President’s “Free Speech and Religious Liberty” Executive Order is a Lose-Lose for Everyone

by Linda M Czipo

The White House - Photo © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons
Photo © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

On May 4, President Trump signed an Executive Order declaring the executive branch’s goal to “vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom.” Of particular interest to the broad-based charitable community is a provision that purports to make it easier for religious institutions to engage in partisan political speech and electioneering – activities that are prohibited for 501(c)(3) organizations under the “Johnson Amendment.” (Another provision concerns whether insurance companies must cover contraception for individuals if their employers opt out for religious reasons.)

The Center for Non-Profits, the National Council of Nonprofits, hundreds of other national non-profit and faith leaders, and nearly 4500 organizations across the country (including 174 in New Jersey) have come out strongly and repeatedly against weakening the Johnson Amendment, which the President vowed on the campaign trail and in his first weeks in office to “totally destroy.”

The President’s Executive Order is likely to face legal challenges from a variety of organizations, some of which reportedly are already in the process of preparing their legal filings. But in the meantime, what does it actually say, and what does it mean for 501(c)(3) organizations? Arguably, it says and means both nothing and everything simultaneously.

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Post-Election Thoughts: Looking Back and Moving Forward

by Linda M. Czipo

In the wake of last week’s 2016 presidential election, there is clearly a high degree of uncertainty, speculation and concern across the country. It would be foolish and presumptuous of me to pretend to have any great wisdom to offer as we embark on this new chapter. But like most everyone else, I’ve certainly given it a lot of deliberation. So I humbly offer a few thoughts, some professional and some personal, as we move forward – with advance apologies that this might be a little disjointed.

On the professional:

The work that non-profits do remains more important than ever.
Non-profits are often the backbone of communities, providing programs and services that make communities good places to visit, live and work; employing members of the community; and providing training and education that helps people find and keep jobs. Non-profits are also often the first, last or only source of help for people in distress.

We’ll know more in the coming weeks as appointments and proposed policies take shape, but one thing is certain: the people that rely on us need our voices, our advocacy, our programs and our protection. This was the case before November 8, and it’s just as true now.

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Chronic Under-Funding of Non-Profits: An Unacceptable Risk

By Linda M. Czipo

New Jesey Non-Profits 2016: Trends and Outlook - Cover The Center for Non-Profits has just released its New Jersey Non-Profits 2016: Trends and Outlook report, highlighting the findings from our 2016 annual non-profit survey.

The full report lays out in detail the ups and downs experienced by non-profits during the previous year, and their outlook for 2016. Here are the major highlights, based on the 311 New Jersey non-profit respondents from late January/early February 2016:

  • Nearly three-quarters of responding organizations reported that demand for services had increased during the past year.
  • Nearly four-fifths expected demand to continue rising in 2016.
  • Only two-fifths reported receiving more total funding in 2015 than in 2014, but nearly two-thirds reported that their expenses had increased during the same period.
  • Over one-third (35%) reported that expenses exceeded support and revenue during their most recently completed fiscal year; the proportion was even higher (44%) among larger organizations, those with annual budgets of $1.5 million or more.
  • Seventy percent expected their total expenses to increase in 2016, but fewer than half (47%) expected total 2016 funding to increase.

If you’ve seen our previous surveys or if you work regularly with non-profits, these findings may sound like variations of a familiar theme. You may even think that they’re better than during the worst of the recession – and that’s true. But if you care about the well-being of the non-profit community and non-profits’ ability to provide vital programs and services, these numbers should generate deep concern.

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Top 5 Takeaways from the 2015 Annual Conference

OConnor_Susan_175x175By Susan Merrill O’Connor

  • Nametags recycled – check.
  • Evaluations tallied – check.
  • Bill received from venue – check.
  • Wedding dress sent to cleaners – oops, wrong post-event checklist … although the Center staff still has a warm glow after the love we non-profits all shared less than a month ago at our annual conference, Power, Purpose, Performance: Non-Profits Growing a Thriving Garden State, on December 2, 2015.

2015 NJ Non-profit Conference LogoDid we see you there along with over 400 of your closest non-profit friends and family? If so, we hope we got a chance to tell you how much we appreciate all you do for New Jersey. But, often like being in the wedding party, we only had fragmented conversations, waves from afar and quick handshakes or hugs.

The conference, as we all know, isn’t a party (though there was plenty of good food and enjoyment to be had). It’s a chance to connect with allies old and new, foster a collective spirit, and gain valuable insight and tools for the good work you do every day.

The 2015 conference was also the start of some wonderful relationships and important dialogues — including these Top 5 Takeaways many of you shared with us:

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