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Meet the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s New Staff (But Familiar Faces)

The Catalogue for Philanthropy team has grown! Last month, two of the Catalogue’s interns were promoted to full-time staff members. Laura Rosenbaum first joined the Catalogue as a Learning Commons Intern in June 2018 before becoming the Nonprofit Programs Coordinator. Nancy Erickson began as a Nonprofit Programs Intern in October 2018 and is now joining the team as the Communications Coordinator. The following is an interview with the two newest team members of the Catalogue to help you get to know them a bit better, and why they chose to stay at the Catalogue.

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Tell us about how you first joined Catalogue for Philanthropy.

Laura: My sister had a friend from college who knew someone who knew Matt. At some point during my internship search Matt reached out to me and from there it’s been history. I wasn’t initially searching in the nonprofit space, but after coming across the Catalogue I was immediately intrigued. I’m so happy I took a leap of faith and trusted my gut!

Nancy: I had just moved to the DC area to start my MPA program at American University. While searching for internships, I noticed something called “Catalogue for Philanthropy” on an online job board. At the time I had mostly been interested in going after international development work but decided to apply to the Catalogue too out of curiosity. After interviewing me for the role, Matt gave me a copy of my very own print Catalogue. On the metro home, I remember being impressed by how professional and beautiful it was as I flipped through its pages. Imagine my delight to be offered the position!

Catalogues!

What was your internship experience like?

Laura: I mostly did secondary research about the nonprofit space and best practices to help inform our professional development efforts. After compiling this research, I would work directly with Matt to make new workshops to use with our nonprofit network. Throughout the summer Matt and I completed five workshops. I also did other “odd jobs” like tracking attendance or doing evaluation analysis. The last big project I worked on over the summer involved helping Matt launch our Learning Commons portal. One of the big pieces featured on the portal is the short three to four-minute “how-to” videos. I did a lot of scriptwriting for the videos and Matt and I spent a week in the studio filming. After the summer, I went back to finish my senior year of college and I interned remotely during the year.

Nancy: Initially the focus of my internship was like Laura’s — research and writing for Learning Commons workshops and other various projects. However, my position slowly expanded both in scope and time as I committed more of myself to the Catalogue mission. The focus of my role first began shifting the day I was asked to make a social media graphic. The team was so impressed with what I came up with that I started getting more requests for visual design, including the task of editing the videos which Laura had filmed the previous summer. The videos have been a ton of fun — a real creative challenge. As I grew in my abilities and confidence, I knew that the Catalogue valued my professional development and took pride in their internship program.

What did working at the Catalogue teach you?

Laura: Wow, honestly so much. I didn’t know a lot about the nonprofit space before interning at the Catalogue so doing secondary research inundated me with knowledge from the get-go. I learned a lot from Matt specifically–like best practices for branding and teaching, scriptwriting, and the ins and outs of “how to be scrappy.” The Catalogue also taught me what it’s like to work from the heart. I know it sounds super cheesy, but it’s true. Everyone at the Catalogue works hard because we all care. I would say the Catalogue taught me how to love what I do.

Nancy: First and foremost, the nonprofit sector! Like Laura, I hadn’t known very much about it prior to joining the team; I still remember innocently asking Matt early on in my internship “What’s a board of directors?” But since then I have learned so much, in big part thanks to the Learning Commons workshops. As an intern, I was responsible for attending and staffing these workshops, which meant that I essentially got to learn about nonprofit management best practices while on the job! Additionally, the Catalogue has invested significant time and resources in my technical abilities, such as photo editing, graphic design, illustration tools, and video software.

Why did you want to expand your role at the Catalogue?

Laura: I had a great experience as an intern and felt like I instantly clicked with the team. I mostly worked with Matt last summer and he trained me on basically everything I did. I knew once Matt and Aaron were promoted to Co-Executive Directors, the Catalogue was only going to grow in terms of our impact and the strength of our team. I’m not only excited about the work itself, but I really enjoy who I get to work with which I think is important to be effective at a job. I genuinely enjoyed coming into work every day last summer because I felt like I had a real impact and I loved learning more about the nonprofit space. I found that the Catalogue had such a unique mission and I’m thrilled to be able to work full-time now!

Nancy: The Catalogue has a warm and open work culture that has made coming to work a real pleasure. I never felt like “just an intern” –I felt like a valued and respected member of the team. My ideas and contributions were taken seriously and utilized. As I felt the end of my internship date coming closer, I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave just yet. I had become emotionally invested in my ongoing projects and the future of the Catalogue. Having developed a role which provided creative freedom and challenges, I knew that I still had more ideas to contribute to the Catalogue.

New Staff

What are you looking forward to in your new role?

Laura: As an intern, I did a lot of behind the scenes work. I’m really looking forward to getting to know our nonprofits better and interacting more face-to-face with everyone. I’m also excited to be the point-person for Giving Tuesday. I know it’s a big project, but I think it has a lot of potential to expand and I’m excited to work with Nancy on it too. I also know there are a plethora of projects and data to look into at the Catalogue and I’m ready to get “knee-deep” in everything!

Nancy: I’m also looking forward to working with Laura! It’s funny that we overlapped as Catalogue interns for 9 months without ever actually meeting (because she was tele-interning at the time from Missouri.) I’m also looking forward to finding more opportunities to visit our nonprofit partners in person. My goal is to cultivate new ways to showcase them by volunteering, attending events, and visiting their work in action so that I can then share via blogging and photography. I’m so excited for the road ahead!

Tell us one fun fact about you!

Laura: I really enjoy camping and hiking. I’m a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) alum and I spent a month packrafting and hiking in Alaska a few summers ago!

Laura Camping

Nancy: Once, I went rappelling off the side of a cliff in South Africa. I screamed my head off, then I paused to smile for the camera, and then I continued screaming all the way down. It was terrifying fun!

Nancy Rappelling

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator, and Laura Rosenbaum, Nonprofit Programs Coordinator, at Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington

The Catalogue has run out of interns…because they have all been promoted! That is why the Catalogue is now hiring a new Nonprofit Management Intern to join our team to support our programming, communications, and fundraising. You can read more about this position here. We hope that our next intern has as rewarding an experience as Laura and Nancy did!

Helping Hands and Happy Hearts

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, D.C. (RMHCDC) has a mission that never fails to touch hearts. RMHCDC exists to keep families together while a child receives specialized medical treatment at a hospital that’s far away from home. The ability of an organization to step up when families –parents, babies, siblings– are at their most vulnerable serves a need that can only be fully met through the effort of a group with the warmth and determination of this charity.

My first exposure to RMHCDC came from my proximity to the DC House while attending architectural graduate school and later living in the Brookland neighborhood in Northeast DC, where the House is located. I’ve enjoyed volunteering as a Guest Chef with friends, housemates and most recently colleagues, making dinner for the families staying at the House. Now, I’m excited to share the details of a new and recent opportunity–using my professional skill to give back to local Ronald McDonald Houses.

Above: HKS employees, including Sepanski (top left), volunteer as Guest Chefs during the HKS annual Month of Service

Above: HKS employees, including Sepanski (top left), volunteer as Guest Chefs during the HKS annual Month of Service

Keeping families in our community near the care they need

RMHCDC asks for a donation of $15 a night, but families are never turned away for financial reasons. Wanting a family to be able to simply focus on the care their child’s needs, RMHCDC removes the other primary burdens of lodging, food, and logistics during a stressful time.

It’s a need that is continually growing for RMHCDC, as hospitals in the DC area increase their cutting-edge treatment options and the number of specialized medical staff, drawing more and more families to the area from around the country. Since opening its doors 39 years ago, RMHCDC has shared more than 208,738 nights with over 20,000 families.

Growing Need to Help More Families

Virginia

The Ronald McDonald House of Northern Virginia currently offers eight guestrooms for families, but RMHC Global has projected a need for 25 guestrooms through the end of 2023.Families who stay here are most often first-time parents whose baby is receiving extended care at INOVA Fairfax Hospital’s and Georgetown University Hospital’s NICU (newborn intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit).

Over the two-year time period between 2017-2018, this House was unable to help 52 families in need due to lack of available space.

Washington, DC

While the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C. is larger, with 25 guestrooms, growing demand necessitates 38 rooms and plans to expand to 42 rooms to accommodate future need. Families at this House usually have a child undergoing chemotherapy or receiving an organ transplant at Sibley Hospital or Children’s National Medical Center.

In 2018, the DC House was forced to turn away 21 families due to a room shortage.

To say there is an immediate need for more guestrooms would be an understatement.

Driving change through design

Working for architecture firm HKS and helping design resorts, office buildings, hospitals and sports training facilities, I could not have imagined that I would have an opportunity to put my skills to work on a project that has a profound impact on both my community and RMHCDC families.

Within HKS, there is a small but robust and well-organized committee that steers Citizen HKS (CHKS), a studio of sorts that designs for the underserved or organizations that bring a significant positive impact to underserved communities. Citizen HKS is now in its fifth year of service, and when it came along five years into my tenure with HKS, its mission immediately resonated with me. I’d been looking for a way to productively express my gratitude for the character, relationships, and purpose that I continue to develop at HKS and to do something professionally to help bridge the wealth gap in society.

It was both professionally rewarding and personally meaningful when all these things aligned to help RMHCDC through the first phase of an expansion effort to increase their capacity to serve families with sick children.

It wasn’t hard to find professional partners to help Citizen HKS in this effort. Davis Construction and Interface Engineering very quickly accepted the challenge. Roger Frechette, principal at Interface and member of the project team, remembered when his own first-born child required care for a full year after birth at INOVA Fairfax Hospital. Frechette and his wife fortunately lived in the area, but Frechette understands the value that the Houses provide to families who aren’t local and find themselves in a similar situation.

Above: Members of the RMHCDC Expansion Project Team, including Frechette (back row, third from right), RMHCDC CEO Karen Torres (back row, second from right), and Sepanski (front, next to Ronald McDonald)

Above: Members of the RMHCDC Expansion Project Team, including Frechette (back row, third from right), RMHCDC CEO Karen Torres (back row, second from right), and Sepanski (front, next to Ronald McDonald)

Thanks to an unprecedented donation from WeWork of donated office space for the administrative staff, otherwise officed at the DC and NoVa Houses, the project team has much more square footage to work with to add more guestrooms to the current Houses.

Lifting families in need

The expanded capacity allows us to add 8 more guestrooms within the current footprint of the DC House and 16 more guestrooms to the NoVa House, tripling its capacity, enabled in part by a second-floor addition to the current guest wing. Layout adjustments to primary spaces at both Houses improve operational efficiency.

The initial expansion at both Houses will help increase service by 27%-36%.

The mechanical engineers’ design will increase the level of thermal comfort and performance of the DC House as well. The current renovation scope has a total estimated cost of over $4 million and will involve the generosity of numerous other organizations and manufacturers to make it a reality.

Estimated completion of this first expansion phase is in the spring and late summer of 2020 for the DC and Northern Virginia Houses, respectively. Interior renderings are under development this summer, and final image will be shared before construction begins this fall.

Written by Sara Sepanski, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Architectural Designer at HKS

A Day in the Volunteer Life: Friendship Place

Volunteering can happen anywhere, from multiple blocks of an Anacostia neighborhood to an expansive Virginia warehouse. Or, a single closet. Specifically, the Clothes Closet of Friendship Place, where I recently volunteered.

Friendship Place 5

Friendship Place has been a nonprofit partner of Catalogue for Philanthropy since 2005. They provide holistic support to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness in the greater DC region. After signing up to volunteer on their website, I was contacted by their friendly Community Engagement Manager to find a position best suited for my interests.

She connected me with their AimHire Job Placement program. In 2018, AimHire helped 77 people gain employment with an average hourly wage of $14.26 Most of the volunteers for AimHire are professionals who provide pro bono services such as finding job placements, reviewing resumes, mentoring, and performing mock interviews. Since I was looking for a one-time experience, she recommended that I help out in the Clothes Closet.

The Clothes Closet provides professional and high quality clothes and accessories, either for interview purposes or just everyday wear. Although during my shift I heard Friendship Place staff and volunteers use the terms “customers” and “sell,” the Closet is actually a completely free resource for those in need with no strings attached. All of the items are donated, many of which are dry-cleaned by their donors beforehand. How considerate!

Friendship Place 3

After arriving, I met my two fellow volunteers, Sylvia and Janice. They are both retirees and resident experts of the Clothes Closet. Once a week they come to sort through donations, organize the layout, and even occasionally provide advice to customers on which tie matches which shirt. Prior to them joining the Friendship Place team, the closet’s upkeep had been “haphazard” because there had not been a consistent volunteer assigned to it. But now it is methodically and consistently run by reliable volunteers with a keen eye for fashion and orderliness.

Friendship Place 2

For the next two hours, the three of us got to know each other while working elbow to elbow in the closet. Clearly, I was the resident amateur. Sylvia and Janice are experts in identifying designer labels; I couldn’t tell you Dolce from Gabbana. Sylvia and Janice have mastered the art of folding and hanging to avoid wrinkles; I don’t own an iron.

One of my tasks was to sort the sizes of the women’s shirts and pants. In the true spirit of nonprofit ingenuity, we MacGyvered scissors, a sharpie, and a used manila folder to create makeshift signs to make it easier for customers to find the right fit. Sidenote: it turns out that a Chico’s pants size 2.5 is really a US size 14? Confusing.

Friendship Place 4

People in the DMV are so well-dressed that donations to the closet were incredibly high quality. (One of the participating donors of the closet is a local law firm.) How wonderful that people who need a leg up in finding a job can find such a great local resource that provides them with dignity and style.

I thought it was lovely how two veteran volunteers take the time out of their week to create a thoughtful, tasteful, and welcoming atmosphere to the Closet. Sylvia even made the delightful sign on the outside door to give it a “boutique” feel. Volunteering for Friendship Place has given them a creative outlet, an opportunity to give back to their neighborhood (they both live close by), and a chance to socialize with each other and with customers. It was wonderful to meet them and learn more about a trusted local nonprofit’s programming.

Friendship Place 1

If you’re interested in volunteering for Friendship Place, they have a wide variety of programs and opportunities. By signing up online and telling them your skillset and schedule, you too can help them end homelessness in DC.

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of Catalogue for Philanthropy

Carpenter’s Shelter: Expanding Opportunities with Innovative Partnerships

In the nonprofit world, you get used to making do. The holiday party is a no-frills potluck in the conference room. The office computers are long past their prime. The 21-year-old college intern is the technology consultant you’ve been waiting for.

As a group, we’re comfortable with these compromises. With limited funding sources and seemingly endless needs, this is the price of prioritizing our mission above all else. Funding goes to those we serve.

But what happens when resources feel so scarce that our organizations struggle to grow? When we’re only able to do the bare minimum for those who need so much more?

With over thirty years of experience, Carpenter’s Shelter has learned that we can provide shelter day in and day out but without affordable housing, we’ll never have long-term solutions to homelessness. We needed to create more opportunities for our clients to succeed. But how?

For us, the way forward was partnership. After more than a decade of thoughtful planning, Carpenter’s Shelter partnered with the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) to redevelop our property, owned outright, on the north end of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Together, we drafted blueprints for a modern, multistory building with a 60-bed, purpose-built homeless shelter, 87 affordable apartments, and 10 permanent supportive housing units. When we complete construction in 2020, AHDC will own and operate the affordable apartments while we own and manage the shelter, run our programs, and provide wraparound services to the permanent supportive housing tenants living upstairs.

Carpenter's Shelter 1

In order to make this dream a reality, we needed to vacate our longtime location and make way for demolition. As the providers of critical services, we also needed to find a temporary facility that could sustain our residents, programs, staff, and volunteers during construction. Simply closing our doors for 18 to 24 months wasn’t an option. We had to think outside of the box and spend minimally to preserve funds for our brand new building. Where could we go?

Once again, the answer was partnership. After more than a year of what felt like wheel spinning, pieces of a plan began to come together. Our attempts to contact The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) finally landed, generating innovative conversations. As we talked, merging their business acumen with our nonprofit mission, ideas became action. Soon, we leased space in one of their properties, the largely vacant Landmark Mall, and retrofitted it to meet our needs. HHC was so enthusiastic about supporting their community that they waived base rent, leaving us to cover only our utilities and a portion of security, a shared building amenity.

Now, a year and half after connecting with HHC, emergency shelter residents eat their breakfast, do homework with their children, and plan for their futures in the Ladies’ Activewear section of a former Macy’s. Meanwhile, only six miles away, AHDC is beginning to lay the foundation of a building that will serve us and our community for decades to come.

This experience has taught us to think big and ignore the nagging voice inside that says, “That’s impossible!” Instead, we’ve learned to see every connection, every potential partnership, as a doorway to the possible. Carpenter’s Shelter may have had the initial vision and the land but we needed AHDC’s expertise and HHC’s openness to create something truly incredible. Now, we’re only a year away from returning to our forever home.

Nonprofit organizations are always called upon to do more with less. But sometimes, when belt tightening and compromising just isn’t enough, we have to do more…with others.

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Written by Shannon Steene, Executive Director of Carpenter’s Shelter

Carpenter's Shelter 2

Shannon Steene became the Executive Director of Carpenter’s Shelter in 2015. With over twenty years in the nonprofit industry, Mr. Steene leads overall operations at Carpenter’s Shelter and serves as the primary spokesperson in the broader community. Prior to leading Carpenter’s Shelter, Mr. Steene served on the staff team at Lutheran Services in America, leading the national nonprofit’s member engagement efforts with more than 300 health and human service organizations. Before that, he spent 13 years at Good Shepherd Housing & Family Services, an award winning homelessness prevention nonprofit in southeastern Fairfax County; he served as the Executive Director for nine years of his tenure.

Carpenter’s Shelter’s mission is to support the homeless to achieve sustainable independence through shelter, guidance, education, and advocacy. To learn more about their programs and the New Heights Redevelopment Project, please visit www.CarpentersShelter.org.