[As Black History Month draws to a close, we would like to share this thought-provoking piece from our 2017 conference morning speaker, Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, co-director of Building Movement Project. It originally ran in 2014 and is reprinted with permission.]
This past week, an article about Black History Month by Theodore Johnson in The Atlantic really moved me. Johnson writes that our focus on historical icons makes this month of celebration too disconnected from people’s everyday experience. I share his concern on a personal level but as someone with a particular focus on organizations, I also worry that our tendency to present Black history through the lens of “extraordinary human beings” obscures the importance of groups of regular people coming together, creating community and establishing the infrastructure needed to not just make change but defend and sustain it. There’s another way to tell our history and understand progress – through the lens of collective stories, shared leadership, and the slow, steady march toward justice.
The new tax law, the measure formerly known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” represents the most comprehensive overhaul of the federal tax system in decades. Although the full impact of the law is still unfolding, most of the law’s provisions are effective as of January 1, 2018, so non-profits need to take steps now to understand and adapt to the changes. Following is a discussion of some of the key elements of the law affecting 501(c)(3) organizations, as well as some elements that did not make it into the final statute.
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.
The Center for Non-Profits has been surveying the New Jersey non-profit community at least annually since 2001 to gauge the effects of the economy, funding and programmatic trends, and other issues in our field. This year’s report, New Jersey Non-Profits 2017: Trends and Outlook, based on the responses from 300 organizations, reveals familiar themes as well as some new concerns and opportunities.
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 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.
Volunteers are so much more than unpaid workers. They are advocates spreading the word, donors bringing in funds, marketing agents advertising events and the foundation supporting the organization’s long-term goals. All non-profits should have a designated staff member overseeing the recruitment, development and retention of volunteers.
Building a strong volunteer team will increase the growth and success of any cause based organization. Here are five impactful and easily implemented practices which will boost your volunteer department outcomes.
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.
Every year around this time, a question hangs in the air for non-profits and businesses like storm clouds in the sky: Will a hurricane affect our area and our ability to serve our communities?
Now at the midpoint of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, activity has been relatively muted so far and the few storms named have not resulted in significant damage to the New Jersey area. But with the most active period of the violent weather approaching, many meteorologists believe the quiet trend could make a 180-degree shift, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Superstorm Sandy came ashore in 2012, according to a newly released forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
According to NOAA, there’s a 70 percent chance that between two and four major hurricanes will develop between now and November 30, the last official day of the hurricane season.
Is your organization growing out of a home office or considering moving your established set-up to a new facility? Before getting into the details of searching, your board should discuss the big picture issues such as:
Will a new location help our mission and the community we serve?
Even though change can be exciting, for some moving your office from one location to another can be a daunting task. Many of the things you, your staff and volunteers are accustomed to may now turn into expenses for your organization. To make the process a bit easier, below are ten key questions to ask when searching for your new location.
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.