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Around Town: June 1-2

We have a hot weekend ahead of us, DC metro! Looking for a place to stay cool while still having a great time? Check out closing weekend of Constellation Theatre Company‘s Gilgamesh. Washingtonian Magazine said, “Constellation Theatre’s Gilgamesh is visually and aurally arresting,” and The Maryland Theatre Guide raved, “This world premiere of Gilgamesh must be seen, and heard, and witnessed. It will leave you lingering with wonder.” Don’t let these reviews do all of the talking–grab your tickets to see Gilgamesh and experience it this weekend before it’s gone!


Constellation Theatre Company
Closing night of Gilgamesh. The show runs from May 2 – June 2, 2013. Part god and part man, King Gilgamesh races the sun & journeys to the ends of the earth on his epic quest for immortality.
When: Saturday, June 1, 2013 (2:00 PM and 8:00 PM) and Sunday, June 2, 2013 (2:00 PM)
Where: at Source, 1835 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Fee? yes – tickets start at $25.
Contact: Lindsey, (202) 204-7741
For more information: click here

Do More 24

by Madeline Josef, Catalogue Intern

Giving. We do it every day; some of us give our time, some of us give our money (and some do both!). Some pick larger multi-focused or international organizations, others pick smaller charities with a more local scope. At the Catalogue, we are especially supportive of these local giving efforts. “Give Where You Live,” our guiding mantra, kind of sums this idea up; we are proud to partner with local charities so that giving has a real and marked effect on different DC communities. Part of this partnership includes working with the United Way, and we are excited to be a community sponsor of their current campaign, Do More 24!

Do More 24 is an effort by the United Way of the National Capital Area to encourage giving to a huge array of local charities in one single day. The UWNCA has created a searchable platform to match up potential donors with charities that appeal to their interests and passions, organized into different areas of impact (education, health, arts and culture, etc.). Each registered charity can create their own page with descriptions, links, videos, and a wish list of what different amounts of monetary gifts could tangibly give to their organization. The donation portal is now open, and charities can update their pages with real-time donation counts.

While the focus on Do More 24 is on how much charities can give in one day, donors can give right now, continuing until 10 days after the actual event on June 6th. The idea of the “one day” concept is to illustrate the positive influence we have on others in our community and how together in one day we can create real, local change. Do More 24 will show the power of our collective giving, using philanthropy to bring people together and show even the minimum donation of $10 makes a difference.

At the Catalogue, we are proud to announce that many of our charities, current and alums, are participating in Do More 24, which is only a week away! Carpenter’s Shelter, a Catalogue nonprofit from 2009-2010 and recent runner-up, has a detailed and interactive page on the Do More 24 website explaining their goals and mission. The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, another member of the Catalogue family, also has a fascinating page full of information about their organization- and they have already raised over $150 dollars! Joy of Motion Dance Center, another 2009-2010 charity, has a great page and unique mission: to use the joy of dance to appeal to the youngest and oldest members of our community (as well as everyone in between) with their specially-tailored programs. Again, these are just a few of our nonprofits who are participating- be sure to check out the pages of Five Talents, Rachael’s Women Center, Shelter House, and the pages of our NEW CLASS of amazing nonprofits 2013-2014, including Reach, Inc, and the DC Diaper Bank, among many others!

On the day of giving itself – June 6, one week from today – there will also be a multitude of fundraising events, many from Catalogue-vetted charities. Stop by the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts on U Street to complete work on their Healing Retreat Nook. Safe Shores will be hosting a happy hour with free refreshments and live jazz at 1776. Turning the Page will be throwing a wine and cheese-filled artwork exhibition at GWU, and Encore will have a free performance at froyo haven Tutti Frutti in Arlington. Hospice Caring will also be hosting a day-long “Coffee for a Cause” event, featuring free java and live music, at the Music Cafe in Damascus. Go to any of these events to support your local charities and to see in real time the power of group giving.

Together, we can make a difference, even in just one day; every dollar counts. Don’t forget, June 6th will be a great day to give where you live!

In the News…

This week’s news articles have a specific focus on education funding, initiatives, and events right here in the District. Education is really important to us here in the Catalogue, so be sure to browse our participating nonprofits who focus on improving education daily for kids throughout the greater Washington area!

National Spelling Bee kicks off with a new twist – vocabulary tests (Washington Post) Tomorrow begins the 86th Annual National Spelling Bee, which is taking place right here in Washington, DC, in National Harbor. This event promotes literacy and the power of words through rounds of intensely competitive play. In this event, televised on ESPN, the winner, who could be anywhere from 8 to 14 years old, will walk away with a bevy of prizes, including a cool $30,000. This year, the competition is so strong that an additional ‘definition’ section has been added to online preliminary examinations, where spellers are asked to not just spell the word but to explain its meaning.

DC City Council Approves FY2014 Budget (Washington Examiner, Washington Post, DC Fair Budget Coalition) Last week’s new budget approval by the DC City Council left many pleasantly surprised by the speedy (in the political world) results. Under new Chairman of the Council Mendelson, Mayor Gray’s “One City Fund” became the “Innovation Fund”, but still allocated $15 million for competitive non-profit grants. While the City Council has received some criticism for its budget allocation (for example, of the record-high budget growth of 6% from last year, only 1% of the growth was added to the Education budget), new public transportation and affordable transportation funding are certainly a step in the right direction.

Strawberries and Salad greens Day is TODAY (District of Columbia website) Today, local public school students will receive a very special treat at lunch: local salad greens and fresh strawberries from farms right around the DC-VA-MD area. In this relatively new initiative, the DC Education Committee seeks to educate both about nutrition and about the importance of eating locally. Through this interactive and tasty event, young students all over the District will get a great education in healthy and local food choices.

Whereby The Great Human Family Can Live in Peace

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

- Julia Ward Howe, American writer, activist, suffragist, pacifist and abolitionist, was born this day in New York City, 1819, 194 years ago. In addition to penning to words to the famous Civil War anthem “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Howe dedicated her life after the Civil War to the causes of abolition, equality, and pacifism. She was one of the originators of the concept of Mother’s Day, which in her mind would be a day of congress across all nations for all women who have suffered from the fighting of their husbands and sons, advocating for a stop to violence. Howe’s truth is still marching on.

Telling a Powerful Story

Individual donors make up approximately 75% of the donating public, a pretty important fact for nonprofits to keep in mind when they are telling their stories to others – to the individual donor him or herself (women make up more of that 75% than do men), to the website visitor, to the newsletter reader, to the thank you note recipient, to the reporter. But as demonstrating one’s impact, proving one’s financial transparency, and clarifying one’s ROI become ever more important, it’s easy to let the plain business of telling the story get lost.

That would be a shame. While donors do indeed want to know that nonprofits are doing important work, and doing it with excellence and impact, and while they absolutely want to know that charities are financially sustainable and sound (this is why the Catalogue’s vetting process is one of our most valuable assets), the majority of donors is still, I would argue, waiting to be moved, waiting to hear or read something that resonates personally, waiting to learn where the need is and where it is best being met.

This is why – perhaps more impulsively than is good for us – we are willing to text away our bank accounts in the face of a disaster, sometimes without even knowing where our money is going. (Personally, I don’t think this is a good thing, though I am sure the impulse behind it is good; we should all know to what use our funds will be put before we give them away.) We see the need – often in powerful images, as we did last month in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and as we have in recent days in the wake of the terrible tornadoes in the Midwest. (For those who want to do their research and decide where best to give, take a look at this list of disaster relief organizations working in Oklahoma.) The stunning images of devastation, whole towns wiped out in seconds, one house standing here while its neighbor is gone there, and the accounts told by survivors – all these speak powerfully to the painful loss of those whose friends and family members died, and the needs of those who must remake their lives in the aftermath of this terrible disaster.

Stories of real need move us, and there are many such stories to be told – some more immediate and dramatic than others, and…many more than there should be. The problem is, we aren’t always very good tellers. We get bogged down in our own internal languages – jargon of the trade, insider talk that only our colleagues understand, a too-numerical view of what “impact” means. We need to speak to each other in a human voice, help the reader understand what the real need is that we are meeting and why it deserves the reader’s attention. We need to describe what we are doing to meet the need in a way that conveys important information that is still compelling and coherent (not a list of seemingly unrelated programs). We need to talk about impact – through powerful metrics if we have them, but in narratives if we don’t. We need to convey our vision of the future in a way that is inspirational and aspirational. And we need to communicate to donors, directly or indirectly, how a contribution to our cause will make a genuine difference.

Above all, we need to speak in a human language, a human voice – individual to individual, person to person, as members of one human community. In fact, helping readers to see that we are indeed members of a shared community is perhaps the best way to help them see the power and importance of joining the cause.

Barbara Harman gave a version of this talk at the America’s Charities Members’ Meeting on May 21, 2013.

Equalizing Education

Last week, I came across an interesting article in Greater Greater Education, which considered the unintentional effects of emphasizing equality (and not necessarily equity) in education. Setting aside the conversation about whether our country’s attempts at providing an “equal education” are, in fact, equal, the author offers thought-provoking commentary on the philosophical and pragmatic tensions of a education focused on college preparation versus a more practical post-graduate path (equality vs adequacy).

While not offering a solution to this inherent conflict, the piece considers why equality in education is failing many of our public school students and not preparing them for the realities of working life:

…Only 32% of young adults complete an undergraduate degree by 29, meaning the vast majority of high school students need preparation for a decade or more of life without any further education. These students…need classes that prepare them to navigate government programs, secure employment, understand the contracts they sign, nurture relationships and build a family. They need to be taught about the structure of the US workforce, and what the requirements are on paper and in practice to advance in different industries. They need to be taught consumer financial skills.

On the other hand, free education is seen as the “great equalizer” in American society – the only opportunity equally afforded to all children regardless of race, class, gender, ancestry, disability, or any other status. Many first-generation college-bound students only learn about opportunities to climb the ladder from that one dedicated teacher or guidance counselor at school. Ideally, any student who is presented with these opportunities and encouraged enough would pursue the college dream, succeed, graduate, and provide a strong and supportive environment for her children to do the same. At least in theory, this is how marginalized and disadvantaged groups gain a greater level of wealth, power, and status within society.

In practice, many of us know this isn’t true. Public education has existed in this country for over 150 years, and yet the system has promoted institutionalized biases for much of that time – against women, minorities, and immigrants, among other groups. How do we recognize the failings in our current system of public education, while preserving its idealistic integrity, and equitably meet the needs of all students?

The nonprofit community has stepped up to tackle this challenge, providing educational enrichment programs that try to cover the spectrum of students’ needs. College prep nonprofits, like Collegiate Directions Inc, identify students who have high potential for success in college and offer them intensive support, beyond what public school can provide. The results are impressive, according to a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post:

Since we began in 2005, 98 percent of our scholars have graduated from four-year colleges within six years, compared with only 11 percent of low-income, first-generation students nationally, according to a 2008 Pell study. Our scholars exemplify how earlier intervention, personal advising and academic support are essential to finding, gaining admittance to and succeeding in a best-fit college.

Other nonprofits offer nontraditional high school programs that address head-on the reality that many students will face after graduation. For example, Youth Build Public Charter School prepares students for post-secondary education and the workplace by offering, in English and Spanish, academic, vocational and workforce development programs. The D.C. Students Construction Trades Foundation offers students the opportunity to explore a broad range of careers in the building industry and gain experience in those fields through a hybrid high school program.

As important as it is to strive towards the lofty goals of our public education system, it’s more of an injustice to our diverse student population today to ignore their realities. That doesn’t make the dilemma any less uncomfortable to face. We’re faced with providing a band-aid solution to overall economic inequality while our society figures out how to heal the deeper wounds. Ultimately, the patient can’t survive without either the band-aid or the surgery – something we shouldn’t forget when providing immediate solutions to education inequality in the United States.

Dreams of Yesterday

Living in dreams of yesterday, we find ourselves still dreaming of impossible future conquests.

-Charles Lindbergh, who 86 years ago today began the world’s first transatlantic flight in 1927. For this historic exploit, Lindbergh was awarded the Medal of Honor and remains an American hero for all generations for pushing boundaries and fearlessly exploring the unknown.

Around Town: May 18-19

If you are looking for a fun way to learn, make a difference, and get out of the house this weekend, these Catalogue nonprofits are waiting for you! See what is in store for the DC Metro area this weekend on Around Town. Heading to one of these events? Let us know–we would love to hear about it:

Saturday, May 18, 2013

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: Saturday, May 18, 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
For more information: click here

LAMB 10th Anniversary Fiesta & Auction

Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School
Join us in celebrating LAMB’s 10th anniversary at the Fiesta & Auction! Food, music, silent auction & live auction, including items for many fabulous restaurants, hotels, and local businesses. Venga a disfrutar!
When: Saturday, May 18, 2013 (6:00 PM – 10:00 PM)
Where: Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School, 1375 Missouri Ave. NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20011
Fee? yes $35 in advance; $45 at the door
Contact: Colleen Renk or Iyon Rosario, (202) 726-6200
For more information: click here

The Big 33: The World’s Most Important Dinner Party

A Wider Circle
Come see why Zagat calls 9159 Brookville Road one of the finest dining establishments in town. Okay, not really, but come see – and share – what A Wider Circle is all about! It only costs A Wider Circle $33 to provide a child or adult with all of his or her basic need items – from beds and dressers to sheets, towels, dishes, pots, pans, and much, much more! $33 is only a suggested donation. We invite you to come on out, share in some great food, hear about the work, and enjoy a wonderful dinner party. Have questions or want to RSVP? Call 301-608-3504 or email All are welcome, so please feel free to share this invitation with friends, family members, neighborhood listservs, or anyone who may be interested.
When: Saturday, May 18, 2013 (7:00 PM)
Where: A Wider Circle’s Center for Community Service, 9159 Brookville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Fee? no
Contact: Erin Fiaschetti, (301) 608-3504
For more information: click here

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dance Place
DC based Christopher K. Morgan & Artists joins forces with NY based skybetter and associates for an evening of contemporary dance employing sinuous and abstract movement combined with detailed musicality. Performance includes Inclement Weather, choreographed by Sydney Skybetter, centering on the hallucinogenic memory of a beloved, lost grandmother. Co-presented by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
When: Sunday, May 19, 2013 (7:00 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
For more information: click here


Fighting to Read

Over the past few weeks, we’ve written about the importance of the DC One City fund as a support for the nonprofit sector (see posts here and here). At the same time, adult education advocates have waged another local budget battle over funding for the Pathways to Adult Literacy Fund. Yesterday, Catalogue nonprofit Academy of Hope Executive Director Lecester Johnson joined Community Foundation for the National Capital Region President Terri Lee Freeman to publish an op-ed in the Washington Post about this issue.

Johnson and Freeman tell the stories of Academy of Hope students who have changed their lives by completing a GED program. They also share compelling reasons for why adult literacy is so crucial – not only in general, but specifically in the District of Columbia:

More than 64,000 D.C. adults lack a high school credential. With limited basic math, reading and digital literacy skills, these residents have difficulty following written instructions, completing paperwork, communicating effectively with colleagues or helping their children with homework. This undermines the job security of workers, the economic viability of local businesses and the well-being of families…

Literacy is one of those root problems that, if addressed with serious investments, will pay off in multiple ways. For instance, earning a diploma is not only good for adult students; it also is good for their children. Parents with strong literacy skills can better help their children do homework, study and succeed in school. And young adults whose parents have a high school diploma are more likely to complete high school than are those whose parents do not, according to a 2012 Urban Institute report.

The DC City Council is still making decisions on the FY2014 budget. You can read more about current hearing and decisions online here, and lend support to those fighting for adult literacy programs here.