Call for foundations to ease restrictions on grantees…Survey says funders will give less in 2012…Special court aims to help youth with mental health problems [News, 3.19.12]

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ COO J. McCray says that with increasing demand and decreasing funding, local nonprofits are frequently hindered by “red tape and restrictions” from funders.

[T]here are lessons that anyone who supports nonprofits can apply: Streamline requirements and remove restrictions on funding to give nonprofits the flexible capital they need to innovate and thrive, and listen to what they say would make the biggest difference to their success.

McCray highlights the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation and the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation as foundations that are working to streamline the funding process to ease the burden on grantees and help them be more efficient. (WaPo, 3/19)

GIVING | A survey from the Chronicle of Philanthropy paints a “Gloomy Picture for Foundation Giving” in 2012. The article requires a subscription, but the graphic to the right illustrates findings, and the authors say (Chronicle, 3/19 – subscription):

Seventy-one percent of foundations told The Chronicle their giving would be flat or would drop this year. That’s largely because their assets slipped last year by 3.5 percent and are still far from returning to pre-recession levels.

YOUTH/MENTAL HEALTH | A special District juvenile court aims to help youth “with mental health problems avoid the harsh consequences and limited rehabilitation opportunities in the juvenile system.” (WaPo, 3/19)

EDUCATION | D.C. schools create panel to tackle bullying (Examiner, 3/19) “It’s a first for Washington, which remains the only ‘state’ besides South Dakota not to enact anti-bullying legislation.” And that might be the first time I’ve ever seen South Dakota mentioned in the news.

HEALTH | Virginia Could Miss Deadline For Health Care Exchanges (WAMU, 3/19) “If Virginia fails to create a health care exchange, the federal government will step in and create one.”

WORKFORCE | A survey of 51 major metropolitan areas with the fastest growing job markets puts the Greater Washington region…at number 29. The Atlantic even takes a jab at us by mocking “all the talk of [our] resilience.” (Atlantic, 3/19) Ouch, Atlantic. Ouch.

LOCAL | To raise money, Virginia is selling naming rights for bridges and roads. It hopes to make $273 million from sales over the next 20 years. (Examiner, 3/19) Endless possibilities! One would be to buy all of the naming rights and name every road and bridge the exact same thing.

Happy Monday, folks. For any movie lovers, I highly recommend watching this incredibly cool new trailer for Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Prometheus. The mysterious movie takes place in the same universe as Scott’s masterpiece Alien – and might have a more explicit connection than the director is letting on. I can’t wait for this one.

And in case you have no interest in science fiction, here’s a neat 360 degree panorama of the world’s tallest waterfall.

Nicolette Highsmith Vernick to lead The Horizon Foundation [News, 1.26.12]

COMMUNITY | The Horizon Foundation has announced that Nicolette Highsmith Vernick will succeed founder Richard Krieg as its new President and CEO. She comes to Horizon from the Center for Health Care Strategies in New Jersey where she worked to “develop innovative solutions for improving healthcare quality and reducing disparities in publicly-financed care.”

Shirley D. Collier, The Horizon Foundation’s board chair, says:

[Highsmith Vernick] has the right attitude and intellectual energy to help us assess community needs, develop evidence-based strategies and implement measurable initiatives to improve health and wellness in Howard County.

Nikki is particularly accomplished in collaborating with a broad spectrum of regional and national stakeholders to affect positive change. We are confident that she will be able to lead our efforts to leverage the Foundation’s resources with those of others to tackle increasingly complex health and wellness issues in our community.

We’re excited to welcome Nicolette to the WRAG community!

EDUCATION | A significant study commissioned by Mayor Gray recommends that DCPS either “turn around or close” more than three dozen public schools in the city’s poorest neighborhoods and expand the number of charter schools. (WaPo, 1/26) “The study also signals the start of an unprecedented attempt to coordinate decision making between two school sectors…”

ARTS/NONPROFITS | The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation recently announced that, beginning with their upcoming March 1 deadline, arts and humanities organizations applying for funding will be required to complete a data profile annually through the Cultural Data Project website. The Foundation Center is hosting a CDP New User Orientation next Wednesday, February 1. More information is available here.

NUTRITION | The USDA has released new standards for public school meals that will reduce sodium and fat while offering more fruits and veggies. The standards require meals for K-5 students to have 550-650 calories, and grade 6-12 students to have 450-600 calories. (CNN, 1/25) Bullies are coordinating to shift their strategy from “Gimme your lunch money!” to “Gimme your extra 50 calories!”

HEALTH | U.Md. moves ahead with P.G. health care overhaul (Examiner, 1/26)

PHILANTHROPY | If you’re interested, here’s my response to Pablo Eisenberg’s piece on giving priorities. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (WG Daily, 1/26)

Related: In Annual Letter, Gates Predicts More ‘Giving Pledge’ Members (Chronicle, 1/26)

- In D.C., street cars could spur a $15 billion property boom. (Examiner, 1/26)

- But in Maryland, the proposed Purple Line is putting some owners at risk of property condemnation. (WaPo, 1/26) It would also ruin the Capital Crescent Trail.

You might ask, “Is the title of this video Worst Church Singer Ever a hyperbole?” No, friends, it most definitely is not. As the song progresses, the octaves keep going up and up and up…

Rebekah has the Daily tomorrow. Hope you all enjoy the weekend!

How Harry Thomas used youth funds…Education rankings released (congrats Maryland)…Local workforce development services mapped [News, 1.12.12]

HOMELESSNESS | Mary Otto, editor of Street Sense, reflects on the sad trend of homeless individuals’ lives being cut short by disease, addiction, and violence. (Street Sense, 1/11)

EDUCATION | According to Education Week’s annual survey, Maryland public schools are the best in the nation – a ranking held now for four consecutive years. Virginia isn’t far behind with fourth place, but D.C. is scraping the bottom at number 49. (WaPo, 1/12)

WORKFORCE | The DC Fiscal Policy Institute has created a resource map that locates workforce development services in the District. Here’s a blog post that explores the map. (CFNCR, 1/11)

LOCAL | The Post takes a deeper look at how Harry Thomas took money from the city. In particular, the article details how $110,000 was directed away from the D.C. Children and Youth Investement Trust Corporation by its former executive director – from a city fund for drug prevention and at-risk children – to fund an inaugural ball.

Amid the fallout, current Trust executive director Ellen London remains focused on the thousands of District youth that the organization serves. “It is more important than ever that this work continue,” she said. (WaPo, 1/12)

WWW… | Get ready for a digital identity crisis. Due to concerns over the ease of securing a .org domain name – which frequently leads to fraud – oversight groups are pushing for nonprofits to adopt a new and more secure suffix - .ngo – instead. The change would have a lot of consequences though. (Chronicle, 1/12)

ARTS | Thanks to the Cafritz Foundation’s Michael Bigley for pointing out this article that runs some numbers to answer the question, How Good Is D.C. to Artists, Musicians, and Writers? (Atlantic, 1/3)

NONPROFITS | Budget Cut Could Curtail Oversight of National-Service Programs (Chronicle, 1/12)

- A WTOP investigation has uncovered hundreds of dashboard camera videos from Metro buses that show reckless driving, accidents, and even pedestrians being hit. (WTOP, 1/11) And also, remember how great this movie was?

- D.C.’s streetcar program has hit another snag. (WBJ, 1/12) Ancient proverb: Don’t lay down streetcar tracks until you actually have streetcars, a power supply, a turnaround point, and the money to pay for everything.

In case you have a good chunk of free time to ponder ethical questions, here’s one for the digital age courtesy of The Atlantic: How much does file sharing resemble stealing – and does it matter?

Walmart Foundation names Sylvia Mathews Burwell as new president [News, 10.14.11]

- Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have named Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the new foundation president. Ms. Burwell, currently the head of the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will start her new position in January.

- Nominations can be submitted until November 18 for the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Awards for Distinguished DC Government Employees.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS | At a city council hearing yesterday, D.C. officials explained that due to the region’s tendency toward traffic gridlock, the best emergency plan is to stay where you are. (Examiner, 10/14)

- Finding that 55 percent of foundation funding for the arts goes to big budget museums and other cultural institutions that represent only two percent of the sector, a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy asks: Is art only for the elite? (KPCC, 10/11)

- A Look Back: Lincoln Theatre and Black Broadway (DCentric, 10/14) Sadly, the U Street theater will be closing at the end of 2011 without a significant influx of funds.

- The Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. (DCist, 10/13)

Related: Putting Race on the Table: The Community Foundation explores race and neighborhood revitalization on H Street (WG Daily, 9/29)

EDUCATION | Graduation rates inch up across Washington suburbs (Examiner, 10/11)

TECHNOLOGY FOR GRANTMAKERS | A new Idealware report from the Technology Affinity Group and the Grants Managers Network compares 20 different grants management systems.

This is so cool: a recent archaeological find in South Africa suggests that humans expressed themselves through painting as far back as 100,000 years ago.  If ever there was evidence of the value of artistic expression to human life, I think this it. – Rebekah

Limits on charitable deductions nixed by Senate…DCPS and teachers union set to negotiate…Arlington food bank sees record demand [News 10.11.11]

GIVING | President Obama’s plan to pay for the proposed jobs bill by limiting the amount of charitable deductions “appears dead” after Senate Democrats rejected the proposal on Thursday and released an alternative plan. (Chronicle, 10/8)

POVERTY | The Arlington Food Assistance Center is seeing record demand – it served more than 1,600 families (or more than 4,000 individuals) in one week of September alone. Unemployment is a key factor in the demand spike, but the food bank’s executive director, Charles Meng, points out that even people with jobs need help – “$7.25 an hour is not a living wage in Arlington County.” Meng is concerned that the consistency in demand increases is going to become problematic. (WaPo, 10/10)

- DCPS and the teachers union are set to begin negotiations on a new contract this week. Both sides hope to avoid a repeat of the last contract’s three-year process, but there are still significant points of contention (Examiner, 10/8):

DCPS said it does not expect to bargain over the controversial Impact teacher evaluation tool that attaches as much as 50 percent of a teacher’s rating to student test scores. And Saunders said in an interview, “My middle name is ‘changes to Impact.’”

- A conference hosted by The Washington Post and sponsored by PNC took a look at early childhood education, including a recently announced expansion of Race to the Top focused on early childhood. (WaPo, 10/10)

- State conducts new audit of P.G. schools (Examiner, 10/11)

CULTURAL DATA PROJECT | The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation’s Michael Bigley led the charge to bring the Cultural Data Project to D.C. Read about why he’s excited that the DC CDP has launched. (WG Daily, 10/11)

NONPROFITS | Lindsey Buss, president of Martha’s Table, reflects on the 8 Neighbors report about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He praises the funders’ leadership and says, “The continued decline in financial resources for human services is a real problem for the entire community. We cannot afford to lose best practices too.” (HuffPo, 10/8)

- Related: Read the 8 Neighbors report.

POLITICS | “More than nine months into D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration, nearly one in every seven of the city’s boards and commissions sit empty with no members.” (WTOP, 10/11)

LOCAL | RFK Stadium looks like a relic from the USSR, but it is still one of the region’s landmarks and is a point of nostalgia for many people. On its 50th birthday, the Post’s Jonathan O’Connell asks experts what should happen to the stadium. (WaPo, 10/10)

- DCist also considers some fun ways in which Nationals Park might be used in the winter. (DCist, 10/10)

Hope you all enjoyed the beautiful weekend. I’m not sure where this originated – such is the nature of viral items – but I give full credit wherever it is due to the person who identified this important issue that protesters should address.

Why I’m excited about the DC Cultural Data Project

By Michael Bigley
Program Officer, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and Chair, WRAG’s Arts and Humanities Working Group

Imagine being able to create funder and annual reports with the click of a mouse.

Imagine accessing data from over 11,500 nonprofits and analyzing trends in the field.

The new DC Cultural Data Project (DC CDP; can do just that and more.

The CDP is a sophisticated online system for collecting and disseminating high-quality data on nonprofit arts and culture organizations. Last week D.C. joined 11 states, including Maryland, as the 12th member of the Cultural Data Project, which is operated by Pew Charitable Trusts. Aimed at creating efficiencies for nonprofits, the CDP uses audited financial statements and statistical information to paint a vivid picture of the arts and culture scene in the District.

Information on cash flow, audience attendance, youth engagement, ticket sales, and more is available to be compared in aggregate with other nonprofits, both locally and nationally. Specifically tailored funder reports can be printed or e-mailed for an instant snapshot on the fiscal health of an organization. Also with this data, researchers and arts advocates now have an unprecedented source of standardized, longitudinal data on the local arts and culture sector.

My excitement with the CDP stems from the greater possibilities that regional nonprofits now have to tell their story. D.C. has a vibrant arts and culture scene that has faced challenges of late given the difficult economy and the decrease in available funding. It is my hope that the data made available to the community will provide compelling arguments for funding the arts sector, demonstrating that the arts intersect with many areas of society and create communities where we want to live.

The DC CDP was ignited by the WRAG’s Arts and Humanities Working Group and is the result of collaboration with public and private funders and advocacy agencies. Participation in the CDP is encouraged, with several trainings currently available and a comprehensive website with online training modules.


CDP staff will be in D.C. hosting orientation sessions on October 17 and 18 at various locations around the city. This is a great opportunity to find out more about the CDP and to learn about the types of data collected. Click here for more information and to register.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 47 other followers