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September 22, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

More vacant lots could turn into urban farms with D.C. bill

In an effort to increase the availability of fresh, healthy food while transforming vacant urban lots into safer places, D.C. is considering a bill known as the “D.C. Urban Farming and Food Security Act.” Currently, when private land owners (such as nonprofit groups) lease land for commercial use, they can risk losing tax exemptions; however, if the new bill is passed, private land owners would see a 50 percent tax deduction if they lease their land for farming. (WaPo, 9/19)

The bill outlines a plan to connect publicly and privately owned vacant land with urban farming ventures in an effort to provide more sustainable and healthy food options for surrounding communities and to transform unused and sometimes unsafe areas into productive green spaces.


The bill also encourages the farms to donate to District food banks or shelters by creating a “farm to food donations” tax credit.

Related: Earlier this year, we published What Funders Need to Know: The Food System, providing an overview of the different activities that comprise the food system,  local examples of these activities, and recommendations for ways to invest for multiple, integrated impacts in the region. (Daily, 3/2014)

- New effort to get more students in Maryland eating breakfast (WaPo, 9/19)

EQUALITY | Opinion: Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, President and CEO at Washington Area Women’s Foundation shares her thoughts on the dangers in ignoring the less headline-grabbing discrimination many women still face on a daily basis. (WBJ – subscription required, 9/19)

When discrimination is blatant, it needs to be addressed, corrected and rooted out. But we must all stand guard against discrimination in disguise, the kind that lives in our choice of words, our selection of job candidates and our daily interactions.

- In Arlington County, residents are finding housing costs to be too high, with 2 in 5 saying they are likely to move out of the county within the next five years in response to rising rents and stagnant salaries. The findings come from part of a three-year study on affordable housing in Arlington. (WaPo, 9/19)

- Is housing assistance a safety net or a springboard? (MetroTrends, 9/22)

DISTRICT | Today, Mayor Vincent Gray spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting on new efforts in D.C. to decrease rates of infant mortality. The city’s rates are well above the national average. However, officials hope that new initiatives in the District can provide an example to other cities. (, 9/22)

PHILANTHROPY | The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has joined the increasingly mainstream movement of divestment in fossil fuel companies, and will increase investment into cleaner alternatives. According to Arabella Advisors – which has consulted with a number of philanthropists and investors to move them toward using resources for social good – a number of groups have pledged to divest assets tied to fossil fuel companies worth more than $50 billion from portfolios, and more than $1 billion for individuals. (NYT, 9/21)

ARTS | The 5 x 5 Project, put on by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, includes a unique piece that speaks to present racial turmoil in America through an iconic gesture from the past. (Forbes, 9/16)

It’s the most wonderful time of year! Tonight, we’ll welcome the autumnal equinox.

- Ciara

September 19, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Maryland and Virginia see rise in unemployment rates

Unemployment rates in Maryland and Virginia rose last month, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, while Virginia lost around 1,500 jobs, Maryland gained just 600 in the last month. (WBJ, 9/19)

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics says Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent in August, from 5.3 percent in July. Last month’s unemployment rate in Virginia matched where it was a year ago.

Maryland’s unemployment rate last month was 6.4 percent, up from 6.1 percent in July, but still below the 6.6 percent unemployment rate in August 2013.

– The first debate of D.C.’s mayoral race happened last night. You can check out the summary of the night and how candidates fared on issues affecting the District here. (WaPo, 9/18)

- Another bit of D.C. data emerging out of the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey – in 2013 there were 115, 551 people in the city living below the poverty line. (DCist, 9/18)

- Watch the Racial Geography of D.C. Mortgages Change Over Time (WCP, 9/18)

HOUSING/NONPROFITS | The Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development has announced Stephen Glaude as executive director. Glaude is the current Director of Community Affairs for Mayor Vincent Gray, and will succeed Robert Pohlman as executive director effective October 27th, 2014.

COMMUNITY | The Meyer Foundation discusses the power of funding advocacy and the continued success of their grantee, D.C. Appleseed, as the organization celebrates its 20th anniversary. (Meyer Foundation blog, 9/15)

PHILANTHROPY | A Gender Lens for Giving: Women in Philanthropy Urged to Invest More in Women and Girls (Forbes, 9/18)

Look at your desk. Is there a plant on it? No? Well, read this, then get one!

- Ciara

September 18, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Income and poverty levels persist in Washington region since economic recovery

According to 2013 American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income and poverty level in the D.C. area has remained stagnant since the economic recovery. (WCP, 9/18)

[...] the median household income in the D.C. area was $90,149 last year, a small but statistically insignificant decline from the 2010 median of $90,316, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the percentage of residents living in poverty edged up slightly, although again by a statistically insignificant margin, from 8.4 percent to 8.5 percent. And the percentage of residents receiving food stamps, or SNAP benefits, increased from 5.9 percent to 7.9 percent.

- Nationally, for the first time since 2000, the Census Bureau reports that the poverty rate for children declined sharply last year. Additionally, the poverty rate for overall for Americans dropped for the first time last year since 2006. (NYT, 9/16)

- On Thursday, October 9th, D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute will host “Unlocking Opportunities: A Forum on Helping D.C.’s Low Income Students to Succeed. The event will feature a panel of speakers and will focus on services that schools can deliver, beyond classroom instruction, to alleviate the effects of poverty. You can RSVP here.

ARTS | Nonprofit Finance Fund has released its annual “State of the Arts & Culture Sector” nonprofit survey report. The report highlights specific ways nonprofit arts organizations are innovating by engaging new and diverse audiences to improve their fiscal health, and how funders can support their grantees in these efforts.

Related: Supporting local arts organizations’ audience development efforts is on the agenda for the next Arts & Humanities Working Group meeting. More information is available here. The meeting is open to arts funders in the region.

VETERANS/HOMELESSNESS | Homeless Vets: They’re Not Just Single Men Anymore (NPR, 9/16)

SOCIAL CHANGE | Opinion: The New York Times has a thought-provoking post on the importance of having strong, established organizations in place to deal with times of crisis. Thanks to Lori Vacek of the Freddie Mac Foundation, and member of the inaugural class of of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility, for sending this in. (NYT, 9/15)

This is what your brain is doing while you sleep.

- Ciara

September 17, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Anacostia residents show strong attendance at neighborhood meetings despite doubts about effectiveness

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings
. Much like other areas in the city, many involved residents of the Anacostia neighborhood have their pick of the litter when it comes to what neighborhood meeting to attend on any given night. But in an area that has been slow to change, some wonder how helpful attending neighborhood meetings really is. (GGW, 9/16)

While the cliche of Washington being a “transient city” holds true in certain sections of town, Anacostia and areas east of the river have a core of activists that have outlasted changes in local leadership.

“The community has had the same issues for decades,” says Angela Copeland, a resident of old Anacostia for more than two decades. “But, we get a fresh crew of bureaucrats every election cycle and start again from scratch. ‘What does Anacostia want/need?’ You can go crazy after a number of years having this same darn conversation.”

- Tonight, former D.C. mayor, Marion Barry, will debut a documentary he produced titled, “Ward 8 – The Past. The Present. The Future,” which puts the spotlight on the city’s poorest area. The event will take place in southeast D.C. at THEARC (Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus). You can register here. (NBC Washington, 9/17)

- We already know that District residents move to the city from all over the country, but where are they going when they leave? According to a recent report, not very far. The highest out-migration from D.C. is into Maryland. (WBJ, 9/16)

HIV | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch a new national HIV awareness campaign at southeast Washington’s United Medical Center today. The campaign, called “HIV Treatment Works,” aims to show people how the disease can be managed. (WTOP, 9/17)

- After a four-year vacancy with no one in the position, the new D.C. education ombudsman is kicking off the school year fielding a number of complaints from families. Around half of the complaints coming in are from families in wards 7 and 8 regarding concerns about behavioral issues, discipline, special education, and more. (WaPo, 9/16)

- Three in 10 Virginia schools lack full accreditation; students struggle with tests (WaPo. 9/16)

- In a four-part series, WAMU explores issues facing those in poverty and captures their stories. As the series continues, you can check out “Yesterday’s Dropouts,” focusing on the millions who don’t finish high school in the U.S., or “Military Children,” which asks what we can learn from the education of children whose parents serve in the military. (WAMU, 9/16)

NONPROFITS | In this interview, Rick Moyers, vice president for programs and communications at the Meyer Foundation,  speaks on investing in nonprofit leadership. (Social Velocity, 9/2014)

Today is Constitution Day! Celebrate by doing a much better job on this quiz than I did!

- Ciara

September 16, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

D.C. principals ponder how much school choice is too much school choice

With changes to boundaries and new charter schools popping up, many D.C. students may find themselves at a different school in a short period of time.  Recently a panel of D.C. principals gathered to discuss some of the unique challenges students in the city often face when there may be too many school choices. (WaPo, 9/15)

“People look at these like two separate systems, but we have so many students that are shared,” said Scott Cartland, principal at Wheatley Education Campus in Ward 5.  “Unfortunately, we have a lot of students who will be in four or five different schools in a five- or six-year period.” He said that if students are struggling in one school and then just move on to another school, their challenges go unaddressed.

- In the Washington region, around 15 percent of the adult population lack basic literacy skills. The Washington Area Women’s Foundation writes about the importance of building literacy and numeracy skills in adults – both strongly linked to economic security. (WAWF, 9/15)

- Charter school enrollments increased by 13 percent nationally (WaPo, 9/16)

POVERTY/WORKFORCE | Low-Income workers and those who have not completed high school, are shown to be far more likely to get less than seven hours of sleep each night, increasing the risk for irreversible damage to the body and brain. (City Lab, 9/15)

ENVIRONMENT | On Tuesday, September 23rd, The Chesapeake Bay Funders Network (CBFN) will host a discussion about threats to community drinking water supplies with funders and other experts familiar with this summer’s incident in Toledo, Ohio. WRAG members are invited to participate in this discussion from 9 AM to 3 PM at the New Venture Fund, 1201 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. Please contact Megan Milliken, Interim Coordinator of CBFN at by this Thursday, September 18th to RSVP or request more information. The morning session will be devoted to the topic,”Making the Public Health Connection:  Lessons from Other Regions.” Presenters include Dr. Don Scavia, Director of the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute, Scott Miller, President of Resource Media, and Molly Flanagan, Great Lakes Program Director at the Joyce Foundation.

Elevation DC, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, will hold a panel discussion on the ever-changing District, the affordable housing crisis, some potential solutions, and how newcomers and long-time residents are finding ways to live in harmony. The discussion, titled “Gentrification, Revitalization or Renaissance?” will take place Tuesday, October 21st at 6:00 PM at Shiloh Baptist Church, 1500 9th St NW. Register here.

- Every year, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia (CFNV) holds its Sweet Home Virginia Gala to support its work to grow philanthropy to help meet the most critical needs of the community. On Friday, October 10th, business leaders, philanthropists, and community organizers will gather to participate in the gala, supporting the Community Foundation’s work in Northern Virginia. Richard Duvall, a partner at Holland & Knight LLP in the Government Contracts and Litigations practices, and the Holland & Knight firm, will be recognized by the CFNV for their philanthropic leadership in the Northern Virginia area with the 2014 Community Leadership Award. Find out more here.

DISTRICT | No matter which 11th Street Bridge Park design is chosen, DC wins (Elevation DC, 9/11)

Do you call yourself a Washingtonian? Apparently, you can’t if you’ve never tried one of these ten dishes. I’ve got some homework to do!

- Ciara

September 15, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Resentment from both sides in hiring of veterans

According to a number of interviews with federal employees, the federal push to hire veterans in civil service jobs is bringing out feelings of resentment from both veteran and non-veteran employees. (WaPo, 9/14)

Those who did not serve in the military bristle at times at the preferential hiring of veterans and accuse them of a blind deference to authority. The veterans chafe at what they say is a condescending view of their skills and experience and accuse many non-veterans of lacking a work ethic and sense of mission.

Related: Last year, HR expert on military transitions into civilian employment, Emily King, spoke with funders about the various challenges that veterans often face in the workplace and how philanthropy can support them. (Daily, 9/13)

- While a large number of Montgomery County middle schoolers failed Algebra 1 testing last school year, only about 1 in 7 students participated in summer reteaching lessons, leaving the school district to find ways to address the learning gap. (WaPo, 9/13)

- In an effort to further fuse together technology and instruction, some schools in the region are piloting BYOD (bring your own device) programs, where students are encouraged to use their mobile phones in the classroom. (WaPo, 9/14)

- The Anacostia Arts Gallery and Boutique will close at the end of October, bringing attention to slow development and fears of displacement in the neighborhood. (DCist, 9/12)

With $4 million redo, Dance Place co-directors set the barre higher (WaPo, 9/13)

NONPROFITS | United Way of the National Capital Area has named a new Chief Financial Officer, Kevin Smith, former Vice President of Finance at Pew Charitable Trusts. (UWNCA, 9/15)

REGION | In a list of the Top 100 Best Places to Live, eight Washington-Baltimore area cities made the ranks with Arlington coming in at number three. (WBJ, 9/15)

Perhaps the next email you send could help change your life for the better.

- Ciara

September 12, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Advocates push for better support of pregnant workers

Advocates for women, civil rights leaders and lawmakers joined forces to file briefs in the Supreme Court in support of a former UPS driver who lost a lawsuit against the company after requesting light duty on the job while she was pregnant. Many pregnant women have been forced out of work and onto public assistance programs due to possible misinterpretation by lower courts and employers of laws designed to prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. (WaPo, 9/11)

The American Civil Liberties Union and the nonprofit A Better Balance, which advocates for better policies to support working families, argued in a brief that pregnant workers are the only category of worker routinely denied accommodations, like light duty work, stools, water bottles and bathroom breaks, in order to be able to continue working. The Women’s Chamber of Commerce argued in its brief that providing accommodations to pregnant workers is important to the national economy.

And members of Congress argued that lower courts have misinterpreted a 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act that was designed expressly to protect pregnant workers from discrimination on the job.

- With back-to-school season going strong, organizers are using the opportunity to inform D.C. parents that they no longer have to miss out on a day of pay if their child must stay home sick. The legislation is among one of the stronger paid sick leave policies in the U.S., though many don’t know it exists. (WCP, 9/11)

CSR | Congratulations to WRAG members IBM, PNC, Capital One, and Citi for being named finalists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2014 Corporate Citizenship Awards!

- Tenants of an apartment building in Columbia Heights are fighting against a hefty 31.5 percent rent increase as infestations and serious repairs have gone ignored in their units. The building is home to all low-income residents who have united together in protest to refuse paying the rent hike. (WAMU, 9/12)

- City Proposes Affordable Housing for Hebrew Home (WCP, 9/11)

COMMUNITY WEALTH BUILDING | The Democracy Collaborative has released their report, “Policies for Community Wealth Building: Leveraging State and Local Resources,” highlighting the emerging best practices in state and local policy-making that support community wealth building. On September 25th, WRAG has coordinated a site visit for funders to the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH where community wealth building has been underway since 2008.

COMMUNITY | The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s Future Fund (a giving circle of nearly 150 young professionals) has chosen mental health as their 2014-2015 grant focus. Organizations providing mental health services to individuals or families in Northern Virginia who might not otherwise have access to care are encouraged to apply. Funds are intended to benefit individuals aged 13 and up, and may include families. Non-profit organizations can apply for grants of up to $20,000. The total grant pool is $40,000. The deadline for submitting an application is Monday, September 22nd, 2014.

Do you recognize any of these mobile devices from the past? Did you own any of them?

- Ciara

September 11, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

The importance of adult education in the District

With local funding for adult education decreasing over the last ten years, the more than 64,000 adults in the District who do not have high school graduation credentials are often met with waiting lists to get into academic programs that could improve their circumstances. The Washington Area Women’s Foundation writes about the importance of stopping the “dropout pipeline” with parents so they will have the tools necessary to stop it in their children. (WAWF, 9/10)

When dealing with the drop-out crisis, elected officials often cite stopping the pipeline of dropouts as a justification for increased funding in K-12 education. The pipeline, however, begins with the parent. Parents with strong literacy skills can better help their children do homework, study and succeed in school. According to a 2012 Urban Institute report, young adults whose parents have a high school diploma are more likely to complete high school than are those whose parents do not. They are also less likely to live in poverty.

- In-seat attendance up in D.C. schools (WaPo, 9/10)

- A new short film by a self-described gentrifier of the H Street corridor explores the complications of newcomers to the area and the importance of learning about the neighborhoods and the people where you live. (WaPo, 9/10)

- A recent study shows that for youth, musical training can improve their brain’s capacity for processing language. The team of researchers conducting the study also found that children in poverty tend to hear fewer words than other children by the age of five, making the ability to process sound more difficult. (NPR, 9/10)

REMINDER | Funders, there is still time to register for the site visit to the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH on Thursday, September, 25th! The Evergreen Cooperatives initiative remains the leading example of an economic development model focused on employee-ownership for low-income people. WRAG is coordinating the one-day trip for local funders to see this effort firsthand as the Greater Washington region gets closer to the launch of the Community Wealth Building Initiative (CWBI). This is a great opportunity for funders to visit the business sites, hear from the employee owners, interact directly with the staff of the Cleveland Community Foundation, and meet with city officials who have financially supported this effort.

PHILANTHROPY | A new tool uses Twitter to turn tweets and hashtags into donations for nonprofit organizations through what is known as a microphilanthropy platform. (Chronicle, 9/9)

People still love D.C. as a tourist destination, but just a little bit less than last year.

- Ciara

September 10, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Montgomery County study reveals disparities in spending at minority, female, and disabled-owned firms

A new study on Montgomery County’s purchasing practices reveals great disparities on spending on goods and services at minority, female, and disabled-owned firms. The study also found that many minority and female-led firms in the county find business practices there to be exclusionary and informal, to their detriment. (WaPo, 9/9)

The study, conducted for Montgomery by the public policy consulting firm Griffin & Strong, found that between 2007 and 2012 the county spent $368 million on minority and women-owned firms–representing 14 percent of total spending during that period. Payments to disabled-owned companies totaled $11.5 million or 0.45 percent of county spending.


“There remains a significant disparity between the utilization and availability of MFDs (minority, female and disabled-owned firms) in Montgomery County,” Griffin & Strong said.The disparities are “statistically significant enough to suggest the possible presence of discrimination.”

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | An independent review of the District’s New Communities Initiative program designed almost ten years ago to keep residents in four low-income areas (Park Morton public housing in Park View, Temple Courts north of Union Station, Lincoln Heights in Deanwood and Barry Farm in Anacostia) from being displaced in the event of neighborhood revitalization, has shown that the initiative is under-funded and strategies to implement the plan have been ‘overly optimisitc.’ (WaPo, 9/9)

Nine years later, all four neighborhood plans have fallen off track. Building restrictions hindered the reconstruction of Temple Courts, and the city struggled to find major developers who could invest near Lincoln Heights. There was not enough public land to redevelop Park Morton, and in February the city let the current developer go.

Out of 1,500 affordable units that have been promised through New Communities, the city has constructed 490.

ARTS | Local funders are invited to an informational meeting presented by Sustain Arts, a national effort in data transparency and arts and cultural sustainability. Led by the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard, in collaboration with the Foundation Center and Fractured Atlas, Sustain Arts encourages data-driven decision making for arts and cultural stakeholders through an online platform visualizing regional audience participation, programming, and funding trends. The program is already in development in regions around the country. The meeting will be hosted at The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation on September 29, 10:30am – 12:00pm. To register or learn more, please contact Michael Bigley at the Cafritz Foundation. The meeting is for funders only.

FOOD | The Arcadia Mobile Market is bringing fresh, local produce to areas classified as food deserts with two food trucks servicing 18 neighborhoods in the Washington region. (WTOP, 9/9)

Related: It is because of these food deserts that the Washington Regional Food Funders made identifying communities where there are not enough outlets of healthy, affordable, nutritious food and opportunities for action and investment, a priority.

PHILANTHROPY Opinion: Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the Council on Foundations, writes about the importance of making the passing of the America Gives More Act a top priority. (Chronicle, 8/29)

NONPROFITS | The summer was a busy season for WRAG and our members. Check out some highlights from the last few months, and get excited with us for what the fall has in store!

Tired of all the hoopla surrounding the release of the latest iPhone? Here you go.

- Ciara

September 9, 2014 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Making D.C. a more age-friendly place

With a growing portion of the D.C. population classifying as older adults, a new report focuses on how the city can do more to address the transportation needs of aging residents and help them to age in place. The report by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, with support from The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, looks at the areas of pedestrian safety, public transit and alternative transit options for seniors. (GGW, 9/9)

Baby boomers in DC, who are an estimated 17 percent of the District of Columbia’s population, represent a growing older cohort. Both their presence and well being are important to sustaining vibrant and inclusive neighborhoods. The potential contributions to our neighborhoods by older residents are undermined without forward-thinking planning to address the growing and unique needs of our oldest residents.

HOUSING | When taking into account housing expenditures – including rent/mortgage, furnishings/equipment, housekeeping supplies, and household operation costs and utilities – the Washington area’s housing costs are the highest in America, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though residents in the region don’t pay the most in the nation for rent or mortgage, the other costs help to put Washington on top of the list. (WCP, 9/8)

[...] in aggregate, Washingtonian (and nearby suburbanite) households spent an average of $17,603 on housing costs in 2012, beating out (or losing to, really) every other metropolitan area that the BLS looked at. D.C.-area expenses were nearly twice those in Cleveland, which sits at the bottom of the list.

NONPROFITS | President Tamara Copeland shares why she’ll be lacing up her walking shoes next spring to walk 60 miles in three days. (Daily, 9/9)

EDUCATION | Nearly four out of five families who voluntarily participated in truancy-prevention programs saw an increase in their child’s school attendance, a new study has found. A large majority of the families that participated did not need to be referred to the program the following school year. (WTOP, 9/9)

DISTRICT | In the first open debate on a state measure since 1993, a Senate committee will hold a hearing on a bill that would grant D.C. statehood. (WAMU, 9/8)

**REMINDER | WRAG’s Brightest Minds event featuring Rachel Goslins on the transformative power of the arts, previously scheduled for tomorrow, has been canceled. For more information, contact Rebekah Seder,**

In case you missed the third and final supermoon of 2014 like I did, it was gorgeous according to these photos.

- Ciara


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