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Applying to the Catalogue with Only Make Believe

by Tamela Aldridge, Regional Director, Only Make Believe
omb2Only Make Believe (OMB),established in 1999 in New York City, is a nonprofit organization that creates and performs interactive theater for chronically ill and disabled children in hospitals and care facilities. Only Make Believe is dedicated to the principle that engaging a child’s imagination is a valuable part of the healing and learning process.

Since our program launch in Washington, DC in 2012, OMB has added special education programs to our growing list of local partner facilities . Combining imaginative play with aspects of the students’ learning curricula enriches their educational experience and retention. Our local partner facilities include: The Children’s Inn at NIH, Children’s National Medical Center, Jill’s House, HSC Pediatric Center – Kids in Action program, St. Coletta of Greater Washington and River Terrace Education Campus.

As a fairly new organization in the DC metro area, we learned about the Catalogue of Philanthropy and its mission in 2013. Having determined our short and long term goals for the DC program, our organization recognized that a partnership with the Catalogue would be greatly instrumental in ensuring our success.
omb4 The ultimate goal for Only Make Believe is to serve as many chronically ill and disabled children in the DC metro area as possible, and to meet this goal OMB needed to become one of the top philanthropic organizations in this area. Partnership with the Catalogue was a huge step towards achieving our goal.

The application process is very thorough. I wouldn’t say its hard, but it require a lot of time to concisely construct thoughtful, accurate and impactful statements which reflect the alignment of your organization to the Catalogue’s mission. This application process is not simply stock answers that you provide for grant applications. Each organization that applies needs to really consider what it would be bringing into a partnership with the Catalogue, not just how the Catalogue can benefit their organization. Also, you definitely need your financial records (990, audit, 501 (c) 3 letter) to be up to date and accurate.
EOY-17OMB applied to the Catalogue three times before being invited to join in partnership. The first rejection in 2014 was due to a lack of clarity and separation between our DC office and our New York headquarters. We learned from this first experience how to present our financials to demonstrate we are a branch of the organization that specifically serves the DC metro area and our operations are contingent upon fundraising done in this area.

The second rejection in 2015 was actually great for us. We were about to see how we had improved from the feedback from the previous year and basically the panelists were uncertain about our longevity in this area since we had been in existence for less than 3 years and had a very small footprint in DC. That being said, OMB decided to forgo applying in 2016, which provided more time to create more local partnerships and serve more chronically ill and disabled children and clearly articulate the impact our organization has in the DC metro area.

Our 2017 application was successful and upon notification of our acceptance, we squealed in delight! Only Make Believe was accepted into the Catalogue of Philanthropy during our 5 year anniversary celebration in DC!
28360853626_6ef2ae6de4_oThe DC staff has received invitations to professional development workshops, organizational assessment of office functionality, online tools and cultural insights since our acceptance in the Catalogue. The support of the Catalogue staff has been immeasurable and the visibility that is provided with acceptance has been awesome.

Our Giving Tuesday campaign results doubled from our previous years, and we’ve received several inquiries from people wanting to volunteer with our organization. But most importantly, being members of the Catalogue took us out of our bubble and showed us there is a robust community of nonprofit organizations in DC of varying sizes, missions, and capabilities. We are able to share with and learn from these fellow nonprofits, which in turn helps in galvanizing all our efforts to support the DC community and continue upward momentum of growth and service.
28111233170_031f89ccdc_oOMB would certainly still apply, but we would be more mindful about how Only Make Believe can add to the collective of wonderful nonprofit organizations that comprise the Catalogue for Philanthropy. With every partnership there is give and take; OMB strives to ensure that we give just as much to support the mission of the Catalogue and our fellow nonprofit partners as they freely give to Only Make Believe.

For more information about Only Make Believe or to volunteer or attend of our our events, visit

To apply to the Catalogue for Philanthropy, visit

Numbers for the Day

Of the 50 million students currently in American public schools, only 18% have access to dance education. (National Dance Education Association)

Of those students, only 7% are taught by a certified dance specialist, rather than a sports coach or general educator. (American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance)

Most dancers begin training between the ages of 5 and 15 and many have their first professional audition before they turn 18. (Bureau of Labor Statistics: Dances and Choreographers)

In sum? Kids get serious about dance early and get hooked earlier than that, even if they don’t intend to pursue a full-time dance career. And as the NDEO reports, “participation in high-quality arts education programs nurtures persistence, resilience, achievement” in numerous arenas. Yet many students never have the chance to carve out a space on the dance stage.

… So this “Numbers for the Day” is dedicated to Catalogue’s innovative dance companies and movement-focused non-profits, who keep that stage alive and accessible.

In The News …

Welcome to Wednesday, folks! A handful of non-profit news to follow …

Revamping the Teaching Profession: Investing in teachers from the very beginningThe Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania has an extensive post on the “the importance of investing in high-quality teachers from the very beginning of their careers [...] Investing in the early preparation and support of high-quality teaching candidates [...] is an area where individual philanthropic capital can play a critical role.” Among the results of several such support models? “The retention rates for the three founding programs represent an improvement of 66% to 84% over the national five-year retention rate of 50%.”

Re-envisioning No Child Left Behind, and What It Means for Arts Education — Over at Createquity, Jennifer Kessler provides a detailed analysis of what President Obama’s ‘Blueprint for Reform: the Re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and what it all could signify for the future of arts education in public schools. She explains that “the biggest shift presented by Obama’s proposal is that … the government offers incentives in the form of grants to people doing the best work” and will encourage “a new investment in improving teaching and learning in all content areas.” But are all “content areas” given equal resources?

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In The News …

Welcome to Wednesday, folks! Sending non-profit and local news items your way …

Japan: “Cutting Through the Noise” – At the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at UPenn, yesterday’s post outlines “the questions donors should ask, the capabilities to look for in a nonprofit, and an example of an organization well-positioned to deliver help in Japan now.” While rightly focused on the crisis in Japan, the questions posed (and the answers offered) also provide a good basis?for considering any philanthropic effort in the aftermath of a profound disaster. Key questions to consider include: “What are the most critical needs on the ground?” “What are the gaps in local capacity for meeting these needs?” and “What capabilities are needed to address these gaps effectively?”

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