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Adams Morgan was a Completely Different Place 45 Years Ago

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Before the close proximity to public transportation and nightlife, a few hopeful members of the Church of the Savior saw promise in the 20009 zip code. They saw a need for safe, clean, affordable housing and responded.

Eventually they pooled their resources and purchased two buildings in Adams Morgan — The Ritz and The Mozart. This was the start of what we now know as Jubilee Housing. Since then, the organization has purchased and developed nine buildings with a tenth building under construction. In addition to providing permanent, deeply affordable housing in a thriving neighborhood, Jubilee also provides after-school programming and summer camp for the children of working families, counseling for individuals looking to stabilize their financial status, and supportive housing for people returning home after incarceration.

Washington, DC?is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth and development. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefiting from this prosperity. Today, one-fourth of DC residents earn less than a living wage. Market-rate rents in Adams Morgan range between $2,500 to $4,000 a month, which is far beyond the reach of District residents with the lowest incomes.

With a new?five-year plan, Jubilee Housing is determined to create a city where everyone can thrive. One of the most ambitious goals of the plan is to create an additional 100 units of deeply affordable housing, in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights, over the next five years.

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In a city where big developers are fighting for the chance to turn old properties into luxury condos, this is a tall order. To make these 100 units a reality Jubilee launched an innovative financing tool — the Justice Housing Partners Fund. This $5 million dollar fund will provide quick-strike acquisition capital for bridge financing, enabling Jubilee Housing to compete with market forces and build 100 units of deeply affordable housing in high cost neighborhoods.

Jubilee is seeking social impact capital for the Justice Housing Partners Fund for three-year investment terms, with a 2 percent capped return. This will provide Jubilee the critical time needed to assemble permanent financing. Once Jubilee obtains construction financing for a project, the original investment can be repaid with interest or reinvested, if desired.

The Share Fund — a donor-advised fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region — led the way with a $1 million match investment, which inspired other institutional investors such as United Bank, which committed $250,000. To date, Jubilee Housing has raised over $2 million in commitments for the Justice Housing Partners Fund.

Jubilee Housing maintains that justice housingsm?– deeply affordable housing in thriving neighborhoods with onsite or nearby services — is a proven model that can keep our city diverse and make its communities equitable. Justice housing allows long-time DC residents to stay in their neighborhoods despite soaring rents, and for our city’s lowest income residents to move to communities with the most opportunity. The Justice Housing Fund makes it possible for DC to be a city where all races, ages, and incomes can thrive.

The Delaplaine: Because Everyone Deserves Art

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Back in the early 1980s, a dedicated visual arts center in the center of downtown Frederick, Maryland, was just a dream — that was, until a grassroots effort by artists and art-enthusiasts set out to make that dream into a reality. Today, The Delaplaine Arts Center is a popular attraction along Carroll Creek Park, as well as community gathering place and anchor for Frederick’s East Street Corridor.

The Delaplaine welcomes more than 85,000 visitors annually to its seven galleries, featuring artworks by local, regional, and national artists and groups. More than 55 exhibition are held on-site and at satellite galleries in public libraries around the region. The Delaplaine also offers more than 250 classes and workshops in a variety of media for all skill levels and ages each year, as well as monthly public programs and special events. The art center is open daily, and admission is always free.

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The art center also is passionate about bringing the arts to all corners of the community, reflected by its vision that ‘everyone deserves art.’

“We truly believe that vision,” states Catherine Moreland, Delaplaine CEO. “That’s why we are all about tearing down barriers between the community we serve and the visual arts. It’s why we offer all the classes and programs that we do; it’s why we offer diverse exhibits; it’s why our admission is free; it’s why we partner with other nonprofits.”

The Delaplaine’s Community Outreach Initiative partners the organization with a range of other nonprofits such as Alzheimer’s Association, Arc, Head Start, Housing Authority of Frederick, Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership, Frederick County Department of Aging, and others, as well as local public libraries and schools, to bring free customized art experiences to the at-risk and underserved in the region. There are also other component programs, like the Art Kit Project, which provides quality art supplies free to youth experiencing crises or homelessness. The programs are impacting thousands each year, bringing encouragement and creativity, and improving the quality of life for individuals, families, and all in the community.

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The Delaplaine’s outreach has grown over the past decade and there is no slow-down anticipated in the goal to reach everyone in the region.

“The opportunities for outreach are endless,” explains Caitlin Gill, Community Outreach Program Manager. “The Delaplaine encourages innovation and growth, and we are forging new partnerships, improving existing ones, and growing programs to allow us to reach all in the community.”

“From improving school readiness in preschoolers, to providing help with cognitive and memory issues in adults and seniors, art is impacting lives,” says Moreland. “Our members, donors, and friends broaden and deepen that impact.”

Building a Community within STEM: An unexpected result from our Latina SciGirls program

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In 2016, the Children’s Science Center?was selected as one of sixteen science centers from across the U.S. to receive a grant from Twin Cities Public Television and the National Science Foundation to implement a program for young Latinas over the course of three years in conjunction with PBS SciGirls. We were confident that we could provide the girls in the program a fun, unique educational experience, but the unintended outcome of creating a supportive and caring community for these young girls, and the overall positive impact on staff and volunteers exceeded our expectations.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics 2012 report, Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study, only 3.5% of bachelor’s degrees in STEM were earned by Hispanic females in 2010. This systemic underachievement in STEM can be attributed to several issues including: limited awareness, opportunities, and resources; existing perceptions about STEM; and lack of family involvement. Our Latina SciGirls program to begin tackling this important issue.

Latina SciGirls is a free program for Hispanic girls in grades 3-5 and their families that takes place twice annually over the course of several weeks at the Children’s Science Center Lab in partnership with local Title I elementary schools in Northern Virginia. Latina SciGirls is a culturally responsive program designed to address barriers that prevent Hispanic girls and their families from engaging in STEM and to promote a positive STEM identity. Critical elements of the program provide young Latinas with opportunities to engage with Latina STEM professionals to foster mentoring relationships and a parent education component to support their daughters’ interest and achievement in STEM.

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Latina SciGirls program begins with an open house event held at the elementary school. Students, parents, and families meet program staff and the Latina STEM mentors while participating in hands-on STEM activities. Each subsequent weekly session covers a different STEM topic: physical sciences, environmental science, engineering, forensics, biology, and chemistry. The Fiesta de la Familia event celebrates the end of the session with families, girls, program staff and the Latina STEM mentors for a night of hands-on STEM activities. The goals of the program are to increase access for Latinas and their families to positive STEM programming, and promote positive STEM identity development. To ensure regular attendance of the Latina SciGirls program, the Center provides complimentary dinner and transportation each week for the duration of the program.

Over the course of each session, the Center’s staff watch as the girls’ confidence in STEM grow. Our staff take pride in their ability to create a warm and safe environment where the girls feel empowered to take risks and share their thinking while exploring STEM. The girls are introduced to female role models that they would not otherwise encounter. Having access to professional Latina mentors who share their own stories of success and failure has proven beneficial to the program. Although the program focuses on STEM, the girls practice working collaboratively, and building relationships among peers and adults — important life skills for every child’s future. We hope the girls take this initial spark and continue their investigations into the world around them, especially as they enter the crucial middle-school years when STEM interest statistically plummets. We believe each girl leaves the program open to new experiences, ideas, and people, with increased confidence and a stronger sense of self. Many of the program’s alumna seek out additional STEM experiences to grow their newfound interest.

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What started out as a program opportunity has evolved into a passion project. The Children’s Science Center has served over 100 young Latinas since 2016 and is grateful to Twin Cities Public Television, General Motors, and Leidos for their sponsorship. Latinos comprise 17% of Northern Virginia’s population. With this population steadily increasing, the Latina SciGirls program will continue to be in high demand. As the Center moves forward with the capital campaign to build a full-scale science center that will more adequately serve the region’s families, we also look forward to expanding the reach of significant programs like Latina SciGirls.

At the core of the Children’s Science Center‘s educational mission is a dedication to meeting the needs of all children, in particular reaching underserved and economically disadvantaged children who traditionally do not have access to private enrichment opportunities. The Center impacts over 70,000 annually with its community programs and the Children’s Science Center Lab. The vision of the Center is to build the region’s first world-class children’s science museum on donated land in Dulles, VA.

The Center is grateful for the enthusiastic participation of a community of volunteer mentors, who have come in to lead and facilitate our STEM activities and tell their own stories of success and failure. STEM mentors have included women from NASA, USDA, PBS, FBI, and the Virginia House of Delegates. There are many opportunities through the Center to volunteer and make an impact on our local community. Information can be found here.

After-School All-Stars DC: Helping students become more active, healthy and empowered

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Ward 8 is consistently burdened with the highest crime rates and lowest median incomes out of all wards within Washington DC, and while these instances are somewhat commonplace, the impact continues to be devastating. No group has been impacted more than the youth of the surrounding neighborhoods. Recent violence included a fatal shooting of a high school freshman, and a large fight immediately outside a DC public school called Somerset Prep DC. Somerset is one of seven school sites that After-School All-Stars Washington DC (ASAS DC) serves. While these events were occurring in Mid-May, our students at Somerset Prep DC, Leckie Education Campus, Charles Hart Middle School and John Hayden Johnson Middle School were provided a safe environment within their schools, and an opportunity to enrich themselves through education. After-School All-Stars provides comprehensive after-school programming to middle school students in neglected regions of the country. The DC chapter provides opportunities for students to participate in dynamic courses at no cost to them, and that were not previously available at their schools (e.g. drone engineering, robotics, healthy cooking, yoga, and music production to name a few). It also provides a safe space for our students during the most dangerous time of day, between 3-6 PM when young people within the community are most vulnerable to nefarious activities.

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But despite our in-school programming, tangible divides and bitter rivalries continue to permeate between the four schools we serve in Ward 8. This Spring our staff took it upon themselves to create events outside of our traditional programming, with an express focus on bridging the divide between the students at these schools. ASAS DC held a “carnival” Ward 8 field day event in response to the growing tension, where over 100 students and 25 parents were in attendance. Students participated in games, enjoyed performances from their peers, and were provided a chance to foster meaningful friendships with each other. Beyond spending time together, we also tie in our own values and purpose into events/initiatives. Two weeks after the field day event, students from the four Ward 8 schools gathered at Oxon Run Park, in the heart of South East DC. They participated in a clean-up project to pick up trash and improve the appearance of the park itself. ASAS DC students also completed several community-building activities that required collaboration, and expelling negative preconceptions about their peers from other schools. Most importantly, each student was given an opportunity to share their thoughts with the larger group on how they would solve these issues facing their neighborhood. Profound and meaningful sentiments were shared, with the consistent theme being that they should work together and embrace one another in the face of division and violence.

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ASAS DC is proud to serve the students of this diverse and vibrant community, and as we grow and build relationships throughout DC our hope is to bring these opportunities to every middle school student within the District.

Past, Present, and Future: Our Team is Our Greatest Treasure

Like all community-based nonprofits, Art Enables‘ team is our most important asset. We are small but mighty, with just four full-time and one part-time staff members to advance our mission of creating opportunities for artists with disabilities to make, market, and earn income from their original and compelling artwork.

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The process of growing to a staff of five has taken 15 years. In Art Enables first year in 2001, our founder, Joyce Muis-Lowery, accomplished the vast majority of our work with support from a small group of very committed volunteers. Art Enables at that time was focused on its studio arts and exhibitions programs, both very entrepreneurial in nature. Through the studio arts program, our resident artists experiment, develop, and create their artwork in a supported and professional studio environment. Our exhibitions program showcases and promotes our artists through large group, small group, and individual exhibitions both onsite in our galleries and through offsite shows at local, national, and international venues. In addition to fundraising and managing operations, Joyce, with the help of that small group of volunteers, led almost all aspects of our programs in those early days.

In 2002, Art Enables hired its first full-time employee, an Art Director, devoted to overseeing a significant portion of the operations elements of the program. This role was an important first hire because the organization had just moved into a new physical location, our first opportunity to really develop and expand our work. Managing the onsite programs, along with developing a public outlet for our artists’ work, required experience of and savvy with the broader arts community.

As we continued to build upon and improve our programs, we recognized there was still more we could do to engage the general public and to foster our artists’ success as professionals. We piloted our community arts program in 2012, and now we host a variety of workshops, joint art projects, events, and exhibitions as a way for the public to join our artists in the art making (and enjoyment!) process. A mainstay of the community arts program is our 2nd Saturday Workshops, which now regularly host hundreds of DC area residents, supporters, neighbors, families, art lovers, and passers-by at each free event. (We hope to see you at one check out our news and events page for upcoming happenings!)

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As the expansion of our program offerings show, we’ve accomplished a tremendous amount since 2001. Art Enables artists have sold nearly $1 million in artwork since our founding, and have exhibited work in hundreds of exhibitions and shows. We’ve worked hard to find new ways to advance our mission and to enrich the lives and careers of our artists.

Yet there’s still so much more we can and want to do. As we look ahead to our next 15 years, we see incredible opportunity for us to strengthen our creative and vocational assistance to artists in the program, increase their income opportunities, and support them as they build their careers as professional artists. We are also driven to enhance and broaden our profile not only as a gallery and studio, but as an arts venue and community space that fosters artistic expression and collaboration as well. And through all our work, we want to strengthen our voice as a leader on issues that impact the disabilities and arts communities.

With those goals on the horizon, we have our work cut out for us! That’s why as a first step towards success on this next phase of our work, we’re excited to add our first-ever dedicated fundraising professional to our staff.

The role we created, Development and Communications Manager, is the result of much deliberation, conversation, and excitement for our future. Investing in a new staff member is always a big commitment. That said, I see all the ways that investing in development is critical to moving our work and our goals forward. Art Enables is committed to supporting the artists in our studio on their professional journey, and this exciting new position will be key to that effort.

Please help Art Enables find its new Development and Communications Manager. Share this link – Development and Communications Manager or apply yourself!

Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives with HomeAid Northern Virginia

By: Kristyn Burr, Executive Director, HomeAid Northern Virginia

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This month, HomeAid Northern Virginia completed our 116th project to improve and expand housing provided by homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities – helping vulnerable individuals and families in our local area rebuild their lives with a secure, stable place to call home. Our most recent project was collaboration with the Brain Foundation of Fairfax County (another Catalogue nonprofit). With the assistance of HomeAid Northern Virginia, two Brain Foundation group homes that provide affordable, stable housing for individuals suffering from brain disease/mental illness – a population that is particularly vulnerable to becoming homeless – now have new bathrooms, more storage, enhanced common space and more.

HomeAid Northern Virginia facilitates and enables construction and renovation work on shelters, provides significant cost savings and allows organizations serving the homeless to invest their budgets in people-focused programs and services rather than building expenses. We facilitate renovations to shelters and supportive housing properties by bringing together the expertise of the local homebuilder community with the needs of local nonprofits who work to house the homeless.

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By convening and mobilizing the donated expertise, labor, and resources of homebuilders and construction trade partners (suppliers, subcontractors, etc.) who work with HomeAid Northern Virginia, we have completed 116 construction and renovation projects. Together these homeless shelters and supportive housing facilities have served more than 112,000 individuals in our community. Every single project we undertake gives more and more individuals and families safe housing where they can plan their futures and rebuild their lives.

Homelessness in Northern Virginia
Nearly 2,000,000 people find themselves homeless in America each year. A lost job or unexpected illness or injury can easily disrupt a family just getting by. A veteran’s posttraumatic stress, or the courageous decision to flee domestic violence displaces others. Due to the high cost of living in Northern Virginia, even the slightest change can affect a person’s living situation.

Building What Matters Most: A Secure, Stable Home

Stable secure housing has been shown to foster stable employment for adults and greater success in school for children. Access to stable, accessible housing enables families who were separated due to homelessness or housing insecurity to be reunited. At HomeAid, we do more than build housing for the homeless – we change lives.

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From the construction of entirely new shelter buildings to renovating sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathrooms, HomeAid Northern Virginia’s 116 projects have provided $14.7 million of construction to more than 40 nonprofit housing organizations that serve homeless families and children, victims of domestic abuse, runaway teens and other at risk individuals. Importantly, our projects have saved our nonprofit service-provider partners $8.4 million in retail construction costs, while at the same time enabling them to support improvements to provide a safe place for children to do their homework, for parents to get ready for work, and for families to get back on their feet. Instead of dollars spent on construction, our partners can pour more funding into the programs and services – education, vocational training, day care, counseling, etc. – that help individuals and families rebuild their lives.
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Several of our projects and partners include:

  • Shelter House’s Artemis House, Fairfax County’s only 24-hour domestic violence shelter. With HomeAid’s renovation, the shelter now provides safe housing for up to 8 individuals at a time facing life-threatening crisis.
  • Youth for Tomorrow (YFT), a residential campus for at-risk youth in Bristow, Va. HomeAid completed construction of two new homes on the campus, each allowing YFT to provide shelter and support services to 36 girls who are pregnant, young mothers, homeless, runaways, or survivors of sex trafficking.
  • Loudoun Transitional Housing Program. The program’s eight apartment units that provide transitional housing for homeless families and single women were completely renovated to create a well-appointed and fully-furnished home to help residents rebuild their lives and get back on the road to self-sufficiency.
  • Northern Virginia Family Service. HomeAid expanded and updated its shelter and food distribution center, constructed space for a Head Start day care facility, and renovated housing provided for disabled veterans and homeless families.

Beyond the Brick and Mortar: Enabling a Virtuous Cycle
Beyond the individual benefits to those living in the new/renovated facilities, there is a virtuous cycle of good associated with each HANV project:

  • Upgrades to housing positively impact not only current residents, but future residents for years to come.
  • Enhanced real-estate improves the balance sheet for nonprofits, and improves neighborhoods.

In this way, our projects are not “done” when they are completed; their impact is felt across individuals and communities long-term. By strategically building what is needed most in Northern Virginia, HomeAid is able to support other nonprofits as we work together toward ending homelessness, one person and one family at a time.

brain foundation renovation image 1HomeAid Isn’t Just For Homebuilders: “Helping Hands”
While we are always recruiting new homebuilders to serve as project “builder captains” and construction trade partners to collaborate with on our projects, we have plenty of other volunteer opportunities as well. The homes and shelter facilities we build and renovate provide comfortable shelter, but that’s typically not all that incoming residents need. Many arrive with little more than the shirts on their back. We started our Helping Hands program to make sure that individuals and families who move into HomeAid-renovated housing have what they need for a fresh start:

  • Our Fill the Fridge program collects gift cards so that homeless families moving into a new home can buy milk, fruit, and other perishables for a healthy start in their new home.
  • Our Welcome Home Baskets include basic but essential items that formerly-homeless families need for their new home, including towels, sheets, pots, dishes etc.
  • Our annual backpack drive ensures that children living in homeless shelters and supportive housing properties have access to a new backpack before the start of each school year; and our annual “Night at the Ballpark” treats hundreds of families living in local shelters to a Potomac Nationals baseball game – quality family time at a sporting event that may otherwise be out of financial reach.

Scout groups, neighborhood groups, school groups, church groups and other community organizations have organized collection drives for our Helping Hands program. These drives help make a house a home and you can make a difference by organizing one for an upcoming project. Learn more at http://www.homeaidnova.org/get-involved/volunteer/.

Stimulating Change: LearnServe International’s 4th Annual Panels and Venture Fair

The Figuring Out College Success team after their big win at LearnServe's 4th Annual Panels and Venture Fair

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of being a judge at LearnServe International’s 4th Annual Panels and Venture Fair at the School Without Walls. LearnServe International empowers high-school students from around the DC area who have the motivation (but perhaps not the means) to make a difference. Through their Fellows Program, LearnServe helps guide students through the creation of their own “social venture.” This year’s Venture Fair featured 60 young entrepreneurs who represented 30 high schools in 4 different counties. What do all of these young entrepreneurial minds have in common? They all helped to design 45 different social ventures with the goal of serving their schools and their communities.

In the cafeteria of the School Without Walls, LearnServe fellows set up their presentation boards and prepared to discuss their ideas with leaders from both the business and community worlds. Students were split into 4 groups: DC Public and Charter Schools/PG County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Independent Schools. Students were judged based on three different categories: innovative ideas, presentation boards, and their venture pitch. Awards were presented to the one group from each category that received the overall high score from the judges. Winners won a certificate, a book, and a pro-bono consulting service session with business leaders from different companies in the area.

As a judge, I reviewed five different ventures, each one as impressive as the next. It was extremely inspiring to see high school students who were all so motivated to make changes within their communities and beyond. Of all the ventures, one group that I judged not only caught my eye, but had the highest score in their geographic region, and therefore, won. Figuring Out College Success (FOCS) is a venture started by Nancy, Zora, Yousef, and Spencer, all sophomore students, with a goal of making the college preparation and application process easier for students. Whether they are students from international backgrounds, working class families, or first-generation college goers, the mission of FOCS is to help effectively transform the frustration and discouragement of the unknown into motivation to pursue the college path. As four young students who have not yet been through the college preparation or application process yet, their goals proved to be one of the most impressive portions of their venture proposal.

  • increase enrollment in Honors, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes by 10%
  • ensure participants, by mid freshman year, have a developed relationship with their counselor and have a plethora of extracurricular activities under their belt
  • have participants by mid sophomore year create a pool of teachers for recommendations
  • have junior year participants who by their second semester have a full resume and have visited multiple 4-year institutions up the East Coast
  • ensure that by senior year participants have applied to multiple colleges and have set up permanent financial plans for the school they’ll be attending

As a first time judge for the LearnServe Venture Fair, I was blown away by the original and transformative ideas that these young people had come up with. It’s refreshing to see so many young people willing (and able) to change the world, and LearnServe provides them with a great platform to do so. Congratulations to all of the winners, the participants, and everyone at LearnServe who helped to put on an extremely stimulating event. To learn more about LearnServe International and all of the programs that they provide, click here.

In the News: State of the Nonprofit Sector

This week, the Nonprofit Finance Fund released its 2013 “State of the Sector Survey”, indicating that across the country “39% will change the main ways they raise and spend money” in the coming year. According to NFF CEO Anthony Bugg-Levine:

“Nonprofits are changing the way they do business because they have to: government funding is not returning to pre-recession levels, philanthropic dollars are limited, and demand for critical services has climbed dramatically. At the same time, 56 percent of nonprofits plan to increase the number of people served. That goal requires systemic change and innovation – both within the sector, and more broadly as a society that values justice, progress and economic opportunity.”

An NFF press release includes the following top-line findings from the survey:

Nonprofits need new funding sources and models.

  • 42% of survey respondents report that they do not have the right mix of financial resources to thrive and be effective in the next 3 years.
  • 1 in 4 nonprofits has 30 days or less cash-on-hand.
  • Over the next twelve months, 39% plan to change the main ways they raise and spend money.
  • 23% will seek funding other than grants or contracts, such as loans or investments.

Nonprofits that receive government funding face particular challenges:

  • Only 14% of nonprofits receiving state and local funding are paid for the full cost of services; just 17% of federal fund recipients receive full reimbursement. Partial reimbursements require additional funding to cover the growing gap as nonprofits serve more people.
  • Government is late to pay: Among those with state or local funding, just over 60% reported overdue government payments; over 50% reported late payments from the federal government.

Under these challenging conditions, many nonprofits are unable to meet growing need in their communities:

  • For the first time in the five years of the survey, more than half (52%) of respondents were unable to meet demand over the last year; 54% say they won’t be able to meet demand this year.
  • This represents a worrying trend; in 2009, 44% of nonprofits said they were unable to meet demand.
  • Jobs (59%) and housing (51%) continue to be top concerns for those in low-income communities.
  • 90% of respondents say financial conditions are as hard or harder than last year for their clients; this is actually a slight improvement from prior years’ outlook

Nonprofits are changing the way they do business to adapt to the new reality. In the past 12 months:

  • 49% have added or expanded programs or services; 17 percent reduced or eliminated programs or services.
  • 39% have collaborated with another organization to improve or increase services.
  • 39% have upgraded technology to improve organizational efficiency.
  • 36% engaged more closely with their board.

Within the Greater Washington region, the picture looks similar. Looking at a subsection of Catalogue-profile nonprofits operating in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., an overwhelming majority (86%) project their service demand will slightly or significantly increase in 2013, while 58% responded that they will not be able to meet that demand. This continues a trend of demand for services exceeding the supply seen in since at least 2008. Another concerning statistic — over 40% of surveyed nonprofits in the region indicated that they do not have the right mix of financial resources to “thrive and be effective” over the next three years.

The NFF discusses the result of this data – that nonprofits are forced to “innovate to increase efficiency, access new kinds of funding, evaluate impact, and work collectively to tackle social problems.” The question we, supporters of the nonprofit community, must ask ourselves is whether we’re creating an environment that fosters such innovation.

In a TED Talk earlier this month, Dan Pallotta challenged listeners to let nonprofits take risks and possibly fail, but have the (financial) freedom to truly innovate and search for new solutions to society’s intractable social problems. Such work takes a commitment on the part of the funding community to support innovative nonprofit leaders — and is the only way that the nonprofit and philanthropic communities will not only weather the current economic uncertainties, but thrive and create sustainable, positive change in coming years.

The Cultural Data Project

This week, I came across an interesting blog post on the Cultural Data Project. We first learned of the CDP when conducting our own network wide Impact Survey last fall, and several of our Culture Nonprofits mentioned the CDP as another data collection and tracking tool commonly used by arts organizations in DC. The CDP is a “unique system that enables arts and cultural organizations to enter financial, programmatic and operational data into a standardized online form. Organizations can then use the CDP to produce a variety of reports designed to help increase management capacity, identify strengths and challenges and inform decision-making. They can also generate reports to be included as part of the application processes to participating grantmakers.” The District of Columbia is one of thirteen states that currently takes part in the CDP.

Talis Gibas and Amanda Keil, writing for Createquity, discussed the background of the CDP, its impact to date on both sector-wide research and arts organizations, as well as potential future expansions. Their article highlights opportunities and challenges for CDP as it transitions in 2013 to an independent entity after operating under the Pew Charitable Trusts. To date, it seems as though the project has proved of greater use and benefit to researchers and advocates for the arts instead of arts organizations themselves:

“Cultural organizations themselves don’t always hear about work, or take full advantage of the CDP’s resources. In 2012, the CDP conducted a survey of over 1,800 arts organizations charged with filling out a Data Profile every year …68 percent of respondents had never read a report that includes CDP data. This implies that researchers, and the CDP itself, need to close the feedback loop between research and the constituents being studied. In addition, the survey revealed that more than 40% of participating organizations have never run an annual, trend, or comparison report. The same survey that found nearly half of organizations don’t use CDP reporting tools also found that 45% of participants understood their own finances better as a result of completing the Profile. Of those respondents that did use CDP reports, 40% said it resulted in better transparency, 45% said they had a better sense of their progress and goals, and 56% said they had a better sense of their organization over time. These relatively low percentages suggest that even organizations taking full advantage of CDP reports do not always find them of substantial benefit.”

This is not entirely surprising to the Catalogue, as we work with small (arts) nonprofits regularly who struggle with the capacity to accomplish many routine administrative duties, not including additional data tracking and reporting. As a project like the Cultural Data Project gains traction, and as the post suggests, becomes a more routine and common tool for arts grant-makers, perhaps more nonprofits will ‘buy in’ and find the process worthwhile.

As far as I can tell, the CDP primarily partners with larger foundation funders. Our sweet spot is individual and smaller family foundation donors, and it will be interesting to see if and how projects like the CDP will reach out to this donor community — at least with ways to access their data and research to inform individual philanthropy as well as foundation giving.

The article also mentions a similar tool that’s been developed for the community and economic development sector called Success Measures — “an outcome evaluation resource for community development organizations, intermediaries and funders.” The emergence of multiple similar tools for tracking trends and outcomes just goes to show the growing importance of impact measurement within the nonprofit and funder communities.

I applaud this trend and look forward to seeing how projects like CDP will help not only individual organizations better track their own data, trends, and outcomes but help provide a better picture of trends across the sector — and see where and how the needles are moving on key social issues. This is potentially more relevant for moving needles like poverty rates, educational achievement levels, and adult literacy, but also may also be key in securing support for the arts as sequestration and other government cuts start to hit.

Equitable Development in the District

by Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

This year, the print Catalogue for Philanthropy opened with an infographic, “Our Region, Our Impact”. The spread presented facts and figures on the levels of poverty and income distribution in the Greater Washington region, as well as the impact of Catalogue nonprofits and ways they serve under-served communities. As many readers are likely aware, income inequality on the Greater Washington region is one of the highest in the nation — the top 20% of earners bring in annual salaries of over $250,000 and the bottom 20% of earners, not even $10,000.

Within the District, gentrification has played a large role in not only increasing inequality, but the ways in which rich and poor interact and engage in geographic spaces. This week, the Nonprofit Quarterly highlighted the work of one DC nonprofit, ONE DC, in addressing gentrification (or displacement, as they refer to it) and promoting equitable development across the city:

Equitable development is defined as development activity with a triple bottom line, taking into account the interests of the business community and local developers, fairness in the treatment of employees, and sustainability in protecting and enhancing resources (human and others) in responding to an array of social and environmental needs. There are many communities throughout the U.S. experimenting with these principles, and one such project that offers a manifestation of this burgeoning “equitable development” movement is ONE DC (Organizing Neighborhood Equity DC) in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood…

By engaging in what ONE DC refers to as “participatory democracy,” this membership-led organization is confronting several powerful private and public entities to protect residents’ interests. Its strategy, as stated on the organization’s web page, is one where “people within movements for social change, those directly affected by the issues, make the decisions related to the campaign or movement; minimize hierarchy within their organization to maximize shared power and equity of voice; and utilize direct action as an effective means to compel decision-makers to implement decisions made by the community.”

Perhaps the most interesting and innovative aspect to ONE DC’s work is that “the overarching goal is not simply reform but institutional change and social transformation.” Unlike other direct service organizations that provide a much needed, but often one-off service to clients trapped in systems of poverty, ONE DC attempts to achieve specific objectives (“human rights to affordable housing, living wage jobs, and equitable development”) by empowering affected communities with voice in the process and stake in the (equitable) development of their communities.

Learn more about and support Catalogue nonprofits also working in community and economic development online here.