Skip to main navigation

Catalogue Blog

Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives with HomeAid Northern Virginia

By: Kristyn Burr, Executive Director, HomeAid Northern Virginia

HANV - Youth for Tomorrow Ribbon cutting

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.

infographic

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.

brain foundation renovation image 2

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.
HANV kitchen transformation
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.

In The News …

3 Key Elements of Capitalist Philanthropy (Forbes): “Capitalist philanthropy begins with a profitable organization and then moves quickly to incorporate social impact [...] The term is not brand new, but is being discussed more often as the millennial generation has developed a strong desire for meaningful work.” Forbes offers three keys to incorporating “capitalist philanthropy” into an organization: “Determine your cause,” “cast the vision,” and “maintain momentum.” What are your suggestions for launching social impact projects? Thoughts on the terminology?

How Small Nonprofits Can Improve Their Fiscal Health (Chronicle of Philanthropy): “Three-quarters of American nonprofits have annual budgets under $1 million, and most are even smaller. What these organizations lack in size, however, they make up for in impact.” Many such nonprofits also “struggle with financial challenges that are unique to their size and structure [...] resources generally go directly into program delivery, so they can’t invest in infrastructure”. The Chronicle offers five suggestions for small nonprofits to address and improve financial health, plus five ways that grantmakers can help.

UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising (CompassPoint Nonprofit Services): “A joint project of CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the report found high levels of turnover and lengthy vacancies in development director positions throughout the sector [...] Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success.” Does the report reflect your experience? What do you think might “break the cycle?”

Please Stand With Us

As 2012 turns into 2013, we are particularly grateful to all of you who have helped us raise over $19mm (and counting) for some of the best small charities in the greater Washington DC region.

Your support means:

* 47,639 people served in outdoor education programs each year
* 3,486,841 hours of tutoring/mentoring annually
* 957,570 people served in arts outreach programs
* 99,578 medical exams and referrals
* 1,474,415 meals served to hungry people each year

If you haven’t contributed this year, please take a moment to make your tax-deductible contribution before the year ends Choose the charities that mean the most to you, and please give generously. You can do so with confidence, knowing that Catalogue nonprofits have been vetted in a rigorous review process that takes months to complete.

And consider making a contribution to the Catalogue itself, and helping us help the 330 nonprofits in our network to do what they do best. The Catalogue is a tremendous community resource and we charge no fees for the work we do: generous donors like you make the Catalogue possible.

So stand with us as we work together to make this community a better place to live. And if you’ve already given, please accept our thanks — on behalf of all the great nonprofits that are proud to say they are part of the Catalogue family.

In The News …

How to Help Families Affected by Newtown School Shooting (Newtown Patch): “In the wake of the unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook School Friday people from all over the world — in Connecticut, California, Canada and much farther away in Australia and India — sent an outpouring of support and want to know how they can help.” Newtown Patch has compiled a list of ways to support individual families, the community, and local resources; instate residents can call 211 “for information about how individuals or businesses can support the victims and their families.” The article also invited readers to post “I want to help” in the comment section if they wished to receive updates on what they could do. Currently, over 1350 comments have appeared. The Chronicle of Philanthropy also reports that “more than $1-million has poured into a fund to help Newtown.”

New Maryland system measures school progress (Washington Post: Education): “The Howard and Frederick county school systems scored slightly higher than Montgomery County under a new Maryland accountability system that [...] takes into account each school’s benchmarks on overall student performance, student growth, closing the achievement gap and preparing students for college and careers.” This new state data, which was released this past Monday, “comes from the School Progress Index, which is permitted under new federal rules that allow states to create their own ways to measure progress in public schools.” Maryland and Virginia, along with 34 other states and the District, have received waivers from the 2002 No Child Left Behind provisions.

‘Hugely complex’ work for philanthropy in the next decade (Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers): “The rise of a wide variety of strategies for mobilizing private resources to address common societal problems is now, and will increasingly in the future, blur the lines between what we call philanthropy and commerce,” writes Susan Raymond, Executive Vice President of Changing Our World, Inc. “That makes for exciting times. It also makes for challenges. Not the least of these challenges for the formal philanthropic sector — for foundations and corporate giving — is how to partner with these new resource strategies.” What new strategy, do you think, is having the greatest impact on philanthropy today?

In The News …

Maryland behind 11 states, tied with five others on graduation rates (Gazette): “The US Department of Education released statistics Monday ranking states by high school graduation rates, reflecting new data reported consistently nationwide [...] The new, uniform methods are the result of 2008 federal regulation. Beginning with data from 2011-2012, graduation rates will be used to hold states accountable for school performance.” With an 83% graduate rate, Maryland ties for the twelfth spot on the list (along with five other school systems); Virginia comes in just behind at 82%, while DC’s rate is 59% based on 2010/2011 school year data. The complete list is available here.

‘Giving Tuesday’: The Start Of A Holiday Tradition? (WAMU): “First, there was the post-Thanksgiving sales spectacle Black Friday and then the online version, Cyber Monday. Now, charitable groups want to start a new holiday tradition — it’s called Giving Tuesday. It may seem a little surprising that no one came up with the idea before of designating a specific day to help launch the holiday charitable giving season.” What do think of the new tradition? Did you give on Tuesday, or do you plan to give closer to the end of the year? Time of year aside, remember to check out Washington City Paper’s 2012 Donation Guide for ideas!

On ‘Giving Tuesday,’ big donors shed light on why, when and how they give (Washington Post): “Why, when, how and to whom do wealthy people give? It’s a core question for charitable organizations confronted with an uncertain economic climate [...] A new video series produced by the nonprofit consulting firm Bridgespan Group offers some answers.” On Tuesday, Bridgespan launched the video series “Conversations with Remarkable Givers,” which features interviews with some of the country’s most prominent philanthropists. “The site, GiveSmart.org, features the roughly 400 video clips — a database that is expected to expand to roughly 1,200 over the next several months.”

2012 Nonprofits Celebrate the Honor

By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator

What does it mean to be “one of the best” small nonprofits in Greater Washington? The 2012-13 class of Catalogue nonprofits got their first taste of that honor at the Catalogue’s Best Practices Workshop and Celebration last Wednesday. The workshop marked the beginning of the Catalogue’s 10th Anniversary celebration this fall. Over 140 representatives from 83 different nonprofits joined together to congratulate each other and learn more about how to make the most of the Catalogue honor.

The evening was marked by many highlights, starting with a spirited introduction by Catalogue Board Chair Don Neal. As Community Partnerships Coordinator for the Catalogue, I had the privilege of co-hosting a portion of the workshop with Catalogue President and Editor Barbara Harman. Together, we introduced the new Nonprofit Portal website — the home base for all Catalogue nonprofits online.

Continue reading