Skip to main navigation

Catalogue Blog

Around Town: March 30-31

It’s a slow weekend for Catalogue nonprofits, but check out this show put on at the District of Columbia Arts Center.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I, Jack, am the Knave of Hearts

District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC)
I, Jack, am the Knave of Hearts takes the audience on a journey of discovery and reckoning as Don Juan bursts through the fissure that separates mortality from eternal damnation and tries desperately to remember who he was, discover what he is doing here now and uncover why he has been allowed to escape. “You want to know what Hell is like? Hell is to be aware when there is nothing to be aware of and nothing to be aware with but your own desire? Hell is the end of hope.” John Carter, a local poet who has turned his hand to playwriting over the past fifteen years, deftly merges lyrical language with narrative as he delves layer by layer into the complex nature of Don Juan’s reflections on a life he would have lived in no other way; even with the full knowledge of the resulting punishment. His last play, Lou, based on the life of Lou Salome received critical acclaim in the New York Fringe Festival last year.
When: Saturday March 30, 2013 (7:30 PM)
Where: DC Arts Center, 2438 18th St Washington, DC 20009
Fee: yes, $25.00
Contact: B. Stanley (202 ) 462-7833

Have a great weekend from the folks at Catalogue!

Raising the Bar for College Access in DC

by Barbara Harman, Catalogue President and Editor

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about a new initiative called RaiseDC and it’s something of which all of us should be aware. In its Baseline Report Card, the organization puts the problem succinctly: “Too many children are still entering school not fully ready to learn, are academically off-track, fail to graduate from high school on time, are inadequately prepared to succeed in the workforce and higher education, and are out of school and out of work.”

Quite a few Catalogue nonprofits (see list below) are already participants in this important initiative — as members of what RaiseDC calls its “change networks,” and others may wish to consider adding their voices and expertise to the cause. I’m planning to join myself as someone who cares deeply about the fate of our young people here in the District, and about educational outcomes in particular — both because research shows what a powerful impact they have on economic futures and because I believe that education is fundamental to full human development. Both should matter. RaiseDC wants to use data to establish benchmarks and track results, direct resources to the most effective programs, and coordinate work across academic and nonacademic programs. The focus is on what is now called the “cradle to career” continuum, so it begins with pre-kindergarten and ends with “disconnected” youth in the 20-24 age range.

In a city with one of the most highly educated populations in the country, educational outcomes for low income children are dismayingly poor — whether one looks at test results for 3rd and 8th graders, or high school completion rates, or college-going and college completion stats. The in-school and out-of-school services that might come to the aid of our young people and make it possible for them to succeed in school and in life — more effective schools, better enrichment programs, appropriate family support services — are often uncoordinated, dispersed, duplicative, or absent. Working to bring them together, and identifying specific targeted outcomes that will make it possible to track success in achieving them, are laudable goals.

One thing that I find interesting is that the higher education focus is on two years of post-graduate study. While this is clearly an improvement over zero years, it seems like a less ambitious goal than others (for example, raising the high school graduation rate to 75% by 2017). While many two-year programs, including credential and certificate programs, vastly improve the opportunities for employment, and while even two years of college can make a difference in a young person’s life, a 4-year college degree should still be the gold standard, at least for those who, though under-resourced, are eager and motivated. (The current four-year college completion rate in the District is 9%, so targeting even 25% would be a dramatic improvement; the national average is 55.5%.) Don’t get me wrong: increasing the percentage of students who complete four years of college is one of RaiseDC’s goals; it just doesn’t appear to be a central goal of the initiative. It should be.

I was also struck by the fact that data collection that informs the work of RaiseDC comes from “government agencies and national data sources,” and does not include information from community-based nonprofits who are working to address these cradle to career issues. RaiseDC is totally open about this, and eager to learn “how many out-of-school youth are served by community-based education and employment training programs,” and which ones are the most effective. But that is why Catalogue nonprofits should join the appropriate Change Network and make their voices heard. Perhaps there will emerge a method of collecting information and best practices that might inform the work of this initiative.

Even more, an excellent outcome would be a clear idea of how organizations, including community-based nonprofits like those in the Catalogue, might work more effectively together — sharing information about what works, collaborating across disciplines, partnering with each other to add value to the work they already do.

It is a daunting task, indeed. But there is a lot at stake — and we can’t afford not to take up the challenge. Let’s keep our eye on the work that RaiseDC is poised to do and let’s think together about how we can help make it happen. What’s the alternative?

Catalogue nonprofits currently participating in RaiseDC Change Networks: AppleTree Institute, DC Appleseed, Capital Partners for Education, College and Career Connections, College Bound, For Love of Children, Higher Achievement, Hope and a Home, Mentors Inc, New Community for Children, New Futures, The Next Step Public Charter School, Posse Foundation, Reach for College!, Urban Alliance, Youth Build Public Charter School

In the News: State of the Nonprofit Sector

This week, the Nonprofit Finance Fund released its 2013 “State of the Sector Survey”, indicating that across the country “39% will change the main ways they raise and spend money” in the coming year. According to NFF CEO Anthony Bugg-Levine:

“Nonprofits are changing the way they do business because they have to: government funding is not returning to pre-recession levels, philanthropic dollars are limited, and demand for critical services has climbed dramatically. At the same time, 56 percent of nonprofits plan to increase the number of people served. That goal requires systemic change and innovation – both within the sector, and more broadly as a society that values justice, progress and economic opportunity.”

An NFF press release includes the following top-line findings from the survey:

Nonprofits need new funding sources and models.

  • 42% of survey respondents report that they do not have the right mix of financial resources to thrive and be effective in the next 3 years.
  • 1 in 4 nonprofits has 30 days or less cash-on-hand.
  • Over the next twelve months, 39% plan to change the main ways they raise and spend money.
  • 23% will seek funding other than grants or contracts, such as loans or investments.

Nonprofits that receive government funding face particular challenges:

  • Only 14% of nonprofits receiving state and local funding are paid for the full cost of services; just 17% of federal fund recipients receive full reimbursement. Partial reimbursements require additional funding to cover the growing gap as nonprofits serve more people.
  • Government is late to pay: Among those with state or local funding, just over 60% reported overdue government payments; over 50% reported late payments from the federal government.

Under these challenging conditions, many nonprofits are unable to meet growing need in their communities:

  • For the first time in the five years of the survey, more than half (52%) of respondents were unable to meet demand over the last year; 54% say they won’t be able to meet demand this year.
  • This represents a worrying trend; in 2009, 44% of nonprofits said they were unable to meet demand.
  • Jobs (59%) and housing (51%) continue to be top concerns for those in low-income communities.
  • 90% of respondents say financial conditions are as hard or harder than last year for their clients; this is actually a slight improvement from prior years’ outlook

Nonprofits are changing the way they do business to adapt to the new reality. In the past 12 months:

  • 49% have added or expanded programs or services; 17 percent reduced or eliminated programs or services.
  • 39% have collaborated with another organization to improve or increase services.
  • 39% have upgraded technology to improve organizational efficiency.
  • 36% engaged more closely with their board.

Within the Greater Washington region, the picture looks similar. Looking at a subsection of Catalogue-profile nonprofits operating in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., an overwhelming majority (86%) project their service demand will slightly or significantly increase in 2013, while 58% responded that they will not be able to meet that demand. This continues a trend of demand for services exceeding the supply seen in since at least 2008. Another concerning statistic — over 40% of surveyed nonprofits in the region indicated that they do not have the right mix of financial resources to “thrive and be effective” over the next three years.

The NFF discusses the result of this data – that nonprofits are forced to “innovate to increase efficiency, access new kinds of funding, evaluate impact, and work collectively to tackle social problems.” The question we, supporters of the nonprofit community, must ask ourselves is whether we’re creating an environment that fosters such innovation.

In a TED Talk earlier this month, Dan Pallotta challenged listeners to let nonprofits take risks and possibly fail, but have the (financial) freedom to truly innovate and search for new solutions to society’s intractable social problems. Such work takes a commitment on the part of the funding community to support innovative nonprofit leaders — and is the only way that the nonprofit and philanthropic communities will not only weather the current economic uncertainties, but thrive and create sustainable, positive change in coming years.

Guest Post: Women Thrive Worldwide

Women Thrive Worldwide works to create a world in which women and men work together as equals so that they, their families and their communities can thrive. They advocate for change at the U.S. and global levels so that women and men can share equally in the enjoyment of opportunities, economic prosperity, voice, and freedom from fear and violence. Their work is grounded in the realities of women living in poverty, partner with locally based organizations, and create powerful coalitions to advance the interests of the women and girls we serve.

What’s It Like to Really Live on $1 a Day? More Than 1 Billion People Can Tell You

Around the world, more than a billion people live in extreme poverty, defined as $1 or less per day. The majority of these people are women and children. They face challenges most of us can barely imagine.

Take just a few minutes to think about what you would have to give up to live on less than $1 a day.

Personally, I’d have to give up my coffee, eggs for breakfast, a mid-morning cup of tea, that bag of chips after lunch, lunch in general, my bus money to get to work — practically everything that gets me through the day. Maybe worst of all, I’d have to give up medicine that helps to keep my asthma under control.

To live on less than $1 a day, I’d have to give up nearly everything. And that’s exactly what Ritu Sharma, Co-founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, did on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, where she lived in a rural village with a woman, Prahansa, and her three beautiful nieces Chinthi, Kamala, and Manuka, on just $1 a day.

As the head of an organization that advocates for policies and programs that benefit women living in poverty worldwide, Ritu understands just how important it is to really know these women’s realities if she’s going be to a good advocate on their behalf. She also knows how critical it is for decision makers in Washington to hear these women’s voices. So she put her money where her mouth is and hopped a flight to Sri Lanka to live side-by-side with Prahansa, hoping to be able to understand — if only a little bit — what it’s like to live in extreme poverty.

Living with Prahansa, Ritu learned that she took the girls in when their mother left and their alcoholic father was sent to prison, and she now works every single day to make sure they’re cared for and living with family, rather than in an orphanage far away from home. To keep the family together, Prahansa’s sacrifices never end.

According to Ritu, “Prahansa stirred about 4 AM to go make her ‘rice cups’ to sell in the little market kiosk down the road from the bus stop. A teacup worth of yellow rice, a little chili and onion sauce, inside a baggie, and tied up in a neat little knot. Morning commuters would pass by, drop 10 rupees into the basket, grab a portable breakfast, and hop onto the bus into Galle. Prahansa might earn about 100-120 rupees that day, just under one dollar. Sometimes she sells them all and gets 130 rupees, if she’s lucky. Often, only a few sell. This is ALL the income she earns.”

As a result, everything from school supplies for the girls, public transportation, medical costs for Prahansa’s arthritis, clean water, household items, electricity, and clothes are up for negotiation. If she doesn’t sell enough cups, one — or most of these things — fall by the wayside.

This is just one woman’s story.

This year, Ritu will embark on two more trips to get just the slightest glimpse into what a lifetime on less than $1 a day feels like. She will meet women and their families in Honduras and Burkina Faso who, like too many, are in extreme poverty, and share their stories of survival and perseverance.

You can read the entire diary of Ritu’s trip to Sri Lanka here, read about her trip on the Huffington Post, and follow the “Living in Her Shoes: Three Countries on $1 a Day” campaign by visiting Women Thrive Worldwide’s website.


For more information on Women Thrive Worldwide, and similar Catalogue organizations, check out the following links to nonprofits working to improve the lives of women and girls (at home and abroad), as well as several Catalogue nonprofits primarily serving communities across the world.

The Power of Change

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to un-learn. We are filled with the Popular Wisdom of several centuries just past, and we are terrified to give it up. Patriotism means obedience, age means wisdom, woman means submission, black means inferior — these are preconceptions embedded so deeply in our thinking that we honestly may not know that they are there.

- Women’s rights advocate Gloria Steinem, born today in 1934. Beginning in the 1960s, Steinem played an essential role in empowering women and striving for equality for all American citizens.

Around Town: March 23-24

Spring has finally sprung (despite the temperatures that we have been experiencing), but stay warm and make some memories with these great opportunities happening with Catalogue nonprofits around town this weekend!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Grocery Deliveries to Low-Income Seniors in Columbia Heights

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
We Are Family will be delivering free grocery bags to over 250 low-income seniors in the Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Adams Morgan neighborhoods.
When: Saturday, March 23, 2013 (10:00 AM – 1:00 PM)
Where: Kelsey Apartments, 3322 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20010
Fee: no
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will be needed to help assemble and deliver grocery bags. Although a car is not needed, it is helpful. Some of our delivery routes can be done on foot, while others require a car.
Contact: Mark Anderson, (202) 487-8698

TAKE Dance

Dance Place
Casting a spotlight on Japan’s collectivist business culture, New York based TAKE Dance’s Salaryman takes audiences through a day in the life of over-worked Japanese executives. East meets West with TAKE’s trademark elegance in an athletic display of passion and humor from choreographer Takehiro Ueyama.
When: Saturday, March 23, 2013 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017
Fee: Yes, $22 General Admission; $17 Members, Seniors, Teachers and Artists; $10 College Students; $8 Children (17 and under)
Contact: Carolyn Kamrath, (202) 269-1608

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Scrabble Scramble

Literacy Council of Montgomery County
The Literacy Council of Montgomery County will host a SCRABBLE (R) SCRAMBLE to raise funds for the organization’s adult literacy programs. Four-player teams will compete to achieve the highest total score. Players will be able to purchase extra letters, buy a peek at a dictionary, and play cooperatively with other team members. Prizes will be awarded to the three top scoring teams. Dinner is included, along with a cash bar.
When: Sunday, March 24, 2013 (6:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Where: Manor Country Club, 14901 Carrolton Road, Rockville, MD 20853
Fee: Yes, $250 for a table of four
Contact: Marty Stephens, (301) 610-0030 ext 202

Guest Post: Calvary Women’s Services

Today, Calvary Women’s Services provides transitional housing and significant support for 35 women a year: healthy meals, education and job readiness programs, mental health and addiction recovery services, life skills classes, and a sisterhood of support. Some women go on to Sister Circle, a permanent housing facility for women with a history of addiction; 15 work toward independent living at Pathways, the only transitional housing program in the District for homeless women with mental illness. Follow-up services ensure that graduates stay healthy and on track in their transition to independent living.

The following post comes from Calvary’s blog – check it out and learn about a great way to give back to the community through financial support. This post was written by Megan Gamble, a Development Associate at Calvary who focuses on communications and events

Changes in GED Testing Create Barriers

The GED (General Education Development) test is going through a round of changes that aim to modernize and advance the testing process, but will ultimately create barriers for those most in need of its help.

The GED tests were first created in 1942 to help returning World War II veterans transition back into civilian life; the test was later updated in 1978, 1988 and 2002 and has been taken by more than 18 million people looking to receive their high school credentials. Now, an update scheduled to begin January 2, 2014 will have far-reaching consequences for those who aspire to earn their GED.

As announced at the end of last year, all GED tests are transitioning to computer only, and anyone who has started the test will lose any uncompleted sections and have to take them over again. In the District of Columbia, the cost for the test will also go up an estimated price of $120, increased from $50.

There has been a great effort to frame these changes as forward thinking and helpful to those taking the test, but this glosses over the point that many adults without adequate computer skills, who need their GED as the next step in life, will be intimidated and discouraged from taking the test. In fact, within the Message Guide that was put out by GED Testing Services themselves, there is the acknowledgment and warning that:

“if perceive finishing the GED test as a huge challenge, they will not pursue it.”

Women who come to Calvary Women’s Services have lost their housing, may not have consistent access to healthcare and likely have not had the same access to technology that others have. We were proud to open a computer lab within our program expansion to address the later, but technology skills don’t come naturally to everyone, and a period of learning and adjustment is to be expected. Not to mention the fact that learning an entirely new process of doing something is often not a top priority for someone who is focusing on making progress with her housing, her health or her income.

When the women at Calvary set their personal goals and start to takes steps to achieve them, many of them aspire to earn their GED. Extra barriers between eager individuals and their chances for advancement will only discourage and hinder women’s opportunities to move forward and take control of their lives.

Thanks to Academy of Hope for providing resources on the GED testing changes.

Please join the conversation and share your stories of working with adult education and GED preparation, as well as your thoughts on the new changes to GED testing procedure. Will this have a positive / negative / neutral impact on the populations with whom you work?


Changing the Philanthropic Landscape

Ever wonder exactly how the Catalogue got its start, how we’re related to the Harman Family Foundation, and what President Barbara Harman’s goal is for the Catalogue in the next five years? Last month, Harman sat down with the Association of Small Foundations’ CEO Henry Berman to talk about the Catalogue for Philanthropy — and the podcast was published on ASF’s website last week. Here are a few highlights of the interview, entitled “Creating a Piece of the Philanthropic Landscape”.

Barbara Harman started the Catalogue for Philanthropy back in 2003, after taking on a larger role at her family’s foundation. After spending more than 20 years teaching, researching, and writing as an English professor at Wellesley College, Harman felt the need to channel those talents in a new way — with a larger audience and a larger social impact. The foundation’s priorities revolved around the arts, and although the “big players” in the Washington region were easy to find (e.g. the Kennedy Center), Harman felt something was missing — as she calls it, the “landscape below the landscape”. It was difficult for the foundation to discover the cultural groups and arts-outreach organizations with a youth focus, serving under-served areas, or running programs in schools.

“For ordinary individuals wanting to be philanthropic, it was not so easy to find great community based nonprofits to whom they could give and a donation of any size could have an impact,” says Harman. And that was the seed for the Catalogue.

When it first began, the Catalogue for Philanthropy was a much different animal than it is today. Originally, the Catalogue was just catalogue — a print publication that focused on donors and lived under the umbrella of the Harman Family Foundation, with a few independent supporters. Harman soon learned that the nonprofits featured, while honored to be a part of the beautiful print publication, identified other needs that the Catalogue could meet. The initiative soon evolved into an independent organization, offering an ever-expanding array of workshops and marketing/communications resources to its network of nonprofits. One of the key benefits for the nonprofit community? The sense of community itself.

“The first group was excited to find themselves in the Catalogue and excited to find themselves in the company of others doing similar work to their own,” explained Harman — a welcome change of pace for the group of small, widespread, and typically isolated nonprofits and their staff.

Looking back now on her work over the past ten years, Harman says she “had no idea what a big deal it would turn out to be…I didn’t see myself as taking on a big leadership role at the time — I had an idea, the skills to implement it, and fell into it a little bit.” As the Catalogue and its reach began to grow, both Harman and her family foundation decided to make a commitment to the Catalogue and its growth. “We both decided that we’re up for this and want to continue to support this. We created something that we believe in and something with its own power and rate of speed with lots of community support, but the foundation still believes in it…When you’ve created something that you believe in, how do you step away from that? That’s not something I could ever do.”

Harman calls herself an “accidental leader”; Berman suggests that serendipitous might be a better descriptor. Either way, the Washington region is surely better off for the work that the Catalogue has done to increase the profile of small nonprofits in the area and highlight the importance of individual giving. And as for the future? Harman wants to fulfill the wishes of many Catalogue supporters who frequently tell her that there should be Catalogues across the country: “Within the next 3-5 years, I would like to see a Catalogue for Philanthropy in 3, 4, or 5 regions across the country.” Here’s to making that goal a reality.


You have to have faith to go barefooted — you don’t know what you might step on, what pain might come — but you keep on walking. And it makes you tough. Sometimes you skip and jump and run. Sometimes you get a thorn in your toe or trip over a limb, but there’s no turning back. Barefootin’ means getting mud between your toes and dancing on the water! Your spirit is in your feet, and your spirit can run free.

– American civil rights activist Unita Blackwell, born today in 1933. In 1976, Blackwell was the first African-American woman elected mayor in the state of Mississippi.

Around Town March 15-17

Here are some fun ideas to brighten up your weekend:

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Educational Theatre Company
Educational Theatre Company’s Main Stage Residency Program in conjunction with long-time partner, McKinley Elementary School, presents the Pied Piper of Hamelin, toe tapping, musical journey. The play is an original musical production created and performed by children in grades 2-5 over the course of eight weeks.
When: Friday March 15, 2013 (7:00 PM)
Where: 1030 N. McKinley Road, Arlington, VA 22205
Fee: no

Grocery Deliveries to Low-Income Seniors in North Capitol/Shaw

We Are Family Senior Outreach Network
We Are Family will be delivering groceries to over 250 low-income seniors in the North Capitol and Shaw neighborhoods.
When: Sat March 16, 2013 (10:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
Where: Metropolitan Community Church, 474 Ridge St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee: No
Volunteer Info: Volunteers will help assemble and deliver grocery bags to low-income seniors. Although a car is not needed, it is helpful.
Contact: Mark Andersen, (202) 487-8698

Dance Exchange

Dance Place
Under Cassie Meador’s artistic direction, Dance Exchange’s multimedia performance How To Lose a Mountain channels stories of collaborators and communities to reveal the distance between our resources and their sources. More than 500 miles in the making, from Washington, DC, to West Virginia, a trip to the mountains becomes an exploration of self and a shedding of presumptions. Funded in part by the NEA and the NPN.
When: Sun March 17, 2013 (7:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th Street NE, Was, DC 20017
Fee: yes $22 General Admission; $17 Members, Seniors, Teachers and Artists; $10 College Students; $8 Children (17 and under)
Contact: Carolyn Kamrath, (202) 269-1608