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Catalogue for Philanthropy in the News

Recognize a familiar face in this week’s Washington Post Magazine? The Catalogue’s founder, Barbara Harman, was recently interviewed for Joe Heim’s weekly Q&A column, “Just Asking.” In 2003, Barbara — with the support of the Harman Family Foundation — created the Catalogue for Philanthropy to shine a light on our region’s best community-based nonprofits. As we begin producing our 14th Catalogue, we’re grateful to Barbara for her vision and leadership, which has helped raised more than $32 million for local charities. You can learn more about the Catalogue’s history here, and sign up to receive your complimentary copy here!

Below is the interview in full, which can also be viewed on the Washington Post’s website.

bharman_justasking

By Joe Heim Writer and editor June 2 at 7:00 AM

Barbara Harman, 69, is the founder and president of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington and is executive director of the Harman Family Foundation. She splits her time between Washington and Boston.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy is really essential in helping people find lesser-known, worthy local organizations that need money. But it’s not the most exciting name.
Yeah, I’ve kind of heard that from people. Have you got a better idea?

How about Fork It Over?
I love it. I think the name is a little stuffy. But when something catches on, as the Catalogue seems to have caught on here, it’s hard to let go of the name. But I have to say it’s something we’re thinking about.

I can ask readers to submit suggestions.
That would be awesome.

Is there one gift you’ve been able to make that stands out to you?
It’s a hard question. I can think of so many extraordinary charities doing amazing work here on education, on youth arts, on homelessness. I guess the thing that has struck me the most with all of the organizations that I give to is what a radical difference there is between the lives that most of us lead and the lives of some of the other people who live in this city, whose neighborhoods and whose circumstances really are unimaginable to most of us. I’ve been in communities where the average annual income is $9,100 a year. And then you see the work that these small nonprofits are doing to make these kids’ lives better, and it’s really a pretty extraordinary experience.

Your father was Sidney Harman, and he was a huge contributor to the Shakespeare Theatre Company and many other causes. Did your parents create a family culture that emphasized giving?
Absolutely. It was very much a part of my growing up. It was very clear to all of us that it was his sense, and should be our sense, that a family in a position to give should be a giving family.

What percentage of my income should I be donating in order to feel like a good human being?
I think it’s a really personal choice. I’m sure you’ve heard about the giving pledge. This is a pledge that Warren Buffett and others have signed where they are giving away the vast majority of their income.

Warren and I are in slightly different tax brackets.
Yeah, same here. Some people think tithing is the right way to approach this: 10 percent of your income. I don’t think that a lot of people give 10 percent of their income, and I guess I don’t really think there is a number. I think what’s important is to find the things that really resonate for you. Then I think the giving grows over time, and it becomes a different kind of engagement than just writing a check.


washingtonlife_junebhThe Catalogue also received coverage in Washington Life Magazine’s June issue! The article focused on individuals in the community working for the greater good – and our very own Barbara Harman was one of the profiles in the issue (profile text shown in full below). To see the issue, view the Washington Life digital edition.

 

Profiles in Philanthropy:
Barbara Harman Founder & President Catalogue for Philanthropy &
Executive Director Harman Family Foundation

by Catherine Trifiletti

“I really wanted to give money away, but I didn’t know where to give it,” is a statement Barbara Harman has heard from wealthy individuals more times that she can count. In her first year acting as executive director for the Harman Family Foundation, founded by her father Sidney Harman, she was disappointed to find a dearth of resources for philanthropists in the Washington area. In an effort to change the course of giving around town, Harman created a catalogue providing information about small nonprofits and grassroots organizations covering a wide range of missions. She calls her creation a “piece of philanthropic infrastructure” that has shined a light on small local charities lacking the funds to get their causes out on the frontlines.

Before moving to Washington in 2000 to run a family foundation, Harman was a professor for Wellesley College in Massachusetts for 25 years. Considering her background, the writing aspect of the catalogue was an essential element. As “writer and chief” Harman made sure to write from the heart in a really down-to-earth language that ordinary donors would understand.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy, or as Harman refers to it, her “labor of love,” has since grown into its own independent charity with a multitude of resources that extend beyond the print catalogue itself. Before being published and distributed to 30,000 high net-worth individuals in the area, each charity included in the catalogue undergoes a highly thorough screening process (including a 120-person review board, site visit and financial assessment) to ensure its contributions to the community are legitimate. Harman says although it might be “crazy,” the catalogue follows a “purity principle” and does not charge for any of the services offered to charities — free application, free membership that includes a four-year partnership and no fee attached to online donations.

The portfolio Harman manages at the family foundation includes recognizable organizations like the Shakespeare Theatre, Aspen Institute, and the Washington Ballet, to name a few. Smaller grants focused on education and arts for at-risk youth are sources from the best resource in town — the Catalogue for Philanthropy itself.

Day to day, Harman often confronts enormous wealth disparity in the Washington region and hopes her work at the Catalogue and family foundation will help tighten the gap. “All of us want a city in which there is equal access to opportunity and for me, that’s what philanthropy ought to be about.”

Creating the Catalogue: Part 1

Summer is officially here: School is out, the beach is “in”, but while many in Greater Washington begin to wind down for the season, the Catalogue team is just getting started with production of our 2015-2016 guide to giving!

After thoroughly vetting more 200 charity applicants in areas of financials, programs, and impact, last month we proudly announced our list of charities to be included in the upcoming Catalogue. So what happens until the November 1 release of the 2015-2016 Catalogue for Philanthropy? Read on to find out!

Last year's Catalogue: Hot off the press!

Last year’s Catalogue: Hot off the press!

We begin by working with each of our charities to collect the very best photos they have of their programs or volunteers in action, or…anything that represents what they do. Fun fact: Nearly all of the beautiful photos in our Catalogue come from our charities (which is one of the many reasons we think the Catalogue is so special)!

While collecting photos, we also begin turning each charity’s 3000-word application into a compelling 170-word story that will represent that charity in the Catalogue. We convey, in a human voice, the need that a charity meets, the programs that are at the core of what they do, and the impact they have on the community. Most small nonprofits don’t have the communications staff to do this work for them, so telling their stories, in words and images, is what we do! After many round of proofing, we’re off to the printer, and then mailing center, where the Catalogue is mailed to more than 25,000 households across Greater Washington.

Of course, as we put together the Catalogue, we always want to ensure that we incorporate the feedback of our supporters in the community. Do you have 5 minutes to spare, and a desire to help make this next Catalogue our best one yet? Help us understand how you use the Catalogue and how we can improve our work in the future by filling out our user survey! Your feedback will influence the ways in which we make the Catalogue an even more valuable resource for donors and charities in Greater Washington.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Creating the Catalogue”, when we introduce you to the people who work hard to bring the Catalogue to life: our staff!

Catalogue Welcomes New Staff Member!

2014 is a year of exciting growth for the Catalogue…new workshops, a new class of charities, new partnerships, and now…a new team member! The Catalogue is excited to welcome Emma Bloksberg-Fireovid to the Catalogue team!

Emma joins us from Tufts University with a BA in Sociology. Raised in Baltimore, Emma’s passion for direct service work led her to work with inner-city youth in multiple facets: founding and operating an all-girls jump rope camp, teaching dance in Prince George’s county, and developing lesson plans for tutoring programs.

Emma will use her organizational, programming, and research experience to help support Catalogue initiatives. Her official bio (complete with fun facts!) and a photo are forthcoming on the Catalogue website.

Welcome aboard, Emma!

Share Your Story Now

Today marks Day 3 of the federal government shut down. We’ve all seen a laundry list of closings, large and small — from the Panda Cam to a set of Head Start programs. But in all the chaos, there is an opportunity: news outlets of all sizes are hunting for stories of local residents and organizations already seeing the effects of the shutdown, creating an opportunity for nonprofits meeting critical community needs to draw attention to the necessity of their work. Here are a few tips and resources for awareness and even donation drives from Nancy Schwartz’s gettingattention.org blog and the Nonprofit Quarterly :

If your organization is seeing an increase in demand for your services due to the shut down, make sure your supporters know! Take a page from Feeding America‘s communications strategy, where they’ve highlighted the fragility of our hunger relief programs in all their external communications. Or use this critical moment to rally your networks, as some food banks have, through a call to action for donations and volunteers to help with a surge in clients.

If your organization has a federal grant in jeopardy, make sure your supporters know what is at stake. Take that story of the needs that won’t get met, and incorporate them into your current giving drives or communications plans.

Even if your organization is not yet directly affected, you may be able to capitalize on its prominence in the news by incorporating the effects of the shutdown into your organizational story about why your work is so critical. As the gettingattention.org blog points out, any communication is probably better than the news “blackouts” from the federal agencies.

Other resources for nonprofits can be found at the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Telling a Powerful Story

Individual donors make up approximately 75% of the donating public, a pretty important fact for nonprofits to keep in mind when they are telling their stories to others – to the individual donor him or herself (women make up more of that 75% than do men), to the website visitor, to the newsletter reader, to the thank you note recipient, to the reporter. But as demonstrating one’s impact, proving one’s financial transparency, and clarifying one’s ROI become ever more important, it’s easy to let the plain business of telling the story get lost.

That would be a shame. While donors do indeed want to know that nonprofits are doing important work, and doing it with excellence and impact, and while they absolutely want to know that charities are financially sustainable and sound (this is why the Catalogue’s vetting process is one of our most valuable assets), the majority of donors is still, I would argue, waiting to be moved, waiting to hear or read something that resonates personally, waiting to learn where the need is and where it is best being met.

This is why – perhaps more impulsively than is good for us – we are willing to text away our bank accounts in the face of a disaster, sometimes without even knowing where our money is going. (Personally, I don’t think this is a good thing, though I am sure the impulse behind it is good; we should all know to what use our funds will be put before we give them away.) We see the need – often in powerful images, as we did last month in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and as we have in recent days in the wake of the terrible tornadoes in the Midwest. (For those who want to do their research and decide where best to give, take a look at this list of disaster relief organizations working in Oklahoma.) The stunning images of devastation, whole towns wiped out in seconds, one house standing here while its neighbor is gone there, and the accounts told by survivors – all these speak powerfully to the painful loss of those whose friends and family members died, and the needs of those who must remake their lives in the aftermath of this terrible disaster.

Stories of real need move us, and there are many such stories to be told – some more immediate and dramatic than others, and…many more than there should be. The problem is, we aren’t always very good tellers. We get bogged down in our own internal languages – jargon of the trade, insider talk that only our colleagues understand, a too-numerical view of what “impact” means. We need to speak to each other in a human voice, help the reader understand what the real need is that we are meeting and why it deserves the reader’s attention. We need to describe what we are doing to meet the need in a way that conveys important information that is still compelling and coherent (not a list of seemingly unrelated programs). We need to talk about impact – through powerful metrics if we have them, but in narratives if we don’t. We need to convey our vision of the future in a way that is inspirational and aspirational. And we need to communicate to donors, directly or indirectly, how a contribution to our cause will make a genuine difference.

Above all, we need to speak in a human language, a human voice – individual to individual, person to person, as members of one human community. In fact, helping readers to see that we are indeed members of a shared community is perhaps the best way to help them see the power and importance of joining the cause.

Barbara Harman gave a version of this talk at the America’s Charities Members’ Meeting on May 21, 2013.

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.

Hidden Issues

Yesterday, in The Daily Wrag (Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers), President Tamara Copeland explored “What sequestration means for philanthropy:”

I want to focus on the hidden issues. Much of the impact connected to sequestration will be far less overt. The social worker in me says that as already stressed individuals deal with this reality, mental health-related incidents will also increase. There may be increased incidences of domestic violence, more emergency room visits and falling school performance as home environments become tense. Consider this article about the recession’s impact on our region’s mental health, written when our local economy was actually faring better than the rest of the country.

“The Recession’s ‘Silent Mental Health Epidemic,’ the October 2011 Business Insider article to which Copeland points, discusses a Rutgers University study of “the long-term unemployed,” which found that “32 percent were experiencing a good deal of stress” and “at least 11 percent reported seeking professional help for depression.” Moreover, many more did not have the insurance benefits or financial resources to seek such help, despite potentially needing it.

As Copeland suggests, while our region’s funders should of course ensure that basic needs are met, “it is critical that we keep in mind the less obvious needs a failure to support those, particularly mental health care, can lead to dire consequences.” She also points out that, as much or more so than sequestration, tax reforms could have a critical and perhaps longer-term effect on the national and local nonprofit community.

What are your thoughts? What might be the more “hidden” effects of sequestration?

In The News …

White House estimate spells out tough road for Washington region economy (Washington Post): “… the upcoming automatic spending cuts the Obama administration detailed Sunday would strike a tough blow, with nearly 150,000 civilian Defense Department employees facing furloughs and an estimated average loss of $7,500 in pay [...] funding for elementary and secondary education across the region would be slashed by $29 million.” Economist Anirban Basu (Sage Policy Group) points out that sequestration will have a deeper effect on this region than the nation as a whole, as DC, Maryland, and Virginia are “among the most reliant communities in the nation on federal spending.”

Nonprofit Branding 2013: What Has Changed? (Nonprofit Quarterly): “First, we needed to see information technology not as a peripheral function within our organization but central to our mission pursuits. Second, we needed to see our identity less as an extension of our mission statement, but more as a link between the public perception of the impact we create and our higher calling to strengthen communities.” Carlo Cuesta, founder of the Saint Paul-based firm Creation in Common, goes to point out that “We have access to the tools and resources needed to build meaningful relationships with our stakeholders, what we lack are the capabilities to do it in a way that advances authenticity and mobilizes the public will.” Do you agree?

Gray aims high with sustainability plan; can agencies deliver? (Greater Greater Washington): “Last week, the Gray administration unveiled its sustainability plan, which sets some very ambitious, yet very important objectives for 2032, like attracting 250,000 new residents and making 75% of trips happen by walking, biking, and transit.” GGW argues that “to achieve these goals, agencies will have to push forward not just on their existing laudable initiatives, but go beyond.” For example: “it would be better to focus more new housing near Metro stations, streetcars, and high-frequency bus corridors. To do that, though, some administration will have to modify the Comprehensive Plan and zoning to create denser areas somewhere.”

In The News …

DC, advocates at odds over homeless families; 900 people still in shelter (Washington Post): “This winter, the District’s shelter for homeless families at DC General Hospital is crammed full — 372 adults and nearly 600 children [...] City officials say that hard times and the lack of affordable housing in poor neighborhoods are to blame for the continuing crisis of family homelessnes.” Last year, the number of homeless families in the District jumped by 18 percent and advocates argue that DC “is not doing nearly enough to help the neediest residents find permanent housing at a time of budget surplus.” Learn more about Catalogue’s homelessness and housing nonprofits right here.

Class-Divided Cities: Washington, DC Edition (The Atlantic): “More than any other metro we’ve covered, greater Washington, DC is a creative class region [...] These are high-skilled, highly-educated, and high-paying positions where workers average $90,442 in wages and salaries, fourth highest in the nation [...] Still, the class divide in the region is pronounced. The creative class is concentrated in the center of the metro, as the map shows.” A map charting the geography of class in the region shows a concentration of the creative class to the west and service to the east, yet almost no clusters of working class residents, implying that “Greater Washington is a fully post-industrial region.” Explore the interactive maps right here.

Tech’s new entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy (USA Today): “The intersection of technology and philanthropy is creating “philanthrocapitalism,” borrowing ideas from venture capitalism to fund non-profits.” For example, “NFS , a model of Omidyars’ brand of philanthropy, is based loosely on a venture-capital firm’s approach. And it is quickly becoming a powerful agent for social change, as eBay was for commerce.” Says Suzanne DiBianca, the co-founder and president of the Salesforce.com Foundation, “Companies are beginning to understand their power in leveraging their assets to non-profits [...] It’s not just throwing a check over a wall.”

Nonprofit Boost

On Sunday, the Washington Post inquired: “Can nonprofit organizations boost a regional economy?

The impact of a nonprofit is frequently gauged by the reach and effectiveness of its services. But beyond their power to help and support a community, can these organizations provide fuel to rev a regional economy?

In Montgomery County, at least, a new report concludes that nonprofit groups have indeed played an important role in boosting the labor market and the broader economy [...] The report shows that nonprofit workers in Montgomery comprise 10 percent of the county’s labor force and earned a collective $2.2 billion in wages in 2011.

Funded by Nonprofit Montgomery, an affiliate of the Nonprofit Roundtable, the study also “found that the county’s nonprofits have $4 billion in purchasing power” and that they showed considerable resilience during the recession, posting an increase in sector employees from 2007 to 2011 — a period during which the overall number of employees in the county dropped.

Similarly, the study revealed that local nonprofits can fuel economic recovery indirectly as well. For example, adult literacy services enable residents to “qualify for a job, fill out an application or even simply navigate the bus system, all of which can boost one’s chances of earning wages.” And arts and culture nonprofits can direct consumers to nearby restaurants, retail stores, and even parking garages.

What are the other key byproducts of a healthy nonprofit sector? Share your thoughts with us.