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What is our vision for abundance in this city?

What is our vision for abundance in this city?

The dominant narrative of our current economic and political systems centers on scarcity. As adrienne maree brown noted in YES! Magazine, “We are living in an age of immense interlocking crises, from climate to pandemic to race. Although there are massive opportunities to grow and change — the fight for abolition, the proliferation of mutual aid in response to COVID-19 — erotic power, happiness, and satisfaction are not words I would use to describe our current collective state.”

“In summer, when the boughs are laden, Serviceberry produces an abundance of sugar,” Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote in Emergence Magazine. “Does it hoard that energy for itself? No, it invites the birds to a feast… Isn’t this an economy? A system of distribution of goods and services that meets the needs of the community?”

This summer, the Catalogue for Philanthropy echoes the question Yura Sapi asked in their Community-Centric Fundraising piece, “How do we collectively shift from scarcity to abundance?

Understanding and valuing abundance as gratitude, reciprocity, and exchange, we’ve invited several of our nonprofit partners to share their visions for abundance in this city. Alongside their words, we also provide more detail on the way in which their missions and work allow our local communities to flourish. As you dive into these visions, we encourage you to see yourself in them and to engage with the efforts of your nonprofit neighbors. What is your own vision for abundance in this city’s present and future? How might you share this with others and be part of a larger ecosystem?

The Power of the Arts

“For Artivate, “abundance” means helping to create a diverse, inspiring array of performances and workshops which enhance education and create connections in ALL communities,” Diana Schenck, Director of Artist and Community Programming at Artivate, told the Catalogue. “It means providing professional artists with a wealth of opportunities to share their skills and traditions, while providing an ever-growing number of schools, libraries, parks, correctional facilities, and other venues with truly inspiring and enriching experiences for their communities.”

Since they were founded in 1995, Artivate has been engaging communities to create interactive arts experiences that inspire learning. Seeing the transformative power of the arts as essential to community life, they have grown from 80 programs serving 25,000 students and teachers to an average of 1,300 programs reaching 200,000+ children, teens, and families at 250+ unique school and community sites each year.

As Miranda Anderson wrote in Psyche, “Artworks both reflect and inspire transformative understandings of our own minds and our encounters with the world, widening and deepening the ways we make sense of our subjective experiences.” The process of engaging with art builds a reciprocal relationship with the work and the artist. Artivate expands this creative opportunity through spaces that allow artists from a diverse range of artistic disciplines and cultural traditions to share their art with children, teens, families, and incarcerated adults and youth — building relationships and creating a collective learning experience.

In the words of one of their participants, “Art not only frees our bodies, it relieves us from the confinement of our minds.” Where creativity has a place to play, grow, and flourish, communities have the room to express their curiosity about the world and each other.

We see this in the work of another nonprofit partner, Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens (FoKAG), who uses the healing power of nature and art to champion green spaces in the city. A national park site along the Anacostia River, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens features over 45 ponds filled with water lilies and lotus, along with acres of dynamic tidal marsh, and is the only national park site devoted to cultivated water-loving plants.

“In 2030,” reported the Washington Post based on data from Climate Central, “communities throughout the District will experience extensive and consistent periods of flooding, including the Yards in Ward 8, Kingman Island, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Ward 7, and the entire Anacostia River Trail from Anacostia Park to Bladensburg Waterfront Park in Maryland.” Just as the history of the land is tangled with instances of environmental injustice, “the reality is that (the climate crisis) disproportionately affects communities of color and those populated by low-income residents like the area surrounding Kenilworth.”

In FoKAG’s creative project Down to Earth, a partnership with Caandor Labs and Capital Fringe, artists shine a light on the Gardens and Ward 7′s past, present, and future, with a sharp focus on the climate emergency and its intersectionality with systemic racism. Narrative figurative painter and Down to Earth’s Winter Season Artist, Rik Freedman, painted “Breakfast on the Anacostia,” a scene of the river in roughly 10,000 BC. “While researching the abundance of animal life that once depended on this river,” he reflected on the painting in their season recap, “it struck me as to how many of these animals were no longer here.”

Echoing this past in the present and future, Summer Season Artist Siobhan Rigg observed in the Washington Post that “Things that go down — like oil and gas — don’t necessarily go down to stay; they come back with the tide. So the damage over time continues to resurface. “What would it be like to reframe the narrative and look at the Anacostia as a potential source of sustenance?(Emphasis ours)

An Inclusive Approach to Community

“Between its persistently hot housing market and an almost universally unaffordable child care ecosystem,” Conor Williams observed of this city in The 74, “D.C. is muddling towards a future where an upper-middle-class income may become a prerequisite for any family trying to live — and stay — in the city.”

Rents in the DC metro area have increased by 15.7% over the last year. One-third of people across the region experienced some level of food insecurity in 2021, and only three of the 49 full-service grocery stores in DC are located in Wards 7 and 8. Despite DC residents being some of the most politically engaged in the nation, “working to make the world fairer, better, safer, cleaner,” Williams continued, “(we) also (fight) to retain our ability to sustain and transmit our advantages to our kids.”

“As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, we’re focused on renewal,” Diana Schenck shared with us of Artivate’s direction, “reestablishing long-held partnerships and discovering new connections that allow us to continue (our) reach, while making it even more accessible for everyone to learn from, enjoy, and be inspired by the arts.”

This priority — of ensuring that opportunities for creative expression and collaboration are accessible for everyone — is reflected in the work of fellow nonprofit partner, Young Playwrights’ Theater (YPT). “In YPT’s arts education programs,” Brigitte Winter, their Executive Director, told the Catalogue, “we invite our students, whose voices are too often minimized, to take up space, to create and express themselves with abandon, and to know that adults will affirm their ideas, stories, dreams.”

Not only does YPT believe that no person is an island, but they also acknowledge that truly collaborative expression simultaneously requires a respect for people’s autonomy and are therefore committed to both anti-oppressive communication and reducing the harm of oppression through their organizational structure.

From writing individual stories to creating plays as a group to performing original arts activism pieces, students in YPT programs participate in unique experiences that are tailored for the specific needs of each YPT community. Though no two programs look alike, underlying them all is a singular, unifying belief that Winter shared with us: “We hope for a day when every young person in our city knows their brilliance, and that brilliance shines across Washington, DC, and beyond.”

In our last article on redefining citizenship, we mentioned the abundance of love and care that fuel many of our nonprofit partners’ work and inclusive approach to community. We are inspired by YPT, who practices their vision of “an abundance of safety, creativity, and joy for the young people in our community” every day. Our experience of this region we call home — through the work of nonprofits like YPT — is that there is no shortage of love, joy, and energy.

Shepherd’s Table, who addresses food insecurity and homelessness, serving individuals from all walks of life, is another example of this mindset. “No one should have to go hungry or without shelter in a city of such rich abundance,” Holly Harris, their Communications Associate, told us. “Because there are enough resources to meet every need when we live in community with one another, we are working to create a table long enough to make room for every neighbor.”

From providing daily hot nutritious meals and to-go dinners to offering a resource center, clothes closet, and eye clinic, Shepherd’s Table envisions a DMV where lives are transformed with nourishment, empowerment, and care. In its 38-year history, and even through economic hardships and the challenges of the pandemic, they have never missed a single day of meal service.

That alone encapsulates the principle that “How we think ripples out to how we behave.” Here, we want to return to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s essay on abundance and the gift economy, in which she continues to elaborate:

“If we view these berries, or that coal or forest, as an object, as property, it can be exploited as a commodity in a market economy. We know the consequences of that. Why then have we permitted the dominance of economic systems that commoditize everything? That create scarcity instead of abundance, that promote accumulation rather than sharing?”

Healthy Places, Healthy People

“Our hydroponic tower has been exploding with arugula, kale and herbs and is just starting to have cucumbers and tomatoes ready to harvest,” Common Good City Farm wrote in a blog post this month, accompanied by gorgeous photos of greens and ripe strawberries.

In the Ledroit Park community where the half-acre urban farm is located, one-third of residents live in poverty and nearly one in ten has diabetes. Their aim is to increase food access and nutrition education, and to build community around the farm space, especially for their neighbors who may have less access to those things. “We hold a weekly seasonal produce market — using a pay-what-you-can model — where we offer what we grow as well as bring in food from other farms to make sure our customers have a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from,” Emily Richardson, their Youth Programs Director, wrote on DC Action. “Our goal is always to positively influence nutrition for everyone in our community.”

This echoes a belief that anchors the Inclusive Healthy Places Framework developed by Gehl and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which guided DC Greens‘ process for creating The Well at Oxon Run, a new urban farm and wellness space in ward 8: “Every neighborhood should provide people what they need to live a healthy life.

At the Catalogue, we agree that place truly does shape health. We’ve witnessed how structural racism and long-term disinvestments are disproportionately concentrated in communities of color. A case study on The Well states that “While Oxon Run Park is the largest in the District’s park inventory and a major public health asset, Ward 8 has some of the highest health disparities in the District — a product of decades of disinvestment, rooted in structural racism.”

With the opening of The Well, an incredible example of resident-led design, DC Greens has “built a channel for resources to flow into this community… so that neighbors have what they need to define and create wellness on their own terms,” be it a pick-your-own flower garden, an orchard with chickens, or a community gathering space for theater and dance performances, elders and youth. As Absalom Jordan, Chair of the Friends of Oxon Run, said, “I have this in my heart — this idea of preserving and connecting with the land.”

This city is a beautiful place. All of the nonprofit partners we’ve highlighted here, and so many more, are working to — in the words of Omar Hakeem, local artist and architect who created an installation for FoKAG — “transform the legacy of ‘you’re not welcome here’ into ‘all are welcomed here’” so that everyone is free to “play, wonder and dream.” In a time with multiple crises that require our collective attention and action to address, we both need and have hope that we can shift from scarcity to abundance, and from accumulation to sharing.

Engaging and Supporting Your Staff with a Retreat

Engaging and Supporting Your Staff with a Retreat

As we rapidly dive into the second half of the calendar year, summer can be a good time to reflect on your organization’s progress, engage in team building, and chart a path for the immediate future. We often hear from nonprofits about the challenges of staff engagement right now. From burnout to remote work to new roles hired during the pandemic, many teams are new and/or working together in new ways. One potential answer to these engagement challenges is to hold a staff retreat.

Over the course of the pandemic, the Catalogue for Philanthropy has seen its nonprofit partners pivot operations in numerous ways, such as transitioning to a completely virtual office, hiring new staff, or pausing strategic planning efforts. Taking a moment to evaluate your organization’s mission, values, and goals through a staff retreat can help ensure that your team feels energized and supported in the coming months, especially if you have new members on your team.

Defining the Purpose of a Retreat

Though staff retreats look different across the nonprofit sector depending on the size of your team and the goals of your organization, a retreat typically has four broad goals:

1. Show staff you appreciate them.

From programming to fundraising to communications to operations, nonprofit staff engage in critical and challenging work every day. It’s important to recognize your team’s passion and dedication to the mission of your organization, as well as to appreciate the skills and experiences they bring to their work.

When organizing your staff retreat, don’t forget to create space for gratitude. Set aside some time to celebrate both individual and team achievements, including surprise successes, hitting a goal, impactful stories, making some much needed progress, and exciting developments. Make sure you “shoutout” the strengths and wins of each team member both publicly and personally — you can even involve the praise of clients, board members, volunteers, or fellow staff members.

2. Discuss difficulties and challenges.

This one might be less fun than #1, but it is equally important. Before looking ahead to the next year, it’s crucial to evaluate the progress of your organization and conduct an honest assessment of the areas in which you want to improve. A staff retreat should provide room for your team to raise any concerns they have, whether it be about programming or the flexibility of your nonprofit’s work arrangements.

If you have yet to hold a staff retreat since the onset of COVID-19, be prepared to address questions about how your organization plans to proceed with hybrid work, events, or programming, as well as questions about work-life balance and employee wellbeing. With the boundaries between our personal and professional lives and spaces blurring, and with many nonprofit staff feeling burnout and dealing with personal difficulties, it is especially critical to have open conversations about how they may or may not be feeling supported by your organization so that you can co-create a plan of action moving forward.

Listen to your staff, allow them to surface and discuss their pain points, proactively ask them to reflect on how staff policies and workflows have been a help or hindrance for them, and remain open to receiving transparent feedback. Use the retreat as an opportunity to gather your team’s ideas on how to best care for them, be it through offering bonuses, more time off, purchasing new equipment, organizing more happy hours, and so on.

3. Set big picture goals for the next year.

It can be easy to get lost in the throes of a nonprofit’s day-to-day work. An annual retreat is a chance for your organization to recommit to its values, mission, and goals at a higher level. Spend some time getting everybody on the same page about why your nonprofit exists to reaffirm the purpose of your team’s daily tasks and set the foundation for examining what has worked well and where you can improve.

Let your team dream a little. Give them a chance to get excited and to re-engage with why they do the work. This can get buried in the endless to-do lists, especially when working remotely.

If there are specific questions about the strategic direction of your organization that you want staff to explore during this retreat, send them these questions ahead of time so they can prepare for a fruitful discussion. When setting goals, be clear about what you can realistically achieve and be specific about the time frame in which you’re aiming to achieve them. Prioritize your goals based on your organization’s values and then establish the metrics your team will use to measure your progress against these goals.

Given the uncertainty we live in, and have been living in for a while, it’s important to also acknowledge that long-term goal setting can be difficult. If it’s helpful to do so, focus on the next year with actionable milestones just 3-6 months into the future. You can also remind the team that uncertainty is now a part of planning and that we need to stay flexible.

4. Have fun as a team.

Whether you hold your staff retreat in-person or virtually, there are many ways you can get creative about bonding as a team. In our experience, the strength of a nonprofit relies heavily on the strength of its team. One of the most vital elements of a retreat is building an engaging and supportive team culture that will leave your staff feeling energized, motivated, and excited to work with each other.

So, don’t forget to introduce fun elements to your retreat! These ideas can range from simply playing a short game before each session to organizing a post-retreat get-together. Every culture and staff will need and want something different, but focus on activities that allow staff to express themselves and to connect with coworkers they may not typically work with every day.

Beyond the Retreat

Following up after a retreat is just as valuable as having one. It can be VERY demoralizing for a team to have a great retreat, set some good goals, and then never hear about them again. Make sure you co-create a plan with staff to share takeaways from the retreat, next steps, and a plan for accountability. Through both regular one-on-one and team meetings, carry the momentum from your retreat forward by building on the skills that are needed to achieve the goals you’ve collectively set for your nonprofit.

At the same time, look for ongoing opportunities to connect staff with each other. Keep some fun elements throughout the year to help deepen your team’s relationships.

For more tips and resources on leading and growing with your values, and on using play as a management tool, check out the slides and recordings from the 2022 National Small Nonprofit Summit. The Catalogue for Philanthropy also offers paid consulting services for small nonprofits in the areas of strategic planning, staff engagement, and board engagement. If you’re interested, please reach out to Chiara Banez for more information.

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (07.22.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin


Read on for shoutouts to small nonprofits in the DMV, upcoming events, and ways to volunteer or get involved locally! Have questions or something you’d like featured? Reach out to Amanda, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, to collaborate!

Staying Safe in the Heat

Thanks to our nonprofit partner, the Juanita C. Grant Foundation, for sharing some safety tips that older adults and everyone can follow as we hit higher than normal temperatures this summer:

  • Drink plenty of water before and while you’re out in the sun. You can set reminders to drink water on your smartwatch or phone.
  • Keep your home cool with air conditioning if you can. Research available assistance for summer air conditioning bills from local government programs. Strategically placed fans are another quick method to keep the home cool.
  • Consume sports drinks before starting any strenuous exercise, dress in comfortable clothes, and take a shower after a lengthy outdoor workout to avoid getting heatstroke!
  • Remember to apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or more at least 15-30 minutes before going outside.


“Immigrants and refugees are always seen as poor people who need help,” Vanda Berninger, Co-Founder of One Journey Festival, told Street Sense Media. “They are people with families. They are people with friends. This identity gets lost in the transition.” This year’s festival took place on June 25 and featured music, storytelling, a global marketplace, and many organizations supporting refugees, such as fellow nonprofit partner Homes Not Borders.

A coalition of 32+ civil rights, faith-based, consumer protection, and justice advocacy groups — including many of our nonprofit partners like Tzedek DC, the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, Building Bridges Across the River, and many more — pushed to pass the Clean Hands Amendment Act to end debt-based license denials, and it passed! Read DCist’s update and Tzedek DC’s report on why DC’s “Clean Hands” law provision on driver’s licenses undermines racial equity.

You can now watch the National Philharmonic wherever you are through their brand-new online streaming platform, NatPhil Digital Stage! You can choose to buy or rent individual performances, or subscribe to the digital season for $9.99/month or $99/year.

The Montgomery County Forest Coalition, which includes our nonprofit partners like Rock Creek Conservancy, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, and coalition co-founder Potomac Conservancy, is urging the Montgomery County Council to strengthen forest regulations this year to protect public health, community well-being, homes, and businesses. Reforestation is among the best ways to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Yet, “Montgomery County’s Forest Conservation Law has remained largely the same since it was put in place in 1992,” the coalition wrote in Bethesda Magazine, only requiring developers in most cases to “preserve or replant about one-fourth of the trees they cut down.” Learn more about what they’re asking the Council to adopt this year.

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and surrounding Kenilworth Park and nearby Anacostia Park are rare green areas in a largely paved area of DC. “In this historically Black area, people can find a place of solace in this backyard oasis,” Zerline Hughes Spruill, community engagement manager at Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, told Smithsonian Magazine. Spruill is one of the local community members featured in the National Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition, “Our Places: Connecting People and Nature,” which explores how peoples’ experiences with nature inspires them to make a difference outside!

Story District has a new monthly column in District Fray! “When I listened to everyone’s stories, I was inspired by how certain events in their lives made them into who they are but didn’t define them,” Willette Oden, poet, writer, musical artist, and DC native, shared about her first-time experience with storytelling in their first column. “I thought maybe there could be someone in the audience who would relate to or take from my experience and feel empowered by how I was able to control my narrative.” Read more and stay tuned for their next column!

Kindness, dignity, and community engagement — come into Main Street Connect‘s Soulfull Cafe in Rockville and experience all this and more! Soulfull employs people of all abilities and recently relaunched with a new menu. In addition to this warm, inviting, and friendly restaurant, Main Street Connect also runs the affordable housing development above it and, like a recreational center, offers tiered membership programs so that anybody can access their space, classes, and social events. “Everyone deserves to walk into their home and feel safe and be in a light, bright, vibrant community,” founder Jillian Copeland told DCist.

Environmentalist and Upper Potomac Riverkeeper with the Potomac Riverkeeper Network Brent Walls is leading the Waterkeeper movement in using drone technology to investigate and collect evidence of pollution in rivers and streams. Learn more about how they’ve been able to use drone images to catch polluters in places where wrongdoing is difficult to see or expensive to find.


July 23 – 24, July 30 – 31 | Peak blooms at the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens! Catch live animal shows, ranger talks, and more on the July 23 weekend and yoga classes, a fashion show, cultural dance presentations, and more on the July 30 weekend

July 25, 7:00 – 9:00 PM | Monkeypox Town Hall presented by DC Health & Washington Blade, including community partners like SMYAL, the Wanda Alston Foundation, and The DC Center for the LGBT Community

July 26, 6:00 PM | Harm Reduction 101 virtual training with #DecrimPovertyDC and the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition

July 26, 6:00 – 7:30 PM | Join YNPNdc for Everything You Ever Wanted to Know on Reinventing Yourself with Tony Pickett, CEO of the Grounded Solutions Network

July 27, 12:00 PM | Can I Ask for That? Navigating ADA Requests in a Post-COVID World virtual Q&A webinar with The Arc of Northern Virginia

July 28, 2:00 – 3:30 PM | Insight Memory Care Center hosts a virtual Community Caregiver Support Group for families and friends of those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory impairments

July 29, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Know Your Rights: Mediation with Community Family Life Services Legal Department and Community Mediation DC

July 30, 7:30 PM | Juleps in July virtual cocktail class benefiting Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services

August 5, 10:00 AM | Part Two of a two-part series on forward-thinking housing solutions for all with The Arc of Northern Virginia will explore quality housing options for individuals with disabilities and engage in problem-solving with participants

August 5, 5:00 – 8:00 PM | City Blossoms presents Basil Bonanza, a family-friendly and basil-themed community potluck

August 5, 8:00 PM | A Very Special Variety Show for HIPS

August 5 – 7 | OutWrite 2022, DC’s annual LGBTQ+ literary festival

August 6, 5:30 PM | A string and vocal quartet with the Washington Bach Consort will present Baroque pieces at The Parks at Walter Reed

August 6 – 7 | Reserve your timed tickets for the Children’s Science Center this weekend as they celebrate the success of the James Webb Space Telescope!

August 13, 3:00 – 6:00 PM | Back to School Community Event with PWCCF with free school supplies, food, and snack boxes, along with food trucks, games, and live music. If you can donate school supplies, email to learn about donation needs

August 13, 6:00 – 8:00 PM | “Emergence” art exhibition reception with Justice Arts Coalition at the Workhouse Arts Center, featuring works by artists previously and currently confined to carceral institutions across the United States

August 24, 12:00 – 1:00 PM | What Does Overturning Roe Mean for IPV Survivors? with JCADA

August 28, 12:00 – 3:00 PM | Carpenter’s Cook-Off Pop-Up 2022, a signature tasting event on the Alexandria waterfront with live music from the Jones Point Band

Get Involved

The DC Queer Theatre Festival will present a series of new play readings in the fall and is looking for unproduced and unpublished one-act plays with themes relating to the LGBTQIA2S+ communities that are no longer than 90 minutes. There is a small stipend for this project. Submit by 11:59 PM by July 30!

Like pro tennis? Volunteer with So What Else at the Citi Open from July 30 – August 7 and help them raise funds for youth & hunger programs! Volunteers will have free access to the tournament where they can enjoy matches before and after their service shift (8:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 12:00 – 5:00 PM, 3:00 – 8:00 PM). Volunteers ages 14 and older are welcome and younger volunteers can serve with a parent or adult guardian! Email Peter at with your date(s) and shift(s), full name, age, contact number, and school affiliation (if applicable). More info here!

Support kids in the fall with Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc‘s Backpack/School Supply Drive! They’ve created a toolkit for individual donors and organizations to host their own supply drives and collect supplies on LARS’ behalf. You can also help purchase items directly from Amazon to be shipped to the LARS office by August 5 at 2:00 PM.

Have you attended a Washington Improv Theater show or taken a class with them? Tell them your story so you can help them share their impact! They’re looking for students, teachers, performers, and audience members to share anecdotes, testimonials, and other stories from the past year by August 5.

Help Sunflower Bakery, which prepares young adults with learning differences for employment in the baking and hospitality industries, be recognized as one of the best of Jewish Washington! Nominate and vote for them for best coffee, best bakery, best nonprofit, and best special needs programming by August 12.

Community Family Life Services is seeking applications for its Fall 2022 Speakers Bureau. The CFLS Speakers Bureau is a place where women who are survivors of trauma such as victimization, homelessness, and incarceration learn to speak publicly and educate the community about the issues closest to them. Those selected for this program are offered a paid 35-hour training in public speaking and participants will learn about how to communicate their lived experiences in compelling testimony for lawmakers, nonprofits, and criminal justice and community stakeholders. The application is open until August 26!

Serve with DC127 as a long-term Community for Families program volunteer or babysitter, and help them reverse the foster care list in DC! A long-term volunteer walks with a family providing emotional, psychological, and practical support as they work through the program, which is designed to serve under-resourced families vulnerable to instability. Babysitting is a direct service where volunteers would spend 1-4 hours babysitting for a family in their program. Fill out their form if you’re interested!

The Arc of Northern Virginia is bringing back virtual Summer Legislator Meetings, a simple way to make huge changes without leaving your home. Let them know what issues you’d like to talk about and when, and they’ll find your legislators, set up a meeting, prep you, and attend and facilitate while you talk about your life. They’ll then make the “ask” for policy and funding changes. This is a great way to help make Virginia a better place for everyone with a disability. Fill out their quick interest form to get started!

Help close the digital divide and volunteer with Byte Back, which provides under-resourced communities an equitable pathway into the digital economy through digital advocacy, digital literacy, and tech certification training. They’re recruiting for one-time, shorter, and longer-term volunteer positions, including career assistants, workshop presenters, tutors, and success coaches/mentors. Learn more and apply to volunteer.

The What, Why, & How for the DC Budget

The What, Why, & How for the DC Budget

Last month, the Catalogue for Philanthropy convened four of our nonprofit partners — the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Jews United for Justice, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Black Swan Academy — to share about the advocacy work they do around the DC budget, why such advocacy is important for residents to engage in, and where people who are unfamiliar with the budget can get started. This virtual panel was moderated by David Meni, Acting Chief of Staff for Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, and illuminated much of the city budgeting process and how the budget concretely impacts our lives from year-to-year.

“You maybe only hear about the budget when it’s being formulated or when it’s before the Council,” David observed in his introduction to the event. “But budget season is basically year-round. There’s always something to do on it.

Though the 2022-23 fiscal year budget was passed in June, not only does budget advocacy transition into other important advocacy as our partners demonstrated with the examples they gave, but the work of setting Councilmembers’ budget priorities also tends to start earlier than most people think. As David mentioned at the end of the panel, “getting your particular issue on a Councilmember’s priority list is something that can happen at any time or happen early and often.”

With this in mind, the Catalogue aims to summarize some of our biggest takeaways from the event about how to contextualize our city’s budget, why exactly advocacy is so important, what each of our nonprofit partners are advocating around and, finally, what you can start to pay attention to for next year’s budget.

Please note that panelist quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity. Visit this link to watch the full event.

Putting the Process into Perspective

“At the federal level, you see the President send down the budget and Congress rips it apart. It looks completely different by the end but it’s a much longer, much more resourced process,” Amber Harding, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, explained. “In DC, the Mayor puts something out and the Council doesn’t have that much time to work on it. They don’t have the same kind of committee structures and staffing that Congress has to fix it. So, often, even though it’s supposed to be the Council’s budget, the Council has a real hard time (making) major changes to the Mayor’s budget.”

DC is a city where many residents are politically engaged on a national level. While this is important and necessary, we also believe that staying updated on local news and getting involved in local politics is crucial to both understanding the place where we live and making it a better place to live.

“Budget advocacy is extremely important for anyone who’s doing policy work or community work, knowing that the decisions that are made impact our day-to-day experiences, particularly when we’re talking about marginalized populations,” Samantha Davis, Founder and Executive Director of Black Swan Academy, noted. “The budget has a huge role to play in terms of what resources are trickling down to us.

In addition to being a document that reflects the values of elected officials in its choices, the budget is also the biggest piece of legislation the City Council passes. “What’s the city focusing on? Is it spending more money on police or on affordable housing? Are developers getting giant tax breaks — the same developers who are contributing money to elected officials?” Amber asked. “It’s probably the most impactful thing the city does every year because the budget is a demonstration of the priorities of elected leaders… It’s insight into how the city is run and (whether) the people you vote for are doing what they said they’d do when you elected them.”

Though the budget process is complex and can be difficult to understand, our panelists helped to demystify some of the ways in which the DC government operates. For instance, if bills have a fiscal impact, even if they are passed and signed by the Mayor, they still need to be funded in the subsequent budget. “You can’t find the money within passing a bill,” David mentioned. “If you don’t get legislation funded within something like three years, it basically lapses and gets repealed.”

This makes advocating for changes within the budget even more critical, since funding a bill is the way to make sure it’s implemented. “When we’re talking about creating these new systems, addressing various disparities that we might be experiencing, we can’t have really effective policy and legislation without having the dollars to support it, and vice versa,” Samantha said. “Engaging in budget advocacy alone is also something that I critique often, because we can’t continue to pour money into failing systems, so it does work hand-in-hand.”

What Does a Victory Look Like?

One example of how budget advocacy transitions into year-round advocacy is in the Legal Clinic’s fight to end homelessness. “The budget is very clear — when you fund permanent housing vouchers for people who are homeless, you are ending that person’s homelessness permanently,” Amber emphasized.

This year, they ran a campaign to reform rapid rehousing, a time-limited housing program in the city that nearly everyone who goes into an emergency shelter is placed into. While the time limit was extended during the pandemic, the Mayor instructed the agency to start terminating families in the program once the public health emergency ended, resulting in hundreds of families who are going to be evicted because only 3% of them can afford rent when their subsidies are terminated. 97% of these families are Black and most are extremely low-income. Many of them end up being displaced entirely from the city because they can’t find places that they can afford to rent.

Through the budget, the Legal Clinic was able to get 400 slots of housing for families to transition from rapid rehousing into a permanent program. The Council also recently introduced permanent legislation to stop the time limits and make it a program that transitions people into housing that meets their needs instead of dropping them off a cliff. However, even if this legislation is passed, it must still be funded. “So, next year, when we’re talking about the budget, we’ll be talking about how the only way to end that cliff is to fund the bill,” Amber said. “We continue to do the work to solve the bigger problems.”

Similarly, Jews United for Justice advocates around the budget with a multi-year plan in mind. “The big goal is making childcare more affordable and possible, particularly for families with lower incomes,” Sarah Novick, DC Director at Jews United for Justice, shared. “We know that’s not going to be possible until we are making sure that early childhood educators are getting enough money to sustain their families and lives, (so that we can) create a childcare system that will be able to accept more children into it.

Jews United for Justice partners with the Under 3 DC campaign and works to implement the Birth-to-Three law, a robust and far-reaching law made up of many programs to support families with young children ages 0-3 around health supports, behavioral health supports, education, and childcare. “It’ll cost hundreds of millions of dollars when it’s fully funded,” Sarah continued, “and we’re inching our way there. Every year, our advocacy to get it funded is very important… Even the small asks are important.”

A big part of their advocacy work is rooted in organizing with coalitions. “We work together to craft what our yearly campaign goals are, what we think is possible to win from year-to-year, what an ambitious win would be, and (we) make those calculated decisions as we go along,” Sarah elaborated. For them, this advocacy looks like making asks of Councilmembers, getting Councilmembers and staff to work together to find the funds, mobilizing their base to make calls and testify at hearings — all of which help to ensure that elected officials know that many people are making these requests, which emphasizes how badly the requests are needed.

“We wanted full implementation of Birth-to-Three to happen within ten years,” Sarah said. “We’re a handful of years in and, unfortunately, it hasn’t been fully funded every year.”

Especially when it comes to programs that have a big price tag, like the Birth-to-Three law or the Vision Zero plan that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is driving toward, finding funding sources to implement these programs on a smaller scale is often challenging, let alone funding them on the larger level of systemic change, which many residents know is needed.

“(We actually want) to phase out traffic fines because we want to fix the roads, we want to change the infrastructure,” Jeremiah Lowery, Advocacy Director at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, stressed when elaborating on the omnibus bill they’re pushing that will move DC closer to achieving its Vision Zero goals around transportation safety. Though they didn’t get funding for this bill the year before, in this last budget cycle, they were able to secure a funding source — getting dollars from new traffic cameras to fund the bill, as well as moving future dollars into bike repair and bus projects.

“That’s significant because, oftentimes, money from these traffic cameras usually go to the general funds,” Jeremiah explained, “and they’re not actually going to sustainable solutions that lead to preventing traffic deaths. Now… funding from (traffic cameras) will be used to prevent traffic fatalities and deaths, and will be used to fix roads, which is the purpose.”

Part of the complexity around securing funding is, as Amber mentioned, because “the Council, as a whole, is not great in coming together and saying, “here are our top priorities as a Council.” One of the biggest flaws in the way that this city budgets lies in the committee structure, where Councilmembers serve on certain issue-area committees that can surface competing priorities, including ward-level priorities. “We try to be very careful. What do you tell human services to cut when you’re asking them to increase a program?” Amber asked. This is why coalitions can be powerful when engaging in advocacy. The Fair Budget Coalition, for example, which the Legal Clinic, Jews United for Justice, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association are members of, “came together to say, “you can’t cut housing to fund healthcare.”

Black Swan Academy has also found some leverage within the current structure. “We do push Councilmembers and staff to talk to each other and to other committees, and (we) leverage that and say, this is the connection between police-free schools and mental health. Don’t you care about mental health?” Samantha explained. Analyzing members of each committee and what other committees these Councilmembers also sit on is an important aspect of their advocacy.

For Black Swan Academy, whose work is primarily guided by their Black Youth Agenda, a win can look like making sure the voices of young Black people are part of the conversation. When they supported larger efforts around the rapid rehousing crisis, which was one of the issues named by young folk on this year’s agenda, they signed onto letters, testified, and shared stories to show how young Black people in the community are impacted when families are terminated out of their housing after their rapid rehousing lapses.

On a multi-year level, Black Swan Academy has been fighting for police-free schools — removing armed police officers from school buildings and investing in resources and people who would create care-based, healthy, and equitable learning environments. In 2020, they were able to reduce a $23 million contract held by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and move it to DC Public Schools (DCPS) so that instead of having MPD be in control of the training and hiring of security officers, it would be guided by people with backgrounds in education and who are working with school faculty. DCPS was also able to create a pilot initiative where schools should shift from hiring security officers to hiring restorative justice practitioners, additional mental health clinicians, and community members to do safe passage.

This year, however, the Mayor dedicated a lot of resources in her portion of the budget to cancel a planned phase-out of school police officers in the next five years, which the Council had previously passed. “We spent the past year organizing, again, to get the Committee (on the Judiciary and Public Safety) to say that we are actually committed to this phase-out and want to make sure the budget reflects it,” Samantha continued. The Council did vote again, recommitting to having fewer police officers in schools and investing in alternatives to policing in schools. “All the investments around school-based mental health, violence interruption, and safe passage (are) happening within the budget process.”

So, You Want to Advocate Around the Budget

“If it were easy, if everyone agreed, we wouldn’t have to do advocacy on it,” Amber said. “We’re doing advocacy because people aren’t automatically or naturally prioritizing the needs or wants of the groups we’re advocating for, and that’s why we’re down there.”

Having shared more context around the city budget, our panelists then gave some advice on getting started.

1. First, decide on the issue area(s) you’re most interested in to help narrow your focus.

When budget season rolls around, there are so many ways you can engage with it that the best place to start is by focusing on the issue area(s) you’re most interested in to avoid getting overwhelmed. “Look for those flashpoints,” Amber said. Because the budget is where the Council can step in to do some checks and balances, those flashpoints “are the places where you’re actually going to lift up where those conversations are happening, (and) where there are differences in opinion.”

From there, Jeremiah recommends building relationships with committee chairs for the areas you’re working on, which the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has found more success with. Samantha and Sarah also suggest attending both agency and budget oversight hearings.

“(The) agency oversight hearing process is useful for folks who are not connected to an organization as (they provide) an opportunity for anyone to come and talk about their own personal experiences with the agency,” Sarah mentioned. Doing so provides data for Councilmembers to later go back to the agency and ask follow-up questions, which will lead to conversations about how much money each of these agencies should have in the budget.

These hearings are then followed by budget oversight hearings, where directors of agencies present the budget, as well as give people time to testify and the Council to ask questions. “Most of the agencies have their own hearings or forums that are open to folks,” Samantha said, “and I’ve found those to be more helpful.”

2. Do your research outside of the Mayor’s resources.

Though the Mayor’s budget forum is often advertised, David explained that “it might be a good way of understanding the different components of the DC government, but not a great way of understanding what’s actually in the budget.”

Similarly, Amber recommended approaching the Mayor’s Powerpoint with care. “It’s often high-level, but sometimes pretty misleading,” she chimed in. “There’s federal money in there that was pre-existing or other things that don’t have anything to do with what she devoted this year (with) very little context.”

Sarah and Jeremiah advised signing up for the DC Council website’s newsletter, as well as individual Councilmember newsletters, especially for members who are chairing committees on the issue area(s) you care about. Staying updated on local news, such as through the Washington City Paper’s daily news digest, is also helpful.

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute shares a trove of resources about the budget, such as ‘A Resident’s Guide to the DC Budget‘ and their recent reflection on ‘What’s In the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget?‘ Be on the lookout, too, for events like budget briefings with agencies or agency heads that the community can attend and ask questions at.

Another great resource is to follow the organizations or coalitions doing advocacy in the issue area(s) you care about, such as these four nonprofit partners who spoke on our panel or the 400+ other local nonprofits in our network.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk to Council staff.

“You don’t need to go directly to members, especially around budget time,” David suggested. “Staff in the committees are the ones keeping track of moment-to-moment changes, (so) don’t be intimidated about talking to staff.”

Ask questions of the staffers on the committees relevant to your issue area(s). Most importantly, make sure that your ask is stated in more than one Councilmember’s priorities.

4. Sharing your story is important.

A common misperception around budget advocacy is that it is necessary to understand all the jargon and details in the budget. While being familiar with them can be helpful, as David shared, “it’s more about tone-setting.” When testifying — as all of our panelists have organized significant groups of people to do — people will show up and speak to the same theme about why they think ‘x’ is an important priority and why the Council should pull money from ‘y’ to fund this. “(Say) things in simple terms and put the onus on the committee to see how important that is,” David continued, “and then paid advocates and experts can follow up on the details of that work.”

In this vein, remember that you don’t have to be an expert! As Samantha added in the chat during the event, “We are not experts on the budget and that is okay. You don’t have to be and many are not.” Echoing this, Amber said, “I’ve been doing this work for 20 years and I still… have to ask a bunch of people, is this actually what this means?” Given that the budget is not a transparent document, it is absolutely okay to ask those follow-up questions.

Our Partners

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless uses the law to bring justice to low-income, homeless, and people experiencing poverty in DC through direct legal services, community education, and policy and advocacy around housing, homelessness, and civil rights. You can learn more about their budget work this year through this article.

Jews United for Justice educates and mobilizes local Jewish communities and allies to take action on issue campaigns that pursue and promote social, racial, and economic justice. You can read their reflections on this year’s budget campaign at this article and learn more about their work in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and statewide in Maryland.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association provides youth and adult education and conducts advocacy to expand the region’s trail network with the Capital Trails Coalition, complete a protective bike network around the region, prevent traffic deaths and fatalities through Vision Zero, as well as expand access to buses and multi-modal transportation options in areas that don’t usually have access.

Black Swan Academy supports Black youth in middle and high school in being social catalysts in their communities and creating the change that they know is needed. They meet the immediate needs of young folks through capacity-building and mutual aid, and organize through the Black Youth Agenda for police-free schools, and more mental health support, among other youth-driven issues.

Washington English Center: Building, Celebrating, & Empowering Community

Washington English Center: Building, Celebrating, & Empowering Community

For nearly three decades, Washington English Center (WEC) has provided affordable English-language instruction and workforce programs to adult immigrants using volunteers. From English-language classes to citizenship preparation to digital literacy training, they work with hundreds of volunteers each term to deliver their various support programs to thousands of immigrants from over 70 countries.

Since introducing online classes during the pandemic, WEC has been able to welcome even more volunteers and students from all over the world, in addition to helping students who live in the DC area but who may face barriers to attending in-person classes, such as access to transportation or childcare. This summer, the Catalogue for Philanthropy got a chance to speak with their Associate Director of Volunteers, Yaritza Abrego, and their Director of Development, Phillip Carlisle, about how WEC truly builds, celebrates, and empowers its community.

Photo of a mixed group of students at the Washington English Center posing for the camera

Catalogue: How would you define and describe the WEC community?

Phillip: Our community is resilient and warm. Resilient in that our students have come from around the world — because of economic reasons, changing climate, or political strife — yet they come to WEC wanting to learn more and improve the way they read, write, listen to, and speak English. Some of our students are in their early 20s, looking to go to college in the United States or find a fulfilling job and community among their peers; other students are grandparents who have lived in the United States for decades and raised their children here, but now they are looking to read to their grandchildren in English.

Along with students from so many backgrounds comes warmth. Our students know what it’s like to be a stranger in a new country and what it takes to acquire English, gradually, through practice and memorization. No matter the proficiency level, it’s not easy and takes time. That’s part of why they are so interested in supporting one another through the process — with a number of our past students returning to volunteer and to give back.

Yaritza: The WEC community is a melting pot of different cultures, languages, experiences, and ages but all with the same goal, which is to be able to connect and communicate with others.

Catalogue: Who in your community are you inspired by and why?

Yaritza: I am inspired by both our students and volunteers. I think it is inspirational to see our volunteers give so much of their time and effort to our students. Many of them are brand new to teaching so, in a sense, it is a true act of courage. Many, if not all, of our students display courage — coming to a new country and not knowing the language is challenging and scary. Many of our students have faced hardships back in their home countries and yet, here they are, showing up day after day to learn a new language and acclimate to their new home.

Phillip: For me, it’s helpful and humbling to remember that these are adults — many are parents — with busy social schedules and demanding jobs. No one has made them attend class, but they choose to become students. They make time in their schedules and apply themselves to the classwork. For some, that means becoming students again for the first time in fifty years. For others, it means giving up their evenings (almost ninety hours of class a term!) to improve the way they read, write, and speak English. How amazing is that?

Catalogue: How does WEC empower its volunteers and students?

Phillip: Every year, 740 individuals volunteer with WEC to teach group classes, to tutor students one-on-one, to host clubs, and so much more. Those volunteers spend hours preparing to teach, and teaching, because of the folks we serve. In total, over 1,250 immigrants and refugees from 70 countries come through our doors or join us via Zoom to improve their understanding of the English language. These students are eager to learn and we are ready to meet them wherever they are.

Yaritza: Our Academic Programs team empowers volunteers by creating opportunities to show appreciation to them. Each term, we have an online volunteer appreciation event where we show videos that we have compiled of students thanking our volunteers for their time. During the event, we give out awards to volunteers who went above and beyond.

We also give out prizes and cards to all our volunteers at the end of their volunteer service, and we have online and in-person volunteer socials. Additionally, we provide training and continuous professional development opportunities that help volunteers gain confidence and enhance their teaching skills in the classroom.

For students, we put together our online graduation event where we celebrate our students’ achievements throughout the term. During the event, we display student certificates and recognize students who had perfect attendance. Everyone in the WEC community is welcome to attend — and if you’re reading this, you’re a part of our community. We have also recently encouraged advanced students to become teachers and serve as role models themselves!

Catalogue: What about your work with WEC brings you joy? And what about it brings joy for others?

Phillip: Our students bring me joy. When a student is grappling with a phrase or pauses to think of the exact right way to express themselves in English, there’s this pride that shines through once they’ve conquered the phrase and with it comes joy. I think any of our teachers could tell you, there’s something really wonderful about a student who shows up, wants to learn, and is determined to get the most from their class. And WEC is filled with those students.

Yaritza: I think the best part about WEC is seeing our students succeed and gain confidence in their speaking and writing abilities. I also love to walk through our hallways and see students interacting and building friendships with one another.

Something I am never asked is why I choose to work at WEC. In a way, I am relieved because it is very personal to me and stirs a lot of emotions. My mother and father both immigrated to the US from Central America and left everything behind. In the ’70s and ’80s, there were little to any resources available to immigrants. I saw firsthand how difficult it was for the two of them to communicate with others, which led to many different challenges, from finding jobs to housing to healthcare to schools, etc. A lot of the burden fell on me to be a translator for them, which I know, even today, a lot of first- and second-generation children face to help the family.

I think organizations like WEC help alleviate a lot of that and empower immigrant families and parents to learn English and ultimately advocate for themselves. In a nutshell, working at WEC is a way to honor my parents and others like them. My work has also given me the opportunity to honor my own experience as the daughter of immigrants.

Interested in becoming a volunteer with the Washington English Center? Visit their website to learn more, or sign up to receive their newsletter and stay up-to-date on their volunteer opportunities, upcoming teaching workshops, and social events!

Why You Should Serve on a Nonprofit Board

Why You Should Serve on a Nonprofit Board

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “Board of Directors”? The popular image of a board — perhaps conjured by movies or television shows — situates board members in a stuffy office boardroom with a ridiculously huge table. You probably imagine the people at that table to be older, wealthy, and high-ranking business executives.

This perception of needing significant wealth and experience to serve on a board often deters active community members (like yourself) from joining one. But it couldn’t be further from the real picture of what a nonprofit board can be and who can serve on it. Though many promising board candidates who are more junior in their career or come from more diverse backgrounds have likely never considered serving on a nonprofit board, board opportunities for different levels of experience, skillsets, and financial backgrounds exist, especially within the small, local, and community-based nonprofit space.

Having worked with more than 400 of such small, local nonprofits, the Catalogue for Philanthropy has seen that serving on a board can be one of the best ways to leverage your time, expertise, and resources to help create greater impact in your community. An engaged board is critical to the success of any nonprofit, and such an opportunity could be a perfect fit for you as you consider how you want to make a difference locally. Change happens with community, and this is particularly true for grassroots operations that are run by and for the people. The more diverse an organization’s community of stakeholders are, the stronger the organization’s work and impact.

We believe that everyone, especially the most engaged supporters of an organization, should feel encouraged to consider open board positions as a way to get involved. Below, we outline why exactly nonprofit boards exist, what they do, and how you can get started.

So, What Is a Board?

Simply put, a board is a governance group that ensures a nonprofit organization is managed ethically, legally, and soundly. The leadership of a board encompasses three broad areas:

  1. Board members help establish a level of integrity for the organization and focus on its strategic direction.
  2. Board members are responsible for reviewing and overseeing the financial health of the organization.
  3. Should anything happen with the senior staff, the board is ultimately accountable for the organization.

While boards exist on a spectrum depending on the needs and structures of different nonprofits, as both the internal leadership team and the organization’s backstop, board members are typically considered one of the most committed, and key, stakeholders for a nonprofit.

What Does It Mean to be a Board Member?

The expectations for board members vary widely across the nonprofit sector, with some organizations requiring experience or expertise in particular areas and other organizations requiring none. Some nonprofits even have junior boards specifically for young professionals to join.

There is no one model for what a board looks like. The most important factor when considering the success and longevity of a board, and its nonprofit, is that it consists of engaged community members who are passionate about using their time and talent to further the mission of the organization.

Overall, we’ve seen that the three main responsibilities of a board member can include:

  1. Strategy and sound management, such as through annual goal setting, strategic planning for the organization, and reviewing the Executive Director(s).
  2. Stewarding financial and other resources, such as by reviewing financial statements and participating in the budgeting process.
  3. Advocacy, such as through attending events, representing the organization, fundraising for the nonprofit, sharing its work and impact with your network, and so on.

Additionally, some boards are more hands-on than others. While the purpose of a board is to work with and alongside staff members, who have the on-the-ground skills and knowledge required to implement a nonprofit’s day-to-day programming, some boards do serve as an extension of staff and align with them to assist on specific projects and operational work.

Why Is Serving on a Board Impactful?

Just as choosing to serve on a board is a deep commitment, the impact you make as a board member can make a deep difference. The process of joining a board usually involves meeting a nonprofit’s existing staff and board members, as well as better understanding the organization by attending their events, volunteering, reading up on them, shadowing meetings, and more. Preceding the decision itself is a careful consideration of what you want to invest in and whether the opportunity will allow you to contribute your money, time, and resources to an organization and cause that you truly believe in.

And it is through this commitment that you can help to shape long-term and sustainable change. Through your financial and strategic contributions to a nonprofit, you are part of ensuring its longevity. With your deep understanding of a nonprofit, you become one of its best advocates in expanding recognition and support of its work. By offering your personal and professional experience to staff members, you provide opportunities for mentorship, leadership, and development within the nonprofit sector.

When you serve on the board of a small, local nonprofit, you are also actively transforming the place where you live and the lives of you and your neighbors. Because small nonprofits are often under-funded and overlooked, the knowledge and experience you bring as a board member can make an even greater impact. This is especially vital for community-based organizations that rely on the strength of its community — your experiences as a community member matter and bringing your voice to the forefront as a board member is one powerful way to ensure an organization reflects the breadth of the people it serves.

How to Get Started

As you consider joining a board, we invite you to think about three main questions that could be helpful along your journey:

  1. Who and what do you care about? Is there a particular social issue you want to contribute to? What about a specific geographical area or community?
  2. What can you offer? What personal experience, professional skills, networks, influence, or other resources would you bring to your role as a board member?
  3. How do you want to help? Are you looking to assume a leadership role, serve as an extension of your current day job, get involved outside of your day job, or something else?

Once you have a plan, you can start looking for open board positions. If you already know and support a nonprofit, check their website to see if they have any listed or, better yet, reach out to them and ask!

Another great place to begin your search is through the Catalogue’s Board Connections portal. An annual membership for individuals allows you to connect with trusted local nonprofits in our network through an online portal, where you can create a profile, look through recommended openings suggested based on your personal interest and experience, and apply. Additionally, we host a nonprofit board member training that further dives into the Do’s and Don’ts of being a board member.

Redefining Citizenship

Redefining Citizenship

Amid the Jan. 6 hearings, in light of the Supreme Court’s highly consequential decisions, and as the country reaches a record-low level of extreme national pride, there have been increasing calls to reexamine the true meaning of patriotism and being American. In last month’s Vox issue of the Highlight, Sean Collins reflected that Juneteenth, which falls exactly half a month before Independence Day, “is a holiday commemorating America as it is” while “July Fourth celebrates the country America pretends to be.”

On the heels of Independence Day, we invite you to consider what the truth of the American promise has meant for the myriad communities who live on this land and the possibilities of interdependence we can discover and realize — the threads of coexistence that many among us and before us have already weaved into their understanding of “citizenship,” as well as our intertwined ideas of rights and responsibilities that we want to practice now and into the future.

“(Patriots) combine a loving devotion to America with a demand for justice,” Robert Reich affirmed in the Guardian. As we define and redefine citizenship in America, we are guided by the love and justice fueling the work of our nonprofit partners who have been steadily moving our national narrative from one rooted in fear to one rooted in abundance.

By sharing their words and impact, the Catalogue hopes to articulate their work within the larger context of who we choose to include in our visions for this country and how we want to do so. We welcome your thoughts, experiences, and stories in this ongoing project.

From Othering to Love and Abundance

“Language that defines immigrants as “others” frequently dominates public discourse around immigration and immigrants,” Tara Magner and Marisa Gerstein Pineau wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2018. “In fact, framing immigrants as “others” has infiltrated the US national dialogue and seeped into the country’s collective consciousness, so much so that even progressive politicians often use it without realizing its toxic effects.”

From phrases like bringing immigrants “out of the shadows” to framing some immigrants as more “worthy” of support than others, much of the widespread narrative around who exists within the definition of “American” excludes immigrant communities. The consequence of such rhetoric is, as Define American elaborates in a recent report, “the systematic and sustained dehumanization of immigrants and people of color.” When it is no longer surprising or shocking that anti-immigration rhetoric is used by white nationalists to “promote isolationism” and then justified “as a form of self-defense,” we see how critical it is to deeply challenge the notion and weaponization of “foreign-ness” against immigrants and non-white people.

It is this rhetoric that local nonprofits like One Journey are committed to shifting — from the fear-based message of “refugees and immigrants (as) a cost or even a threat to our society” to a narrative that “(connects) people through the shared languages of humanity.” Vanda Berninger and Wendy Chan founded One Journey to celebrate the “vast contributions of immigrant communities,” economically, culturally, and beyond. Through their flagship festival, educational events, coalition and community building, and joyous emphasis on our common languages of music, dance, art, storytelling, technology, food, and more, they are harnessing the power of narrative change to build a more welcoming world.

This past June, The New York Times reflected on ten years of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) by inviting Dreamers to share what makes them American. In the article’s introduction, Isvett Verde wrote that “Lost in the conversation around who should and shouldn’t have the right to stay in the United States is the toll living with perpetual uncertainty exacts on a life — and the ripple effects it has on families.” This echoes what Ayuda and their immigration legal program team has experienced: “Whenever there is a window for immigrants to obtain stable status, it is never certain how long that window will remain open.”

It isn’t just that Dreamers and immigrants make vital contributions to our communities. As Esder Chong shares in The New York Times, “What we all really want is a guarantee that we can stay in the country and live a good life, one that includes access to health care, education, employment opportunities and a driver’s license, and the ability to travel to see our family abroad.” These are opportunities that have historically been precarious or inaccessible for Black and Indigenous communities in America, and other communities of color, and that we collectively continue to fight for. Not only is a better world possible when it is better for us all, but a better world is also made possible by the plurality of our experiences. It is through cultural, linguistic, and experiential diversity and visibility that we thrive.

And it is with solidarity that we materialize this world in ours. In the words of our nonprofit partners:

“To build the truly liberatory economic and political system that working class Washingtonians deserve,” Yannik Omictin, former Economic Justice Program Coordinator at Many Languages One Voice, wrote in a blog article, “we will need a strong coalition of Black native Washingtonians and Black and brown immigrants of all backgrounds — in addition to white accomplices.” Through “Know Your Rights” workshops and trainings, direct cash assistance for immigrant families, cultivating youth leadership, organizing an immigrant-led worker base for economic justice, and more, Many Languages One Voice builds power and mobilizes the community to prompt greater systemic change.

Recently, the Virginia General Assembly passed an amendment that would take the $5 million designated to help make higher education more affordable for undocumented and DACA students over the next two years and direct it to students at two of the state’s historically Black universities. “Funding for higher education should be a priority for all students who are in need,” the Dream Project declared in a statement they issued on this decision. “Rather than prioritizing funding for both underserved student groups, the decision pits the needs of one against another… Redirecting these funds creates a false narrative, implying that legislators had no option but to choose between immigrant students and Black students.”

What could it look like to operate from a mindset of abundance, not scarcity? We’ve learned how quickly grassroots operations like the Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network and our nonprofit partner CARECEN, among others, can mobilize the community to care for each other, as they have done and continue to do for migrants being bused from Texas and Arizona to DC these last three months. And it is through their power-building that we can invest in long-term solutions and truly move our city and country collectively beyond “othering” to loving.

What Rights, Whose Rights?

“When someone’s locked away for a long time, when they come back, they don’t have an identity,” Paula Thompson, Executive Director of Voices for a Second Chance, told Lauren Zehyoue on the Unbossed, Unbothered, and Unfiltered podcast last year. “And so, we’re helping people get their birth certificates so that they can get their identification, we help people with clothing, food, shelter, and getting them connected.”

Because most incarcerated DC residents are placed in federal custody and housed anywhere as close as Maryland or as far as California, re-entry for returning citizens — many of whom grew up in under-resourced communities — is particularly challenging. This is in addition to the central narrative we hold of expecting returning citizens to “(pay) their debt to society.” As noted on A Chance to Thrive’s website, “for many, they never stop paying — their history of incarceration prevents them from renting a home, getting a job, making friends, and living without stigma or harassment due to their record.”

In our last article examining safety, we explored the devastating impact a heavily punitive criminal legal system has on BIPOC communities. Dismantling structural racism through decarceration needs to be accompanied by adequate support for people’s re-entry into the community. Again, we return to the question of who is considered “American” and what rights we all want to be afforded as participants in this country — if we operate from a place of valuing interdependence, love, justice, and plurality, how could we recreate our systems to actually love and support formerly incarcerated individuals so that we ensure their health and happiness?

Here, we want to echo the words of another nonprofit partner, Open City Advocates, who supports youth sentenced in the juvenile system both during and after incarceration:

“Treat the young people in our juvenile justice system like you would your own. Believe in them. Care for them. Invest in them.(Emphases ours)

“I get the idea (that) people coming home from prison can be scary, but none of us are scary,” Margaret, one of the three panelists featured in A Chance to Thrive’s event on the barriers facing returning citizens, shared during the conversation. “I want to be the best person I can to bring value to my neighborhood (and) to protect the children from not doing the things I did growing up.”

Citizenship as an Ongoing Practice

“Deeply listen to kids, their ideas, their concerns,” Amy Neugebauer, Founder of youth philanthropic organization The Giving Square, told Karen Leggett in the Washington Post, “because they will make us think and make us better people.”

Nationally and locally, our democracy currently faces a significant host of challenges, from declining faith in public institutions to the spread of misinformation to increasing polarization. “And yet,” Vernee Green, CEO of Mikva Challenge, asked, “which among them might not be helped by engaging the active and thoughtful civic participation of a wide array of our nation’s youth?”

What could America look like if we define citizenship as an ongoing practice, and if we commit to giving everyone full opportunities to participate in civic and political life? As it stands, “scholars have expressed growing concern about the ways in which our democracy fails tests of political equality,” Molly Andolina and Hilary Conklin wrote in a Mikva Challenge white paper. Alongside other growing gaps, “those with the greatest resources (participate) at rates much greater than those who have less access to key resources of “skills, money, and time”” — a disparity that both further marginalizes already under-resourced communities and, frankly, impoverishes our visions for what this country could be.

Imagine, instead, the vibrance of an actively engaged citizenry, where students ask questions of our political candidates as in Mikva Challenge’s youth-led mayoral candidates forum; where their visual storytelling talent is nurtured by organizations like Critical Exposure so that they have a platform to speak for themselves and take ownership over their narratives; where their advocacy solutions are given room and weight in spaces like the Washington Urban Debate League‘s programs; and, most importantly, where our empowerment of Black and Brown youth can reverberate and expand to include every American we don’t want to leave behind.

Finally, we take inspiration from the words of Lulit Shewan, a youth activist and board member of the Youth Activism Project, which holds as its core belief that “there is no minimum age for leadership.” In Shewan’s note to the youth, titled “Resistance is the Theme of Our Generation,” she shared:

“Investing in our communities — education reform, social work, mental health resources, safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, etc. — will be the improvement in our quality of life that will furthermore reduce crime and incarceration… Revolution requires resistance and resistance can’t occur if you’re unable to see the impact of actuating on a small scale. Your voice matters.”

A practice of love can feel small, but we have seen that it leads to the largest ripple effects in our society. As you redefine citizenship with us, the nonprofit partners we highlight here, and the many other local nonprofits we support, we hope you will engage in the long-term, scalable work of love and justice so that we can collaboratively materialize and celebrate a good life for all Americans.

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (07.8.22)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin


Shoutouts to small nonprofits in the DMV, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, and even more upcoming Save the Dates! Have questions or something you’d like featured? Reach out to Amanda, our Communications and Marketing Coordinator, to collaborate!


We are so excited to learn about the recent formation of the Arts Institute for Creative Advancement, a year-long education and apprenticeship program in technical theater to launch in January 2023, in which participants will be paid to learn and work. Seventeen of the largest arts education organizations in the city, including many of our nonprofit partners like The Theatre Lab, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, Sitar Arts Center, and Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, will be training young people who are disconnected from or under-engaged in school and work to enter DC’s creative economy.

Congratulations to Street Sense Media for winning six awards at the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2022 Dateline Awards! View the breakdown of their award-winning stories and hear their Deputy Editor Kaela Roeder talk about what the Roe reversal means for DC on City Cast DC’s podcast.

Ashley McSwain, Executive Director of Community Family Life Services, was featured on Fox 5 news and spoke about their Serving Moms in Crisis conference last month, which was about “communicating to the community the experience that women have who are mothers while they’re incarcerated.”

Congratulations to Life Pieces to Masterpieces for receiving the 2022 Citizen Diplomat Award!

Have you seen “The Melody Lingers On“? A 2021 Official Selection of the International Social Change Film Festival, this film by One Common Unity follows Marcus Morgan, a talented hip-hop artist known as Popp Culture, as he returns to DC to become a youth mentor with the same peace education program that helped him heal after losing his brother to gun violence more than a decade before.

Apply to become a mentee with The Dream Project! Their 2022-23 Mentoring Program will be held from mid-September until the end of April and helps prepare high school seniors from across Virginia to gain admission to, and succeed in, college.

Black student fathers deserve systems, allies and communities that fight for us, elevate our experiences, and understand our potential.” Read this op-ed in The Grio about the invisible lives of Black student fathers, written by Jahkeer Wainwright, a Generation Hope student scholar.

The Arc of Northern Virginia is offering the 2022 LEAP (Life Enrichment Awards Program) Awards, which are grants given to support the purchase or acquisition of goods and services directly linked to youth and young adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses engaged in transition planning and implementation that are not usually available from public service and government agencies. Apply by August 15.

Journalists with diverse backgrounds can apply for emergency grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism on a rolling basis for stories that break new ground and expose wrongdoing related to threats to democracy in the US!

Get Involved

Volunteer with My Sister’s Place! | View their calendar for upcoming opportunities to assist at their shelter, with moving, and more.

Become a Barker Champion! | Volunteer with the Barker Adoption Foundation, who helps provide services for adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth/first parents.

Volunteer with the Justice Arts Coalition | View their list of volunteer opportunities and/or apply to participate in their pARTner project, which provides artists on the outside ages 18 and over with an opportunity to foster connection with artists in prison through letter correspondence and the exchange of creative works.

Volunteer with Community Reach of Montgomery County | Check out their full list of opportunities, including assisting with their Language Outreach Program, Housing Program, being a Friendly Caller to senior clients, and more.

Apply to foster a cat or dog! | Learn more about the HART Foster Program if you want to care for a cat or dog but can’t accept a long-term commitment.

Volunteer with the Alice Ferguson Foundation | From field work on Sundays to a children’s garden club, browse their upcoming opportunities.

Thursdays, July 7 – August 18, 5:30 – 8:15 PM | CREATE, VisArts’ free outdoor summer art workshops!

July 9, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Plastic Free July Cleanup at Kenilworth Park with Anacostia Riverkeeper

July 9, 9:00 – 11:30 AM, 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM, 2:00 – 4:30 PM | Volunteer to provide childcare at Generation Hope events

July 9, 10:30 AM | Storytelling & Scavenger Hunt with Story Tapestries, Game Genius, and FRESHFARM

July 9, 11:00 AM | A sneak peek performance of SPIRIT MOVES at Oxon Run Park

July 9, 1:00 – 2:00 PM | VisArts’ NextGen 9.0 Artist Talks

July 9, 1:00 – 3:00 PM | Project Create Arts Center’s Family Art Day — Affirmation Jars

July 9, 2:00 – 4:00 PM | Special screening of “My Brother’s Journey”

July 9, 5:00 – 8:00 PM | Washington Bach Consort at Dupont Circle BID’s 2022 See You at the Circle Concert Series

July 10, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM | July Community Workday at Common Good City Farm

July 10, 2:00 PM | Brush up on your butterfly identification skills in this virtual workshop with the Prince William Conservation Alliance

July 15, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM | Snorkel and paddle the Shenandoah at Potomac Riverkeeper Network’s Riverpalooza

July 16, 11:00 AM | Girls Rock! DC Showcase

July 16, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM | Virtual Facilitator Training at The DC Center for the LGBT Community

July 16, 7:00 – 8:30 PM | Spirit of Summer Series: Proverbs Reggae Band

July 18, 12:00 – 2:00 PM | Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia Summer Lunch N Life

July 18, 6:00 – 8:00 PM | “The Art of Grief”: A Lived Experience Showcase

July 18 – July 22, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM | Great and Small’s 2022 Military Kids Summer Camp

July 20, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM | Juanita C. Grant Foundation presents an Elder Abuse and Fraud Prevention Training Series

July 21, 5:00 – 6:00 PM | Join Mother’s Outreach Network at their monthly DC Guaranteed Income Coalition meeting

July 25 – July 29, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM | Apply to participate in One Common Unity’s Fly By Light National Training!

July 27, 12:00 PM | Lunch and Learn: How to Talk About Sexual Violence with The Arc of Northern Virginia

July 27, 2:00 – 3:00 PM | Only Make Believe free public show

July 30, 7:30 PM | Juleps in July benefiting Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services

Save the Dates

August 1 – 3 | The Arc Virginia State Convention: Reconnect & Re-Energize

August 22 | HIPS Virtual Gathering: Interconnections of Harm Reduction & Reproductive Justice

August 22 – 28 | Washington Improv Theater’s Improvapalooza

September 17, 9:00 AM | 2022 Superheroes for SafeSpot 5k & Fun Run

September 17, 6:30 – 11:30 PM | Hope for Henry: A Night to Remember

September 17 | C&O Canal Trust’s Park After Dark

September 22, 6:30 – 8:30 PM | 5th Annual Visible Voices Fundraiser for Community Family Life Services

September 24, 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM | Healwell’s HEALTHCARE & INTIMACY virtual symposium

October 1, 12:00 – 6:00 PM | Healwell’s 12th Birthday Bonanza

October 1, 6:00 PM | The Grassroot Project’s 2022 Grassroots Gala

October 6, 6:00 PM | One Night One Goal at Audi Field with DC SCORES

October 7, 6:30 PM | Elevate Voices — Celebrate Community with Story Tapestries

October 24, 10:30 AM – 8:00 PM | 2022 SafeSpot Champions for Children Tournament

October 28, 6:00 – 9:30 PM | SCAN of Northern Virginia’s Toast to Hope

November 14, 7:00 PM | Make Believe on Broadway