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Placing Community Work in the Center

Placing Community Work in the Center

Lessons from Volunteer Fairfax’s Community Conversation on Transformational Volunteerism

For many of us, our volunteer journeys begin from a highly personal place — maybe a one-time service project opened our eyes to the needs of our community or taking a service trip abroad inspired us to lend our time and skills in more impactful ways. From helping our neighbors to building meaningful relationships, there are multiple benefits to volunteering for both the community and volunteers.

At the same time, existing volunteer opportunities can often also feel like an “in and out” transaction. It is common to treat the act of volunteering as something fun and comfortable, during which volunteers advance their individual experience or interests and feel good about what they’ve done after.

This model is what Breauna Dorelus calls a needs-based program, in which volunteer leaders “recruit volunteers by pulling on their heartstrings and letting them know how much we need them.” By prioritizing volunteers’ feelings, we center volunteers as the hero when we tell our stories about volunteerism. This does a disservice to the communities that work with these volunteers, as well as to the volunteers themselves. How might we instead, as Breauna asks, reshape volunteerism so that we can recognize and honor each of our innate worths?

In Volunteer Fairfax’s recent Community Conversation, More than Just Volunteering: From Transaction to Community Transformation, keynote speaker Breauna Dorelus, Chief Cause Consultant of Connecting the Cause, shared an inspiring perspective on how we can practice more community-centered volunteerism and, in doing so, reimagine new ways of connection and shared care.

Moving towards true transformational change is by no means a linear path, but a good first step is to identify and acknowledge that most of us are currently “swimming in supremacy” when we “put the onus on fixing people instead of addressing systems.” Volunteerism, like any other tool, can be used for white supremacy, pity, othering, and self-interest. When we frame volunteerism as simply coming in to help solve issues, we risk manifesting paternalistic behaviors rooted in white saviorism, which can disempower the very community members we purport to help. It is important to continually recognize that inequitable systems create the issues that then push many of us to act.

“We have to get back to the why,” Breauna says. Why do we volunteer? Why are things happening the way that they are? When we co-dream as true partners with the community and when we center the community as the hero of transformation, we can be most effective in dismantling harmful systems together. “There has to be some boldness involved,” Breauna emphasizes. How might we change the biases, stereotypes, and assumptions that we may have about our communities through volunteering? How might we continue to change and transform in these ways that feel sustainable? How might volunteering give us the tools to be better advocates for the larger cause?

Interested in hearing more? Watch the full recording of this Community Conversation, which features keynote speaker Breauna Dorelus, Chief Cause Consultant of Connecting the Cause, along with a panel discussion including Briana Cleveland, Director of Volunteer Engagement at Martha’s Table, and Cheyenne Shelby-Petersen, Senior Manager of Strategic Relations at Chicago Cares.

Volunteer Fairfax mobilizes people and resources to meet regional community needs. If you want to learn more about and support this work, you can visit Volunteer Fairfax’s website, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and over email, and/or make a donation.

Local Nonprofit Bulletin (01.06.23)

Local Nonprofit Bulletin

(01.06.23)

Events

Sunday, January 8, 8:00 PM, The Hamilton Live | Best Buddies is hosting a tribute show on Elvis’ birthday with Alex Dellatti, Best Buddies Ambassador and Elvis impersonator

Wednesday, January 11, 10:00 – 11:45 AM, Online | Join Volunteer Fairfax for a keynote presentation and panel discussion on “More than Just Volunteering: From Transaction to Community Transformation”

Friday, January 13, 6:00 PM at Mehari Sequar Gallery | DC Strings Workshop presents Joshua Banbury in concert

Friday, January 13, 7:00 – 10:00 PM, The Little Theatre of Alexandria | Support Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services’ fundraiser while watching Sister Act, a feel-good musical comedy smash based on the hit film

Saturday, January 14, 9:00 – 11:00 AM, Various | Join Potomac Conservancy for a river cleanup for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in Washington, DC (Theodore Roosevelt Island), Alexandria, VA (Four Mile Run), or Silver Spring, MD (Matthew Henson Trail)

Tuesday, January 17, 7:00 – 8:00 PM, Cleveland Park Library | Learn about an Architectural History of Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park with Camilla Carpenter, the Cleveland Park Historical Society, and District Bridges’ Cleveland Park Main Street

Thursday, January 19, 10:00 – 11:00 AM, Online | CaringMatters’ Panel Discussion on How to Support Grieving People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Thursday, January 19, 5:00 – 6:00 PM, Online | Get involved with Mother’s Outreach Network and the DC Guaranteed Income Coalition at their General Body Meeting, where they will be presenting their Advocacy Toolkit material

Community Resources, Opportunities, & Sharing

Volunteer with Casa Chirilagua this year! Their various opportunities on weekday afternoons and evenings include one-to-one mentoring, Spanish adult literacy tutoring, and volunteering with their Kids Club (elementary school age), Casa to College program, as well as Teen Study Hall (middle and high school focuses). Email Kate Denson for more information.

Enjoy cooking? Share your skills with Rainbow Place Shelter by volunteering to provide food! Visit their website to view the list of food accepted, sign up to volunteer, and/or contact their Volunteer Coordinator with any questions. You can also consider hosting an online fundraiser to help them with operating costs.

If you are a young person in 7th-12th grade who loves to sing, wants to grow as an artist, get paid to perform, and dreams of being on stage or collaborating with other DMV musicians, sign up to audition for The MusicianShip‘s Washington Youth Choir, who will be performing at The 35th Annual Wammie Music Awards on Saturday, April 1!

BIPOC emerging filmmakers who are working on a short film or their first feature that addresses a timely environmental issue are encouraged to apply for the $12,500 DC Environmental Film Festival (DCEFF) Vantage Grant! Applications close on January 20, after which 4-6 filmmakers will be selected to present their project in a live pitch at the 31st Annual DCEFF on March 26. Learn more about the process and how to apply!

The Fund for Investigative Journalism is accepting proposals for grants of up to $10,000 for stories that break new ground and uncover wrongdoing in the public or private sectors. Read their FAQs, RSVP for their webinar on January 13, and apply by January 30.

The Dream Project offers $3,000 scholarships for Virginia students whose immigration status (undocumented, DACA, TPS, or asylum applicant) creates barriers to success in college. Applications close on February 1. View their eligibility criteria and apply now!

Looking to get more comfortable with public speaking this year? Listen to the newly launched “Public Speaking the Actor’s Way” podcast by The Theatre Lab with acting teacher, public speaking coach, and Theatre Lab Director Buzz Mauro!

Generation Hope offers free College Readiness Workshops in English and Spanish for any young parents in the DMV. Parents will have the opportunity to learn about their college access and the transition to college. Both virtual and in-person workshops are available. Use this form to express interest and schedule a workshop!

The Foster & Adoptive Parent Advocacy Center (FAPAC) is looking for experienced CFSA foster parents to mentor newly licensed foster parents in DC. Mentors will receive training, a monthly stipend, and be considered AmeriCorps members. Learn more and apply to become a mentor on their website!

Shifting Power in Philanthropy through Giving Circles

Shifting Power in Philanthropy through Giving Circles

Given the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s longstanding partnerships with various local and regional giving circles in Greater Washington, we are excited to announce that the Next Gen Giving Circle is becoming a Catalogue initiative. Since its founding in 2020 by two local philanthropic professionals, Carlyn Madden and Peter Williamson, the giving circle has raised more than $125,000 for local nonprofits and engaged 100+ local 40s-and-under professionals in philanthropy and their community.

We believe that giving circles can be a highly effective vehicle for shifting power in philanthropy. Curious about what exactly they are and how they work? Read on for a quick primer, and to learn more about what our regional giving circle scene looks like.

What are giving circles?

“Giving circles at the core are people-powered philanthropy,” said Tyeshia Wilson, Director of Engagement at Philanthropy Together. “Giving circles are powerful activation tools to advance equity in philanthropy because in them everyone has power and has the opportunity to use it.”

Put simply, a giving circle is a group of people who pool their time and money, collectively deciding where funds should go. Philanthropy Together estimates that there are more than 2,500 giving circles in the United States, with 150,000 donors having given away $1.29 billion.

This isn’t just a phenomenon in the United States. A research study released in late 2020 found 42,200 giving circle members around the world, excluding the United States, collectively investing $46 million in grants through 426 giving circles. And the collective giving movement is growing.

From the accessibility of joining or starting a giving circle to its collectivist and democratic decision-making approach to its potential for radical grassroots funding and engagement, giving circles are a high-impact model. Because there is no prerequisite to being a philanthropist, as Tyeshia Wilson noted, “there is so much diversity and inclusiveness housed in giving circles which is a counter-narrative to traditional philanthropy.” Additionally, Andrew Gibbs at the Center for Jewish Philanthropy reflected that “the opportunity to be part of an allocation process from start to finish… gives participants a sense of ownership and investment in the community.”

Our experience with giving circles at the Catalogue has demonstrated that they are a positive force for disrupting traditional philanthropy. Not only is anyone and everyone encouraged to learn about nonprofits and contribute in the ways they can, but in adopting a collaborative approach to grantmaking, the “rules” of many institutional grantmakers on which nonprofits rely can also be examined.

According to a 2019 study by the Urban Institute, the vast majority of nonprofits across the country are smaller organizations, with 66.6% operating on budgets of less than $500,000. Yet, as Emily Rasmussen wrote for the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, “the reality is, many of these nonprofits organizations struggle to survive amidst so many others.”

The Catalogue knows this struggle firsthand, both as a small nonprofit ourselves and as a champion for small nonprofits in the Greater Washington region. It can be challenging for small nonprofits to gain visibility and access to funding sources or networks, especially for small nonprofits led by people of color. We have seen how giving circles can quickly and flexibly shift their grantmaking practices to align with trust-based philanthropy, grounded in racial equity and economic justice.

What is trust-based philanthropy?

Trust-based philanthropy is a values-based grantmaking approach that is “rooted in advancing equity, shifting power, and building mutually accountable relationships” between funders and grantees. It has become increasingly clear, as Mary Broach wrote for Blue Avocado, that “both nonprofits and funders can benefit from a more transparent and honest relationship that is focused on addressing the true needs in our communities.” In essence, by recognizing the power dynamic inherent in funder-grantee relationships and committing to mutual accountability when supporting and trusting nonprofits to create change, philanthropy itself can become a much more effective and rewarding vehicle for change.

A collective giving model like that of giving circles is well-positioned to practice the principles of trust-based philanthropy and shift power in the philanthropic space. At Next Gen Giving Circle, for example, members intentionally center and prioritize equity from the application process to reviewer training, with members voting to focus the giving circle’s grant priority on racial equity and economic empowerment.

The grant application is open to nonprofits with budgets less than $1 million, and the giving circle especially encourages smaller and BIPOC-led nonprofits to apply. The application itself is streamlined and bilingual to reduce the amount of paperwork nonprofits need to complete, with an option for nonprofits to submit video instead of written applications. Funding is unrestricted so that nonprofits themselves determine where grant dollars are most needed, and grantee reports are not required.

Many other giving circles, especially our partners in the DMV Collective Giving Circle Network, are similarly committed to continually improving their grantmaking processes while educating local philanthropists. Beyond providing financial support, giving circle members are also encouraged to engage with nonprofits that have historically gone without the same level of networks or support than their more established peers.

Most importantly, giving circles give everyone the agency and platform to connect with the causes and communities they care about. When you become a member of a giving circle, you meet other likeminded people with whom you generate an even bigger impact than you can on your own. That seed of collaboration is what creates change that feels particularly fruitful and rewarding, now and in our future.

How do I get started?

There are many local and regional giving circles you can join today!

  • The Next Gen Giving Circle is currently recruiting members and is open to anyone who wants to increase their support for local community-based nonprofits. Join us today or reach out to Amanda Liaw, Manager of Communications and Marketing at the Catalogue for Philanthropy, to learn more.
  • Many Hands leverages the power of collective giving to support nonprofits serving and empowering Washington, DC area women, children, and families in socioeconomic need. They are now welcoming members for the 2023 grant cycle. Learn more about becoming a member, sustaining member, or young member.
  • Giving Together is a group of like-minded, committed women who pool funds and volunteer time to help low-income women and children in the Washington, DC area. Read their FAQs for more information on what membership looks like and become a member.
  • The Cherry Blossom Giving Circle is a group of volunteers committed to creating positive change in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities of the Washington, DC metro area. They are always seeking new volunteers, members, and donors.
  • Collective 365 is a membership-based group of community conscious individuals who contribute their resources to give a platform for Black and Brown communities; helping them grow into community staples that can have a lasting impact in society. Get involved with their work.
  • Impact100 DC is an all-volunteer women’s philanthropic community dedicated to improving lives in the Greater Washington, DC area by collectively funding transformational grants to local nonprofit organizations. Read their FAQs for information on membership, shared membership, their fellowship program, and more. Become a member before December 31st.
  • Together Women Rise is a home for all who want to build collective power to uplift women and change the world. Learn more about how you can engage with them and get started with one of the chapters in the DC metro area.
  • Awesome Foundation DC is a giving circle collective of DC residents who help fund a wide spectrum of amazing arts, culture, and community experiences. They are part of the Awesome Foundation, an international organization with nearly one hundred chapters around the world. All chapters are entirely volunteer-run and self-funded through trustee donations. Learn more about them and indicate your interest in becoming a trustee.

Find more giving circles through the DMV Collective Giving Circle Network or visit Philanthropy Together and Grapevine’s Giving Circle Directory.

What Being Part of the Catalogue Network Looks Like

What Being Part of the Catalogue Network Looks Like

Building local relationships. Learning with and from peer organizations. Feeling supported wherever you are in your journey to help better our Greater Washington region together.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy knows that so much of our ability to drive change is based on the strength of our connections. From empowering residents to organize for their rights to giving young people the tools and platform they need to shape our futures, the community-led grassroots organizations in our network show us how much ground we can gain when we trust and support each other.

At the Catalogue, we aim to grow this sense of community in three different and interrelated ways:

  1. By gathering our nonprofit partners and residents looking to give back in the same spaces, we help facilitate meaningful conversations about, and deeper involvements with, local issues.
  2. By convening small nonprofit professionals across various roles and industry topics, we provide room for our nonprofit partners to share knowledge and resources with each other.
  3. By creating educational opportunities specifically designed to be useful and relevant for nonprofits working in small teams and with small budgets, we invest in the people who work to strengthen our region every day.

Visibility is critical for small, community-based organizations. Their impact can only be as powerful as the commitment of their volunteers, advocates, and supporters. At the same time, while many residents are interested in engaging more actively with such organizations, it can also feel intimidating to know where to begin – especially in a city like DC where so many nonprofits are located.

As Donald Graham, Chairman & CEO of Graham Holdings Company, shared, “It’s impossible for anyone to know all of the smaller nonprofits who do important work in our region.” Between considering the causes that matter most to you and researching nonprofits that make a critical difference in those areas, discovering ways to get involved can include a decent amount of legwork. That’s why we collate nonprofits that have been reviewed by a team of 170+ community advocates for their local impact.

Our community advocates are volunteers who live or work in the region — we train them on how to evaluate nonprofit applications and they help to determine which nonprofits to include in the Catalogue network, with their comments forming part of the feedback we provide to unsuccessful applicants. This democratic decision-making process simultaneously introduces local nonprofits to our volunteer professionals and engenders trust in the nonprofits we choose to support and amplify.

For these nonprofits, the visibility of becoming a Catalogue partner can prove invaluable. As Tara Libert, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, said, “It has connected us to people who would otherwise never have been able to find out about our work.” Moreover, we continually listen to the needs of our nonprofit partners to develop resources and opportunities that can help them increase their impact.

“Since being part of the Catalogue, all of your support and capacity-building opportunities have helped us grow significantly!” shared Lucy von Fahnestock, Director of Development at Together We Bake, a nonprofit partner whose annual budget, staff, and number of women who graduate from their programs each year have doubled since they have been with us in 2018.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy is excited to continue leveraging the region’s knowledge for the benefit of the entire community. If you are a nonprofit operating primarily in the Greater Washington region with a budget between $100,000 and $4 million annually, we strongly encourage you to apply for the Catalogue’s 2023-24 class! View more information and start your application on our website.

Interested in volunteering as part of our community advocate team? We are also currently recruiting volunteers for the 2023-24 cycle! Find more information here.

Revolutionizing the Workplace with BroadFutures

Revolutionizing the Workplace with BroadFutures

What does it mean to make our workplaces more inclusive? For BroadFutures, truly revolutionizing the workplace includes supporting and empowering neurodivergent young people so that they can thrive. As the only paid internship program for young people with learning disabilities in the country, BroadFutures helps young people build workplace readiness skills by combining internships with an interactive curriculum that incorporates mentorship, coaching, the arts, stress reduction techniques, and more.

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One in five individuals have a learning or attention issue. Despite young people with learning disabilities comprising the largest disability group in the United States, only 41% complete post-secondary education and only 46% obtain regular paid employment within two years of graduating from high school. Yet we know that workplaces and employers benefit from nurturing a diversity of perspectives. BroadFutures is bridging this gap by supporting and empowering neurodivergent young people and connecting them with life changing internships, while also educating employers on how to make their workplaces more accessible. In doing so, BroadFutures is helping employers to understand how neurodiverse talent is an asset in the workplace and how to support, attract, and retain such talent.

During 2022, BroadFutures partnered with 30 employers and served 46 young people, creating mutually successful outcomes for all. “It is an honor to guide our youth to the path of success,” shared Regional Sales Manager, Amy Goumbala, and Branch Manager, Amilcar Ayala, of United Bank, a new BroadFutures employer partner. “(Our intern) Anthony is a smart and talented young man. We enjoyed having him on the team and appreciate the great contributions he has made to United Bank.”

Similarly, Kathryn Markey, Human Resources Director at The InterContinental Hotels Group, a longtime employer partner and recent BroadFutures Champion Award recipient, remarked that “not only did (the Summer 2022 BroadFutures interns) show up ready to work and eager to learn, but they consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic consistent with the level of service that we portray.”

One such example is Derrick Manzi, a Winter 2022 InterContinental Hotel Group intern, who was offered full-time employment upon completion of the internship and was recently named Employee of the Month in September. Prior to joining BroadFutures, Derrick found it difficult to advocate for himself and to know when to ask for help and accommodations. Not only did participating in the program make him feel confident in these areas, but he now considers his ability to work with others to be his greatest area of improvement. As his supervisor noted, Derrick improved in “his self-confidence and independence and (ability to perform) very well in a high stress, fast-paced environment.”

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This past summer, BroadFutures launched a nationwide pilot with General Dynamics Mission Systems (GD-MS) across four different offices in Arizona, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to expand their programming and partnerships. BroadFutures vetted and supported the interns while providing comprehensive neurodiversity training and support for the GD-MS staff. By developing this pilot partnership, BroadFutures is now poised to expand their model nationwide in order to fulfill their vision of a more diverse workplace.

BroadFutures is always eager and open to speaking with potential employers both in the Washington Metropolitan area and beyond! You can learn more about becoming an employer partner, how to apply for their upcoming internship programs, and/or supporting their work so that they can continue making our workplaces more diverse and inclusive.

Reflecting on Our 20th Anniversary

Reflecting on Our 20th Anniversary

“This is our country at its best,” wrote Catalogue for Philanthropy founder Barbara Harman after seeing several of our nonprofit partners in action earlier this year at our gala, Hope Springs! “Embracing cultural difference, rejoicing and taking in the magic of what human persons have created across cultures and centuries, expressing it in art and community work and bridge-building.”

Since 2003, the Catalogue’s mission has been to support and amplify these extraordinary and “life-affirming activities” that local nonprofits engage in. Founded by author, philanthropist, and former college English professor Barbara Harman, the inaugural print Catalogue included nonprofits based in the District and raised half a million dollars for these nonprofits.

From its inception, the idea of the Catalogue was deeply rooted in ensuring that smaller nonprofits have equitable access to networks and opportunities. “There was just unbelievable work happening at the grassroots level that I suspected many philanthropists would not see,” Barbara shared with Dave Moss in a conversation about the Catalogue in 2018. “What would happen if we were to create an instrument that would make these folks audible and visible to people who otherwise would not know about them?”

The Catalogue is now the Greater Washington region’s only locally-focused guide to giving and volunteering. In the past two decades, we have expanded to include more than 400 nonprofits across the region, raising a total of over $55 million for this network of grassroots organizations. Every year, we train and engage 170+ community members who live or work here to become community advocates and help us determine which nonprofits become part of the Catalogue network.

Beyond connecting residents with these organizations making critical local impact, we also provide our nonprofit partners with professional development opportunities so that they can become stronger and more effective organizations. While supportive resources exist for some nonprofit professionals, many small- and medium-sized organizations cannot afford to implement these “best practices.” Across topics such as fundraising, communications, and board recruitment, our content is specifically designed to be accessible for smaller teams and budgets.

As we reach our 20th year, the Catalogue has provided professional development for more than 25,000 participants. For the third year in a row, we have raised over $1 million for 200+ local nonprofits as part of Give Local Together, our region’s official GivingTuesday campaign and its largest day of giving. We continue to listen to the needs of regional grassroots organizations and adapt to ensure they have the resources they need to thrive — creating our new Grassroots Accelerator Program for nonprofits with budgets below $250,000, as well as our BIPOC Emerging Leader Cohorts for existing and emerging nonprofit leaders of color.

Looking ahead to our next twenty years, the Catalogue for Philanthropy is committed to further advancing equity in the philanthropic space and strengthening the connections between small nonprofits and local individual advocates. Our region faces complex challenges that require a complex coalition to address. We are excited to continue growing, supporting, challenging, and being part of the movement that is bringing about that change. Leading with the words of our founder Barbara Harman, let’s make sure that the world we’re working towards “is one that supports all members of this community.”

Becoming Better with Conflict: The Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County

Becoming Better with Conflict

With the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County

From politics to food to the workplace, conflict is part of almost every area of our lives, including the internal relationship we have with ourselves. Though conflict management is a foundational skill, it isn’t often taught or even made largely accessible to people. The cost of mediation, for example, especially through court or private mediators, is a common cause of hesitation. The Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County (CRCMC) is working to change that.

“We offer free mediation services, which makes it a lot easier for people to access,” Eral Diaz, Outreach Coordinator at CRCMC, told the Catalogue. CRCMC also provides bilingual assistance and mediation translators and interpreters. And because not every case requires mediation, they provide conflict coaching to help people learn about interpersonal conflict management skills as well.

“Being accessible to anybody in our community is a great thing,” Diaz elaborated. “We also love having such a diverse community with so many different people, and hopefully (our services) make their day just a little bit better.”

CRCMC was originally founded in 2001 after a group of Montgomery County citizens came together to help their neighbors — and each other — talk through community disputes without needing to fight or go to court. For more than twenty years, they’ve provided Montgomery County residents with free mediation services for a wide range of interpersonal conflicts, including familial, school, and workplace settings. In addition, CRCMC also holds conflict management workshops, youth programs to ensure that schools incorporate conflict resolution as a life-long competence, and group facilitation sessions.

So, what does conflict resolution and mediation actually look like? For CRCMC, mediation is a neutral process in which they guide members of the community through their communications to solve a conflict, with all parties hopefully coming to a final agreement. “Members of the community inform us of the conflicts they’re going through, then we let them know how the process works,” Diaz shared. “Being neutral is a very important factor — we always let anyone who wants to use our services know that we’re not here to represent or go against them.” After deciding if the situation calls for mediation, CRCMC will contact all involved parties and schedule mediators to meet with them in as many sessions as needed.

In addition to resolving disputes, the goal of mediation is also to rebuild relationships and empower people to resolve future conflicts. Take Parenting Plan Mediation, a recent program they’re offering that’s particularly focused on parental conflicts. Many conflicts between parents involve legally binding situations, but CRCMC’s processes don’t tend to be legally abiding. However, Diaz explained, mediation “opens up a private space for parents to create collaborative relationships and sustainable decisions while keeping the focus on the child’s best interests.” Going to court is stressful. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Learning to co-parent in a positive environment will always be a great resource for all parents.

Similarly, while dealing with emotions and how people communicate can be complex, interpersonal conflict management is a skill that can only help strengthen communities peace by peace.

If you’re interested in learning more, CRCMC has produced a series of Conversations on Conflict that cover a wide variety of topics. You can also sign up to volunteer with them, request their services, and/or donate to support their work.

How Local Nonprofits Can Weather the Economic Storm and Thrive

How Local Nonprofits Can Weather the Economic Storm and Thrive

Written by Network for Victim Recovery of DC

Nonprofit work has never been for the faint of heart — but these days, it can feel downright Sisyphean.

Throughout a grueling pandemic, we continued to work hard for our DC community. Last year at Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC), we helped more than 500 victims of sexual assault access legal services and medical care, and responded 327 times to local hospitals.

A volatile economic landscape threatens to undercut the progress we and so many others have made, jeopardizing the crucial donations that make our work possible at a moment of maximum vulnerability and burnout.

So, how can nonprofits innovate and thrive in the face of such stiff economic headwinds, while continuing to provide important services to our community? After 10 years on the ground in D.C. helping victims of sexual assault, we have a few ideas.

First, seek out unexpected opportunities to collaborate. Through an innovative partnership with Uber, we offered rides to 130 victims in 2022 alone, helping them reach vital medical and supportive care. We can do so much more for our community when we work together.

Second, invest in your staff. NVRDC has followed through on a campaign launched in 2019 to make sure each person on our team could earn a living wage, investing $400,000 back into the people who make our work possible — because our staff cannot help look after members of our community if we do not first look after them.

Finally, develop a support network. Over the past year, our team at NVRDC has convened a series of conversations among nonprofit peers to promote knowledge-sharing and discuss best practices, including strategies to improve pay transparency for nonprofit employees, as well as conversations on Equity and Inclusion and Innovation. From the Markle Foundation to D.C. Justice Lab and more, we have been inspired by our peers’ stories of resilience, creativity, and commitment to doing good.

But nonprofits cannot do this alone. Now more than ever, our survival and success depend on the collective efforts of partner corporations, law firms, local governments, and individual donors to prioritize the services that groups like ours can uniquely provide.

Earlier this month, NVRDC hosted our 11th annual benefit with many of our friends and family in the D.C. community. The theme was “Rise and Reimagine,” and we can’t think of a more fitting message for this moment. As we enter 2023 amid historic economic uncertainty, nonprofits will have to rise to the occasion to ensure no need goes unmet, and reimagine our role in the community as collaborators and innovators who make a difference.

We have done it before, and we will do it again. That’s what nonprofits do.

Network for Victim Recovery of DC has been empowering survivors of all crimes since 2012 by offering them a continuum of advocacy, case management, and legal services. Their work is community-driven and guided by the belief that survivors deserve respect for their dignity in the aftermath of a crime. Visit their website to view their other programs and offer your support. You can also stay updated on their work through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and over email.

Feeding Family, Feeding Community with AfriThrive

Feeding Family, Feeding Community with AfriThrive

Lydiah Owiti came to the U.S. from Kenya to join her husband. They had moved several times for his job in the military, in which they served for 12 years. When his California office closed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they moved to Maryland. However, soon after arriving here with their three children — a 10-year-old son, and daughters ages 9 and 3 — the Maryland office closed as well, and Lydiah’s husband was out of work.

“Panic sets in,” Lydiah remembers. At the time, she was a full-time mom with no income of her own to fall back on. The family had just signed a lease in Maryland and, immediately, they began worrying about how they would manage.

Lydiah started exploring options, seeking connections in her new community, just as she had done with every move the family had made. Soon, she came across AfriThrive and learned that the organization provides food to African immigrant families.

Within two days of reaching out to AfriThrive, food was delivered to her doorstep. Lydiah knew they gave food out at central distribution spots, but because she was not near one of these locations, AfriThrive came to her. “That really touched me,” she says.

But food was not the only thing they offered. The people at AfriThrive wanted to learn more about their situation and find out how else they could help. “It was such an amazing thing,” Lydiah says, “to have people come out to see us and care so much.”

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Thanks to the food from AfriThrive, Lydiah and her family could use their limited savings for rent. Fortunately, the military still provided for their healthcare. “Too often, families in financial straits have to choose between a place to sleep or feeding their family, but AfriThrive meant we did not have to make such a difficult choice.”

In addition, the food AfriThrive provided was not the canned food that Lydiah expected. “That’s what most food pantries provide, and while it’s very helpful, that’s not something I was used to preparing,” she remembers. “AfriThrive’s fresh vegetables, like collard greens, made me feel at home.”

Lydiah was so touched by the generosity of AfriThrive that she began volunteering herself. “People from my culture are reluctant to ask for help because they see doing so as a sign of weakness. I don’t care about that — and I knew there had to be many people who would need assistance and I wanted to volunteer my time to help.”

“I volunteered with my kids to distribute food door-to-door to our neighbors. We made so many friends along the way, and the more we distributed the more people came out who needed it.”

Lydiah’s husband landed a new job that took them to Connecticut and although she was sad to leave the AfriThrive community, she continues to stay in touch and help out with AfriThrive’s youth mentoring program. Now, she also works for Blue Star Families, a nonprofit providing suport for active duty military and veteran families.

Lydiah will always remember what AfriThrive did for her and her family at a time of great desperation. “Just seeing how someone would go out of their way for my needs and come to my doorstep was so comforting and reassuring. There’s still so much good out there, and people for whom other people’s needs are that important.”

AfriThrive pairs food with critical services that empower underserved Black immigrant and refugee families. In addition to sourcing locally grown, culturally appropriate fresh fruits and vegetables for weekly distribution to thousands of community members, they also offer a youth engagement and life skills program, as well as connects youth with employment opportunities. Learn about this work, and more, by visiting their website and subscribing to their newsletter. Support them this GivingTuesday and holiday season!

Confidence, Self-Expression, and Mindfulness at Legacy Farms

Confidence, Self-Expression, and Mindfulness at Legacy Farms

Guest blog by Legacy Farms

There are very few jobs where employees are not only learning new job skills, but are also learning about their capabilities, their worth, and how to bring peace into their own lives; yet this is a daily occurrence at Legacy Farms for all our apprentices.

Legacy Farms’ mission is to empower neurodiversity in the workplace, which we accomplish through our signature mentor / apprentice program, Growing Together. Through Growing Together, neurodivergent apprentices are hired, beginning as volunteers receiving educational training and advancing to paid positions working alongside mentors in our garden. During the program, mentors coach our apprentices on job skills, social awareness, and self-advocacy. Apprentices work in the garden or on special projects that further their talents, such as doing videography for social media, developing relationships with our garden’s distributors, and coordinating events or other projects.

Our apprentices are individuals who are 16 years or older and identify as neurodivergent. Our apprentices are individuals with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, PTSD, and anxiety — neurotypes that vary from perceived norms and affect an individual’s ability to achieve independence in the current job market. Many of our apprentices are in the process of transitioning beyond the educational system and have difficulty finding and maintaining employment. Our program primarily serves individuals in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, but is open to any neurodivergent individual who can commute to our gardens for weekly work responsibilities during the growing season.

We focus on teaching work responsibilities and competencies while increasing personal awareness and self-regulation as these are foundational capacities that lead to improved employment and job retention. Through relational modeling, we mentor and support our apprentices to be their authentic selves by engaging their talents and capabilities. By working as equals who are all focused on the same goals and by relying on our apprentices to complete customer deliverables, our program strengthens apprentice capacities for self-organization, initiative, and leadership. It isn’t just about building their skills, but more importantly about increasing their confidence; apprentices achieve a higher level of personal adjustment and can further their contributions as members of society.

“He feels so confident and comfortable that when he was talking with professors during college seminars and asking questions about their programs, he was able to have a really great conversation and sound very professional,” Angela said about her son, Colin. Not only is Colin one of our apprentices who has worked in our garden, but he also lent his talents as an entrepreneurially focused Writing Apprentice, creating a blog for Legacy Farms called The Green Thumb. Speaking to Colin’s participation in Growing Together and how it has made him more confident and self-assured in the world outside of the farm, Angela elaborated, “He could actually talk about what he was doing at Legacy Farms. He felt really proud about it, just being in the professional work as a writer.”

In 2022, Legacy Farms served 32 neurodivergent individuals in apprenticeship, garden team lead, mentor, and committee/Board roles, while also providing support for over a third of those individuals in secondary jobs and/or outplacement. Our goal in 2023 is to expand our farm space as well as expand the number of CSA’s that we are able to offer. This GivingTuesday, help Legacy Farms raise $10,000 so that we can expand the number of apprentices we are able to serve in 2023!

Learn more about Legacy Farms by visiting their website.