Legislation by Lopez aims to ease grant process for nonprofit community

There’s plenty about the nonprofit community that most people don’t know.

  • The community is much bigger than you think (40,000 organizations account for 10% of the workforce and $50 billion in spend);
  • Nonprofits are a business (they need to balance the books like everyone else);
  • And nonprofits battle government rules and regulations (read: seemingly unnecessary bureaucracy) as much as anyone.

There may be good news coming on the third issue.

New legislation aimed at tackling decades-old problems with the government grants and contracting processes for nonprofit organizations has been introduced by Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy).

Yvonne Lopez

The two-bill package (A4692 and A4695) would implement a series of reforms to the processes that nonprofits undergo when they apply for or receive state government funds and would establish an ombudsperson to field inquiries and provide assistance to nonprofits that are experiencing problems.

Lopez said the reforms are necessary.

“As a former grantmaker and nonprofit executive, I know firsthand the challenges that our nonprofit partners face in contracting with the state and accessing state dollars,” she said.

“For years, the nonprofit sector has been citing the need for reform, and this bill package will not only deliver the changes needed to streamline contracting, but will also establish an office within the state dedicated to protecting and serving the nonprofit sector at large.”

The legislation was hailed by the New Jersey Center for Nonprofits, the statewide network for the charitable nonprofit community and its CEO, Linda Czipo.

About the N.J. Center for Nonprofits

The New Jersey Center for Nonprofits is the statewide network, champion and go-to resource for and about New Jersey’s nonprofit community.

Founded in 1982, the center exists to build the power of New Jersey’s nonprofit community to improve the quality of life for all people of our state. The center provides professional education, advocacy, resources, training and information to strengthen nonprofits and help them thrive in pursuit of their charitable work. The center is a New Jersey nonprofit organization and a 501(c)(3) publicly supported charity.

“When the system doesn’t work — and that is, unfortunately, frequently — the result is inequitable access, inefficiency, ineffective or counterproductive policies and wasted resources for nonprofits, government and our communities,” she said.

“We applaud Assemblywoman Lopez’s leadership in tackling these decades-old problems to improve the way governments and nonprofits work together to serve the people of New Jersey, and we look forward to working for passage of these important bills.” 

Although the nonprofit community has a long tradition of working in partnership with government to identify and address critical public needs, nonprofit organizations have long decried the needless complexities associated with applying for and complying with government grants and contracts.

Among the biggest problems: grants and contracts that don’t cover the nonprofit’s cost to provide services; excessive complexity in government grant and contract applications; payment delays; and duplicative reporting and monitoring requirements, to name just a few.

The new legislation would address these issues by:

  • Establishing a central repository for frequently-filed documents to reduce the need to resubmit the same materials for multiple contracts or reports;
  • Requiring the government to pay interest when payments to nonprofits are more than 30 days late;
  • Providing for cost-of-living adjustments to grants and contracts;
  • Providing for inclusion of at least 15% in indirect costs in grants and contracts with nonprofits;
  • Directing government agencies to develop procedures to reduce redundant monitoring, and standardizing and integrating reporting procedures across government departments and agencies; and
  • Establishing an Office of the Nonprofit Ombudsperson to provide information and assistance to, and act as an advocate for, nonprofit organizations interacting with state agencies.

Lopez said the overall impact of the bill will be great.

“Inefficient systems take away valuable time and focus from organizations on the ground in our communities,” she said. “It is my hope this bill package will provide meaningful changes for nonprofit organizations, so they can focus their efforts on what they do best, helping the residents of New Jersey.”