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Local Nonprofit Bulletin (08.19.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin

08.19.22

Learn More & Get Involved

“Warehouse space has been in high demand since the pandemic,” Jacob Fenston writes in DCist. Now that landlord Washington Gas is forcing Community Forklift out of their current space in Edmonston, Maryland, the nonprofit and salvage business is looking for a new location. Not only does Community Forklift rescue items from the waste stream for reuse, but they also provide well-paying jobs with benefits for people who might otherwise have a hard time finding work. Additionally, they donate supplies to schools, community organizations, and low-income households. As Nancy Meyer, chief executive of Community Forklift, told Daniel Wu in the Washington Post, they’re “part of this dynamic, grass-roots economy in the local community.” Their warehouse will remain open as they search for a new home and have launched the “Forklift Forward” campaign — if you are able, help provide financial support, assistance in identifying funding resources, and/or connections in the commercial real estate, public relations, political, and nonprofit fundraising spheres!

Nominate an individual or organization for the Council of Court Excellence‘s Justice Potter Steward Award! This Award is presented annually to leaders who exemplify the very best in the pursuit of justice, with former Award winners including individuals whose work with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, DC Affordable Law Firm, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and more have made a significant contribution to the law, the legal system, the courts, or the administrative process in our community. Submit your nomination by Friday, September 23!

The Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia is looking for office volunteers to help with answering the phone, scheduling rides, and taking messages for fundraising activities. Able to help for four hours on Thursday or Friday afternoons? Call them at 703-281-0538 or email office@scnova.org to let them know!

Congratulations to the National Philharmonic‘s Summer String Institute 2022 musicians! These talented middle school and high school students spent an intensive week in rehearsals, lessons, and more, culminating in final performances that you can now watch.

Calling youth performers! The Young Artists of America is now auditioning for its 2022/23 “Season of Premieres.” Singers, actors, and dancers in grades 9-12 or taking a gap year can audition for their YAACompany; instrumentalists in grades 9-12 or taking a gap year can audition for their YAAOrchestra; and singers, actors, and dancers in grades 6-8 can audition for their YAAjunior. BIPOC students can also apply for their new BIPOC performing arts scholarship.

The schedule for Improvapalooza 2022 is live! Help make the Washington Improv Theater‘s last Palooza at Source a success. They’re looking for volunteers to greet patrons, check vaccine cards, and videotape shows. Fill out this form to learn more about volunteering or email their Operations Manager at jordana@witdc.org.

Capitol Hill Arts Workshop‘s vestibule at 545 7th St SE is open daily for contact-free donation drop-offs to Serve Your City and the Ward 6 Mutual Aid Network! Take a look at the list of needed items. They are also collecting new art supplies for art kits distributed through the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project in the vestibule.

The Theatre Lab is looking for people ages 14-24 who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA community to join a group of participants ages 25-70 for QUEER STORIES, a free 13-week class designed to give participants a unique platform to develop and share stories based on their lived queer experiences in the DMV. Participants will use their personal stories and experiences as fabric to construct and perform an original work in December. Seasoned performers and those with no previous acting experience welcome! Learn more and apply. The class runs from September 14 – December 14.

Vote for Byte Back to get to SXSW 2023! In partnership with the Urban Alliance and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, they submitted a proposal for a panel on digital equity, education innovation, and sharing their impact with a national audience. Voting closes at 11:59 PM ET on August 21.

Volunteer with Generation Hope this fall. They are looking for people to provide childcare at their Family Dinners starting September 15 and 29. If you’re interested in mentoring, individuals and groups can also apply now to support and build lasting bonds with young parents in college. You can also sign up to tutor Scholars virtually, especially if you can help with nursing classes, engineering, and other STEM-related topics.

Attend an Upcoming Event

August 20, 12:00 – 5:00 PM | Bread for the City’s annual Good Hope Family Community Day at their old Southeast Center on 1640 Good Hope Rd SE. This back-to-school block party will have a moon bounce and game zone, along with free book bags, food, clothing, school supplies, hair cuts and braiding, and more!

August 21, 2:00 – 3:00 PM | The Art League’s Artist Talk with August Solo Artist Andrea Cybyk about her exhibit “Wild Suburbia.” Hear about her artistry and how her exhibit finds beauty in common weeds.

August 23, 7:00 PM | Community Voices & Visioning: Collaboration After Harm. Join Network for Victim Recovery of DC, Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, and Community Mediation DC as they explore the impact of restorative justice practices and discuss how DC as a community can better respond after harm.

August 24, 6:00 – 7:30 PM | Navigating Holistic & Western Medicine through the Pandemic with Hamkae Center. A virtual discussion about the values of practicing both western and non-western medicine in exercising best health and wellness!

August 25, 6:30 – 7:45 PM | Rainbow Families’ Legal Talk Series: Impact on ART & Adoption. Join this virtual chat with two attorneys and a reproductive physician on how legal changes are affecting Assisted Reproductive & Adoption.

August 27, 12:00 – 4:00 PM | Great and Small’s 2022 Summer Open House at 17320 Moore Rd in Boyds, Maryland. Catch a therapeutic riding demonstration, occupational therapy demonstration, Q&A, tours, learning opportunities, and more! No RSVP needed.

August 27, 7:00 – 8:30 PM | Spirit of Summer Series: Pan Masters Steel Orchestra at Joe’s Movement Emporium. Catch Pan Masters’ outstanding musical repertoire that reflects the unique musical arrangements of its members — from Calypso to Jazz, Soca to R&B!

August 28, 3:00 – 4:30 PM | Jews United for Justice’s Montgomery County Summer Meetup. Family-friendly event with relationship-building and postcard-writing!

August 29, 6:30 PM | Art Drives Statehood with Art Enables and DC Vote at the Atlas Theater. Join Washington Nationals Pitcher Sean Doolittle, Pie Shop owner Sandra Basanti, and more at the launch of this project, which interprets the iconic “Statehood” license plate that has been used for years as a symbol of the fight for equality.

August 30, 6:00 – 8:00 PM | Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s Alexandria Coal Tar Pollution Public Forum. Get an up-close look at an active pollution source in Old Town, Alexandria, and learn about how to take action for clean water.

The Local Nonprofit Bulletin is compiled biweekly — have a shoutout, event, volunteer opportunity, or something else you want highlighted? Reach out to Amanda Liaw, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, to collaborate!

Making An Impact in Prince William County

Making An Impact in Prince William County

The Prince William County Community Foundation (PWCCF) has made a significant impact in the county since it was founded in 2018, particularly when the pandemic prompted a sudden spike in the need for emergency assistance. This September, you can support them in making an even bigger difference by participating in PWC Gives!, a 24-hour campaign supporting nonprofit organizations from across the county. Between 9 AM on September 1 and 9 AM on September 2, join this community effort to connect with, and help raise funds for, dozens of local nonprofits serving the residents of Prince William County (PWC), Virginia!

A child in a red hoodie, jeans, and white sneakers smiling and posing for the camera in front of the C.H.O.W. Wagon holding a box of Frosted Flakes cereal

“In PWC, between 14,000 and 26,000 children alone experience food insecurity daily, especially when food assistance programs are not in place,” Dominique McIndoe wrote in Prince William Living. “Efforts of nonprofit organizations like (PWCCF) are motivated by these unfortunate statistics to improve the quality of life of everyone in the community.”

PWCCF builds philanthropic resources to sustain healthy and vital communities now and into the future, with a focus on improving the social, environmental, and economic health of residents by championing solutions that advance the common good. As Dr. Vanessa Gattis, President and CEO of PWCCF, stated in an interview with No Kid Hungry Virginia, “(We) prioritize serving residents in Prince William County’s Economically Distressed Areas because they are most affected by poverty and subsequent health-related issues, such as food deserts and food insecurity.”

Their largest program, the Combating Hunger on Wheels (C.H.O.W.) Wagon, transports meals to neighborhood children in need and has served over 750,000 meals since its inception. They also collaborate with other community entities through their Health Initiative to collectively promote strategies to improve residents’ health, in addition to granting scholarships to students and micro-grants to public school teachers.

A group of volunteers wearing neon green shirts sorting boxes of food on a table set up in a parking lot, next to a blue makeshift tent and the C.H.O.W. Wagon

PWC Gives! is their latest initiative fueling collaboration and generosity throughout the county. Their easy-to-use platform maximizes the ease of online giving, uniting nonprofits in raising the funds and resources they need to sustain their critical programs while allowing local supporters to invest in making the place where they live a better one.

Mark your calendar now to participate in PWC Gives! starting at 9 AM on Thursday, September 1! You can also learn more about the work of the Prince William County Community Foundation on their website and stay updated through Facebook.

Supporting Small, Local Nonprofit Leaders and Staff in 2022

Supporting Small, Local Nonprofit Leaders and Staff in 2022

Since March 2020, the Catalogue has been surveying Executive Directors in our network of 400+ nonprofits to gain a better understanding of the state of the sector in the Greater Washington region. The goal is to understand how the pandemic is impacting their programming, finances, organizations, and staff.

Over two years into the pandemic, as many of us are re-familiarizing ourselves with gathering in-person, it can feel increasingly easy to forget its cumulative effects, which have weighed more heavily on people with disabilities, people caring for children, and people working jobs with low pay or working multiple jobs. These challenges can be compounded in the nonprofit sector where staff are often on the frontlines of offering urgent and critical services to the community, but who are expected to run on “passion” with little support for overhead and administrative costs.

We have seen this lead to burnout and high turnover within the sector. While the last six months, specifically, have shown overall improvement in staff and leadership engagement, we are also hearing growing worries about forecasts for an economic downturn, challenges with hiring, and resetting funding expectations given a decrease in COVID-19 relief money.

How might we as a sector prioritize the well-being of small nonprofit staff, especially nonprofit leaders, over the next year? Here are three action steps the Catalogue would like to share based on our survey findings.

1. Fund mental health support and coaching for Executive Directors.

“It is impossible to convey how stressful the last two years have been as the leader of a small nonprofit,” an Executive Director shared with us anonymously. “I feel like I have been running a sprint since March 2020.”

37.9% of Executive Directors we surveyed this summer were either feeling burnout or were on the way to burnout. Though this is an improvement over results from our last survey in December 2021, when 42.5% of Executive Directors surveyed this sentiment, it still means that nearly two out of every five small nonprofit leaders in our network are struggling.

Within the same period, the percentage of staff who are feeling burnout or close to feeling burnout (as reported by Executive Directors) decreased from 29% to 19%. This trend, while positive, reflects what we have seen Executive Directors doing — prioritizing their team and the people around them. Staff engagement is a critical component of successful nonprofit management but leaders, too, need to be adequately supported to ensure the overall health, sustainability, and impact of the organization.

Our qualitative results include stories from Executive Directors who have not taken a vacation (or even much parental leave) since the pandemic started and who are seriously considering leaving the nonprofit space due to burnout. Given that strong leadership is a big contributor to building strong teams, we need to collectively attend to the well-being of Executive Directors through providing opportunities for one-to-one and small group consultations and coaching, as well as funding more capacity building support to make the work of Executive Directors more sustainable.

2. Stop thinking of overhead and administrative costs as separate from, or less worthy of funding than, program costs.

As public health guidelines loosen and we ease out of an “emergency” state, our sector is seeing less relief funding being made available. At the same time, the needs of our communities have stayed the same, if not increased. The pandemic impacts people’s health and economic security over the long-term, and its negative impacts will be disproportionately difficult for already underserved communities to mitigate.

Instead of designating funds solely for nonprofit programs that address these issues and more, it is time to rethink the overhead myth altogether. We agree with Curtis Klotz, who wrote in Nonprofit Quarterly that “Strategic financial functions, good governance, and the development of key funding partnerships are vital to strong organizations.” To this, we add equitable salaries with clear professional development and promotion pathways, as well as holistic support that views nonprofit staff as people — because ultimately, programming does not happen without the people who work to implement them.

“The “nonprofit starvation cycle” caused by unrealistic donor expectations of grantees’ administrative and operating costs has been a known problem in the grantmaking world for years,” John Summers and Rodney Christopher recently wrote in PEAK Grantmaking. Analyzing data from nearly 150,000 nonprofits nationwide, they found that “smaller organizations tend to have higher indirect cost rates than larger organizations” because “indirect” functions like accounting and human resource administration “benefit from economies of scale.” Project-based funding that doesn’t cover these costs actually disproportionately burden small organizations and, consequently, nonprofits led by people of color, which often have smaller budgets than white-led organizations.

One immediate way donors and funders can support nonprofit staff and leaders is to ensure their financial contributions are unrestricted, so that nonprofit leaders can decide where best to use that money, be it to hire more staff, pay for interns, upgrade the organization’s technology, or more.

3. Commit to recurring giving.

A report published by the National Council of Nonprofits in December 2021 revealed that 42% of nonprofits had 20% or more of their positions open. A separate survey by the Advisory Board for the Arts showed that more than one-third of respondents were taking three-to-six months to fill jobs. These two results reflect the hiring concerns we have heard from small nonprofit leaders in our own network.

While there are myriad current and systemic challenges that have created such an acute workforce shortage in the nonprofit sector — including inflation and increased volumes of work — one of the biggest reasons is that nonprofits are unable to offer competitive compensation compared to their for-profit and government counterparts. 79% of nonprofits surveyed by the National Council of Nonprofits last fall reported that salary competition impacted their ability to hire, and this can be particularly true for small nonprofits with small budgets and teams. Yet, as the report stated, “While job vacancies in the government and business sectors may cause disappointment and lost profits, the lack of adequate nonprofit staffing means delayed or complete loss of needed services.”

One strong way to help ensure nonprofits can increase salaries for their staff is to fund them on a recurring basis. When donors and funders commit to monthly or multi-year giving, not only do they pledge to continually support an organization, but they also acknowledge that it is through sustaining the organization in the long-term that they can help it create the greatest impact. Being able to make projections for their budgets beyond the year allows nonprofit leaders to develop better plans with less uncertainty, which helps to cultivate a work environment where nonprofit staff feel they can grow with the organization.

Free Tax Clinics for Families by the Mother’s Outreach Network

Free Tax Clinics for Families by the Mother’s Outreach Network

“Middle class, educated and White parents have been more likely to claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC) in the past than Hispanic families and those who did not graduate high school,” according to results from a national survey conducted by Ipsos last year as reported in the Washington Post. Through a temporary expansion of the CTC, eligible families can receive up to $3,600 for children under 6 and up to $3,000 for children ages 6-17. Yet, in DC, an analysis by the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis shows that only 50.4% of eligible DC families received these payments.

Because tax season typically runs from January to April, it can be difficult for individuals and families who want assistance with their taxes to find free tax preparation services off-season. Mother’s Outreach Network, who launched tax workshops back in October of last year, is continuing to run tax clinics in partnership with the DC Public Library through September. Every Wednesday between 11 AM and 1 PM, they answer questions and give 1-on-1 advice at the Southwest Branch Library about the CTC, Earned Income Tax Credit, Stimulus Payment, and more — at completely no cost.

Melody Webb, Executive Director and Founder of the Mother’s Outreach Network, told Axios DC that “she often works with vulnerable mothers who may have misconceptions about the credit or be unaware of it altogether.” Research shows that while such government programs play a large role in lowering poverty, disparities in economic security persist.

As an organization that supports the economic empowerment of Black mothers fighting for their families’ economic stability, the efforts of the Mother’s Outreach Network to increase access to legal services like free tax preparation are critical to reducing these disparities. Because the process can be difficult or complicated, and because many are unfamiliar with the process of claiming these credits, their goal is to ensure that families feel supported and assisted in claiming the government money they’re eligible for.

“The biggest myth we’ve had to dispel,” Webb said, “is that people who are currently receiving safety net benefits aren’t actually eligible.” In fact, the vast majority of US families with children are eligible for the CTC, including people who don’t regularly file taxes. In addition to their Wednesday clinics, the Mother’s Outreach Network has also compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the CTC, available on their website.

Mother's Outreach Network flyer with text that gives information about their weekly Parents' Tax Workshop & Clinic on Wednesdays at the Southwest Branch Library on 902 Wesley Place SW, Washington, DC 20024. They give free legal information on the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, recovery rebate tax credit or stimulus payment, homeowner and renter property tax credit, as well as the keep childcare affordable tax credit. They will answer your questions for free and give 1-on-1 advice and self-service tax prep to help you get your government cash. Call them at 202-818-8649 or email them at taxclinic@mothersoutreachnetwork.org.

Find more information about these weekly Parents’ Tax Clinics and help spread the word! The Mother’s Outreach Network is a racial justice and antipoverty nonprofit organization that supports Black family wellness, economic security, and racial justice by transforming government income and child welfare laws, policies, and practices from punitive to empowering. Learn more and support their work!

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (08.05.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin

08.05.22

Happy August! In this week’s edition of the bulletin, we’re rounding up ways you can get involved with small, local nonprofits across the DMV through exciting events, volunteer opportunities, and more! Know of another opportunity to engage that you want featured in our next edition? Reach out to Amanda, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, to collaborate!

Upcoming Events

The DC Funk Parade returns on Saturday, August 6, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM! Produced by The MusicianShip, this 8th Annual DC music celebration will take place along the U Street corridor, complete with a main stage, soul station, community corner, and more!

Support the next generation of rockstars and see brand new DC youth bands share their original music! Join Girls Rock! DC for their August showcase on Saturday, August 6, at 11:00 AM at the Black Cat.

This weekend is District BridgesThe Dog Days of Summer 23rd Annual Sidewalk Sale! Stop by Logan Circle and/or U Street between 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM this Saturday, August 6, and Sunday, August 7.

Common Good City Farm‘s upcoming calendar is filled with exciting events, such as Herbal Abundance, a class on how to source herbs sustainably, on Monday, August 8, from 6:00 – 7:00 PM.

View new work by incarcerated artists in Justice Arts Coalition‘s network at ArtLinks on Tuesday, August 9, between 7:00 – 9:00 PM. Participants are encouraged to share feedback, reflections, and encouragement with the artists through hand-written letters, which they will send to the artists!

The Insight Memory Care Center has a full calendar of upcoming events and trainings, including a virtual class on Wednesday, August 10, from 1:00 – 2:30 PM about how you can reconnect with someone with dementia through personalized activities.

Get your tickets to The Theatre Lab‘s teen summer shows, starting August 11! Catch Urinetown, presented by The Musical Theatre Institute for Teens, and Audrey Cefaly’s Tell Me Something Good, presented by The Summer Acting Institute for Teens.

Travel the world with Story Tapestries and Game Genius at the FRESHFARM market in Silver Spring on August 13 and September 17, with a scavenger hunt and performances by professional storytellers at 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, and 12:30 PM.

Catch The Dream Project at the Salvadoran Festival in Manassas, Virginia, on August 14 from 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM! Can’t make it that day? They’ll also be at the Arlington County Fair from August 19 – 21 at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center.

Calling all nonprofit professionals! Join Keesha Ceran, associate director of Teaching for Change, on August 15 from 2:00 – 3:30 PM for a virtual coworking space to provide time and thought partners to build out and document those long-term goals that you haven’t yet gotten to.

Don’t miss Potomac Riverkeeper Network‘s remaining RiverPalooza Paddles! Their next upcoming one is a guided, interpretive paddle through Mallows Bay on August 20. Plus, they’ll be tubing at Harpers Ferry and hosting a Good-bye Summer Blow Out on the Shenandoah. For a more informative hour, you can also join them virtually on Wednesday, August 17, at 12:00 PM to learn about acid mine drainage, a water quality issue in the Upper Potomac.

Don’t forget to get your tickets to Washington Improv Theater‘s Improvapalooza, a five-day festival of experimental improv happening August 24 – 28! You can also catch them at a picnic on Sunday, August 14, from 3:00 – 7:00 PM at Rock Creek Park.

In recognition of National Recovery Month, BEHIND THE MASK is a free art workshop by VisArts for every person, family, and community member with a connection to addiction. Join them on Thursday, September 8, from 5:00 – 8:50 PM.

Experience the mission and creative energy of the Sitar Arts Center at Sitar on the Piazza on Thursday, September 8, at 5:30 PM on the piazza of Ristorante i Ricchi!

Support Local

Interested in identifying future leaders? Help The Posse Foundation select the students who will become Posse Scholars! Using their unique evaluation method, you can work with them to identify young leaders who might be missed by traditional admissions criteria, but who can excel at selective colleges and universities. In this first phase of their process, they narrow down approximately 1,500 students who have been nominated for the Posse Scholarship to 600 by engaging them in activities that demonstrate their teamwork, strategic thinking, and other leadership skills. Learn more and sign up to volunteer with them!

Volunteer with Earth Sangha at their Wild Plant Nursery and do some potting, weeding, and labeling!

Strut Your Mutt with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and help raise money to save the lives of Lucky Dogs and Cats!

There are still three shifts you can join for the Mother’s Outreach Network Summer Canvas for Guaranteed Income! Help increase public awareness and education around guaranteed income by canvassing from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Saturdays August 13, August 20, and August 27.

Community Family Life Services is hosting a Back 2 School Bash and you can help them ensure families have the tools they need to be successful in the upcoming school year. From backpacks to calculators to notebooks, check out their donation list and drop off your donations by August 16 at their headquarters on 305 E Street NW.

Become a fall volunteer with Casa Chirilagua! They are looking for volunteers to support elementary school students with homework help, facilitate small group discussions for mental health curriculum with middle school students, help high school students prepare for college, and more.

Justice Arts Coalition is recruiting outside pARTners who would like to work with incarcerated youth as part of a special partnership. If you have experience working with youth, sign up to be paired with a Free Verse Project youth writer or artist as a pen pal, with art as the center of correspondence!

Craving a sweet treat? Order from Sunflower Bakery — they have an August special, shipping this month only!

September is National Recovery Month. VisArts invites individuals to submit photographs/images/designs/artworks that address the struggle of addiction, the process of recovery, portraits of those we have lost to addiction and portraits of those who’ve found a path forward through recovery. Submit your work for inclusion in their five-night projected installation by September 2.

The Fund for Investigative Journalism is accepting proposals for grants of up to $10,000 to cover the expenses of investigative stories that break new ground and uncover wrongdoing in the public or private sectors. Attend their webinar on August 12 at 11:30 AM and submit your application!

Dress up as your favorite superhero and join SafeSpot for a 5K & fun run on Saturday, September 17. All proceeds will benefit children and families impacted by abuse in Fairfax.

Attend or volunteer for C&O Canal Trust‘s Park After Dark on Saturday, September 17. Proceeds support the mission of the C&O Canal Trust and fund preservation programs of the C&O Canal NHP.

Join Street Sense Media for Artshow on September 29 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM at metrobar and share an evening of art, community, and entertainment celebrating their artists/vendors! There will be food trucks, visual art, performances, and more.

On Thursday, September 29, from 6:30 – 9:00 PM, New Endeavors by Women will be celebrating the NEW women overcoming homelessness and the supporters who help them thrive! Join them for their fall fundraiser and auction at the Jackie American Bistro in Navy Yard.

Your story matters! The Arc of Northern Virginia works to show the community that people should not be defined by a disability. What really resonates is a personal story. Fill out their form to share yours.

From now through October, volunteer with Food for Others on the fourth Thursday of the month between 4:00 – 7:00 PM at Skyline Park, where you can assist in serving 150-300 families by packaging and handing out food. On Sunday, September 25, you can also participate in their Tysons 5K and Fun Run.

Save the Dates

September 15 | Common Good City Farm’s A Night on the Farm (September 29 rain date)

September 16, 6:00 – 9:00 PM | City Blossoms Garden Fiesta

October 1, 2:00 – 6:00 PM | Healwell’s Birthday Bonanza

October 6, 4:00 – 7:00 PM | Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia Pickleball Mixer & Happy Hour

October 6, 6:00 PM | DC SCORES’ One Night One Goal

October 7, 6:30 PM | Story Tapestries Elevate Voices – Celebrate Community

October 9, 1:00 – 4:00 PM | VisArts turns 35! Free anniversary open house

October 13 | Insight Memory Care Center’s Paintings & Pairings

October 14, 6:00 – 10:00 PM | Byte Back’s EVOLUTION: 25 Years of Transforming Lives Through Technology

October 19, 6:00 – 9:00 PM | FRESHFARM Feast

October 19, 6:30 – 8:30 PM | Georgetown Ministry Center’s The Spirit of Georgetown

October 19 | Family PASS Annual Golf Tournament

October 20, 6:00 – 7:30 PM | Community Reach of Montgomery County’s Mansfield Kaseman Health Clinic Virtual Celebration

October 20, 6:30 PM | Sitar Arts Center’s CREATE CHANGE Benefit Gala & Auction

October 21 | PEN/Faulkner’s Literary State of the Union

October 24, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM | So What Else & Mamma Lucia’s 6th Annual Golf Tournament

November 5, 6:00 – 11:00 PM | The Arc of Northern Virginia’s 60th Anniversary Gala Celebration

November 13, 5:00 – 9:30 PM | The Theatre Lab’s Cabaret Benefit

Suited for Change’s Recipe for Success: Nonprofits Banding Together

Suited for Change’s Recipe for Success: Nonprofits Banding Together

What has been driving nonprofit organizations to continue through what seems like an endless pandemic? Leaning on each other.

When everything came to a rushing halt back in March of 2020, many organizations turned off their lights, locked their doors, and never returned. With nonprofit organizations being the backbone of our community, the ripple effect of these closures was felt almost immediately.

After some initial adjustment, Suited for Change (SFC), a nonprofit organization focused on empowering women through providing professional attire, skills development, and coaching, had the realization: the only way to survive is to band together.

A person wearing a black mask and colorful printed dress in the middle of a classroom speaking to students who are seated at white desks

Over the past two years, SFC has completely revamped their services, finding new approaches to meet the needs of their clients right where they are.

SFC began calling all their referral partners in the DC Metro area, asking them, “What do your clients need right now?” Beginning with virtual suitings, and then expanding to virtual and in-person workshops, SFC started collaborating with nonprofits within the Catalogue for Philanthropy network, including Friendship Place, Calvary Women’s Services, Britepaths, and La Cocina VA, to best serve their clients as they continue to strive for economic independence.

With a talented variety of volunteers who have expertise in fashion, interview preparation, resume writing, and financial literacy, SFC has been able to equip their clients with a well-rounded education on the tools they need to embark on their professional journey.

Screenshot of a person speaking next to a presentation slide that reads, "The Secret to Awesome Interview Outfits"

Through these growing partnerships, both SFC and the affiliated referral partners participating in these new workshops have already begun to see the effects of their collaboration. From increased motivation and confidence to achieve participation and eagerness to learn, the clients have been exhibiting their drive to succeed in all avenues of their life.

Prior to these workshops, many clients would arrive at the SFC boutique hesitant and unsure of what to expect. However, after having a clear introduction to SFC, clients have been jumping at the chance to schedule an appointment to get the finishing touches they need to launch their careers.

Thanks to the continuing collaboration between these Catalogue for Philanthropy nonprofit partners, clients are more equipped than ever to tackle the professional world and get the jumpstart they need to thrive.

A classroom with four students seated at black rectangular tables next to a large window, with the instructor up front wearing a pink mask and black dress next to a presentation slide that reads, "Positioning"

Suited for Change equips women in need in our community on their path to financial independence by providing them with professional attire, coaching, and skills training. Join Suited for Change and support the local women in your community as they secure and sustain professional employment. You can donate both funds and clothing, volunteer with them, shop at their boutique, and stay updated through email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

What is our vision for abundance in this city?

What is our vision for abundance in this city?

The dominant narrative of our current economic and political systems centers on scarcity. As adrienne maree brown noted in YES! Magazine, “We are living in an age of immense interlocking crises, from climate to pandemic to race. Although there are massive opportunities to grow and change — the fight for abolition, the proliferation of mutual aid in response to COVID-19 — erotic power, happiness, and satisfaction are not words I would use to describe our current collective state.”

“In summer, when the boughs are laden, Serviceberry produces an abundance of sugar,” Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote in Emergence Magazine. “Does it hoard that energy for itself? No, it invites the birds to a feast… Isn’t this an economy? A system of distribution of goods and services that meets the needs of the community?”

This summer, the Catalogue for Philanthropy echoes the question Yura Sapi asked in their Community-Centric Fundraising piece, “How do we collectively shift from scarcity to abundance?

Understanding and valuing abundance as gratitude, reciprocity, and exchange, we’ve invited several of our nonprofit partners to share their visions for abundance in this city. Alongside their words, we also provide more detail on the way in which their missions and work allow our local communities to flourish. As you dive into these visions, we encourage you to see yourself in them and to engage with the efforts of your nonprofit neighbors. What is your own vision for abundance in this city’s present and future? How might you share this with others and be part of a larger ecosystem?

The Power of the Arts

“For Artivate, “abundance” means helping to create a diverse, inspiring array of performances and workshops which enhance education and create connections in ALL communities,” Diana Schenck, Director of Artist and Community Programming at Artivate, told the Catalogue. “It means providing professional artists with a wealth of opportunities to share their skills and traditions, while providing an ever-growing number of schools, libraries, parks, correctional facilities, and other venues with truly inspiring and enriching experiences for their communities.”

Since they were founded in 1995, Artivate has been engaging communities to create interactive arts experiences that inspire learning. Seeing the transformative power of the arts as essential to community life, they have grown from 80 programs serving 25,000 students and teachers to an average of 1,300 programs reaching 200,000+ children, teens, and families at 250+ unique school and community sites each year.

As Miranda Anderson wrote in Psyche, “Artworks both reflect and inspire transformative understandings of our own minds and our encounters with the world, widening and deepening the ways we make sense of our subjective experiences.” The process of engaging with art builds a reciprocal relationship with the work and the artist. Artivate expands this creative opportunity through spaces that allow artists from a diverse range of artistic disciplines and cultural traditions to share their art with children, teens, families, and incarcerated adults and youth — building relationships and creating a collective learning experience.

In the words of one of their participants, “Art not only frees our bodies, it relieves us from the confinement of our minds.” Where creativity has a place to play, grow, and flourish, communities have the room to express their curiosity about the world and each other.

We see this in the work of another nonprofit partner, Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (FoKAG), who uses the healing power of nature and art to champion green spaces in the city. A national park site along the Anacostia River, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens features over 45 ponds filled with water lilies and lotus, along with acres of dynamic tidal marsh, and is the only national park site devoted to cultivated water-loving plants.

“In 2030,” reported the Washington Post based on data from Climate Central, “communities throughout the District will experience extensive and consistent periods of flooding, including the Yards in Ward 8, Kingman Island, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Ward 7, and the entire Anacostia River Trail from Anacostia Park to Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Maryland.” Just as the history of the land is tangled with instances of environmental injustice, “the reality is that (the climate crisis) disproportionately affects communities of color and those populated by low-income residents like the area surrounding Kenilworth.”

In FoKAG’s creative project Down to Earth, a partnership with Caandor Labs and Capital Fringe, artists shine a light on the Gardens and Ward 7′s past, present, and future, with a sharp focus on the climate emergency and its intersectionality with systemic racism. Narrative figurative painter and Down to Earth’s Winter Season Artist, Rik Freedman, painted “Breakfast on the Anacostia,” a scene of the river in roughly 10,000 BC. “While researching the abundance of animal life that once depended on this river,” he reflected on the painting in their season recap, “it struck me as to how many of these animals were no longer here.”

Echoing this past in the present and future, Summer Season Artist Siobhan Rigg observed in the Washington Post that “Things that go down — like oil and gas — don’t necessarily go down to stay; they come back with the tide. So the damage over time continues to resurface. “What would it be like to reframe the narrative and look at the Anacostia as a potential source of sustenance?(Emphasis ours)

An Inclusive Approach to Community

“Between its persistently hot housing market and an almost universally unaffordable child care ecosystem,” Conor Williams observed of this city in The 74, “D.C. is muddling towards a future where an upper-middle-class income may become a prerequisite for any family trying to live — and stay — in the city.”

Rents in the DC metro area have increased by 15.7% over the last year. One-third of people across the region experienced some level of food insecurity in 2021, and only three of the 49 full-service grocery stores in DC are located in Wards 7 and 8. Despite DC residents being some of the most politically engaged in the nation, “working to make the world fairer, better, safer, cleaner,” Williams continued, “(we) also (fight) to retain our ability to sustain and transmit our advantages to our kids.”

“As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, we’re focused on renewal,” Diana Schenck shared with us of Artivate’s direction, “reestablishing long-held partnerships and discovering new connections that allow us to continue (our) reach, while making it even more accessible for everyone to learn from, enjoy, and be inspired by the arts.”

This priority — of ensuring that opportunities for creative expression and collaboration are accessible for everyone — is reflected in the work of fellow nonprofit partner, Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT). “In YPT’s arts education programs,” Brigitte Winter, their Executive Director, told the Catalogue, “we invite our students, whose voices are too often minimized, to take up space, to create and express themselves with abandon, and to know that adults will affirm their ideas, stories, dreams.”

Not only does YPT believe that no person is an island, but they also acknowledge that truly collaborative expression simultaneously requires a respect for people’s autonomy and are therefore committed to both anti-oppressive communication and reducing the harm of oppression through their organizational structure.

From writing individual stories to creating plays as a group to performing original arts activism pieces, students in YPT programs participate in unique experiences that are tailored for the specific needs of each YPT community. Though no two programs look alike, underlying them all is a singular, unifying belief that Winter shared with us: “We hope for a day when every young person in our city knows their brilliance, and that brilliance shines across Washington, DC, and beyond.”

In our last article on redefining citizenship, we mentioned the abundance of love and care that fuel many of our nonprofit partners’ work and inclusive approach to community. We are inspired by YPT, who practices their vision of “an abundance of safety, creativity, and joy for the young people in our community” every day. Our experience of this region we call home — through the work of nonprofits like YPT — is that there is no shortage of love, joy, and energy.

Shepherd’s Table, who addresses food insecurity and homelessness, serving individuals from all walks of life, is another example of this mindset. “No one should have to go hungry or without shelter in a city of such rich abundance,” Holly Harris, their Communications Associate, told us. “Because there are enough resources to meet every need when we live in community with one another, we are working to create a table long enough to make room for every neighbor.”

From providing daily hot nutritious meals and to-go dinners to offering a resource center, clothes closet, and eye clinic, Shepherd’s Table envisions a DMV where lives are transformed with nourishment, empowerment, and care. In its 38-year history, and even through economic hardships and the challenges of the pandemic, they have never missed a single day of meal service.

That alone encapsulates the principle that “How we think ripples out to how we behave.” Here, we want to return to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay on abundance and the gift economy, in which she continues to elaborate:

“If we view these berries, or that coal or forest, as an object, as property, it can be exploited as a commodity in a market economy. We know the consequences of that. Why then have we permitted the dominance of economic systems that commoditize everything? That create scarcity instead of abundance, that promote accumulation rather than sharing?”

Healthy Places, Healthy People

“Our hydroponic tower has been exploding with arugula, kale and herbs and is just starting to have cucumbers and tomatoes ready to harvest,” Common Good City Farm wrote in a blog post this month, accompanied by gorgeous photos of greens and ripe strawberries.

In the Ledroit Park community where the half-acre urban farm is located, one-third of residents live in poverty and nearly one in ten has diabetes. Their aim is to increase food access and nutrition education, and to build community around the farm space, especially for their neighbors who may have less access to those things. “We hold a weekly seasonal produce market — using a pay-what-you-can model — where we offer what we grow as well as bring in food from other farms to make sure our customers have a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from,” Emily Richardson, their Youth Programs Director, wrote on DC Action. “Our goal is always to positively influence nutrition for everyone in our community.”

This echoes a belief that anchors the Inclusive Healthy Places Framework developed by Gehl and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which guided DC Greens‘ process for creating The Well at Oxon Run, a new urban farm and wellness space in ward 8: “Every neighborhood should provide people what they need to live a healthy life.

At the Catalogue, we agree that place truly does shape health. We’ve witnessed how structural racism and long-term disinvestments are disproportionately concentrated in communities of color. A case study on The Well states that “While Oxon Run Park is the largest in the District’s park inventory and a major public health asset, Ward 8 has some of the highest health disparities in the District — a product of decades of disinvestment, rooted in structural racism.”

With the opening of The Well, an incredible example of resident-led design, DC Greens has “built a channel for resources to flow into this community… so that neighbors have what they need to define and create wellness on their own terms,” be it a pick-your-own flower garden, an orchard with chickens, or a community gathering space for theater and dance performances, elders and youth. As Absalom Jordan, Chair of the Friends of Oxon Run, said, “I have this in my heart — this idea of preserving and connecting with the land.”

This city is a beautiful place. All of the nonprofit partners we’ve highlighted here, and so many more, are working to — in the words of Omar Hakeem, local artist and architect who created an installation for FoKAG — “transform the legacy of ‘you’re not welcome here’ into ‘all are welcomed here’” so that everyone is free to “play, wonder and dream.” In a time with multiple crises that require our collective attention and action to address, we both need and have hope that we can shift from scarcity to abundance, and from accumulation to sharing.

Engaging and Supporting Your Staff with a Retreat

Engaging and Supporting Your Staff with a Retreat

As we rapidly dive into the second half of the calendar year, summer can be a good time to reflect on your organization’s progress, engage in team building, and chart a path for the immediate future. We often hear from nonprofits about the challenges of staff engagement right now. From burnout to remote work to new roles hired during the pandemic, many teams are new and/or working together in new ways. One potential answer to these engagement challenges is to hold a staff retreat.

Over the course of the pandemic, the Catalogue for Philanthropy has seen its nonprofit partners pivot operations in numerous ways, such as transitioning to a completely virtual office, hiring new staff, or pausing strategic planning efforts. Taking a moment to evaluate your organization’s mission, values, and goals through a staff retreat can help ensure that your team feels energized and supported in the coming months, especially if you have new members on your team.

Defining the Purpose of a Retreat

Though staff retreats look different across the nonprofit sector depending on the size of your team and the goals of your organization, a retreat typically has four broad goals:

1. Show staff you appreciate them.

From programming to fundraising to communications to operations, nonprofit staff engage in critical and challenging work every day. It’s important to recognize your team’s passion and dedication to the mission of your organization, as well as to appreciate the skills and experiences they bring to their work.

When organizing your staff retreat, don’t forget to create space for gratitude. Set aside some time to celebrate both individual and team achievements, including surprise successes, hitting a goal, impactful stories, making some much needed progress, and exciting developments. Make sure you “shoutout” the strengths and wins of each team member both publicly and personally — you can even involve the praise of clients, board members, volunteers, or fellow staff members.

2. Discuss difficulties and challenges.

This one might be less fun than #1, but it is equally important. Before looking ahead to the next year, it’s crucial to evaluate the progress of your organization and conduct an honest assessment of the areas in which you want to improve. A staff retreat should provide room for your team to raise any concerns they have, whether it be about programming or the flexibility of your nonprofit’s work arrangements.

If you have yet to hold a staff retreat since the onset of COVID-19, be prepared to address questions about how your organization plans to proceed with hybrid work, events, or programming, as well as questions about work-life balance and employee wellbeing. With the boundaries between our personal and professional lives and spaces blurring, and with many nonprofit staff feeling burnout and dealing with personal difficulties, it is especially critical to have open conversations about how they may or may not be feeling supported by your organization so that you can co-create a plan of action moving forward.

Listen to your staff, allow them to surface and discuss their pain points, proactively ask them to reflect on how staff policies and workflows have been a help or hindrance for them, and remain open to receiving transparent feedback. Use the retreat as an opportunity to gather your team’s ideas on how to best care for them, be it through offering bonuses, more time off, purchasing new equipment, organizing more happy hours, and so on.

3. Set big picture goals for the next year.

It can be easy to get lost in the throes of a nonprofit’s day-to-day work. An annual retreat is a chance for your organization to recommit to its values, mission, and goals at a higher level. Spend some time getting everybody on the same page about why your nonprofit exists to reaffirm the purpose of your team’s daily tasks and set the foundation for examining what has worked well and where you can improve.

Let your team dream a little. Give them a chance to get excited and to re-engage with why they do the work. This can get buried in the endless to-do lists, especially when working remotely.

If there are specific questions about the strategic direction of your organization that you want staff to explore during this retreat, send them these questions ahead of time so they can prepare for a fruitful discussion. When setting goals, be clear about what you can realistically achieve and be specific about the time frame in which you’re aiming to achieve them. Prioritize your goals based on your organization’s values and then establish the metrics your team will use to measure your progress against these goals.

Given the uncertainty we live in, and have been living in for a while, it’s important to also acknowledge that long-term goal setting can be difficult. If it’s helpful to do so, focus on the next year with actionable milestones just 3-6 months into the future. You can also remind the team that uncertainty is now a part of planning and that we need to stay flexible.

4. Have fun as a team.

Whether you hold your staff retreat in-person or virtually, there are many ways you can get creative about bonding as a team. In our experience, the strength of a nonprofit relies heavily on the strength of its team. One of the most vital elements of a retreat is building an engaging and supportive team culture that will leave your staff feeling energized, motivated, and excited to work with each other.

So, don’t forget to introduce fun elements to your retreat! These ideas can range from simply playing a short game before each session to organizing a post-retreat get-together. Every culture and staff will need and want something different, but focus on activities that allow staff to express themselves and to connect with coworkers they may not typically work with every day.

Beyond the Retreat

Following up after a retreat is just as valuable as having one. It can be VERY demoralizing for a team to have a great retreat, set some good goals, and then never hear about them again. Make sure you co-create a plan with staff to share takeaways from the retreat, next steps, and a plan for accountability. Through both regular one-on-one and team meetings, carry the momentum from your retreat forward by building on the skills that are needed to achieve the goals you’ve collectively set for your nonprofit.

At the same time, look for ongoing opportunities to connect staff with each other. Keep some fun elements throughout the year to help deepen your team’s relationships.

For more tips and resources on leading and growing with your values, and on using play as a management tool, check out the slides and recordings from the 2022 National Small Nonprofit Summit. The Catalogue for Philanthropy also offers paid consulting services for small nonprofits in the areas of strategic planning, staff engagement, and board engagement. If you’re interested, please reach out to Chiara Banez for more information.

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (07.22.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin

07.22.22

Read on for shoutouts to small nonprofits in the DMV, upcoming events, and ways to volunteer or get involved locally! Have questions or something you’d like featured? Reach out to Amanda, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, to collaborate!

Staying Safe in the Heat

Thanks to our nonprofit partner, the Juanita C. Grant Foundation, for sharing some safety tips that older adults and everyone can follow as we hit higher than normal temperatures this summer:

  • Drink plenty of water before and while you’re out in the sun. You can set reminders to drink water on your smartwatch or phone.
  • Keep your home cool with air conditioning if you can. Research available assistance for summer air conditioning bills from local government programs. Strategically placed fans are another quick method to keep the home cool.
  • Consume sports drinks before starting any strenuous exercise, dress in comfortable clothes, and take a shower after a lengthy outdoor workout to avoid getting heatstroke!
  • Remember to apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or more at least 15-30 minutes before going outside.

Shoutouts

“Immigrants and refugees are always seen as poor people who need help,” Vanda Berninger, Co-Founder of One Journey Festival, told Street Sense Media. “They are people with families. They are people with friends. This identity gets lost in the transition.” This year’s festival took place on June 25 and featured music, storytelling, a global marketplace, and many organizations supporting refugees, such as fellow nonprofit partner Homes Not Borders.

A coalition of 32+ civil rights, faith-based, consumer protection, and justice advocacy groups — including many of our nonprofit partners like Tzedek DC, the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, Building Bridges Across the River, and many more — pushed to pass the Clean Hands Amendment Act to end debt-based license denials, and it passed! Read DCist’s update and Tzedek DC’s report on why DC’s “Clean Hands” law provision on driver’s licenses undermines racial equity.

You can now watch the National Philharmonic wherever you are through their brand-new online streaming platform, NatPhil Digital Stage! You can choose to buy or rent individual performances, or subscribe to the digital season for $9.99/month or $99/year.

The Montgomery County Forest Coalition, which includes our nonprofit partners like Rock Creek Conservancy, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, and coalition co-founder Potomac Conservancy, is urging the Montgomery County Council to strengthen forest regulations this year to protect public health, community well-being, homes, and businesses. Reforestation is among the best ways to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Yet, “Montgomery County’s Forest Conservation Law has remained largely the same since it was put in place in 1992,” the coalition wrote in Bethesda Magazine, only requiring developers in most cases to “preserve or replant about one-fourth of the trees they cut down.” Learn more about what they’re asking the Council to adopt this year.

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and surrounding Kenilworth Park and nearby Anacostia Park are rare green areas in a largely paved area of DC. “In this historically Black area, people can find a place of solace in this backyard oasis,” Zerline Hughes Spruill, community engagement manager at Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, told Smithsonian Magazine. Spruill is one of the local community members featured in the National Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition, “Our Places: Connecting People and Nature,” which explores how peoples’ experiences with nature inspires them to make a difference outside!

Story District has a new monthly column in District Fray! “When I listened to everyone’s stories, I was inspired by how certain events in their lives made them into who they are but didn’t define them,” Willette Oden, poet, writer, musical artist, and DC native, shared about her first-time experience with storytelling in their first column. “I thought maybe there could be someone in the audience who would relate to or take from my experience and feel empowered by how I was able to control my narrative.” Read more and stay tuned for their next column!

Kindness, dignity, and community engagement — come into Main Street Connect‘s Soulfull Cafe in Rockville and experience all this and more! Soulfull employs people of all abilities and recently relaunched with a new menu. In addition to this warm, inviting, and friendly restaurant, Main Street Connect also runs the affordable housing development above it and, like a recreational center, offers tiered membership programs so that anybody can access their space, classes, and social events. “Everyone deserves to walk into their home and feel safe and be in a light, bright, vibrant community,” founder Jillian Copeland told DCist.

Environmentalist and Upper Potomac Riverkeeper with the Potomac Riverkeeper Network Brent Walls is leading the Waterkeeper movement in using drone technology to investigate and collect evidence of pollution in rivers and streams. Learn more about how they’ve been able to use drone images to catch polluters in places where wrongdoing is difficult to see or expensive to find.

Events

July 23 – 24, July 30 – 31 | Peak blooms at the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens! Catch live animal shows, ranger talks, and more on the July 23 weekend and yoga classes, a fashion show, cultural dance presentations, and more on the July 30 weekend

July 25, 7:00 – 9:00 PM | Monkeypox Town Hall presented by DC Health & Washington Blade, including community partners like SMYAL, the Wanda Alston Foundation, and The DC Center for the LGBT Community

July 26, 6:00 PM | Harm Reduction 101 virtual training with #DecrimPovertyDC and the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition

July 26, 6:00 – 7:30 PM | Join YNPNdc for Everything You Ever Wanted to Know on Reinventing Yourself with Tony Pickett, CEO of the Grounded Solutions Network

July 27, 12:00 PM | Can I Ask for That? Navigating ADA Requests in a Post-COVID World virtual Q&A webinar with The Arc of Northern Virginia

July 28, 2:00 – 3:30 PM | Insight Memory Care Center hosts a virtual Community Caregiver Support Group for families and friends of those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory impairments

July 29, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Know Your Rights: Mediation with Community Family Life Services Legal Department and Community Mediation DC

July 30, 7:30 PM | Juleps in July virtual cocktail class benefiting Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services

August 5, 10:00 AM | Part Two of a two-part series on forward-thinking housing solutions for all with The Arc of Northern Virginia will explore quality housing options for individuals with disabilities and engage in problem-solving with participants

August 5, 5:00 – 8:00 PM | City Blossoms presents Basil Bonanza, a family-friendly and basil-themed community potluck

August 5, 8:00 PM | A Very Special Variety Show for HIPS

August 5 – 7 | OutWrite 2022, DC’s annual LGBTQ+ literary festival

August 6, 5:30 PM | A string and vocal quartet with the Washington Bach Consort will present Baroque pieces at The Parks at Walter Reed

August 6 – 7 | Reserve your timed tickets for the Children’s Science Center this weekend as they celebrate the success of the James Webb Space Telescope!

August 13, 3:00 – 6:00 PM | Back to School Community Event with PWCCF with free school supplies, food, and snack boxes, along with food trucks, games, and live music. If you can donate school supplies, email info@pwccfoundation.org to learn about donation needs

August 13, 6:00 – 8:00 PM | “Emergence” art exhibition reception with Justice Arts Coalition at the Workhouse Arts Center, featuring works by artists previously and currently confined to carceral institutions across the United States

August 24, 12:00 – 1:00 PM | What Does Overturning Roe Mean for IPV Survivors? with JCADA

August 28, 12:00 – 3:00 PM | Carpenter’s Cook-Off Pop-Up 2022, a signature tasting event on the Alexandria waterfront with live music from the Jones Point Band

Get Involved

The DC Queer Theatre Festival will present a series of new play readings in the fall and is looking for unproduced and unpublished one-act plays with themes relating to the LGBTQIA2S+ communities that are no longer than 90 minutes. There is a small stipend for this project. Submit by 11:59 PM by July 30!

Like pro tennis? Volunteer with So What Else at the Citi Open from July 30 – August 7 and help them raise funds for youth & hunger programs! Volunteers will have free access to the tournament where they can enjoy matches before and after their service shift (8:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 12:00 – 5:00 PM, 3:00 – 8:00 PM). Volunteers ages 14 and older are welcome and younger volunteers can serve with a parent or adult guardian! Email Peter at swevolunteer@gmail.com with your date(s) and shift(s), full name, age, contact number, and school affiliation (if applicable). More info here!

Support kids in the fall with Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc‘s Backpack/School Supply Drive! They’ve created a toolkit for individual donors and organizations to host their own supply drives and collect supplies on LARS’ behalf. You can also help purchase items directly from Amazon to be shipped to the LARS office by August 5 at 2:00 PM.

Have you attended a Washington Improv Theater show or taken a class with them? Tell them your story so you can help them share their impact! They’re looking for students, teachers, performers, and audience members to share anecdotes, testimonials, and other stories from the past year by August 5.

Help Sunflower Bakery, which prepares young adults with learning differences for employment in the baking and hospitality industries, be recognized as one of the best of Jewish Washington! Nominate and vote for them for best coffee, best bakery, best nonprofit, and best special needs programming by August 12.

Community Family Life Services is seeking applications for its Fall 2022 Speakers Bureau. The CFLS Speakers Bureau is a place where women who are survivors of trauma such as victimization, homelessness, and incarceration learn to speak publicly and educate the community about the issues closest to them. Those selected for this program are offered a paid 35-hour training in public speaking and participants will learn about how to communicate their lived experiences in compelling testimony for lawmakers, nonprofits, and criminal justice and community stakeholders. The application is open until August 26!

Serve with DC127 as a long-term Community for Families program volunteer or babysitter, and help them reverse the foster care list in DC! A long-term volunteer walks with a family providing emotional, psychological, and practical support as they work through the program, which is designed to serve under-resourced families vulnerable to instability. Babysitting is a direct service where volunteers would spend 1-4 hours babysitting for a family in their program. Fill out their form if you’re interested!

The Arc of Northern Virginia is bringing back virtual Summer Legislator Meetings, a simple way to make huge changes without leaving your home. Let them know what issues you’d like to talk about and when, and they’ll find your legislators, set up a meeting, prep you, and attend and facilitate while you talk about your life. They’ll then make the “ask” for policy and funding changes. This is a great way to help make Virginia a better place for everyone with a disability. Fill out their quick interest form to get started!

Help close the digital divide and volunteer with Byte Back, which provides under-resourced communities an equitable pathway into the digital economy through digital advocacy, digital literacy, and tech certification training. They’re recruiting for one-time, shorter, and longer-term volunteer positions, including career assistants, workshop presenters, tutors, and success coaches/mentors. Learn more and apply to volunteer.

The What, Why, & How for the DC Budget

The What, Why, & How for the DC Budget

Last month, the Catalogue for Philanthropy convened four of our nonprofit partners — the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Jews United for Justice, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Black Swan Academy — to share about the advocacy work they do around the DC budget, why such advocacy is important for residents to engage in, and where people who are unfamiliar with the budget can get started. This virtual panel was moderated by David Meni, Acting Chief of Staff for Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, and illuminated much of the city budgeting process and how the budget concretely impacts our lives from year-to-year.

“You maybe only hear about the budget when it’s being formulated or when it’s before the Council,” David observed in his introduction to the event. “But budget season is basically year-round. There’s always something to do on it.

Though the 2022-23 fiscal year budget was passed in June, not only does budget advocacy transition into other important advocacy as our partners demonstrated with the examples they gave, but the work of setting Councilmembers’ budget priorities also tends to start earlier than most people think. As David mentioned at the end of the panel, “getting your particular issue on a Councilmember’s priority list is something that can happen at any time or happen early and often.”

With this in mind, the Catalogue aims to summarize some of our biggest takeaways from the event about how to contextualize our city’s budget, why exactly advocacy is so important, what each of our nonprofit partners are advocating around and, finally, what you can start to pay attention to for next year’s budget.

Please note that panelist quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity. Visit this link to watch the full event.

Putting the Process into Perspective

“At the federal level, you see the President send down the budget and Congress rips it apart. It looks completely different by the end but it’s a much longer, much more resourced process,” Amber Harding, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, explained. “In DC, the Mayor puts something out and the Council doesn’t have that much time to work on it. They don’t have the same kind of committee structures and staffing that Congress has to fix it. So, often, even though it’s supposed to be the Council’s budget, the Council has a real hard time (making) major changes to the Mayor’s budget.”

DC is a city where many residents are politically engaged on a national level. While this is important and necessary, we also believe that staying updated on local news and getting involved in local politics is crucial to both understanding the place where we live and making it a better place to live.

“Budget advocacy is extremely important for anyone who’s doing policy work or community work, knowing that the decisions that are made impact our day-to-day experiences, particularly when we’re talking about marginalized populations,” Samantha Davis, Founder and Executive Director of Black Swan Academy, noted. “The budget has a huge role to play in terms of what resources are trickling down to us.

In addition to being a document that reflects the values of elected officials in its choices, the budget is also the biggest piece of legislation the City Council passes. “What’s the city focusing on? Is it spending more money on police or on affordable housing? Are developers getting giant tax breaks — the same developers who are contributing money to elected officials?” Amber asked. “It’s probably the most impactful thing the city does every year because the budget is a demonstration of the priorities of elected leaders… It’s insight into how the city is run and (whether) the people you vote for are doing what they said they’d do when you elected them.”

Though the budget process is complex and can be difficult to understand, our panelists helped to demystify some of the ways in which the DC government operates. For instance, if bills have a fiscal impact, even if they are passed and signed by the Mayor, they still need to be funded in the subsequent budget. “You can’t find the money within passing a bill,” David mentioned. “If you don’t get legislation funded within something like three years, it basically lapses and gets repealed.”

This makes advocating for changes within the budget even more critical, since funding a bill is the way to make sure it’s implemented. “When we’re talking about creating these new systems, addressing various disparities that we might be experiencing, we can’t have really effective policy and legislation without having the dollars to support it, and vice versa,” Samantha said. “Engaging in budget advocacy alone is also something that I critique often, because we can’t continue to pour money into failing systems, so it does work hand-in-hand.”

What Does a Victory Look Like?

One example of how budget advocacy transitions into year-round advocacy is in the Legal Clinic’s fight to end homelessness. “The budget is very clear — when you fund permanent housing vouchers for people who are homeless, you are ending that person’s homelessness permanently,” Amber emphasized.

This year, they ran a campaign to reform rapid rehousing, a time-limited housing program in the city that nearly everyone who goes into an emergency shelter is placed into. While the time limit was extended during the pandemic, the Mayor instructed the agency to start terminating families in the program once the public health emergency ended, resulting in hundreds of families who are going to be evicted because only 3% of them can afford rent when their subsidies are terminated. 97% of these families are Black and most are extremely low-income. Many of them end up being displaced entirely from the city because they can’t find places that they can afford to rent.

Through the budget, the Legal Clinic was able to get 400 slots of housing for families to transition from rapid rehousing into a permanent program. The Council also recently introduced permanent legislation to stop the time limits and make it a program that transitions people into housing that meets their needs instead of dropping them off a cliff. However, even if this legislation is passed, it must still be funded. “So, next year, when we’re talking about the budget, we’ll be talking about how the only way to end that cliff is to fund the bill,” Amber said. “We continue to do the work to solve the bigger problems.”

Similarly, Jews United for Justice advocates around the budget with a multi-year plan in mind. “The big goal is making childcare more affordable and possible, particularly for families with lower incomes,” Sarah Novick, DC Director at Jews United for Justice, shared. “We know that’s not going to be possible until we are making sure that early childhood educators are getting enough money to sustain their families and lives, (so that we can) create a childcare system that will be able to accept more children into it.

Jews United for Justice partners with the Under 3 DC campaign and works to implement the Birth-to-Three law, a robust and far-reaching law made up of many programs to support families with young children ages 0-3 around health supports, behavioral health supports, education, and childcare. “It’ll cost hundreds of millions of dollars when it’s fully funded,” Sarah continued, “and we’re inching our way there. Every year, our advocacy to get it funded is very important… Even the small asks are important.”

A big part of their advocacy work is rooted in organizing with coalitions. “We work together to craft what our yearly campaign goals are, what we think is possible to win from year-to-year, what an ambitious win would be, and (we) make those calculated decisions as we go along,” Sarah elaborated. For them, this advocacy looks like making asks of Councilmembers, getting Councilmembers and staff to work together to find the funds, mobilizing their base to make calls and testify at hearings — all of which help to ensure that elected officials know that many people are making these requests, which emphasizes how badly the requests are needed.

“We wanted full implementation of Birth-to-Three to happen within ten years,” Sarah said. “We’re a handful of years in and, unfortunately, it hasn’t been fully funded every year.”

Especially when it comes to programs that have a big price tag, like the Birth-to-Three law or the Vision Zero plan that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is driving toward, finding funding sources to implement these programs on a smaller scale is often challenging, let alone funding them on the larger level of systemic change, which many residents know is needed.

“(We actually want) to phase out traffic fines because we want to fix the roads, we want to change the infrastructure,” Jeremiah Lowery, Advocacy Director at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, stressed when elaborating on the omnibus bill they’re pushing that will move DC closer to achieving its Vision Zero goals around transportation safety. Though they didn’t get funding for this bill the year before, in this last budget cycle, they were able to secure a funding source — getting dollars from new traffic cameras to fund the bill, as well as moving future dollars into bike repair and bus projects.

“That’s significant because, oftentimes, money from these traffic cameras usually go to the general funds,” Jeremiah explained, “and they’re not actually going to sustainable solutions that lead to preventing traffic deaths. Now… funding from (traffic cameras) will be used to prevent traffic fatalities and deaths, and will be used to fix roads, which is the purpose.”

Part of the complexity around securing funding is, as Amber mentioned, because “the Council, as a whole, is not great in coming together and saying, “here are our top priorities as a Council.” One of the biggest flaws in the way that this city budgets lies in the committee structure, where Councilmembers serve on certain issue-area committees that can surface competing priorities, including ward-level priorities. “We try to be very careful. What do you tell human services to cut when you’re asking them to increase a program?” Amber asked. This is why coalitions can be powerful when engaging in advocacy. The Fair Budget Coalition, for example, which the Legal Clinic, Jews United for Justice, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association are members of, “came together to say, “you can’t cut housing to fund healthcare.”

Black Swan Academy has also found some leverage within the current structure. “We do push Councilmembers and staff to talk to each other and to other committees, and (we) leverage that and say, this is the connection between police-free schools and mental health. Don’t you care about mental health?” Samantha explained. Analyzing members of each committee and what other committees these Councilmembers also sit on is an important aspect of their advocacy.

For Black Swan Academy, whose work is primarily guided by their Black Youth Agenda, a win can look like making sure the voices of young Black people are part of the conversation. When they supported larger efforts around the rapid rehousing crisis, which was one of the issues named by young folk on this year’s agenda, they signed onto letters, testified, and shared stories to show how young Black people in the community are impacted when families are terminated out of their housing after their rapid rehousing lapses.

On a multi-year level, Black Swan Academy has been fighting for police-free schools — removing armed police officers from school buildings and investing in resources and people who would create care-based, healthy, and equitable learning environments. In 2020, they were able to reduce a $23 million contract held by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and move it to DC Public Schools (DCPS) so that instead of having MPD be in control of the training and hiring of security officers, it would be guided by people with backgrounds in education and who are working with school faculty. DCPS was also able to create a pilot initiative where schools should shift from hiring security officers to hiring restorative justice practitioners, additional mental health clinicians, and community members to do safe passage.

This year, however, the Mayor dedicated a lot of resources in her portion of the budget to cancel a planned phase-out of school police officers in the next five years, which the Council had previously passed. “We spent the past year organizing, again, to get the Committee (on the Judiciary and Public Safety) to say that we are actually committed to this phase-out and want to make sure the budget reflects it,” Samantha continued. The Council did vote again, recommitting to having fewer police officers in schools and investing in alternatives to policing in schools. “All the investments around school-based mental health, violence interruption, and safe passage (are) happening within the budget process.”

So, You Want to Advocate Around the Budget

“If it were easy, if everyone agreed, we wouldn’t have to do advocacy on it,” Amber said. “We’re doing advocacy because people aren’t automatically or naturally prioritizing the needs or wants of the groups we’re advocating for, and that’s why we’re down there.”

Having shared more context around the city budget, our panelists then gave some advice on getting started.

1. First, decide on the issue area(s) you’re most interested in to help narrow your focus.

When budget season rolls around, there are so many ways you can engage with it that the best place to start is by focusing on the issue area(s) you’re most interested in to avoid getting overwhelmed. “Look for those flashpoints,” Amber said. Because the budget is where the Council can step in to do some checks and balances, those flashpoints “are the places where you’re actually going to lift up where those conversations are happening, (and) where there are differences in opinion.”

From there, Jeremiah recommends building relationships with committee chairs for the areas you’re working on, which the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has found more success with. Samantha and Sarah also suggest attending both agency and budget oversight hearings.

“(The) agency oversight hearing process is useful for folks who are not connected to an organization as (they provide) an opportunity for anyone to come and talk about their own personal experiences with the agency,” Sarah mentioned. Doing so provides data for Councilmembers to later go back to the agency and ask follow-up questions, which will lead to conversations about how much money each of these agencies should have in the budget.

These hearings are then followed by budget oversight hearings, where directors of agencies present the budget, as well as give people time to testify and the Council to ask questions. “Most of the agencies have their own hearings or forums that are open to folks,” Samantha said, “and I’ve found those to be more helpful.”

2. Do your research outside of the Mayor’s resources.

Though the Mayor’s budget forum is often advertised, David explained that “it might be a good way of understanding the different components of the DC government, but not a great way of understanding what’s actually in the budget.”

Similarly, Amber recommended approaching the Mayor’s Powerpoint with care. “It’s often high-level, but sometimes pretty misleading,” she chimed in. “There’s federal money in there that was pre-existing or other things that don’t have anything to do with what she devoted this year (with) very little context.”

Sarah and Jeremiah advised signing up for the DC Council website’s newsletter, as well as individual Councilmember newsletters, especially for members who are chairing committees on the issue area(s) you care about. Staying updated on local news, such as through the Washington City Paper’s daily news digest, is also helpful.

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute shares a trove of resources about the budget, such as ‘A Resident’s Guide to the DC Budget‘ and their recent reflection on ‘What’s In the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget?‘ Be on the lookout, too, for events like budget briefings with agencies or agency heads that the community can attend and ask questions at.

Another great resource is to follow the organizations or coalitions doing advocacy in the issue area(s) you care about, such as these four nonprofit partners who spoke on our panel or the 400+ other local nonprofits in our network.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk to Council staff.

“You don’t need to go directly to members, especially around budget time,” David suggested. “Staff in the committees are the ones keeping track of moment-to-moment changes, (so) don’t be intimidated about talking to staff.”

Ask questions of the staffers on the committees relevant to your issue area(s). Most importantly, make sure that your ask is stated in more than one Councilmember’s priorities.

4. Sharing your story is important.

A common misperception around budget advocacy is that it is necessary to understand all the jargon and details in the budget. While being familiar with them can be helpful, as David shared, “it’s more about tone-setting.” When testifying — as all of our panelists have organized significant groups of people to do — people will show up and speak to the same theme about why they think ‘x’ is an important priority and why the Council should pull money from ‘y’ to fund this. “(Say) things in simple terms and put the onus on the committee to see how important that is,” David continued, “and then paid advocates and experts can follow up on the details of that work.”

In this vein, remember that you don’t have to be an expert! As Samantha added in the chat during the event, “We are not experts on the budget and that is okay. You don’t have to be and many are not.” Echoing this, Amber said, “I’ve been doing this work for 20 years and I still… have to ask a bunch of people, is this actually what this means?” Given that the budget is not a transparent document, it is absolutely okay to ask those follow-up questions.

Our Partners

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless uses the law to bring justice to low-income, homeless, and people experiencing poverty in DC through direct legal services, community education, and policy and advocacy around housing, homelessness, and civil rights. You can learn more about their budget work this year through this article.

Jews United for Justice educates and mobilizes local Jewish communities and allies to take action on issue campaigns that pursue and promote social, racial, and economic justice. You can read their reflections on this year’s budget campaign at this article and learn more about their work in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and statewide in Maryland.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association provides youth and adult education and conducts advocacy to expand the region’s trail network with the Capital Trails Coalition, complete a protective bike network around the region, prevent traffic deaths and fatalities through Vision Zero, as well as expand access to buses and multi-modal transportation options in areas that don’t usually have access.

Black Swan Academy supports Black youth in middle and high school in being social catalysts in their communities and creating the change that they know is needed. They meet the immediate needs of young folks through capacity-building and mutual aid, and organize through the Black Youth Agenda for police-free schools, and more mental health support, among other youth-driven issues.