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7 Questions – Elisabeth Crum (Sewall-Belmont House & Museum)

Today on “7 Questions,” we welcome … Elisabeth Crum, the Public Programs & Outreach Manager at The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, which celebrates women’s progress toward equality and explores the evolving role of women and their contributions to society.

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

On September 22, 2010, The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum presented the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, with the Alice Award in recognition of the barriers she broke for women in becoming the first female leader of a major political party and the first female Speaker of the House. In front of more than 200 women and men, Speaker Pelosi underscored Alice Paul’s enduring commitment to achieving equality and encouraged all who were present to uphold her legacy until we meet the goal. It was inspirational to see Speaker Pelosi with her daughter and granddaughter and know that generations of women can look up to the Speaker and truly believe that women can fill the ranks of power in politics.

2. What else are you up to?

I am thrilled to say that we have a very exciting workshop in our career skill-building series coming up on October 11, 2010. Titled ‘Yes, Please! The Art of Etiquette,’ this event will highlight Amy Zantzinger, former White House Social Secretary under President Bush, and Laura Schwartz, former White House Director of Events under President Clinton. I cannot wait to learn tricks of the trade and maybe catch a few White House social secrets as well.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

I was raised by a single woman who put herself through undergraduate and graduate schools after I was born. My mother showed me the challenges that women in society face and instilled in me the passion to work for equality so that no woman or family would have to struggle as we did.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, is one of my personal heroes. Terry’s breadth of knowledge on everything from the state of the industry to the specific behaviors and expectations of direct mail and issue-based campaigns is awe-inspiring to me. She knows the history and boldly forges a path for the future of women’s rights activists, and I am grateful for her courage and conviction.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

The single greatest daily challenge for me is facing blatant historical inaccuracies. There are so many important stories to be told about this House, the women who lived and worked here and the National Woman’s Party, and so often the stories are presented inaccurately if at all. It saddens me that Alice Paul is not one of the main historical figures we learn about in public schools. Correcting these inaccuracies and sharing the inspiring message of the National Woman’s Party motivates me every day to do all that I can to ensure that women’s history is not forgotten and that we continue to learn the lessons of the past.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?

I got my start in nonprofits interning in development, which was a smart idea because every organization relies on fundraising and usually these are the available jobs. I would encourage people to figure out what issues they are passionate about and look for work in organizations with missions that align with their passions. It helps if you are always willing to help out, learn a new skill, and take on a new challenge — plus these practices make you invaluable to the organization.

7. What’s next?

I am so thrilled to be responsible for celebrating women’s progress toward equality and educating the public about the history of women’s suffrage and equal rights. We have a great deal of work to do, but I am proud to be a part of the organization that will ensure that Alice Paul’s legacy is written back into American history and that her dream of women?s equality is achieved.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

My three companions at a power breakfast would be Alice Paul, Queen Elizabeth I, and my mother. Alice Paul and Queen Elizabeth I were a couple of the strongest, smartest, and most capable feminist women in history; passionate about their missions and dedicated ceaselessly to the achievement of their goals. They are among the strongest historical female role models I can imagine, and it would be an honor to speak with them. As my personal inspiration and most trusted mentor, my mother would have to be present as well, especially for her ability to bring laughter and a love of life to any situation.

In The News …

Welcome to Wednesday, Greater Washington! Just passing along some mid-week buzz from the non-profit news and blogsphere …

2010 Exponent Awards (Meyer Foundation) - many congratulations go out to the five incredible winners of the Exponent Awards, recognizing visionary non-profit leadership. Click here to learn more about the winners, four of whom lead Catalogue charities!

Urban Agriculture Challenge: Communities Helping Themselves (With Delicious Results!) – check out and the Huffington Post to learn how urban agriculture programs are improving food security, employment, and health in their communities and how online fundraising challenges are supporting their (tasty) aims.

Finding a Balance – The Philanthropic Initiative’s blog has sparked a multi-blog, multi-website debate on the “quantitative or technocratic elements of philanthropy” versus the “more amorphous elements,” such as values and emotional responses. Check it out! (More thoughts to come from here…)

Signal on DC education reform - the Washington Post is rerunning this Sunday’s opinion piece by former DC Council member Kevin P. Chavous regarding the future of DC schools and education reform under Vincent Gray. He argues that “maybe the change will provide the impetus we need.” What do you think?

Who Manages Your Group’s Facebook Page? – join the discussion over at As social media becomes ever more prevalent and powerful, who should be the organization’s online voice? Or need it have only one?

7 Questions – The Beginning!

Good morning and welcome to a new feature here on GoodWorks! Once (or sometimes twice) a week, we will feature a staff member from one of our Catalogue charities — spotlighting the amazing people that make it all happen, plus providing access to their insight and advice. For our inaugural “7 Questions” interview, we have … Merry Cavanaugh, Director of Development at Washington Jesuit Academy:

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

The most interesting project was getting our back field totally renovated this summer. The field had no drainage and was under water every time it rained. Ruppert Landscaping donated a new turf field and we raised additional funding to move our basketball courts out of the middle of our parking lot and put them behind the school. So now we have a brand new soccer/football field and a full and half-court basketball court, along with a new garden for vegetables and beautiful landscaping around the front and the back of the school.

2. What else are you up to?

We are finishing off the last year of a Capital Campaign that we started at the worst time ever — September 2008. We have been truly honored that many people have made significant donations and pledges to the campaign despite the economically trying times and we plan to wrap it up by the end of this school year.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

I was inspired to do this particular work by students that I worked with in my old job. I worked in a school that was mostly tuition-funded, and we raised additional funding through the traditional annual giving, etc. from parents and alumni. However, we had a special program for 10 students who attended on full scholarships and who lived in low-income projects. I raised the funding for their scholarships. I saw how hard those students worked and how much they appreciated being able to go to a decent school. I often said that raising scholarship funds was the easiest money to raise. As a result, when I had the opportunity to work in a school that was completely, 100% scholarship funded, I was thrilled.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

My hero in the nonprofit world is Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He has approached a problem with a wholistic solution, rather than just addressing parts of the problem.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

The biggest challenge — which I have created for myself, and which I also love — is keeping each of our student sponsors informed on what is going on with their student. Each of our students is paired with a person or a group of people who “sponsor” him. I work very hard to keep everyone connected and to sustain personal connections — it is labor intensive!

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in education?

I guess it would be to leave politics out of it.

7. What’s next?

We are trying to scale up our program so that it can serve more children. We are exploring how best to do that — add younger grades; focus on our graduates more; establish another site.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, and Dirk Pitt.

Moving (and Working) Together

From bright-red bikes to non-profit administrative operations, what are we ready and excited to share?

Regarding the new Capital Bikeshare program, the New York Times explains that Internet services, from Netflix to Pandora, have “changed the way Americans think about sharing and ownership. Collaborative habits online are beginning to find expression in the real world.”

Perhaps this ethic of collaboration spread from products and purchasing to operations and funding. Just last Friday, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston Foundation (along with three others) has unveiled “a new fund to help local charities … form partnerships, combine functions like bookkeeping or community services, or merge into new groups … to better serve their communities.”

Of course, the comparisons are not perfect. But speaking broadly, have cooperation and sharing become newly interesting? Haven’t they always been part of the picture?

Says the founder of NeighborGoods, an online resource where users can enter their zip code and locate neighbors willing to borrow or loan, “everyone thought we were completely crazy two years ago a desire for community, a desire to be more sustainable and, frankly, it’s the economy.”


Philanthropy 2173 asks an intriguing question: “if communities and businesses built on sharing — mutual aid — can really regain traction … what will this mean for organized, outside philanthropy as we know it?”

Will this trend last? Does it excite and inspire you? And are new models indeed on the horizon? Or have non-profits long employed this model and businesses are actually catching up? What do you think?

Around Town: September 25-26

Happy Friday, everyone! Our non-profits have some great events coming up this weekend, so be sure to check them out. I wish that I could be in five places at once:

Saturday, September 25

Noon-4:00 PM – Seaport Day 2010 (Alexandria Seaport Foundation): enjoy boat building demonstrations, Pirate Cruises every hour, and refreshment and small hand-crafted boats on sale.

5:00 PM-11:00 PM – “Chef for a Day” at MIO Restaurant (Thrive DC): celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and watch Kevin John Gomez showcase his interpretation of fusion between Puerto Rico and American cuisine.

8:00 PM – Symphony Lounge (Capital City Symphony): catch the encore presentation of last March’s sold-out “Jazz Meets Classical” concert, featuring Charlie Barnett’s Chaise Lounge band and the full Capital City Symphony.

8:00 PM – Dance Party for The Reading Connection: dance the night away at an 80s and 90s-themed party, thrown by the Reading Connection and Dance for a Cause.

Sunday, September 26

10:00 AM-1:00 PM – Tour of a Grassland Restoration Site (Earth Sangha): tour the soon-to-be-restored National Fish and Wildlife Service’s Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge and rescue some native plants.

Check out the Catalogue Happenings page for more information!

The Magic Number?

Should all non-profits aim for that magical 75% / 25% ratio of program costs to administrative costs? What makes a “high-impact” non-profit high-impact? Should we assign a number to something like “impact” or should we define it differently?

Washington Life Magazine asked Catalogue President, Barbara Harman (me), Catalogue Director of Partnerships Kathy Jankowski, and the Nonprofit Roundtable’s Chuck Bean, to think about these questions. Check out our answers in this piece and let us know what you think!

Washington Jesuit Academy Donor Speaks Up

Read the profile of Founder and CEO of the Ruppert Cos, Craig Ruppert, whose firm donates to Washington Jesuit Academy and Jubilee Housing, among others. “It’s usually the company executives who receive the recognition for donating money to charitable causes. In our organization, the real philanthropists are the 700 employees who make up our company. It’s their hard work that keeps us profitable and able to give.” WJA is spotlighted for its great success with inner city kids. Read more here.