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Expanding our DC Leadership Team

The board of directors of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, celebrating its 15th year, is pleased to announce the selection of Bob Wittig as its first executive director. The Catalogue recognizes the region’s best small charities, is a leader in developing their capacity, and has helped raise over $37 million since its inception in 2003.

“This is an important step in ensuring the Catalogue’s longevity,” said board member Lauralyn Lee. “As the Catalogue expands its reach, and adds popular Learning Commons training and development programs, Bob’s 25 years of experience working in philanthropy and with small nonprofits makes him an ideal fit for our work going forward.”

After 15 years of overseeing the exceptional growth of the Catalogue, founder Barbara Harman has decided that it is time to move to the next phase of her presidency. She will focus on the Catalogue’s creative work, on partnership development, external relations, and future initiatives. “During this anniversary, it seems particularly important not just to celebrate the past but also to ensure the Catalogue’s future by strengthening its leadership team. As a founder-led organization that represents and supports nearly 400 community-based charities, we want to be a model for how nonprofits can remain vital and how transitions can be effective and powerful,” Harman said.

Wittig has a long record of leadership and commitment to the nonprofit community in the DC region, including a 14-year history as a reviewer of Catalogue applicants, and a facilitator in its training programs. He has been executive director of the Jovid Foundation in Washington, D.C. since 2002. Prior to that, he served as executive director at Academy of Hope, Development Director at Joseph’s House and Direct Marketing Manager at Special Olympics International, all D.C.-based organizations. In 1992, he was part of the first group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in Ukraine. Wittig is an author and expert on nonprofit capacity building and board governance.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with Bob to ensure that the Catalogue continues to serve the needs of donors who want to invest in our community and nonprofits whose strength and passion we admire and seek to support,” said Harman.

“I am thrilled to join the Catalogue and its talented team, both to continue and to build upon its impressive achievements,” Wittig stated. “I look forward to working with Barbara, with the Board, and with the donor and nonprofit communities that the Catalogue so successfully brings together.”
The executive search firm LeaderFit worked with the board of directors on this search.

Tears Of Joy

By Steve Abraham, Executive Director of Wilderness Leadership & Learning, Inc.

WILL provides experiential learning, life-skills, and leadership development for underserved DC youth. This is WILL’s first year being featured in the Catalogue.

On a sunny spring morning, upon returning from schools checking-in with Wilderness Leadership & Learning (WILL) program participants, I opened an e-mail from the Catalogue for Philanthropy (Catalogue). The first line read: “We are delighted to inform you that Wilderness Leadership & Learning, Inc. has been chosen for inclusion in the print and online 2012-13 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington.” Tears of joy began to roll down my cheeks. WILL was being recognized by the Catalogue as one of the best community-based nonprofits in the Washington region. The years of hard work, determination and steadfast belief in positive impact WILL makes in the lives of DC teens from underserved neighborhoods was being recognized by the Catalogue!

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Taking A Lead

From “In Favour of Philanthropy” by Tony Blair in today’s Huffington Post:

In the USA, the philanthropic sector is most advanced. At roughly $290 billion per year it is several times the size of the US Aid budget. 11 new foundations and over 100 non-profits are created every day. Even in the UK the amount given is bigger than many departmental budgets; and in Asia and the Middle East there is a huge growth in the sector which though still way behind the US, now runs into billions of dollars every year.

The work these philanthropic institutions do is crucial precisely because of the limits of government. They can’t and shouldn’t substitute for things only government can do. But that still leaves a pretty big range of activity and though only government or legislatures can pass laws, one huge lesson we’re learning from governments around the world is that the private and philanthropic sectors or partnerships between them and government, are often more efficient ways to get government programmes done.

This is because the best philanthropy is not just about giving money but giving leadership. The best philanthropists are those who bring the talents that made them successful into their charitable work. Those talents — determination, drive, refusal to accept the conventional ways of doing things — are just what some of the world’s problems need.

An interesting (and far-reaching) question for today: where does the public sector end and the private one begin, and vice versa? Nonprofits, both global and local, can be so vital to our communities because they can act in fast and direct response to what is happening that hour, that day. Government often does not have that capacity. But in an ideal world, would it? Would you like to see a closer relationship between the sectors or a more distinct one? And what are they ways that that relationship could deepen and improve?

In The News …

Regional jobless rates fall in November (Washington Post): “Steady private sector growth drove down the unemployment rates in the District, Maryland, and Virginia for the second consecutive month in November, according to a US Labor Department report released Tuesday. The data showed that the District’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.6 from 11 percent the month before, fueled mainly by gains in the professional and business services sector and in education and health.” Virginia’s jobless level fell 0.2 percent (from 6.4 to 6.2), while Maryland’s dropped 0.3 percent (from 7.2 to 6.9).

Leadership needed to extend DC school day (Greater Greater Washington): “Both the Washington Teachers’ Union and DC Council agree that DCPS should likewise increase teachers’ time on task, but no one is showing needed leadership to make it happen [...] The innovation that is perhaps most common in successful charter schools, according to a new research study, is an extended school day. On a comprehensive ranking of public charter schools by educational outcomes released by the DC Charter School Board, all of the top performing charter middle schools have school days longer than the 6.5 hour DCPS school day.” Do you agree? If so, what is needed to drive such a change?

Americans Are Most Generous, Global Poll Finds (Chronicle of Philanthropy): “Americans give more to help others than the residents of 152 other countries, according to a new global survey. That’s a big change from last year, when the United States ranked No. 5. people whether they had donated money to a charity, volunteered their time, or helped a stranger in the previous month.” Ireland and Australia closely followed the United States in the rankings, with the United Kingdom and New Zealand tied for fourth position.

7 Questions – Tamara Wilds Lawson (Posse Foundation)

We’re psyched to introduce … Tamara Wilds Lawson, director of Posse DC. The Posse Foundation, which has grown to eight sites across the country, identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential and send them to college in supportive teams (or” posses”) that act as traveling support systems.

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

We are currently in the final push for our annual Power of 10 fundraising event taking place on October 5, 2011, at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre here in downtown DC. The event will highlight our Posse Scholars and our programs, which both prepare them for and help sustain them through their collegiate experiences. We will also honor Barbara Harman, The Catalogue for Philanthropy’s dynamic president and editor.

2. What else are you up to?

This is a busy time of year for Posse DC because we have started our Dynamic Assessment Process (DAP), which is the unique way we identify the talented young leaders from area high schools we will send to top colleges and universities across the country on four-year full tuition scholarships. This fall, we have already interviewed over 1,000 potential Posse Scholars.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

Most recently, my exposure to the talented young people participating in programs at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center motivated me to seek fulfilling work that would highlight the kind of intellect and capacity for excellence they consistently exhibit. I am thrilled that The Posse Foundation, which has been providing opportunities for incredible young leaders like them to go to college for over 20 years, through the vision of its president and founder Debbie Bial, is the perfect place for me to do just that.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

Reggie Van Lee, who is an Executive Vice President with Booz Allen Hamilton where he leads the firm’s not-for-profit and public health businesses, is a phenomenal leader in the philanthropic world! Although he has a national profile, which he developed over the course of a 25 year career in which he has helped transform public and private organizations, he is personally involved with several local projects in New York City and Washington, DC. He is beloved in DC because of his unique ability to see the intrinsic value of productive non-profit organizations, regardless of their size, and support them unconditionally. I am inspired by the breadth of organizations and lives he has transformed on a national and local level.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

One of the biggest challenges we face as an organization is that there is an overreliance on standardized test scores by many institutions of higher learning — which leads to countless capable, dynamic students being overlooked. As a result, we find that the demand for our Posse leadership and merit scholarships far outweighs our capacity to provide opportunities for all of the great young people we encounter to get a college education.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?

Chose an organization doing work you are passionate about because that passion will help sustain you when the work becomes intense and your responsibilities seem daunting. My advice for future directors is don’t underestimate the importance of hiring a strong team of professionals who are a good fit for the organization and consistently supporting them once they’re on board!

7. What’s next?

As the new Posse DC director and a native Washingtonian, I am looking forward to building new partnerships with local organizations and strengthening our existing relationships with key supporters.

EXTRA:?If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Ella Jo Baker, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Frederick Douglass.

7 Questions – The Beginning!

Good morning and welcome to a new feature here on GoodWorks! Once (or sometimes twice) a week, we will feature a staff member from one of our Catalogue charities — spotlighting the amazing people that make it all happen, plus providing access to their insight and advice. For our inaugural “7 Questions” interview, we have … Merry Cavanaugh, Director of Development at Washington Jesuit Academy:

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

The most interesting project was getting our back field totally renovated this summer. The field had no drainage and was under water every time it rained. Ruppert Landscaping donated a new turf field and we raised additional funding to move our basketball courts out of the middle of our parking lot and put them behind the school. So now we have a brand new soccer/football field and a full and half-court basketball court, along with a new garden for vegetables and beautiful landscaping around the front and the back of the school.

2. What else are you up to?

We are finishing off the last year of a Capital Campaign that we started at the worst time ever — September 2008. We have been truly honored that many people have made significant donations and pledges to the campaign despite the economically trying times and we plan to wrap it up by the end of this school year.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

I was inspired to do this particular work by students that I worked with in my old job. I worked in a school that was mostly tuition-funded, and we raised additional funding through the traditional annual giving, etc. from parents and alumni. However, we had a special program for 10 students who attended on full scholarships and who lived in low-income projects. I raised the funding for their scholarships. I saw how hard those students worked and how much they appreciated being able to go to a decent school. I often said that raising scholarship funds was the easiest money to raise. As a result, when I had the opportunity to work in a school that was completely, 100% scholarship funded, I was thrilled.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

My hero in the nonprofit world is Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone. He has approached a problem with a wholistic solution, rather than just addressing parts of the problem.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

The biggest challenge — which I have created for myself, and which I also love — is keeping each of our student sponsors informed on what is going on with their student. Each of our students is paired with a person or a group of people who “sponsor” him. I work very hard to keep everyone connected and to sustain personal connections — it is labor intensive!

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in education?

I guess it would be to leave politics out of it.

7. What’s next?

We are trying to scale up our program so that it can serve more children. We are exploring how best to do that — add younger grades; focus on our graduates more; establish another site.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, and Dirk Pitt.