Feeling full already? Yeah, us too.
While you were busy gawking at the occupiers in McPherson Square last month, TV spots were already depicting handsome patriarchs delivering luxury cars to unsuspecting spouses on Christmas morning. Now that December has arrived, it’s hard to find time between Siri’s come-ons to remember that we’re in the middle of a global economic crisis.
In Washington, of course, that feeling of cognitive dissonance is not just a seasonal affliction—especially in 2011. This year has featured no shortage of reminders that, yes, this area is very affluent: The region’s housing market is vastly healthier than average, its unemployment is significantly lower, and no less an authority than the U.S. Census Bureau confirms that greater Washington is America’s richest region. But pesky indicators of jarring local inequality remain, no matter how buoyant the statistics get. If D.C.’s Ward 8 were its own municipality, it would be America’s poorest.
Ordinarily, we’d sit around grousing about holiday materialism before schlepping out to pick up stocking stuffers. But this season, we decided to do something different.
For the better part of a decade, the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington has been vetting top local nonprofits to include in its annual giving guide. The process, which takes about six months, involves selecting 70 organizations with budgets under $3 million and rock-solid financial and organizational structures. The vetting is conducted by expert volunteers from the nonproft sector as well as by accountants from the auditing firm RAFFA. Traditionally, the Catalogue has bound its list into a book and distributed thousands of copies to “high net worth individuals” in the area. This year, we’ve worked with the organization to highlight its list in our pages, with the idea that you don’t have to be rich to want to give a little.
Catalogue President Barbara Harman says the effort grew out of her family’s arts and education-oriented nonprofit, the Harman Family Foundation. Commuting to the District from Boston, “it wasn’t hard to identify the larger nonprofits working in the area of our mission,” she says. “But it seemed much harder to find the smaller community organizations that were working below the radar. If I was having this problem as a professional grantmaker, then regular ordinary donors would be having the same problem. It was my idea to lift the cover, look below the hood, and find out what was going on.”
Over the years, the Catalogue’s look and feel has changed a bit. It’s moved from an exclusive focus on the District to a regional focus, and added distribution in places where deep-pocketed folks might gather, like the luxury boxes at the Verizon Center. “People who wanted to be generous, wanted to do good, wanted to volunteer, needed a resource that would map for them what to do, and do it with confidence that what they would do would be worthy,” Harman says. City Paper’s partnership with the organization is yet another part of that evolution.
The nonprofit community the Catalogue watches has taken its lumps lately. After a big downturn in 2008, local giving came back. But organizations are worried, especially this year. “Whether you’re running a soup kitchen or a dance company, you’re scrambling for shrinking resources,” Harman says. “Not because income has shrunk, but because government has pulled back.”
Until that changes, a city full of arts groups and health organizations and environmental outfits needs...you. Donate to this year’s stellar seventy directly from the Catalogue’s website at cfp-dc.org (where you can find details on prior catalogue organizations), or learn more about volunteer opportunities by contacting the nonprofits themselves.
Now, then—doesn’t that feel better than a trip to the mall?
2011 Giving Guide
ACE has protected the country’s diverse lands and rivers for three decades. A nexus for green living information and a link between local classrooms and outdoor education, ACE highlights service projects and conservation opportunities for budding environmental stewards.
Committed to safeguarding the Maryland Agricultural Reserve, MCA advocates for land and transportation policies that enhance agriculture and encourage farmland preservation. Through education and support of local farms, MCA ensures that “reserve lands” remain part of the working agricultural landscape—and nourish the entire region.
Rock Creek Conservancy provides a voice at all levels of government for one of the largest forested urban parks on Earth. The organization advocates for policies to protect resources, mobilizes over 2,000 environmental volunteers, and enables residents to adopt sections of parkland for neighborhood-based stewardship.
PERFORMING, LITERARY, AND VISUAL ARTS
The only African-American theater company in D.C., ACTCo has produced over 35 professional shows, giving voice to underserved populations through performance and community engagement. Bringing diverse programming to the stage and into schools, senior centers, churches, and neighborhoods, ACTCo is a unique player in D.C.’s theater scene.
A community-based organization committed to the H Street NE corridor and to the professional growth of D.C.’s artists, the Atlas is a collaborative for up-and-coming actors, directors, dancers, musicians, and producers. It’s also home to arts programming, emerging dance companies, and orchestras and stages over 100 performances in the annual INTERSECTIONS Festival.
Every summer, at over 50 venues in 20 neighborhoods, 100,000 locals hear some of the world’s best jazz performers via the D.C. Jazz Festival. The festival also works all year with nonprofits and schools to offer free workshops and classes in jazz, blues, Latin, and world music.
In collaboration with the National Park Service and Montgomery County, the Glen Echo Partnership orchestrated the historic park’s revitalization and now supports arts, cultural, and recreational activities that draw some 420,000 annual visitors. The partnership also works to preserve Glen Echo’s Spanish Ballroom and Dentzel Carousel.
Step Afrika! leads interactive workshops and offers artist residencies that teach the history of stepping and emphasize the synergy between stepping, teamwork, and academic success. The group also offers education and touring opportunities to local youth.
WSC Avant Bard produces classical theater in an intimate setting featuring local actors. WSC’s bold and experimental productions of Shakespeare and other classic and contemporary works have invigorated the area’s arts community for over two decades.
One of the nation’s leading youth orchestras, AYPO provides orchestral training and performance experience to more than 400 talented young musicians. A concert outreach series brings orchestras into schools, community centers, and nursing homes; scholarships ensure that each accepted student can make music.
A leader in high-quality arts programming for at-risk students, CityDance has introduced music and movement education to tens of thousands of D.C.-area children in over 70 studio classes. The flagship DREAM program combines dance and service projects, teaching students to become advocates for change in their communities and in their own lives.
In a brand-new Columbia Heights facility, DIW offers year-round, pre-professional training—comprised of classes, life skills workshops, and performance opportunities—to D.C.-area teens, regardless of their ability to pay.
Free Minds hosts weekly meetings at the D.C. Jail to discuss works of literature. Many inmates read an entire book for the first time through Free Minds. Inmates are also encouraged to produce personal writing that reflects on the consequences of their actions and dreams for the future.
The organization’s “apprentices” use paint, storytelling, rap, and poetry to make things of great beauty out of the experience of living in D.C. public housing projects. Participants have created over 1,000 unique works of art; every apprentice has graduated from high school.
A safe, nurturing, after-school environment in Adams Morgan, Sitar offers classes in visual arts, music, drama, dance, digital arts, and creative writing, making arts education affordable and accessible. No family is turned away because of inability to pay.
CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILIES
Though one in three teens will experience dating abuse, nearly two-thirds never report it. Through free legal services, outreach campaigns, and advocacy, Break the Cycle aims to prevent violence among youth ages 12 to 24—and to empower teens to diagnose, escape, and prevent unhealthy relationships.
For 20 years, Bright Beginnings has offered a rigorous pre-kindergarten curriculum (including counseling, speech therapy, and pre-literacy learning) specially designed for children born into chaotic environments. A strong family services program helps parents monitor their child’s development, meet basic needs, and create a safe, stable home.
A child-friendly, one-stop location for investigation, treatment, and prevention, the Center conducts joint interviews with Child Protective Services and detectives, offers on-site therapists, counseling, and support groups, and has a multi-disciplinary team to track all cases to ensure that no child falls through the cracks.
An alternative to traditional shelters and housing programs, Crossway engages with every family member. A family leadership school enrolls young mothers, children become independent learners at Crossway’s Montessori school, and families are woven together through recreational, cultural, and civic events at the neighborhood learning center.
When a child is abused or neglected, the judge assigns him or her a CASA volunteer to provide consistent support and a voice in court. CASA completes an in-depth investigation of the child’s needs and stays with the child until the case is closed.
FTC takes unwanted, donated computers and creates high-quality, fully equipped systems for those who can’t afford them. The organization provides jobs to unemployed teens, teaching them the trade of computer repair.
The Gandhi Brigade pairs teens and young adults with media professionals to produce video, photography, and graphic designs that explore race, gender, economics, faith, and justice. Advanced students often return as peer instructors.
At five emergency shelters and transitional housing programs, the HCPP nurtures development and reduces trauma by creating welcoming playrooms where kids can be kids. Children receive personal attention, engage in games and art projects, and have healthy snacks while parents have time to rest or run errands.
Combining professional development and civic education, Liberty’s Promise supports and engages with low-income immigrants between the ages of 15 and 21. Internships and an interactive civics program help introduce young people to the American life and traditions.
Serving children from the Potomac Gardens housing project, Little Lights connects kids to reading and math tutors and also offers SAT preparation, after-school activities, and a summer camp.
Whether it’s providing warm coats, school supplies, or toothbrushes, Neediest Kids finds ways to meet basic needs of low-income children so that they can stay in school.
Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for the families of critically ill children in treatment at area hospitals. Houses include kitchens, play areas, laundries, and comfortable private rooms.
GIRLS AND WOMEN
Dedicated to expanding the housing safety net for abused women, DASH provides low-barrier safe housing complemented by voluntary support services and a transitional-to-permanent housing program.
Since 1974, Guest House has helped over 1,000 non-violent, female ex-offenders become responsible, productive members of the community. In the group home, women find employment, learn life skills including financial management and fitness, build support systems, secure housing, and repair personal relationships.
Committed to inspiring pre-teen girls to respect themselves and their bodies, Girls on the Run combines training for a 5K road race with uplifting workouts and team-building exercises at over 65 elementary and middle schools in Montgomery County.
Each year, hundreds of women are released from prison only to find themselves homeless and friendless. Our Place, D.C. takes them in—providing a legal services clinic, a drop-in support center for help with employment and housing, and compassionate support groups for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
HEALTH, MENTAL HEALTH, AND AGING
In this virtual village, over 250 volunteers have united to help older adults age safely and comfortably in their own homes. For a villager in need, CHV provides everything from a ride to the doctor or grocery store to a community-vetted partner for home repairs. Dinners, outings, and classes keep everyone connected.
At seven medical centers, CAUSE ensures that recuperating servicemembers have opportunities for recreation and socialization. CAUSE distributes gift packs, runs an entertainment library, and sponsors picnics, home-cooked dinners, a massage and Reiki program, and broadcasts of sporting events.
The organization offers “escorted transportation” services at no cost for those who need someone to walk with them, wait with them, or hold their hand during a medical procedure. It also has resources for friendly visitation, assistance with paperwork, and help reading and writing letters.
With access to over 800 acres of land and miles of natural trails, Simple Changes gives year-round riding lessons to individuals with disabilities, including autism, genetic syndromes, and cerebral palsy.
Smith Center focuses on the human experience of cancer. Programs include caregiver and patient support groups, workshops on stress reduction, country retreats, and classes in poetry, art, and writing. Scholarships are available.
The Women’s Center offers individual and family therapy, support groups, and psychological assessments in tandem with life skills training. This holistic model of care is available to women, men, and children for whom mental health services would otherwise be out of reach.
HUNGER, HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING
Powered by committed volunteers, ALIVE! meets over 2,000 requests each year for help with food, rent, utilities, prescriptions, and other critical needs, along with a temporary family shelter and year-round pre-school for at-risk children.
Since 1975, AMEN has been a front-line defense against homelessness, offering same-day emergency assistance to Arlington residents for rent, pharmacy, and medical bills, utilities, and transportation, and operating a security deposit loan program for Section 8 housing recipients.
Building Futures provides safe and affordable housing options for families and individuals with multiple disabilities. Preference is given to those with HIV/AIDS. A combination of permanent housing, support services, and medical case management ensures that low-income individuals can take control of their lives.
Created as a “gap funder,” Cornerstone provides low-interest loans and recoverable grants to property owners who dedicate housing to individuals with serious mental illnesses. Cornerstone also helps low-income residents handle unexpected needs like repairing roofs after winter storms.
HomeAid connects local housing organizations and emergency shelters with professional builders, trade partners, and sub-contractors who can offer low-cost renovations. HomeAid also provides shelters with a link to banks, attorneys, and architects who can provide critical support for improvement projects or brand-new buildings.
At 47 Montgomery County properties, HUI provides stable, permanent housing to people with psychiatric disabilities. It also offers education about the privileges and responsibilities of housing. Rent is based on a tenant’s income and capped to encourage employment and provide security.
Joseph’s House welcomes terminally ill men and women from streets, shelters, prisons, and hospitals to its hospice home in Adams Morgan, where they find a compassionate community at the end of life. For those living their last days, staff and volunteers hold vigil around the clock.
In the past 30 years, L’Arche has opened four homes for low-income D.C.-area residents with intellectual disabilities. The organization provides assistance with daily tasks from bathing to meal preparation to going to work.
Every weekday morning for the last 28 years, Miriam’s Kitchen has served breakfast to chronically homeless men and women. The meal has expanded to include health and mental health services, therapeutic groups, and legal assistance; each weeknight, guests are invited back for a homemade dinner.
With the help of a volunteer corps, PMAH modifies an average of 125 households per year for the needy, elderly, and infirm of Prince William County by adding handicapped-accessible ramps, new bathroom handrails, or repaired stairs.
LEGAL SERVICES AND JUSTICE PROGRAMS
MAIP litigates innocence claims, representing prisoners in court or filing clemency petitions on cases that have been rigorously investigated. It also leads a policy reform effort that aims to educate the public and enact laws that would prevent wrongful convictions before they happen.
LIFE SKILLS, TRAINING AND EMPLOYMENT
Founded by residents, BSA aims to transform Washington Highlands into a more supportive, safe place to grow up. Its cornerstone program, Youth Work Study, offers mentorship and paid internships at local businesses. Community collaborations also ensure that BSA is aware of residents’ needs and ready to offer emergency aid.
This public-private partnership gives students the tools to become engineers, carpenters, electricians, and construction managers. The foundation launched the Academy of Construction and Design at Cardozo High School and provides career-advancing instruction for apprentices at local firms.
The Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School features an innovative Corporate Work Study Program that enables students to take on a professional, entry-level job (“shared” by a four-student team) and earn 60% of their tuition.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND VOLUNTEERISM
Atlas Corps aims to create a network of global “changemakers.” Recruiting talented international nonprofit leaders to serve in U.S. organizations (and providing the financial and visa structure for the effort), Atlas Corps enables its fellows to share their perspective, language skills, and expertise with Americans, while building their own leadership abilities.
Empowering high schoolers who have the motivation (but perhaps not the means) to make a difference, the LearnServe Fellows Program guides them through creating their own “social venture” and offers summer service-learning trips to Paraguay, Zambia, and Jamaica.
Through a 24-hour database, Volunteer Fairfax mobilizes citizens, corporations, and local governments to meet essential everyday needs. The group can also deploy emergency response volunteers if they are needed.
CIVIC documents the stories of displaced families and war victims and presses warring parties to establish new standards of treatment and make amends to those caught in the crossfire.
By covering reporting costs that freelancers often cannot afford, FIJ advances vital investigative projects in the U.S. and around the globe. Two dozen annual grants cover camera and recording equipment rentals, the cost of ordering public records, and travel expenses for meeting sources.
Since its inception, PFS has sought to bring interventional and surgical care to under-served areas of Guatemala. The organization employs locals to bring health education to remote areas and engages volunteer support for American surgical teams.
Every year, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts educates over 500 student artists from around the District. The Fund provides support for after-school productions and art exhibits, retaining high-quality teachers, and efforts to support at-risk students through graduation day.
A small alternative school, YouthBuild offers a second chance to 16-24 year-olds who have dropped out, aged out, or been expelled from traditional institutions. All of its students are low-income; many speak little English. At YouthBuild, students learn reading, math, and life skills, work on a construction site, and experience service learning.
A unique partnership between a nonprofit support organization and a public high school, MCIP enhances the curriculum at Bell Multicultural High School with year-round services for students and families. Programs include teen pregnancy prevention, teen parent and child development daycare, and after-school assistance in reading, math, and science.
Dedicated to young girls in the Anacostia neighborhood, WMSG keeps each child safe and engaged throughout an extended school day. All WMSG graduates have gone on, with financial assistance in hand, to the high schools of their choice.
CCC pays particular attention to the crucial juncture that is 9th grade, focusing on freshman students in Wards 7 and 8. The organization runs OnTrack!, a two-year interactive workshop, and teaches students how they can develop their interests into careers and college degrees.
The Collaborative aims to connect D.C. Public Schools students with the vibrant culture of the city they live in. Along with workshops for teachers, principals, and artists, the Arts for Every Student program annually enables 30,000 children to experience live performances at places like the Washington Ballet.
Created by Bolivian parents to meet the educational needs of D.C.’s Latino population, Edu-Futuro provides leadership development programs, Spanish and ESL classes, school support and mentorship programs, and parent workshops for youth and families.
Targeting academically motivated students in fifth through eighth grades, Higher Achievement offers rigorous academic classes and stresses discipline and dedication. The commitment yields exciting bonuses, including university trips and lectures on current topics. In 2011, 100 percent of graduates advanced to college-preparatory high school.
Through case studies, academic and creative exercises, and group activities, Kid Power students acquire tools to become neighborhood advocates. Kid Power kids have operated small baking enterprises, cultivated a community garden, and used music or dance to tell a community story.
Every day, 2,000 District students in more than 40 classes use RFC’s curricular materials to boost their skills in college-level reading, writing, and time management. Classes in SAT prep, college selection, and financial aid help them navigate the application maze. One hundred percent of RFC students have been accepted to college.
LITERACY AND LEARNING
AppleTree Institute is dedicated to closing the achievement gap that can swallow vulnerable children before they enter kindergarten. The Institute creates preschool centers of excellence in language and literacy and facilitates high-quality professional development for teachers.
Offering a “back to basics” approach for over 3,000 Montgomery County students, the academy features intensive, targeted tutoring in math, reading, and study skills at “Saturday School” led by certified teachers and trained volunteers. Eighty percent of students in the program—which also requires parent involvement—reach their goal of grade-level proficiency.
Since 1962, LCNV has taught adults to read, write, speak, and understand English. The program empowers its students to engage more fully and confidently in their communities. Last year, LCNV provided more than 39,000 hours of instruction to 1,540 adult students.