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Becoming Visible

Written by Tyler French

My work with Story Tapestries began in the summer 2018. I joined the team as a teaching assistant, supporting a visual artist to lead Neelsville Middle School students in Germantown, Maryland to design and create two murals for their school. One student in particular, “John,” stands out when I reflect on that summer program. John was incredibly quiet, didn’t engage with many of the other students, and never raised his hand when the group was asked a question. When we brought out the paints to start realizing our design, he worked silently on his corner. Cleaning spilled paint out of my hair (one of the tubes had exploded), I saw John working on his corner of the mural, intensely focused. I stopped and watched while he carefully applied the paint, blending from lavender to a deep purple that pulled me into the piece.

Story Tapestries Mural 1

I flashed back to my middle school self as I watched John paint. I recognized his shyness in myself. I recognized his inability to easily engage with his peers, his hesitancy to raise his hand even though he knew the answer to our questions. At the moment, another student was walking behind John, stopped, and asked, “How’d you do that?!” pointing to the gradient purples. From that moment, John became a consultant to other students’ mural sections. He helped others blend their paint, get a clean edge, and troubleshoot issues. I witnessed John become visible to himself, to matter.

Story Tapestries Mural 2

Story Tapestries is continuing to serve Neelsville Middle School students as the Lead Partner on a Trawick Foundation TeamUp Grant. Trawick started the TeamUp grants to promote collaboration among nonprofit partners, decrease duplication, and expand resources. Story Tapestries has the pleasure of collaborating with Aspire Counseling, Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County, and NAMI MC (all of whom are also Catalogue for Philanthropy partners). Our various programs at the school blend trauma-informed counseling and training, conflict resolution skill building, and arts integration programs for academic supports and social emotional growth. Story Tapestries sees the power artmaking has to open up youth to others and help them express their thoughts and feelings. Working alongside these other nonprofits, we are able to provide additional supports for youth who may have these experiences in our arts-based sessions, and may also benefit from other services including therapy and coaching.

Every time I visit Neelsville Middle School and pass that mural, I see another section of John’s handiwork that I hadn’t noticed before. I always pause and take a moment to remind myself what incredible power arts experiences have for students (and had for me, when I was John’s age). Working in tandem with these partners, I am excited to learn what impact our various programs and services will have for John and other students. As we move toward collecting data for a midyear report, we look forward to the opportunity to reflect with John and other students to start to evaluate not only the individual but also the collective impact of our programs.

If you would like to know more about Story Tapestries’ collaborative framework and the Neelsville mural, or connect about the Trawick Foundation supported collaboration at Neelsville Middle School, please don’t hesitate to email Development Director, Lorienne Beals, at lorienne@storytapestries.org.

Give Local: GivingTuesday 2019

Written by Nancy Erickson, Communications Coordinator of the Catalogue for Philanthropy

At the Catalogue for Philanthropy, we shine a light on the best small, local nonprofits all year-round. But we do a little extra on one especially important day of the year: GivingTuesday. This global day of philanthropy follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday — once people have finished all of their holiday shopping, they’re encouraged to then give back! GivingTuesday is a pretty big deal here at the Catalogue, to say the least.

Since grassroots nonprofits focus most of their limited resources on their direct programming, they may not have much left over for self-promotion. That’s where the Catalogue comes in. In addition to providing educational support to our nonprofit partners, we also promote and showcase their work to wider audiences. GivingTuesday is the perfect opportunity to share the incredible difference they’re accomplishing and we took full advantage of this global movement to amplify local giving.

We began to lay the groundwork for our GivingTuesday campaign months aheadoftime. We knew that one of our strategies would be to coordinate “in-person activation,” a way to energize online-giving through on-the-ground events. We reached out to businesses throughout the DC metropolitan area, encouraging them to get involved through hosting an event, donating funds, or promoting giving through their networks. We even created a helpful one-pager to hand out.

GT19 One-Pager

 

In addition to multiple businesses agreeing to post GivingTuesday flyers, Pacers Navy Yard donated a generous runner’s dream gift bag and CorePower donated a month of unlimited yoga for our GivingTuesday happy hour door prizes! One of the most exciting collaborations was with Craft Beer Cellar. They initiated the idea of a Give a Can – Get a Can food drive; for every can of food that a person donated to their shop, they would receive in exchange a can of beer! The cans of food were donated to three Catalogue nonprofits: Common Threads in DC, Nourish Now in Maryland, and Spend Yourself Food Pantry in Virginia. Beer cans were donated by local breweries DC Brau Brewing, Manor Hill Brewing in Maryland, and Old Ox Brewery in Virginia. As the official GivingTuesday partner for the Greater Washington region, we knew that we needed to work hard to stand out among all of the campaigns taking place across the country and internationally. This meant marketing designed to emphasize our motto: #GiveLocal. We put together a sleek online platform for donations at the aptly-named givelikealocal.org, created and distributed online and print flyers, an infographic timeline, and even created in-house an animated video.

GT19 Print Flyers_Full Page

 

Because our nonprofit partners are smaller organizations, we knew that many of them have limited materials, time, and staff. To give them a leg up for the big day, we created a variety of resources for them. These included sample thank you letters, a stewardship plan, social media templates and graphics, sample supporter emails, a sample donor pyramid, and tutorials on setting up?personal GivingTuesday fundraising pages. Our staff set aside blocks of time (that got booked very quickly!) to meet with nonprofit partners one-on-one to give personalized feedback and guidance on their GivingTuesday campaigns. We also hosted two webinars, a lunch and learn, and a workshop on how to make GivingTuesday a success. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the dozens of daily emails and phone calls we received from excited partners getting prepped!

Social Media #GivingTuesday_Instagram

 

The big day finally arrived! At givelikealocal.org, over 200 of our nonprofit partners hosted their own campaign pages, with goals ranging from $250-$50,000. It was exhilarating (and fun) every time we hit refresh on our website and watched the overall thermometer go up. Because research shows that people are more likely to give when they have a time pressure, and because we wanted to encourage widespread engagement over and above dollars raised, we incorporated the use of “Power Hours.” These were one-hour periods during which the nonprofit with the most unique donors won an extra $1,000. The four winners ended up being our partners 1st Stage (9-10am), DC Scores (12-2pm), City Dogs Rescue & City Kitties (3-4pm), and The Josh Anderson Foundation (8-9pm). Throughout the day (and weeks leading up as well) we were continuously active on social media. We were honored to have Instagram influencer Austin Graff on board that day. Via his Instagram stories, he promoted his ten favorite nonprofits participating in our campaign. Another thrilling development: we got to take over the We the People DC handle for the day! This was exciting news for us and our nonprofits because We the People DC has over 50,000 followers on Instagram. What a fantastic opportunity to promote charitable giving on GivingTuesday! Some of our posts that day included visiting our partners Free Minds Book Club, LearnServe International, Sixth & I, and Suited for Change. GT19 We the People DC As the evening came to a close, we held a celebratory happy hour with partners at Wunder Garten. We had reason to celebrate: our initial overall goal of $400,000 had been surpassed! With the help of 5,270 donors, we raised $637,828 for small, local nonprofits! Our months of preparation, collaborations, and hard work had paid off. We feel incredibly inspired by the level of generosity and community engagement we witnessed on GivingTuesday. It is moments like these that we remember why the work of the Catalogue is so vital in lifting up the work of local nonprofits. We feel honored and proud that as the official GivingTuesday partner for the DC region, we were able to host this platform for local philanthropy. As we start a new year, we’re excited to continue our work here at the Catalogue. After all, it’s never too early to begin planning for GivingTuesday 2020!