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Catalogue Blog

Communities of Excellence

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

Last Thursday night, I sat in the back of a packed room at the Washington Post and listened to five nonprofits tell stories — stories about their successes, their challenges, but mostly their creativity in the field of nonprofit management. Last Thursday, May 24, one of those nonprofits received the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, but it felt to me like all five had accomplished a great deal and were ‘winners’ for their constituencies.

The is a program of the , and selects one leader in the field every year to be recognized for their exemplary management. This year’s finalists represented a range of nonprofit work in DC — from Bread for the City and Community of Hope, who offer a variety of services to thousands of low-income clients, to Young Playwrights? Theatre and Imagination Stage, who teach life lessons through creativity for young artists, and Byte Back, who provides crucial computer and job training.

This year, the Catalogue for Philanthropy is excited to congratulate Community of Hope as the award winner, a Catalogue community member who has grown to new heights since their initial feature in the 2005 Catalogue. Community of Hope demonstrated outstanding management practices this year, including 360-degree staff reviews, integration of advocacy with their program mission, an emphasis on professional development, and a focus on their mission and growth through a merger with the Family Health and Birth Center. I found the organization’s dedication to its strategic plan most impressive. While still maintaining a sense of flexibility, Community of Hope keeps an eye on their short- and long-term goals and ensures that all members of the staff and board are familiar with those plans.

Community of Hope, led by Executive Director Kelly Sweeney McShane and Board Chair Caty Poulin, said of their recognition, “Every day our staff and board work diligently to build an effective and well-managed organization. That’s what it takes to end homelessness and provide compassionate healthcare to families in need in DC. We hope our learnings will aid other nonprofits in their mission and ultimately that our city will be better served with stronger nonprofits.”

Other finalists also offered valuable advice to the audience, many of whom were peer nonprofits hoping to learn and improve their own organizations. Catalogue member Byte Back shared their emphasis on staff professional development and making sure employees take vacation time when needed. Young Playwrights’ Theatre, another Catalogue nonprofit, spoke about staff meetings roundtables, where a different staff member wears the facilitator hat each week. Each nonprofit in the group expressed both a passion for their missions, as well as an acknowledgement that it takes hard work to succeed in achieving it.

Countless new nonprofits open their doors every year, led by energetic EDs and staff who have a true passion for creating social change. While passion might be the foundation for a strong nonprofit, nonprofit management is the ‘brick and mortar’ holding the house together and ensuring that it stands long into the future. The five Washington Post finalists demonstrated their prowess at effectively managing a nonprofit with both the passion and the skills needed to make an impact in the Washington area.

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