Board Leadership: How to use a competitive advantage exercise to better understand your organization’s strengths

Posted on by Allison Trimarco

Steven Depolo

How to use a “competitive advantage” exercise to better understand your organization’s strengths

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation – so it’s no surprise that it’s also densely populated with nonprofits.

The National Center for Charitable Statistics estimates that New Jersey has almost 39,000 incorporated nonprofits, and close to 26,000 of them are 501c3 public charities that raise funds from the public and philanthropic sources.

While this brings up some challenges, it also presents a strategic planning opportunity. Looking at your organization in light of other nonprofits can give you a new perspective on your own group’s strengths, and help you understand what it is about your nonprofit’s approach that makes it particularly valuable to the people you serve. Knowing these strengths can be a tremendous asset to your ongoing strategic planning.

While the ideas of competitive advantage or unique value proposition are not new in the for-profit world, we are only just starting to see them integrated into nonprofit strategic planning. In many cases, community needs are so pressing that it seems obvious that nonprofits are essential.

But understanding what sets your nonprofit apart can help your ongoing strategic thinking about how to strengthen your organization and better carry out your mission. This is less about figuring out how to best your competitors and more about making strategic decisions that amplify the best aspects of your organization.

So how do you figure out what sets you apart from other nonprofits? Start with this chart:

Who provides services similar to ours?

How are we similar?

How are we unique?





Consider other organizations that are similar to yours. Depending on what you do, there are numerous ways to frame this question. If you are a symphony, you can start by looking at other symphonies…but you also can also look at other choices available to people looking for an arts experience, like

Depending on what you do, there are numerous ways to frame this question. If you are a symphony, you can start by looking at other symphonies…but you also can also look at other choices available to people looking for an arts experience, like theaters, dance performances, or other types of concerts. You could even consider other choices that people might make with their leisure time, like going to a restaurant, shopping, or staying at home watching Netflix. You should select comparison organizations that will provide you with maximum insight into how your organization is viewed by the people you are trying to engage – be they clients, audience members, volunteers, or donors.

Once you have your list, look for similarities between your organization and each comparison group. Do you serve the same people? Seek similar outcomes? Share the same approach?

Then look for ways in which you are different. Do you serve different people? Maybe you offer a different service or experience or approach your work in a different way. Perhaps your service offers a different benefit to the people you serve. Maybe you carry out your work in a more efficient or effective way. What makes your approach unique and valuable for your constituents and your community?

Be disciplined when you are doing this exercise. It’s easy to say, “no one else offers an exact replica of our service” — but that’s not the point. While it might be true that you are the only group presenting Baroque music or conserving field mice habitats, you can dig deeper to better understand the roots of your uniqueness and success.

For example, I recently did this exercise with a company that presents an unusual type of dance — there really isn’t another company that produces the same kind of experience, so they had a hard time coming up with a list of comparison organizations. They settled on looking at other mid-sized dance companies even though the artistic product is not exactly similar.

During the comparison exercise, they realized that one thing that sets them apart is that they have never gotten into debt (a pretty common occurrence for smaller arts groups, unfortunately). This helped them to understand that their conservative financial approach has been a key to their success and longevity – and they should continue to prioritize it when making future decisions.

An advocacy group completed the exercise, and realized that it is their staff expertise that sets them apart from other groups with similar mission and intent, many of whom are more volunteer-driven. They have both lawyers and conservationists on staff, which informs their policy decisions and their advocacy work, makes them a leader in the field, and positions them as a valuable collaborator for many organizations with similar values. Understanding this, they place a high strategic priority on maintaining a strong staff and investing in their professional development.

Once you take the idea of “competition” out of this exercise, you can see it is really about understanding your own strengths and then using them to improve your chances of success. Your clients, audiences, donors, and volunteers are all comparing you to other similar organizations, so why shouldn’t your leadership do this as well? It can only help you to better understand what sets you apart and makes your work truly essential to our community.

Allison Trimarco

Allison Trimarco

Allison Trimarco is the founder and principal of Creative Capacity (, a consulting firm that collaborates with nonprofits to find creative solutions to management challenges. She is also an affiliated consultant and instructor at The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business (

Photo at top: Creative Commons/ Steven Depolo

Posted in Board Leadership, Leadership, Nonprofit, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Sustainable Jersey: Less water for all of us

Posted on by  Randall Solomon, Co-Director, Sustainable Jersey


Drought warning in effect for 14 NJ counties

Even as New Jersey is battered with heavy rains from a nor’easter expected to bring two days of wet weather, the rainfall won’t be enough to lift a drought warning and buoy the state’s dwindling water supply.

The state Department of Environmental Protection in October issued the drought warning for 14 north and central New Jersey counties — Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren. In addition, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem counties remain under a drought watch, while only Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties are classified as “normal” in regards to precipitation levels.

Why You Should Care

Droughts are damaging events. The human and ecosystem costs can be enormous, but they are also opportunities, a chance to change personal behaviors and put in place new, innovative water policies that are not discussed during normal years. The goal of the drought warning is to preserve and balance available water supplies in an effort to avert more serious water shortages in the future. The warning also reinforces the need for residents and businesses in impacted counties to conserve water.

“The situation in our reservoir systems is becoming more critical, with some systems dropping to half their capacity or less,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “Without knowing how much precipitation we are going to get over the winter to replenish our water sources, it is vital that every resident and business step up efforts to voluntarily reduce water use in the hope of averting a water emergency and mandatory restrictions.”

Since Sustainable Jersey’s inception, DEP has been a strong advocate and partner and continues to be critical to the ongoing evolution of the program.

What You Can Do

Many of us still have old toilets, showerheads, washing machines and other appliances that are not water efficient, and we should replace them. We need to take a new look at the water hungry, non-native plants and grass we have in our yards. And we should seek out and explore new, renewable sources of water, including water treatment and reuse, rainwater harvesting and water desalination.

A number of New Jersey municipalities have passed water conservation ordinances. Most towns limit days and hours when lawn watering or other irrigation can occur. Some towns have simply established a sprinkler use ordinance that sets a schedule for lawn watering, while others pass an annual resolution to establish seasonal restrictions.

Sustainable Jersey has a number of actions related to water conservation including the Water Conservation Ordinance, Water Conservation Education, Minimize Water Consumption and Rain Gardens. In late February 2017, we are adding new green infrastructure actions, including a Water Loss Audit and the Stormwater Management Ordinance.

By using water more efficiently and by using more water-efficient products, we can mitigate the effects of drought.

But, drought or no drought, water conservation needs to be a way of life.  If you agree, here are a few things to get you started.

  • Lead a Water Conservation Education Program: Water conservation is not possible without the support and participation of residents and businesses that consume water. It is essential our communities get information on the benefits of water conservation as well as water conservation techniques. Encourage your local green team to do a Water Conservation Education program for residents and local businesses. You can focus this program on the drought. Use the Sustainable Jersey action to learn more: Water Conservation Education Program.
  • Get a DEP Municipal Drought Awareness Kit: DEP can provide you with its free Drought Awareness Kit for New Jersey Municipalities. This kit includes ready-to-use flyers with conservation tips, a media release template and more. To request a drought awareness kit, contact:
  • Change Your Habits: Every drop counts; for example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day. Here are a few tips to save water from DEP:
  • Don’t let the faucet run while brushing, shaving or washing the dishes.
  • Run your washing machines and dishwashers only when full.
  • Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Don’t wash your car at home – a car wash uses less water and recycles it, too.
  • With the end of the growing season, be sure to turn off automatic lawn and garden sprinkler systems.

For more NJ water supply status information and to view the DEP Drought Administrative Order, visit: To learn new ways to conserve water, visit


For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter  Instagram   LinkedIn


Posted in Community Building, Environment, Sustainable Jersey | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Poetry Friday: Inauguration Poems of the Past

Posted on by Dodge Poetry

Poetry Program Logo

Today is Inauguration Day, and we invite you to spend some time with the six poems that have been part of inauguration ceremonies of the past. While poems are often part of public ceremony, it wasn’t until 1961 that an inaugural poem was included in the ceremony. Here is a list, with links, of all of the poems read to commemorate this historic day:

Barack Obama’s Inauguration

2013 – Richard Blanco reading “One Today” (video)

2009 – Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “Praise Song for the Day

Bill Clinton’s Inauguration

1997 – Miller Williams’ poem “Of History and Hope

1993 – Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning

Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration

1977 – James Dickey’s poem “The Strength of Fields

John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration

1961 – Robert Frost’s poem “The Gift Outright


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CNJG: Our Democracy Needs Our Problem Solvers

Posted on by Nina Stack, Council of New Jersey Grantmakers

white house

I’m acutely aware that I’m writing this blog the week our new president will be sworn in. It is that event that has me thinking a lot about Alexis de Tocqueville’s seminal book Democracy in America as we once again observe the peaceful transition of power.

I am also a “Hamilton” junkie so I keep reminding myself of what this means as I listen to Washington’s schooling to Hamilton in the song “One Last Time” about how the transition will prove our country’s strength. And for those that haven’t had a chance to see Hamilton yet, I offer a little School House Rock help to remind us how we got here.

Hamiton’s “One Last Time:”

School House Rock:

In his book, Tocqueville spoke of what I believe is one the greatest examples of our country’s and our democracy’s strength – our associations. What he calls associations, we now refer to as our social sector.

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools.

It seems he may have found our desire to associate in this way a bit excessive but it is clear he envies and finds value in our ability to unite, to come together, to build, to care for our citizens, to solve problems. Today, the social sector in America is more robust than ever — and more essential.

My colleague Tim Delaney at the National Council of Nonprofits speaks often about how it is the social sector that are  the “incubators of innovation, laboratories of leadership, protectors of taxpayers, responders in times of trouble, stimulators of the economy, and weavers of community fabric.” Those of us working in charities are the problem solvers making a difference every day in every city and town across this country.

There is a lot of talk lately about how the “disruptors” are so important to our economy, our society — and they are. However, please remember that nonprofits were among the original disruptors and they are still at it.

There is a vital thread through the group training young women how to code and young men in construction trades to the Community Development Corporation creating a state of the art early child learning center, from organization training immigrant entrepreneurs to the one designing transportation alternatives for the elderly.

Tocqueville wrote his book over 180 years ago; so much still holds true.  We do unite and our associations, our social sector is at the heart of that practice.

As a new President arrives and we ready for a new New Jersey Governor next year, the time has never been more important for all those working in community, in education and healthcare, the environment and criminal justice, in elder care and child advancement, to fully claim our titles and our realm as problem solvers.



Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 130 funding organizations working in and for New Jersey.

The Council is the center for philanthropy in the state, serving the leading independent, corporate, family and community foundations as well as public grantmakers of our state. CNJG supports its members by strengthening their capacity to address New Jersey and society’s most difficult problems.

Photo at top: Creative Commons/ Stefan Fussan

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Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: 7 Simple Suggestions for Making Your Lawyer Happy 

Posted on by Christine Michelle Duffy, Pro Bono Partnership


The New Jersey office of Pro Bono Partnership in 2015 helped 299 nonprofit clients with 654 formal projects and 788 resource calls. As we closed out 2016, we were well on the way to shattering those numbers, with the same internal staffing.

Given this volume, I thought I would share my list of seven things nonprofits could do to make a lawyer happy. As you will see, these tips will result in more efficient service for nonprofits, thus benefitting them as well.

Here are the first four. I will share the final three items on my wish list in our next post.

One: Your E-mails Should Include Descriptive Subject Lines.  We all receive way too many e-mails, a fair number of which are spam. Earlier this year, via an e-mail, one of our clients asked us to review a contract that arose out of a grant it had been awarded. The subject line of the e-mail read: “Hooray!!! We just were awarded a $1 Million Grant!!!!”  I was seconds away from deleting the e-mail without reading it, as I thought it was another “puff” piece – some days I just don’t have time to scan those. A better subject line, which would have caught my attention, would have been “Good Deeds Nonprofit Requests Assistance with the Review of a Contract.

Two: Please Be Patient. Because of the volume of e-mails and calls that we receive, we often engage in triage. We also have lots of scheduled conference calls and meetings. As a result, we might not be able to get back to you the same or next business day. If something is truly urgent, a phone call usually is best. Sending multiple e-mails and making repeated phone calls the same day will not expedite my response time.

Adding the “high importance” flag to your e-mail doesn’t move it up on my priority list. I’ll triage e-mails the same way irrespective of red exclamations point appended to them.

If you don’t get a response to an e-mail within a few days, it would be worth calling us to make sure we received it. Perhaps it still is in your drafts’ folder, is lost somewhere in the Ethernet, was snagged by a spam filter, or was deleted because the subject line started with “Hooray!!!

In a true emergency, if you don’t get a response the same day, call back 24 hours later.

Three: Don’t Reuse an Unrelated E-mail Thread to Raise a New Legal Issue. As a general rule, you should never repurpose an e-mail thread to discuss a new topic. A new legal issue should be raised in a new e-mail. Here’s why.

When you ask me a question or need help with a new project, I might need to look for a volunteer lawyer to assist you. On occasion, especially when a project is time sensitive, I might forward your e-mail to a potential volunteer who has worked with your nonprofit in the past so that the volunteer has the relevant background. If you have unrelated e-mail messages in the same e-mail thread, I might end up accidentally sharing the unrelated information with a person who doesn’t have a need to know.

Similarly, if we trade e-mails over time, the unrelated material gets buried at the bottom of a long e-mail thread. You might decide to share the most current e-mail exchange with a manager you need to bring into the loop. That other person might not have a need to know about the unrelated project (e.g., perhaps you had previously asked me about how to terminate that manager).

Four: Do Use the Same E-mail Thread for the Same Topic.  When a nonprofit sends me an e-mail about a new project, I might have to ask for more information and supporting documentation.  One in four nonprofits will send that information via one or more separate e-mails with different subject lines.  So, instead of having all related information in one thread, I might need to refer to two or more threads.  This needlessly makes things more complicated, including when I need to forward the background information on to the lawyer who volunteered to help you with the project.  Also, when you need to send attachments that will not transmit in one email because they cumulatively make the e-mail too large, please identify the emails with the same subject line and an identifier such as “1 of 4,” “2 of 4,” etc.

By the way, when your computer or photocopier assigns scanned documents file names such as “docazqtx20161219111758,” before e-mailing them to me, please change each of the file names to something that is descriptive, such as “Bylaws revised November 2016.”  Doing so helps us (and our volunteers) when we file the documents away and access them at a later date.

Christine Michelle Duffy is a senior staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership.  Christine is editor-in-chief and contributing author of the critically acclaimed treatise Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Practical Guide, and a contributor to the treatise New Jersey Employment Law.

Photo at top: Creative Commons / HospitalityPerformance

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Local News Lab: Reimagining How We Get Community News in New Jersey

Posted on by Chris Satullo


Imagine you were given an assignment. Here it is:

Two weeks before Christmas, gather the major legacy and new media players in your state for a brainstorming meeting that will take up the better part of their day. Just to make things more interesting, also lure a nice sampling of the academics and advocates who track trends in local media.

You’ve got three weeks to get it done. Go!

Could you nail that task — without losing hours of sleep and perhaps your sanity? How could you identify all the key players across a sprawling state? How would you persuade short-handed editors, busy pulling together year-in-review packages, to give up a day to make this meeting?  How do you get academics to leave campus in the middle of finals?

I had exactly that challenge late last year, trying to organize a session on Dec. 12 at the Center for Cooperative Media at New Jersey’s Montclair State University.

Guess what? It turned out to be a piece of holiday cake.

That’s a tribute to the coherent and collaborative a network of news outlets, both venerable and newbie, that’s been woven in New Jersey over the last five years, thanks to the efforts of the Dodge Foundation and the Center at Montclair.

I doubt that such a gathering could have been pulled together on such a tight timetable with such ease in any other state of the union.

Here’s who ended up agreeing to come (though, in full candor, a very typical New Jersey phenomenon – an epic, rain-induced traffic snarl on the Garden State Parkway – prevented some of them from ever making it to Montclair that day):

  • Representatives of the biggest newspapers covering the state.
  • Key players at all four of the public radio stations broadcasting in New Jersey: WNYC, WHYY, WBGO and WFMU.
  • A sampling of the impressive cohort New Jersey digital media startups that have hung in there (with dollops of help from Dodge) over the last five years: NJ Spotlight, Brick City Live, New Brunswick Today, NJ Shorebeat.
  • Academics from Montclair State, Rutgers, Rowan and CUNY.
  • Advocates who track media issues from organizations such as the Citizens Campaign and Media Mobilizing Project.

Admittedly, after 40 years spent working for news organizations that sit along the Delaware River and cover New Jersey, I had some relationships I could put to work gathering this crew. And people I knew well in turn had relationships with others whom they could assure, “This one sounds like it might be worth your time.”

Just as valuable, though, was the map of New Jersey’s news ecosystem that the Center for Cooperative Media has been putting together for much of this decade, supported by Dodge.

And, if you put a lie detector on everyone who said, “Yes, I’ll come,” they’d probably say the main reason they considered this a meeting worth scrambling to attend boiled down to two words: Dodge Foundation.   If Dodge was making a bet on an initiative involving the future of New Jersey media, then it was best to pay attention.

The topic of the meeting was an effort by the Free Press organization, funded by Dodge and the Democracy Fund, to persuade elected officials in Trenton to do something that they are not at first blush going to want to do:

  • Spend part of an anticipated windfall on something other than their pet concerns.

The windfall (as much as $1 billion) may come to New Jersey through the federal auction of broadcast spectrum that is now taking place, laboriously, under the auspices of the Federal Communications Commission.

In the auction, New Jersey is in a unique position among states. Under Gov. Christie, the state got out of the business of directly producing public television, but it hung onto ownership of four public TV licenses (i.e. rights to broadcast using spectrum bandwidth). The licenses are now leased to WNET public TV in New York City, which operates them as NJTV.

The goal of the auction is to free up a swath of spectrum that the FCC can then sell to telecom companies looking to improve 5G service. That makes the New Jersey licenses, smack in the middle of the populous mid-Atlantic, among the most valuable ones on the block. If the auction reaches any conclusion where buyers and sellers agree on a price, New Jersey stands to make some money.

Operating on default instincts, politicians in the state Capitol would use that money as a pain-free plug for various well-known holes in the state budget, such as pension costs.

But Free Press, backed by Dodge and the Democracy Fund, seeks a hearing for a different idea: Earmark a significant chunk of the proceeds for a new fund or endowment. The fund would provide seed capital to innovative proposals aim meeting the information needs of New Jersey residents and communities.

The logic is clean and powerful: This windfall got generated by selling off remnants of the 20th-century system of public media. At least some of it should be used to invest in building a 21st-century, digital/mobile model for public media.

In this way, New Jersey, long a media stepchild to New York and Philly, could become a national leader in modern local media.

This endowment — for now, let’s call it “the New Jersey Fund for Public Information” — might have something like $10 million a year to invest in creative ideas for how to scratch the local information itch.

Politically, that’s a long shot – but with a new governor being elected in 2017 and many in politics fretting over the “fake news” phenomenon and the fraying of the “honest broker” concept of news media – it’s not a hopeless quest.

To sell voters and taxpayers on the idea, however, you have to be able to show them clearly and succinctly how the fund could be deployed to meet their community’s information needs.

Getting a start on that creative task – that’s why we wanted to assemble the journalists, academics and advocates on Dec. 12 in Montclair.

They came, they brainstormed and they presented their ideas for critical evaluation by their peers in a lively, Shark Tank-like session in meeting room at Montclair that presented a stunning, though fog-shrouded view, of the Manhattan skyline.

Here’s what they came up with (think of this list not as a comprehensive list of possibilities, but as a first course to whet the appetite for more dialogue, more creativity, more great ideas):

  • Create an app, and a digital reporting team, that would track progress and milestones on all laws approved by Trenton.   Statehouse reporting has traditional focused on the politics of getting bills passed.  But those reporters rarely circle back to check on whether that bill that caused all the fuss a year ago is actually being enforced, actually working, actually doing what it was supposed to do.  Audiences often tell journalists that their lack of follow-up on stories is one of their most annoying sins.
  • Create a Pro Publica for New Jersey. Pro Publica is the New York City-based nonprofit investigative reporting outfit that does deep dives into data and emerges with important stories that it often co-produces with major newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets.  The idea is that New Jersey taxpayers deserve a watchdog with a strong bite and time to dig.
  • Set up a New Jersey Right to Know Institute. This institute would deploy the time and expertise of seasoned journalists and attorneys to help New Jersey residents gain access to key information about how their government is functioning. This is information to which they have a right by law, but often get blocked from seeing by red tape, cost and outright bureaucratic resistance.
  • Innovate with “Community Information Districts.” Many New Jersey towns have set up “special services districts,” where taxpayers within the district pay an extra fee to get particular services, whether business corridor development, watershed protection, or libraries. The idea here is for the fund to help fashion a model for towns to set up their own Community Information Districts. Revenue from a small, per-capita fee would be used to support a better information infrastructure for the town: an open-date website; a hyperlocal news site; a regular podcast, whatever town leaders felt would scratch their residents’ information itch.
  • Initiate “AmeriCorps for Journalists.” Create fellowships for a diverse cohort of young journalists, who would commit for at least two years to covering local news in areas now underserved by media, working in concert with established news organizations.
  • Tell the state’s chief executive: “Hearken, Governor.” Modeled on Hearken, a public radio project that crowd-sources the questions it then investigates, this effort would enlist media outlets around the state to crowdsource which question New Jersey voters most want their governor to answer each month. All the media outlets would then publish or air the answer.

One team delved not into a particular idea, but the structure for how the fund should operate.  This team’s suggestions, which track fairly closely to Free Press’s thinking, were:

  • Set up a review board of informed citizens and media professionals to vet applications to the fund and make recommendations to its politically appointed board.
  • Give preference to proposals that a) have a clear local focus b) stress collaboration among partners and c) have a plan to generate sustaining revenue.
  • Be open to applications from entities not traditionally thought of as being part of “the news media” e.g. libraries, arts groups, civic tech.

Do you have thoughts or questions about any of these ideas? Do you have a better idea of your own? Either way, let us know and I’m make sure your feedback is incorporated into Free Press’ work.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or email News Voices: New Jersey Director Mike Rispoli at

We’ll try to answer your questions while incorporating your feedback into our work.

Chris Satullo is a civic-engagement consultant working with Free Press on the News Voices project. He formerly was a top news executive at the Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY Inc.

Photo at Top: Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University

Posted in Community Building, Informed Communities | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

ArtPride NJ: Here Comes the Sun

Posted on by Ann Marie Miller, Art Pride NJ


2016 is over to everyone’s relief. For most it’s been “annus horribilis” which needs little or no translation. The amount of upset and turmoil from 18 months of presidential electioneering, raw social and other media, and an overflow of celebrity deaths is ready to be relieved by the onset of a new year.

While there is also enough trepidation and fear about what to expect in 2017, I’m going to buck the trend and opt for optimism, so here goes! Here is a list of five un-resolutions — things to hope for instead.

  1. More activism – whether you are planning to march on DC, Trenton or Philadelphia on January 21, the undercurrent is that complacency is no longer an option. It’s time to get familiar with your elected officials and support your favorite nonprofits. That’s plural—from the arts to the environment, you can still date that check 12/31/16 and make sure the nonprofit sector gets the infrastructure boost it deserves to operate with impunity and continue to make a difference in your community. If you need help in learning who your legislators are, a good starting point is ArtPride NJ’s Arts Action Center where you can contact elected officials about pertinent arts issues and legislation.
  2. More philanthropy – Did you like that segue? Activism = philanthropy. If you can’t be there in person to affect change, you can put your money where your mouth is. There’s enough yapping on social media to equate to a considerable increase in philanthropy if each whining post was accompanied by a donation to that unnamed nonprofit organization mentioned in point No. 1.
  3. More kindness – A social trait we can all benefit from on a daily basis. Consider paying it forward from an extra tip to the hardworking waiter, to a return smile for the cashier at the supermarket. Fear and trepidation take their toll on facial muscles and smiles are catchy and suggest the love we harbor that is often submerged by life’s daily routine.
  4. More listening – This translates into “just shut up and listen.” All that remorse and misgiving needs to vent, but sometimes it’s wise (and welcome) to exercise self-restraint and just listen to our co-worker, our spouse, our neighbor and yes, that person who thinks differently from you. This could also translate into “unplugging,” for a bit and removing oneself from the never-ending onslaught of angst that social media perpetuates. Fight the algorithms, fill up your coffee cup, place it close to your mouth and just listen for a bit.
  5. More art — did you really think I would miss this one? The political climate is certain to provide fodder for what artists do best—reflect society at its worst and best. It’s already apparent (I even had my personal stab at it and feel more on the horizon). This translates into more creativity which has the most positive implication for 2017. We are inherently creative as humans whether we acknowledge it or deny it out of modesty. It’s time to imprison the inner critic and unleash creative energy that will generate art that inventively documents this critical moment in time.

What are your thoughts? What do we need more (or less) of in 2017? How can we shift gears from a year that resonated with disdain and despair into a year of action, enterprise and beneficence?

I have faith in our collective will as humans to turn the tide, so here are best wishes for a creative, charitable and compassionate New Year!

annmarie1-150x150Ann Marie Miller is the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at ArtPride New Jersey and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. Email her at Click here to visit ArtPride’s website.

Photo at top: Creative Commons / tsuacctnt

Posted in Advocacy, ArtPride New Jersey, Arts, Arts Advocacy, Nonprofit, Philanthropy | 2 Comments

Sustainable Jersey: Bringing the “Tech” into Sustainability

Posted on by Lauren Skowronski, Director for Community Engagement, Sustainable Jersey

SJ code1

 How does technology relate to sustainability and Sustainable Jersey? The classic definition of sustainability suggests that our future depends on supporting three interdependent domains: environment, economy and society. Among these, society often gets overlooked. But in fact, it may be the most important of the three, as it determines not just our quality of life, but our capacity to act together to solve our problems.

If our government, as an extension of our society, is ineffective, our attempts to solve sustainability issues will also be ineffective. Through Sustainable Jersey’s new suite of Public Information & Engagement (PIE) actions, we hope to enable municipalities to upgrade how they operate to provide better public information and services, engage citizens in public decision making and problem solving and track and communicate sustainability goals. In many cases, innovative technologies already exist to help municipalities, but in some cases, technologies still need to be created.

First State-Wide Civic Tech Competition in NJ: Coding for Community

You’re invited to dream big as Sustainable Jersey towns will be paired with innovative minds to create a tool that can address a sustainability or public engagement need within your community. Think apps, data and input gathering, visualizations and beyond.

What would benefit your community? For example, do you need community members to help locate potholes or invasive species in your park? Or how about an app to empower community members to start and fund art projects to beautify your town? Would it be useful to have a way to collect community input on master plans, upcoming events and new ordinances? Even better, let’s have a tool to map or measure data such as energy usage, waste reduction and bikeways. The options are endless; that is why we need your town’s ideas.

Local governments are increasingly tasked with figuring out how to share important information and data, providing services and responding to resident requests instantaneously, since people have become accustomed to receiving answers in real time.

SJ Code 2

Brian Platt, the director of the Jersey City Office of Innovation said, “Governments traditionally have limited technology resources and data analysis capabilities, but typically have a high degree of need for these types of advances.” He explains that there is a lot to be learned from the private sector and other communities that have brought successful technologies to address local public information and engagement issues. “Our team is focused on leveraging technology and data to improve quality of life and solve a variety of challenges we face as a city, and many of our tools and approaches have private sector origins.”

Brought to you by Sustainable Jersey, Coding for Community (CfC) is the first of its kind, New Jersey-wide civic tech competition. We’re pairing municipalities with techies to develop real sustainable solutions for local public information and engagement issues. Professional and student coders, programmers and digital designers from across the region will work with municipal staff, green team members and elected officials, similar to the now popular hackathons.

The competition kicks off with an all-day event on January 27, 2017, in Newark, where potential tech solutions to local issues will be identified and teams will form. AT&T is providing $10,000 to Sustainable Jersey to use for prize money. Brian Platt added, “We see the Coding for Community event as a way to connect other towns in New Jersey with a talented pool of tech experts that can help drive transformative change through the use of technology.”

Sustainable Jersey is partnering on this event with the City of Jersey City, Code for Trenton, Code for Jersey City, Code for Princeton, OpenGov, the New Jersey Innovation Institute, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Sustainable Princeton. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Knight Foundation are project funders.

Apply for the Pilot: Free PIE Technology Assistance for Two NJ Towns

Sustainable Jersey will also select two pilot municipalities to take part in a Public Information and Engagement (PIE) Technology Assessment. New Jersey municipal governments that are registered in the Sustainable Jersey program can submit an application for consideration.

If selected, the pilot town will be provided with a consultant who will conduct a PIE Technology Assessment to assist in the implementation of the PIE actions. The assessment will provide a roadmap for transitioning to new forms of communications and engagement through emerging technologies that include digital and online tools. If this sounds interesting, make sure that your town submits an application by February 7, 2017.

“There is no time to ‘wait and see’ with technology. This is where the world is headed and local governments will benefit from providing new ways for citizens to engage and better understand local challenges and opportunities,” said Justin Heyman, a municipal information technology director with over 13 years of experience in municipal technology.  Justin will be leading the PIE Technology Assessments and is also the president of GMIS International, which is a professional information technology association of worldwide government information technology leaders.

“If a municipality is thinking about applying for this opportunity, they should know that they don’t have to be far along the technology path; they just need to be ready to engage and support the recommendations that best fit the needs of their community,” Justin explained. “The selected towns will leave the process with a detailed roadmap complete with solution options allowing them to advance their efforts in public information and engagement.”

  • Apply for the pilot by February 5, 2017: The eligibility requirements, application and complete information can be found here: PIE Technology Assessments application:

Webinar: Join Us on January 4 to Learn More about these Initiatives

To help get you up to speed on these initiatives, Sustainable Jersey has a webinar planned for January 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm. Register for the webinar and learn about the Coding for Community competition and the pilot program.

For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn


Posted in Community Building, Informed Communities, Media, News & Announcements, Opportunities, Sustainable Jersey | Leave a comment

Creative NJ: Creativity and Collaboration in Asbury Park

Posted on by Kacy O’Brien, Program Manager, Creative New Jersey

Asbury Park

The pioneering spirit of Asbury Park’s residents and businesses, coupled with the diversity of its neighborhoods and iconic places have remained steadfast and resilient through many changes.

The momentum of the city’s burgeoning renaissance provides opportunities to build shared economic prosperity, a united populace, and thriving neighborhoods – a true 21st Century city which requires the voices of all who have a stake in the success of Asbury Park.

On January 11 & 12, 2017, the Creative Asbury Park Call to Collaboration will be held at Holy Spirit Church, from 8:30am-4pm on both days.

This two-day gathering is part of Creative New Jersey’s statewide series of community-based convenings, aimed at helping to fuel current efforts already in action and to foster creativity, innovation, and sustainability by facilitating cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture.

At just over a mile square, Asbury Park’s highly diverse population boasts a bit of everything: entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, a strong faith-based community, news outlets, nonprofit leaders, restauranteurs and a community of people who are deeply committed to Asbury Park’s success.

If any of our blog readers know people who live or work in Asbury Park who might be interested in participating, please forward this blog or send them here for more information!

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


Creative New Jersey is dedicated to fostering creativity, innovation, and sustainability by empowering cross-sector partnerships in commerce, education, philanthropy, government, and culture in order to ensure dynamic communities and a thriving economy.

Creative New Jersey’s leaders and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog.

Posted in Arts, Community Building, Creative NJ, Creativity | Leave a comment

Help Support Year-End Giving to New Jersey’s Social Sector

Posted on by Dodge


The Jersey Give Back Guide is back and ready to help New Jersey get generous with its year-end giving!

Looking for some new fellow organizations to support but don’t know where to start? The Guide’s Generosity Generator makes it easy and fun.

Forty of New Jersey’s most effective organizations are featured in four categories — Community, Environment, Arts, and Education (and more are listed in our archives). They are innovative, collaborative, and financially healthy, engage their communities in meaningful ways, and have excellent reputations for their work.
Help Spread the Word!

To see the Generosity Generator in action — and make a donation, too! — please visit

It’s time to get generous for New Jersey. Let’s go.

Posted in Jersey Give Back Guide, Nonprofit, Philanthropy | Leave a comment

Sustainable Jersey: New Jersey Towns Provide Hope Through Local Action

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Co-Director, Sustainable Jersey

Woodbridge, Ewing and Bordentown City rise above

SJ1 Last week, Sustainable Jersey announced the recipients of the 2016 Sustainable Jersey special awards and the 74 towns that have achieved certification. The announcement was made at the 8th Annual Sustainable Jersey Luncheon held during the New Jersey League of Municipality Conference in Atlantic City.

I am so thankful for the positive energy I felt from the green teams at this event. In the wake of a hotly contested national election, it reminded me that at the local level Sustainable Jersey transcends party and ideology and is a unifying force.

In 2012 we did an analysis of the political makeup of participating communities. What we found is that the proportion of Sustainable Jersey municipalities led by Republicans, Democrats and independents matches the overall rates of party identification for the leadership of New Jersey communities.

At the local level, Sustainable Jersey is a group of good hearted people doing amazing things to help their communities. From efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, stimulate local economies, increase resiliency and more, towns are making progress toward a better tomorrow. The actions implemented in New Jersey municipalities this year have been exceptional.

Three towns were awarded the Sustainability Champion award which recognizes municipalities that have scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in three population categories (large, medium and small).

Woodbridge Township, Middlesex County

Woodbridge Township, located in Middlesex County, has a population of nearly 100,000 people. The Township received the Sustainability Champion award for a sixth year in our large population category. Led by Chief of Staff Caroline Ehrlich, this township has such an extensive sustainability program that it is listed with the top sustainable communities in the nation. Caroline Ehrlich also received the 2016 Art Ondish Leadership award this year for her tireless pursuit of sustainability actions.

Woodbridge Township developed a comprehensive Sustainable Community Plan as a framework for their program that details goals and actions for areas including: Energy Conservation and Green Building, Transportation and Circulation, Water Management, Trees and Open Space, Green Purchasing, Recycling and Materials Management and Business and Residential Outreach.

In 2016, the Woodbridge Green Team placed special focus on encouraging home energy audits, implementing energy efficiency measures in municipal buildings, creating arts and sustainability programs, publicizing residential and business Clean Energy programs and creating more bike and walking paths. Woodbridge has a monthly Greenable Woodbridge Television Show that is hosted by Caroline Ehrlich. She broadcasts on public access and has web access workshops that involve ecological awareness activities.

“Sustainable Jersey serves as a benchmark for our sustainable initiatives, while providing the Township with additional resources needed to plan for our green future,” Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac said. “Woodbridge Township competed against 198 Sustainable Jersey certified municipalities and 440 participating municipalities in the Sustainable Jersey program earning sustainable points with 92 actions in 18 separate categories – scoring a record 1,035 points. And throughout, Greenable Woodbridge continued to implement many sustainable initiatives and programs that serve to better manage the ways we use energy and other natural resources at work and home.

“The Sustainable Jersey program is an important vehicle by which our Township will continue to move into the future as a sustainable and environmentally-conscious community.”

Visit Greenable Woodbridge at or check out the 2016 Sustainable Jersey Woodbridge Township Certification Report to learn more.

SJ Ewing

Ewing Township, Mercer County

Ewing Township, located in Mercer County, received the 2016 Sustainability Champion award in the medium population category. With the advent of the Sustainable Jersey program, the Ewing Green Team was established in 2009 by a municipal resolution. The green team consists of 12 community members and three Ewing Township representatives, including a member of the Ewing Town Council, the business administrator and a staff representative. Like Woodbridge Township, the work of the Ewing Green Team is guided by a strategic plan. The plan details the goals, identifies the practical actions necessary to achieve them and outlines strategies for continuing to grow organizational capacity. Read the Ewing Township Sustainable Green Team Strategic Plan.

The green team has improved sustainability in Ewing in a variety of ways, including increased and improved community garden space, energy audits of municipal buildings, installation of LED lighting, maintenance and improvement of Township trails and open space and numerous waste recycling efforts. Bert H. Steinmann, the Mayor for Ewing Township said, “I am extremely proud of the diligent work that was done by our amazing green team, and the many volunteers to help achieve this honor.”

The Ewing Green Team achieved Sustainable Jersey certification at the silver-level; read the 2016 Sustainable Jersey Ewing Township Certification Report. The team also supports a full communications program, visit the Ewing Green Team website, Ewing Recycles website, electronic newsletter, Facebook and Twitter (@EwingGreenTeam).

SJ Bordentown

Bordentown City, Burlington County

Bordentown City, located in Burlington County, received the 2016 Sustainable Jersey Sustainability Champion award in the small population category. It is a community with fewer than 4,000 people that is served by a staff of approximately 35 full time employees

The Bordentown City Green Team was formally established by the City’s governing body in 2010, and achieved bronze level certification in the Sustainable Jersey Program that year. The green team, with the support of the governing body and the Bordentown City Environmental Commission, continued its sustainability efforts, and achieved silver level certification in 2013 and 2016. The green team holds an annual Green Fair in June which is the highlight of their overall program. Each year, the number of exhibitors and attendees has increased. The green team is already planning for the eighth annual Green Fair that will be held in 2017.

In 2016, the Bordentown City Green Team maintained or supported ongoing projects, including a Native Plant Demonstration Garden, the Lime Kiln Alley Park Pollinator Garden, regularly scheduled Earthtalks, rain barrel workshops, community paper shredding days, recycling education and reusable shopping bag educational campaigns. Recently completed projects include a community garden, which opened this spring, a pollinator garden at Bordentown Regional High School that was developed in coordination with the Bordentown Township Green Team, and the first Green Business Award. Bordentown City is fortunate to have a strong volunteer base with a deep pool of talent. Read the 2016 Sustainable Jersey Bordentown City Certification Report to learn more.

It’s hard to summarize in a few paragraphs the accomplishments achieved at the local level in these three communities. But, I know from working with them and other green teams across New Jersey that innovative and important work is getting done, and that is why I am feeling hopeful. Working together, we have the opportunity to create a better world.

For more about Sustainable Jersey: Website  Facebook  Twitter   Instagram   LinkedIn

Posted in Collaboration, Nonprofit, Public Policy, Sustainable Jersey | Leave a comment

Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Here’s an Election that Isn’t Contentious

Posted on by Kent E. Hansen, Pro Bono Partnership

Photo by Elliot Hill/Creative Commons

One of the questions we ask as part of our screening process for new nonprofit clients is whether the organization engages, or plans to engage, in any legislative, political, or advocacy activities.

If so, we would likely recommend that the organization critically review those activities to determine if its interests would best be served by making an election to use the expenditure test under Section 501(h) of the Internal Revenue Code to measure its lobbying activities. For a primer on the types of activities the IRS regards as lobbying by 501(c)(3) nonprofits, please see last month’s Pro Bono Partnership Pundit post.

Public charities cannot devote a substantial part of their activities to “carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation” and there is no objective measure of what is considered to be “substantial” under this prohibition.

The lack of an objective measure provides the IRS significant discretion in determining whether a nonprofit has engaged in too much lobbying. In addition, the limitation imposed by this “substantial part” test is based broadly on the organization’s activities, not how much money is spent on those activities, making the measurement even more subjective and difficult.

The Section 501(h) election provides an objective measure of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s lobbying activities, which is based upon a percentage of the organization’s annual exempt-purpose expenditures.

There are separate limits for total direct lobbying expenditures and for indirect, or grassroots, lobbying expenditures. These specific limits give organizations that do engage in lobbying the clarity of knowing how their activities will be measured by the IRS. In addition to the clarity of a formula, the definitions and related rules under the expenditure test include examples to which organizations can compare their activities to help determine if they result in lobbying expenditures.

Another important benefit of the expenditure test is that compliance with the limitations is generally measured on an average over a four-year period.  An organization that exceeds the limitations by 150 percent over that period might lose its exempt status (this will result in its income during the entire period being taxable). Under the substantial part test, it is conceivable that an organization could lose its exempt status based on its lobbying activities in just one year.

Generally speaking, most organizations that are eligible to elect the expenditure test will benefit not only from the clarity of the test but also from the fact that the lobbying limits may be more generous than those under the substantial part test. For example, under the substantial part test unpaid lobbying activities, such as those undertaken by volunteers (including unpaid board members), would be counted in determining whether the activities are substantial.

In contrast, under the expenditure test those activities have no dollar value and thus don’t count against a nonprofit’s annual and four-year lobbying expenditure dollar limits.

Please note that the expenditure test may have some disadvantages for an organization.  For example, a 25 percent excise tax is imposed on the amount by which lobbying expenditures exceed the annual limitations. Also, if an organization plans to undertake a fair amount of grassroots lobbying, the expenditure test may be more restrictive than the substantial part test.

On balance, we think the ability to objectively plan for and determine compliance outweighs any potential disadvantages for most organizations.

There will still be a fair amount of analysis and quantification necessary to ensure compliance with the limitations. Organizations still have to evaluate which activities constitute lobbying. They must determine how to measure expenditures for those activities to, for example, include preparation time and allocate overhead and administrative expenses to the amount.

They have to determine the amount of their annual exempt-purpose expenditures in order to perform the necessary calculations. They also must comply with additional record keeping and reporting requirements.

If your organization does engage in lobbying activities, we suggest that you consider whether the level of those activities may warrant a closer look at the benefits of the 501(h) election. It provides organizations with a good basis for planning their activities and budgeting related expenses so that they stay within the limitations of the expenditure test.

Sidebar: To make the 501(h) election, a nonprofit must file IRS Form 4506-A.  To learn more about the rules governing lobbying, see the following IRS publications:

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

Posted in Advocacy, Nonprofit, Pro Bono Partnership, Technical Assistance | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Poetry Friday: Thank You, Veterans

Posted on by Dodge

Warrior Writers At Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival from Lynn Estomin on Vimeo.

In observance of Veterans Day, we present to you an excerpt from State of the Arts NJ PBS program, The Fog of War: Combat Paper and Warrior Writers, produced by Susan Wallner. This is part of a larger performance by Combat Paper and Warrior Writers at the Festival called “Another Kind of Courage.”

Visit the Combat Paper website for visual art made by veterans, and the Warrior Writers website for many more videos of veterans reading their written work. We suggest visiting both to make a donation today.

Thank you to all the veterans who have served our country and shared their experiences.

Posted in Poetry, Poetry 2014 Festival, Poetry Archives | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Annual Conference Will Offer Education, Inspiration to the Social Sector

Posted on by Linda M. Czipo, Center for Non-Profits

The Center for Non-Profits will present its annual New Jersey non-profit conference, Charting Our Course, Claiming Our Future, at the Palace at Somerset Park on December 7, 2016. The conference will explore the challenges and opportunities non-profits face, individually and as part of the larger community, in order to take charge of their future.

More than 450 nonConferenceThumbnail-profit leaders, champions and allies are expected. Here are a few reasons we hope you’ll be among them:

Planning for an uncertain future can be daunting. A volatile political landscape, a difficult funding environment and escalating community needs create unique short- and long-term challenges for many organizations. Gather many of the tools and peer support needed to chart your organization’s path.

Michael-McAfee-Hi-res-colorMorning keynote speaker Michael McAfee, Ed.D., president of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity, will open the conference (“Leadership on the Line: Summoning the Courage to Claim Our Future”).  New Jersey native Darian Rodriguez Heyman, former executive director of Craigslist Foundation, current executive director at Numi Foundation, and author of the recently released book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, will be the luncheon speaker (“The Future of Fundraising & Philanthropy: The Times, They are a-Changing”).

Each year, the Center’s conference attracts a broad cross-section of current and emerging leaders from a diverse array of non-profits, for-profits, government and philanthropy, and 2016 promises to be even bigger. It’s a networking opportunity like no other.

In addition to the plenary presentations, event participants can choose from 20 in-depth breakout sessions tailored to every non-profit career level, and headed by leaders in the sector. Topics include effectively communicating your mission in times of change, keeping your organization running during a disaster, exploring the workings of social entrepreneurship, trends in philanthropy, and the exciting and diverse ways non-profits are in a position to adapt and thrive.

Get a year-end wrap up and discuss what’s on the horizon for key state and national issues affecting non-profits. Weigh in with your own insights and ideas!

Explore a variety of exhibitors offering technology, accounting, legal, marketing, professional education, and much more. There WILL be giveaways, so you’ll want to check them out!

Thanks to conference supporters like the Dodge Foundation, scholarships are available for non-profits who might not otherwise be able to attend. Discounts are also available for Center for Non-Profits members, emerging leaders, and others!

Thought-provoking plenary speakers…  Opportunities for emerging and established leaders to learn from each other… Sharing and gaining wisdom from conference attendees spanning a broad diversity of talents, backgrounds, and experiences…  It all adds up to an amazing day packed with incredible energy, new ideas and information you can use right away. You WILL come away revitalized!

For complete details about the conference, agenda, speakers, and current registrants, visit

We look forward to seeing you December 7!


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

Posted in Center for Nonprofits, Nonprofit, Opportunities | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Why We Unveiled New Assessment Tools for Our Grantees

Posted on by Dodge


Whether your organization enriches people’s lives through theater that bridges cultural divides or music instruction that sharpens children’s minds and boosts their confidence, you can probably think of ways you wish you did your work better.

At Dodge, we believe assessment is crucial to not only audit your work but to improve it. We also realize it can take a lot of time and money — time and money away from the important work you do — to develop and implement evaluation practices that are difficult to use or only tell part of the story of your impact.

That’s why we are excited to offer two new assessment tools to grantees — the DataArts platform for Arts organizations and the Arts Education Data Dashboard for Education organizations. These tools make it easier for organizations to document their work, surface patterns, be part of a bigger community working toward similar goals, and share stories and key information with supporters and funders.


macbook-pro-mockup_artscult_fnl-beta_banner-1The DataArts platform, the go-to tool for thousands of arts, cultural, and humanities organizations across the country, taps into the power of data to tell the stories of the impacts of the arts in our communities. And thanks to a partnership with Art Pride New Jersey, it’s not just available to Dodge arts organizations, but all arts and culture organizations here in the Garden State.

DataArts enables you to turn financial, program, and operational information into reports that will help you increase management capacity, better understand program participation and attendance trends, and streamline the fundraising and grant application process.

New Jersey’s participation in DataArts also connects the state to a number of national efforts, including one of the largest analyses of the impacts of arts and culture in the country. That’s a big bonus.

In Education, we could not find a tool that fully captures the benefits education nonprofits offer to New Jersey schools — so we created one from scratch. With the help of several of our grantees over a year-long process, we learned about the metrics that matter most and built the Arts Education Data Dashboard.

Together with the New Jersey Arts Education Census, the Data Dashboard will offer a more complete picture of the creativity happening in our schools — where it thrives, where there are opportunities for connection, and where we can work to bridge the gaps.

The Arts Education Data Dashboard will enable education organizations to track their individual program offerings in one database and better understand the schools, students, and teachers served. As the Dashboard is populated, you will be able to map outside arts organizations working in particular schools, the programs they offer, the number of students and teachers served, the teachers and administrators involved in arts and arts integration work, and the funding sources supporting this work.  You will be able to see who else is working in a school and even learn where teaching artists are work.

And we are working to share this tool with other Education funders, so the Dashboard can eventually become a streamlined way for organizations to report to many funders.

We did not make the decision to launch these tools lightly. We carefully consider how these requirements will impact each nonprofit, whether they are a one-person shop or one with offices around the country.

We invite you to learn more about these tools by clicking the links below and check back here for updates as the data rolls in and we begin to understand its collective power.

If you are an arts or arts education nonprofit organization — Dodge grantee or not — and have a question about participating in either data collection tool or a funder of arts or arts education work interested in using the Dashboard, please contact Richard Simon, senior arts and education program associate, at

If you have any questions about DataArts, please connect with them here.

We want to hear how it’s going. Please share any feedback to help us improve these tools as well as any success stories.


Posted in Arts, Dodge Insights, Education, Opportunities, Philanthropy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
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