJ, a television program that explores issues which impact nonprofit organizations. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, David and his family live in Princeton, NJ.
April is National Poetry Month, so it’s a great time to surprise people with poetry. Why not share some poems in unexpected places, like the grocery store? Or your own refrigerator to surprise your family? Choose some food poems, hide them somewhere fun for an unsuspecting shopper or grazer to enjoy. Wouldn’t you smile if you found a poem when you least expected it?
Here are some poems we like that talk about food in interesting ways. Please share in the comments any food poems you know or love!
A Short History of the Apple, Dorianne Laux
Artichoke, Richard Foerster
Blackberry Eating, Galway Kinnell
Blueberries, Robert Frost
Chocolate, Rita Dove
Egg, Aleš Šteger
Ode to Salt, Pablo Neruda (and read here by Philip Levine)
Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market, Pablo Neruda (he has many more food poems, too many to list!)
Onions, William Matthews
An Orange in Mérida, Ben Belitt
Persimmons, Li-Young Lee
The Pomegranate, Eavan Boland
The Mysterious Human Heart, Matthew Dickman
The Traveling Onion, Naomi Shihab Nye
There are plenty more out there, we hope you will share your favorites with us!
For more food poems, you might check out Kevin Young’s collection, The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink!