Category: WRAG events

Grantmakers share how nonprofits can deepen relationships beyond dollars

By Hudson Kaplan-Allen
WRAG’s 2016 Summer Intern

The second in WRAG’s Nonprofit Summer Learning Series, “Navigating the Grants Process: From Initial Contact to Long-Term Partnership,” focused on how nonprofit organizations can build and maintain strong and positive relationships with their funders after receiving a grant. The session was led by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s (CFNV) president, Eileen Ellsworth, and featured a panel of experienced grantmaking professionals from across the Greater Washington region.

Ellsworth started the discussion by asking one of CFNV’s grantees to speak about her organization’s experience throughout the grant process. Jessica Fuchs from Serving Together shared her nonprofit’s relationship over the years with CFNV and made the point that, while the funding has been extremely helpful, “it’s really about the connections the [Community Foundation] has helped make.” She emphasized that the support and partnership CFNV has provided has helped validate and promote Serving Together’s work to other funders, individual donors, and the general public, and has helped expand the organization’s reach as a nonprofit organization.

The panelists — Timothy McCue of the Potomac Health Foundation, Danielle Reyes of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, and Naomi Smouha of Capital One — shared insights into the grantmaking process and gave examples of strong nonprofit relationships they have formed in their time as grantmakers. All of the panelists agreed that they find it important both to compare notes and best practices with their grantmaker peers and network within the nonprofit world to find the best partners.

Smouha compared the process to dating, pointing out that it’s smart to go on a few dates and get an idea of who she is working with before she “brings you home to mom.” Every quarter, Capital One hosts one-hour information sessions to allow potential grantees to get an idea of the partnerships they are looking for. They want to make sure they are being completely transparent every step of the way.

Reyes pointed out the importance of nonprofit organizations using Twitter to form connections with funders. At Crimonsonbridge, one of the ways they look to see who wants to partner with them is by checking their Twitter feed and followers. She uses the social media platform to research whose work best fits the foundation’s mission. “We don’t just follow back anyone,” she said.

All of the funders drove home the importance of developing and maintaining an honest and open relationship. “Don’t wait to tell your funder that something is going awry with one of your projects,” said McCue. “Be forthcoming with them.” On top of that, nonprofits are often tempted to follow the money. Instead, McCue said, organizations should be sure to stick with their missions. All three panelists said they use interim or progress reports to check-in with their grantees and make sure they are on track with their projects. If a nonprofit hits a roadblock and decides to change their approach after receiving a grant, they should be open with their funder about the changes. If you go through a staff turnover at your organization, give your funder a heads up that you are going through a transition, said Reyes. “Nonprofits should look at their funders beyond just a dollar relationship,” she said. Explore the partnership by asking questions and being open to suggestions. The next in the Nonprofit Summer Series, “Having Tough Conversations with Your Funder,” on August 19, will address the ways that some of these more difficult conversations between grantmakers and grantees can be resolved and can be used to deepen the relationship.

How companies motivate their employees to volunteer

By Hudson Kaplan-Allen
WRAG’s 2016 Summer Intern

On June 23 WRAG’s Corporate Philanthropy Affinity Group heard from Chris Jarvis of Realized Worth on why employees are incentivized, or in some cases, dis-incentivized, to volunteer. Realized Worth is a consulting firm that focuses on engaging employees in corporate volunteering. As the co-founder and senior partner, Jarvis shared strategies for getting employees involved in their communities and committed to social issues.

“People who show up to company volunteering programs already like to volunteer,” Jarvis said, adding, “These aren’t the employees that need to be convinced.” It’s much harder to motivate those who are less inclined to come out and devote a day or even a few hours to volunteering in their community, he said. So how do organizations increase the number of employees who participate in these engagement opportunities?

Jarvis explained that people volunteer for a variety of reasons, noting that some people respond to extrinsic motivation while others respond better to intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation occurs when people engage in an activity to earn a reward. Maybe they are offered a bonus by their employer or are looking to meet new people. Intrinsic motivation is when people engage in a behavior because it is personally rewarding; in other words, performing an activity for its own sake rather than for an external/extrinsic reward. While our initial reasons are often extrinsic, if we fall in love with volunteering, it then becomes intrinsic.

Jarvis cited an episode of the PBS TV series The Brain entitled “Why Do I Need You?” When we find extrinsic happiness, he said, our reward system kicks in, and we often feel something like a runner’s high, a sensation that tricks us into going farther than we think we can go, pushing ourselves that last mile. These same chemicals are released when we volunteer, Jarvis said, especially when we visualize the beneficiary and can understand our own significance to that person. That’s when we fall in love with volunteering – when we can understand exactly how and what the significance of the volunteer work is. That’s when we will push to do that extra hour or even extra day of volunteering. We are intrinsically motivated. It’s about creating a transformative experience as opposed to a transactional interaction, Jarvis added. If we have the occasion to directly get to know the person we are helping, to have that “storyline,” we form an emotional connection with the cause and take away meaning from the experience.

Jarvis used an example from one of Realized Worth’s successful Corporate Citizenship programs. Recently, his company worked with one of their corporate clients to get its employees more engaged. They created a program in which the employees, customers, and business partners would come in on a Sunday morning, once a month, to learn about mental health awareness and hear from local professionals. Just months after the program launched, the corporation was benefiting tremendously. The employee engagement rate went up by 12% and the absenteeism rate dropped by 22%. Talking about mental health, Jarvis pointed out, created a safe space for employees where they felt comfortable and engaged with the company and the community. In concluding, Jarvis said that programs like this one benefit both the business and the community. And that’s good for everyone.

WRAG’s Corporate Philanthropy Affinity Group is comprised of corporate social responsibility leaders from more than 35 of the Greater Washington region’s top companies. This network provides members with professional development and best practice sharing; information on community needs and facilitated discussions with community, corporate, and nonprofit leaders; purposeful networking and partnership building; and a collective voice for corporate philanthropy. The next Corporate Philanthropy Affinity Group session, on measuring and evaluating CSR, is August 16. Click here to learn more.

Improving reading scores is about a whole lot more than teaching kids to read

by Natalie Wexler
Trustee, The Omega Foundation

Why is it harder to raise reading scores than math scores for students from low-income families? And why do kids who seem to read well in elementary school then struggle with grade-level text in middle and high school?

For decades, most elementary schools have taught reading as a skill: children have practiced reading comprehension strategies like “finding the main idea” or “making inferences” on simple stories. The theory has been that it doesn’t matter what students are reading, as long as they’re reading something. And in many elementary schools, especially those serving low-income students, the curriculum has been narrowed to “the basics:” reading and math.

But reading comprehension is highly dependent on background knowledge – as Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, will explain at the second event in WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series on June 2. If students don’t learn about history, science, and the arts in elementary school, they’ll be at a tremendous disadvantage in high school, when they encounter texts that assume a lot of knowledge and vocabulary they don’t have. That’s particularly true for low-income students, who are far less likely to acquire academic knowledge at home.

Willingham – an accessible and engaging speaker as well as the author of several popular books – was recently cited in a speech by Secretary of Education John B. King. “We know from decades of research from folks like Daniel Willingham at the University of Virginia that knowledge matters for reading success,” King said. “It is not about reading vs. science and social studies.”

Willingham’s talk will shed light on why the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students hasn’t narrowed in decades (in fact, some say it’s wider than ever), why it widens during school years, and what it will take to begin to close it.

WRAG’s 2016 Public Education Speaker Series is generously supported by The Omega Foundation, with additional support from the Tiger Woods Foundation. The series touches on a variety of critical topics facing students today. Education funders should click here to learn more about the series and to registerPlease, note that these programs are open to grantmakers only.

Friday roundup – May 4 through May 8, 2015

– In her latest column, WRAG’s president Tamara Copeland shared her thoughts on how good, secure jobs can translate to hope for individuals in communities, and can help prevent the unrest that has played out in cities like Baltimore. (Daily, 5/4)

– The summer 2015 class of Frank Karel Public Interest Communications Fellows was announced. This fellowship, fiscally sponsored by WRAG, places first-generation and minority undergraduate students at area nonprofit organizations to expose them to social change communications. (Daily 5/4)

– Kristin Pauly, Managing Director at Prince Charitable Trusts, shared why they’re excited about “getting on the map” and sharing their grants data with colleagues. (Daily, 5/6)

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia recently held their inaugural Chairman’s Breakfast, presented by their Board Chair (and WRAG’s Vice Chair), Lynn Tadlock. Boeing was recognized for being an Outstanding Community Partner in Northern Virginia. (CFNoVa, 5/7)

– We learned that plans for the Dupont Underground, set to open in July, may need to be pared down a bit due to funding. (WaPo, 5/1)

– We also learned how the upcoming closure of the Artisphere in Arlington County indicates much more about the way cultural institutions are often viewed as “extraneous.” (WCP, 5/7)

– D.C. continues to change. That’s why, in an effort to continue to provide quality services and effectively reach those who need them the most, two major nonprofits in the city are making big moves. Martha’s Table will move most of its operations east of the river, while Whitman-Walker Health will soon unveil a new, more modern facility. (WaPo, 5/4 and (WaPo, 5/6)


Healthy Communities Working Group: May Meeting and Conversation with Pamela Creekmur, Prince George’s County Health Officer (WRAG members)
Monday, May 11 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM (At the Meyer Foundation)

Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference (WRAG members, non-member funders, nonprofits, government officials, community leaders, and anyone else interested in learning about the needs of the county)
Thursday, May 14  10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Middleburg Community Center)

Get on the Map: A How-To Webinar
Thursday, May 14  2:00 PM – 2:45 PM

Ever wonder what songs there are about your favorite city? Check out this map

– Ciara


WRAG’s Morning with Mayor Bowser

by Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

“I’m a regionalist,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proudly proclaimed to a packed audience of local funders. “I want the D.C. region to be competitive in the country. I don’t want D.C. to compete against Fairfax County or Prince George’s County,” she said, recognizing the District as core to the region, but with a clear understanding that the region needs to work together as a whole.

With just a month in office, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers invited D.C.’s new mayor to speak exclusively with members about her vision for the District and how she wants to work with philanthropy.

After acknowledging the strong connections that exist between D.C. government and WRAG entities – including the Washington AIDS Partnership, the Healthy Communities Working Group, the Affordable Housing Action Team, and the Arts and Humanities Working Group – she went on to cite her commitment to new jobs, a cleaner Anacostia River, and affordable housing saying, “I am focused on growth in D.C. I want people with regular wages to be able to live in the District.”

When asked specifically what she needs from philanthropy, Bowser stated that, of course, dollars would be needed to implement some of her vision, but her desire for a partnership with philanthropy went well beyond funding. She expressed that she would appreciate the thought partnership of philanthropy as her administration works to build roadmaps to address the problems facing the city and its residents. She also called on philanthropy to help her set priorities. She asked that local philanthropic leaders help her to reach high net worth individuals across the country who should be investing in the nation’s capital. This message resonated with several WRAG member CEOs who had recently gathered to discuss how to encourage more national funders to invest in this region.

Lastly, and quite clearly, Mayor Bowser acknowledged the loss of funds from the Freddie Mac Foundation. Even with the transfer of some of those resources to a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and to a fund at the Meyer Foundation, both will end in the next few years, causing the loss of a multi-million dollar investment in the nonprofit sector in our region. “How does this community replace those dollars?” Bowser challenged the audience. Suggesting that the answer didn’t just reside with philanthropy, she offered that a group representing various sectors of the community should create a white paper of recommendations.

If this meeting is indicative of future connections between the Bowser Administration and philanthropy, the partnership that the mayor seeks is off to a fresh start. WRAG and the local philanthropic community are encouraged by Mayor Bowser’s willingness to partner with funders to advance a more equitable city – and region.

Surprising results in a survey of wealthy philanthropists

A new report from UBS Wealth Management Americas reveals some surprising data about how wealthy individuals view the impact of their philanthropic efforts. Another interesting trend to emerge out of the data was the difference in giving across generations.(Chronicle, 10/22)

The report from UBS Wealth Management Americas found 9 in 10 affluent people say they donate to charity, yet only 20 percent consider their giving to be effective.


Donors who are baby boomers or older are more likely to support established institutions like arts organizations and religious groups. Younger donors prefer to align their giving to personal values.

– The Atlantic takes us on a visual journey of what America would look like if it had Canada’s healthcare system. (The Atlantic, 10/21)

Reminder: On Tuesday, October 28th at 9:00 AM, co-chair of the Commission, Alice Rivlin, PhD, will join us to speak on creating healthier communities through cross-sector collaborations and explore how funders can work together by connecting program areas along with those in the public, business, and nonprofit sectors to make our region’s communities stronger and healthier. Rivlin is also a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and Director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform. The event, “How to Make a Healthier Community,” is for WRAG members and is co-convened by our Healthy Communities Working Group and the Northern Virginia Health Foundation.  For more information on registering for this special event, click here. Attending the event and want to brush up on some interesting health info? Healthy Communities Working Group consultant, Phyllis Kaye has you covered here.

WORKFORCE | Prince George’s bill would bar questions about criminal convictions on job applications. (WaPo, 10/21)

NONPROFITS | The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released new research that finds nonprofit jobs are on the rise, with nonprofit organizations comprising more than 10% of all private sector employment in the country, and accounting for 11.4 million employees in 2012. You can read more about the interesting data here. A special thanks to The Aspen Institute, Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, Foundation Center, GuideStar, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, for playing a major role in making this data available.

COMMUNITY | Booz Allen Hamilton has purchased a unit of Genova Technologies, an IT solutions and strategies company, in a move that will help to transform the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (WBJ, 10/21)

EDUCATION | Opinion: Ahead of election day, are candidates on ballots across the country completely ignoring education? (WaPo, 10/22)

Ice cubes from regular old tap water are out. Artisanal, hand-crafted ice is in. 



Friday roundup – Oct. 14 through Oct. 17, 2014

The District announced a plan to eventually close the controversial D.C. General homeless shelter by winter season 2015-2016. Under the new plan, developed with best practices in mind, families will be housed in smaller buildings throughout the city in order to embed services within a variety of communities.  In the meantime, the approximately 600 children residing at D.C. General now have a new playground to use. (WAMU, 10/14)

WRAG president Tamara Copeland explained what it takes to launch a new initiative, using the Community Wealth Building Initiative as a prime example of what can happen when the right elements come together. (Daily, 10/14)

After seven long months, a winning design for the 11th Street Bridge Project was selected. Are you ready to get into some urban agriculture at “Anacostia Crossing?” We may need to wait until some time in 2018, but it will still certainly be really cool. (DCist, 10/16)

Some significant disparities were found in a study of per-pupil spending at school districts across the region. Higher amounts spent did not always correlate with district performance, but perhaps most shocking was the big gap between the highest and lowest spending school systems in the region. (WaPo, 10/15)

Just what do the poor, middle class and rich do for a living? Here is an interactive graph displaying the 10 most popular jobs within each income bracket.

– Ciara

Terri Lee Freeman stepping down from the Community Foundation to head National Civil Rights Museum

After 18 years of service, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, Terri Lee Freeman, is stepping down from her post to head the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. Terri’s tenure lead to immense growth for the foundation. She has a long history of being deeply involved with WRAG, including serving multiple terms on our board of directors. She is the immediate past chair of the board.

Upon hearing of her resignation, WRAG president, Tamara Copeland commented,

While I am saddened by Terri’s decision to leave the Community Foundation, I am grateful for her impact on the Greater Washington region. Through her years at the Community Foundation, and as a member of WRAG’s board, she has exemplified the ideal of philanthropy going “beyond dollars” by using the foundation’s resources, time, and voice to improve the lives of all who live in the region. It has been an honor to work with Terri, a true champion for change, over these years.

– A proposal to bring more affordable housing for low-income and young professional residents of Fairfax County is unlikely to proceed. Though the Planning Commission plans to vote on the proposal next week, it is expected to be tossed out due to a lack of community consensus and opposition from neighborhood groups. (WaPo, 7/24)

The measure was conceived as a way to address homelessness and overcrowded housing in a county where poverty is taking hold even though it is among the wealthiest in the country.

It was eventually expanded as a way for developers to build new studios for young professionals whom the county is eager to attract to its revitalizing neighborhoods, notably Tysons Corner.

– Talk Poverty kicks off its “In Our Backyard” series addressing inequality and poverty with this blog post on the affordable housing crisis in the District. (Talk Poverty, 7/21)

– A new study out of Rice University and Cornell University finds that African Americans are much more likely to go from owning their homes to renting them. The study also suggests that black homeowners are no better off today than they were forty years ago. (City Lab, 7/24)

– Manhattan’s West Side will soon be home to the first “quantified community” – a mixed-use and “fully-instrumented urban neighborhood that will measure and analyze key physical and environmental attributes.” The community is an experiment in urban studies and social sciences that, if successful, could be a template for other urban areas….like D.C. perhaps? (CUSP, 4/14)

Opinion: In light of recent reports on racial disparities in the disciplinary actions against students, one parent writes about her personal struggles to combat hidden prejudice against her sons. (WaPo, 7/24)

– In response to the post above, The Kojo Nnamdi Show recently discussed “Discipline in Preschool,” with an expert panel. You can access the audio or read the transcript here. (WAMU, 7/24)

ARTS │ Last weekend, at the international 2014 Brave New Voices Festival, a D.C. youth slam team came in first place, taking home the world championship. You can hear the poem that won the team a spot in the semi-finals, written by a 2014 Cesar Chavez graduate who is headed to Princeton University in the fall. (WaPo, 7/23)


In light of the Silver Line’s inaugural weekend, take a look at how far the Metro system has come over the past few decades.


We Should All Be Better Storytellers

By Rick Moyers, Vice President for Programs and Communications, The Meyer Foundation

As a grantmaker, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve formed an opinion about an organization after reading their proposal, only to change my mind during a site visit.

That’s probably because the language of grant applications can be sterile and bureaucratic. My changes of heart are most often sparked by leaders who are able to present their work as a compelling narrative that holds my attention, appeals to my emotions, and helps me identify with the organization and those it serves.

These conversions — from skeptical acquaintance to enthusiastic ally — have happened to me so often that I’ve become convinced that almost all nonprofits could engage more supporters and have a greater impact if only they were better at telling their stories. Many of my colleagues at Meyer share that conviction, which led us to launch a pilot program with Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication to build the storytelling capacity of the organizations our foundation supports.

The Meyer Foundation’s “Stories Worth Telling” initiative includes research on the storytelling practices of our grantees, a three-part training series, and a storytelling guide to be produced later this year. This work is part of a growing movement among grantmakers and nonprofits to harness the power of storytelling to drive social change. I believe in the importance of that work, which is why I’m so pleased that WRAG has invited Paul VanDeCarr, author of Storytelling and Social Change: A Strategy Guide for Grantmakers, to speak on May 6 as part of the Brightest Minds series.

Powerful and moving narratives are among the most important tools for advancing a mission or cause. And although I began this post by talking about how nonprofits struggle as storytellers, the same (or worse) could be said about grantmakers. The truth is, we all need to become better storytellers, and I’m grateful for a growing number of opportunities to learn how.

All funders and nonprofit staff in the Greater Washington region interested in advancing their storytelling skills are invited to join us at Brightest Minds: Storytelling for Social Change, on May 6, 9:30am at the AARP Foundation. More information and registration here.

The Power of Food

By Tamara Copeland, President

Food is one of the most fundamental elements of life. When we think back on the memories that shaped our lives, food is often at the core — summer picnics, romantic candlelit dinners, and raucous family breakfasts. Breaking bread is a health, social, economic, and artistic experience. It is food as an entry point for exploring history, culture, and community empowerment that encapsulates the work of Michael Twitty.

At WRAG’s first Brightest Minds event of the year, Michael Twitty will introduce you to a whole new way of thinking about food.

If you don’t already know who he is, Michael Twitty is a food writer, a chef, and a historian. He is an expert in African American foodways who explores Southern cuisine by reconstructing foods from the antebellum era. Michael lifts up this history and elucidates the common connections between today’s popular Southern-style foods and African American communities. But that’s only where Michael’s work begins.

Michael’s message is about food equity and community empowerment. He utilizes the construct of food to explore why certain communities have insufficient access to healthy food, poor health and nutrition, and limited economic opportunity. He believes that food as a cultural inheritance should be celebrated and leveraged to connect people to their history, to their neighborhoods and communities, and to ultimately promote what Michael calls “culinary justice,”—that is, access to quality, healthy, good foods regardless of your income, regardless of your race, regardless of where you live.

This year WRAG is working with funders to take a closer look at food. Regular Daily readers know that one of our funder groups, the Washington Regional Convergence Partnership, is looking at how to improve equity in the region’s food system. Last week we released an edition of What Funders Need to Know that captured some of what this group has learned thus far and a few ways that funders can strengthen our region’s food system.

We invited Michael to speak to our community because we believe that embracing the notion of culinary justice can further cultural understanding, wellness, and community building.

I hope you will join us to hear from Michael on April 1 at Busboys & Poets. More information can be found here.