Avoid these traps in your fall fundraising

by Linda M. Czipo

September is here, and for many nonprofits, that can only mean one thing two things: the return of everything pumpkin spice, and the high-gear kickoff of fall and year-end fundraising campaigns. It’s also a great time to make sure that your fundraising strategies and appeals are in compliance with state, federal, and local laws and regulations.

Noncompliance can result in delays, lost funding, or even fines or criminal penalties. With a reminder to always consult knowledgeable legal counsel, here are a few common fundraising traps you’ll want to avoid.

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Reflections on 9/11

9/11 Tribute in Light, 2004. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Following is a reprint of my thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. As we reflect 20 years later, much has changed profoundly in our world, and yet we are still grappling with so many of the same issues. Through immense crises and relative calm, the non-profit community continues to serve as an essential force for help, healing, relief, inspiration, and positive change.

To everyone who works tirelessly for others, whether one-on-one or on a global scale, thank you. May we continue to work side by side for a better tomorrow for all. We are all in this together for the long haul.

October 1, 2001

The Long Haul

By Linda M. Czipo

In our collective struggle to recover from the devastating events of September 11, we find ourselves aching for some semblance of normalcy and a sense of control over our lives. We find ourselves with an intense desire to help.  We desperately search for some good to come from this unimaginable horror.

If there is a light within the darkness of this crisis, it shines in the incredible bravery, sense of community and indomitable human spirit that has been displayed in the wake of the disaster, and in the thousands of non-profit organizations and volunteers that have answered the call for help. Disaster relief organizations, volunteer fire companies, first aid squads, mental health organizations, crisis counselors, hospitals, religious groups, food banks, fund raising organizations, animal rescue groups and countless others have mobilized swiftly, working in partnership with government officials to address direct needs and channel the outpouring of generosity from a shaken world.

The human and financial toll of the September 11 tragedy could take years to become fully evident.  Non-profits will be there for the long haul, as they have time and time again. And they will need help for the long haul, to address not just the enormous issues that are still unfolding, but with the many others that preceded this catastrophe. New Jersey’s cost of living is still among the highest in the nation.  The gap between the richest and poorest among us is persistent and widening. Our natural resources continue to be endangered. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other health concerns take the lives of thousands of people every year. Our children need nurturing and education, our elderly special care. We need artistic and cultural outlets for our emotions and creativity. The need for dialogue, understanding and tolerance among people of differing backgrounds and appearances is more acute than ever.

With the disaster still fresh in our minds and hearts, it seems as if “normalcy” will never return to us. As so many have noted, when it does it may be markedly different from what we knew before.  But if we allow our lives and our future to be defined and guided solely by what we have lost, then we will have conceded to the enemy. Amidst the horror, we have gained a renewed sense of perspective about what is really important in our lives.  Our challenge is to work together to keep that shared purpose and vision high in our minds and hearts. 

As we try to resume our daily lives, let’s keep our eye on the big picture. Keep volunteering. Keep giving. Remember our neighbors, whether they are across the street, across the ocean, in lower Manhattan or Appalachia. Remember those causes that we supported before and which continue to depend on us. There are so many opportunities to make a difference. Together, we can sustain the spirit that has always helped us through our darkest hours. If we do, we will have won one of the biggest battles in the war on terrorism. 

Taking Action Against Racism: A Non-Profit Imperative

“If my life doesn’t matter, then my voice certainly doesn’t.”

That gut-wrenching statement came from a non-profit executive, a woman of color who is a titan in her field and one of the most effective leaders I know. We were on a call with colleagues, discussing the widespread outrage against systemic racism, and the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, another senseless killing of an unarmed Black person.  Urging us all to speak up and take stronger action in this fight, she noted that her voice is being dismissed by some as suspect or “self-serving.”

As non-profits, our entire reason for being is to make society better by our missions and deeds. As part of that promise, we have a responsibility to advance an equitable society, to shine a bright light on the harsh reality of systemic racism and injustice and to actively work against it. If we are avoiding or sidestepping those realities, we are not living up to that promise.

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Coronavirus, Non-Profits, and General Health

Last reviewed/updated 4/24/2020

For the latest Coronavirus information from the State of New Jersey, visit covid19.nj.gov.

For more information and resources for non-profits, visit the Center’s COVID-19 resource page.

Our deep thanks to all who responded to our surveys with the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers about how the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting your organization.
March survey results April survey results
Our message to Governor Murphy, legislative leaders:
Include non-profits in your
COVID-19 relief
Read our statement

NJ Non-Profit Community Letter to Congress:
non-profit relief in the next CARES Act
Read the letter
March 25: Governor Murphy has issued an executive order directing all child care centers that are not serving essential workers to close down by April 1, 2020.
March 21: Governor Murphy has ordered the physical closure of all non-essential retail businesses, and has directed all New Jerseyans to stay at home wherever possible. The order further directs that employers, including non-profits, must, wherever practicable, accommodate tele-work or work from home arrangements. “To the extent a business or non-profit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or non-profit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.” Read more here: https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/general-public/governor-murphy-announces-statewide-stay-at-home-order-closure-of-all-non-essential-retail-businesses

With the news changing rapidly and the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in New Jersey growing, non-profits may have questions about the potential impact and what actions can be taken.

Photograph of hand washing. Hands are covered with soapy lather.
Frequent, thorough handwashing is still one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of contagious disease.

The virus is being watched closely around the globe, but depending on how the outbreak spreads, non-profits may potentially face a wide range of impacts, such as:

  • increased and sustained staff and volunteer absences,
  • disruption of services to your clients and communities,
  • disruption of supplies or services provided by your partners,
  • cancellation of programs or events (and corresponding reduced revenue),
  • increased demand for services/support from your clients and communities,
  • budgetary implications related to strains on the economy or possible changes in funders’ priorities or financial portfolios.

As is the case with so many situations, accurate information, preparedness, good planning, prevention, and communications are paramount.  Bearing in mind that we are not health professionals and that information can change rapidly, following are general suggestions for your consideration.

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Trends for New Jersey Non-Profits to Watch in 2019

by Linda M. Czipo

Roller Coaster

Congratulations, New Jersey non-profits! We made it through another year. For many of us, 2018 was marked by ups and downs, a mix of significant impact and accomplishment amid a dizzying array of relentless challenges.

A new year brings anticipation, trepidation, optimism and resolve – and the irresistible temptation to predict what lies ahead for the next 12 months. Here are just a few of the trends and issues we’re watching for the coming year. I hope you’ll chime in with yours.

With uncertainty now the norm on many levels, another wild roller coaster ride is in the offing, so buckle up.

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The New Federal Tax Law and New Jersey Non-Profits

by Linda M. Czipo

IRS Form 1040 2017The 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.

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In the aftermath of Charlottesville

Like the rest of the country, we have been horrified at the events in Charlottesville, VA, and their aftermath, and we are alarmed at the emboldening, both explicit and subtle, of rhetoric and actions of hate that have no place in our society.

We join in the call for our elected leaders to voice their condemnation for hate and racism and to act boldly and swiftly in taking affirmative measures to combat it.

As non-profits, we all have a special responsibility to promote and live up to the ideals of a fair, just and equitable society, not only in our words and external actions, but also in our internal practices. This means not only calling out hatred and injustice, holding our leaders accountable, and engaging communities in honest dialogue, but also taking a frank look within our own organizations and sector and taking steps to identify and remove the barriers to opportunity, access, and leadership.

At the Center, we have been laying the groundwork for a number of initiatives that we will be sharing publicly in the near future. 

We stand in support of all who are striving to make the ideals of our society a reality for all, and we will redouble our efforts to advance those ideals.


2017 NJ Non-Profit Survey: Rising Demand, Resource Gaps, and Opportunities

by Linda M. Czipo

TNJ Non-Profits 2017: Trends and Outlook Cover Thumbnailhe 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.

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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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Don’t Weaken the Existing Ban on Electioneering by 501(c)(3) Organizations

Proposed “Johnson Amendment” repeal would harm 501(c)(3)s 

U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC

by Linda M. Czipo

Since 1954, tax law has contained a provision prohibiting 501(c)(3) organizations from directly or indirectly attempting to influence the election or defeat of any candidate for public office. This ban, also known as the Johnson Amendment for its sponsor, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, applies not only to churches, but to all 501(c)(3) organizations.

During the February 2, 2017, National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump renewed his call for a repeal of the 62-year-old ban, and several different bills have been introduced in Congress to weaken or completely repeal it. The Center for Non-Profits strongly opposes repeal and supports preserving the current law.

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