2014 was supposed to be the year that homelessness ended in the District

- Opinion: In her latest column, Petula Devorak writes that affordable housing has to be the answer to rising homelessness. She also points out that back in 2004, then-Mayor Williams issued a 10-year plan that was supposed to end homelessness in the District. (WaPo, 2/11)

- Elevation DC looks at how residents in affordable apartment buildings have successfully organized to form co-ops to prevent their apartments from being sold out from under them. (Elevation DC, 2/11)

- The Park Morton housing development in northwest DC, part of the New Communities initiative, is so delayed that the city is firing the developers. (WaPo, 2/11)

Event: We’re really excited for tomorrow’s event focusing on how foundations can use impact investing to support affordable housing – even if housing isn’t part of their portfolio. There’s still space available for funders. More information here.

VETERANS/HOMELESSNESS | As D.C. Struggles To House Homeless, Veterans Program Is Bright Spot (WAMU, 2/11)

RACE/BIAS | A fascinating study found that the perception of a person’s race changes based on their life circumstances, suggesting that the perception of race is driven by racial stereotypes. (NPR, 2/11)

Related: Back in December, Dr. Gail Christopher from the Kellogg Foundation spoke to WRAG members about the societal impacts of unconscious bias. (Daily, 12/20)

- White House delays health insurance mandate for medium-sized employers until 2016 (WaPo, 2/11)

- With deadlines approaching, D.C. health exchange reports jump in sign-ups (WBJ, 2/10)

- Maryland state officials are considering switching systems to run their health insurance exchange. Theirs is one of the state-run exchanges with the worst performance since the October 1 launch. (WaPo, 2/11)

EDUCATION | Students at Prince George’s school learn in single-gender classrooms (WaPo, 2/11)

PHILANTHROPY | Some large nonprofit institutions are concerned about the popularity of crowdfunding among young donors, as people increasingly donate directly to individuals in need or to new projects, thereby avoiding what some perceive to be the excessive bureaucracy of large organizations. (NY Times, 2/7)

“A very simplistic project can be great, but if it becomes the sole means people give, we’re going to end up addressing a much narrower set of social problems,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, which monitors nonprofits. “Take homelessness. It’s not a simple story. We can’t only focus on one aspect like job training or affordable housing.”
The question will be if…most donors are willing to give to both traditional charities and crowdfunding. “We need traditional charities such as museums and universities because they are essential to our society,” she said, “but we also need to support people outside the mainstream.”

FUNDERS | The Foundation Center is collecting data on philanthropic relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy. If your foundation supported relief efforts, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey and return it to the Foundation Center via drw@foundationcenter.org by 2/28.

TRANSIT | Despite The Streetcar, D.C. Plans To Replace H Street Bridge (WAMU, 2/11) Sigh.

The biggest news story on every single local news outlet that I checked this morning was that 50 years ago today some band with a dumb name played a concert in D.C. They had funny haircuts, but I guess some of their songs were kind of catchy.


Why history matters

By Rebekah Seder, Program Manager

History probably isn’t a topic that immediately comes to mind when thinking about philanthropy. But, funders, activists, and others working toward social justice often frame their efforts in terms of addressing the “root causes” that have led to the conditions we seek to remedy today. This summer’s events in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington offered an opportunity to reflect on the long history of the fight for racial equity, from slavery and the Civil War, Reconstruction and segregation, to the civil rights movement and the debates around equity that continue today.

At WRAG’s final Brightest Minds program of the year, Dr. Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), discussed this history and its relevance to today’s society. To Dr. Bunch, whose day job is all about helping people understand and feel connected to the past, “history is as much about today and tomorrow as it is about yesterday.”

According to Dr. Bunch, the March on Washington offers two key lessons that continue to inform social change efforts. First, it is a reminder that change does happen, but that it is fragile, it ebbs and flows and is not inevitable. The original March on Washington was a landmark event. But, as Dr. Bunch noted, while Dr. King’s speech was a resounding high point in the civil rights movement, just a few weeks later four young girls were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. Reconstruction after the Civil War led to Jim Crow laws. And, the Voting Rights Act and other achievements of the 1960s are still grounds of contention today. The March on Washington was just one, very powerful, episode in a struggle that has gone on for centuries.

Secondly, the March on Washington – both the 1963 and the 2013 versions – underscores the importance of collaboration. The original March on Washington and the civil rights movement more broadly brought together civil rights activists with labor, Catholic, Jewish, and other groups. The success of the movement led to expectations of fairness and equality across racial lines, which can be seen in advancements in support of rights for gays, farm workers, Latinos, people with disabilities, and native peoples, to name a few. Anyone who participated in the events in August could see this reflected in the many groups marching in support of economic and social justice for all.

The idea of the enduring relevance of history is especially powerful right here in D.C., a city that holds such a prominent place in African American history and culture. At the same time, the social and economic disparities in this city are a stark reminder of, in Dr. Bunch’s words, “the unfinished business of the March on Washington.” For Dr. Bunch, helping the public understand the rich history of the black experience in America and how it informs today’s society is an important function not just of the NMAAHC, but of philanthropy as well. An understanding of historical forces is necessary to develop effective strategies to bring about positive social change today. Indeed, false notions of history all too often inform decision making at even the highest levels of government. Grantmakers can play a role in engaging the public and ensuring that everyone, especially young people, learn about, and feel a connection to, the past.

New data show major increase in mixed-race babies…D.C. infant mortality hits historic low…Pre-K goals accelerated in the District [News, 4.26.12]

First things first. The Caps knocked out the defending champion Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 7. Jack Davies’ inflatable player is a good luck charm. Also, the Wizards and Nats both won last night – and tonight we draft the (probable) savior of the Redskins. Great day to be a local sports fan! And now for something completely different…

RACE | Over the last decade, the number of mixed-race babies has jumped considerably across the nation. The number of black/white and Asian/white children has nearly doubled. Our region has lagged behind the average, but it is catching up. Brookings’ William Frey says of the trend (WaPo, 4/26):

This is a huge leap. This is a ray of hope that we’re finally moving into an era where this very sharp black-white divide is breaking apart.

It’s interesting to think about the relationship between cultural and biological shifts.

Related editorial: The Post calls out Councilmember Marion Barry’s recent series of slurs and poignantly says (WaPo, 4/26):

Mr. Barry’s racism — let’s call it what it is — helps to perpetuate the divisions in this city. No matter how catchy the slogan, the District won’t become one city as long as its leaders look the other way when demagogues such as Mr. Barry pit one group of residents against another.

HEALTH | The District’s infant mortality rate, which has traditionally been among the highest in the nation, has fallen to an historic low. A report from the District’s Health Department says (WaPo, 4/26):

[P]regnant women are smoking less, fewer teenagers are having babies and women have better access to prenatal care.

Related: Charts mapping the changes in the mortality rate. (WaPo, 4/26)

GIVING | The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region has announced the very cool CFNCR Challenge. Each week, the foundation will post a picture from somewhere in the region on Facebook. The first person to correctly guess the location will win $100 for a nonprofit of choice. Read more on their Facebook page.

- Mayor Gray is set to announce a new preschool improvement initiative called Raise D.C. The program accelerates previously stated goals for educators – including requiring teachers to have bachelor’s degrees – with a target of 2014 instead of 2017. (Examiner, 4/26)

- Starr advocates for renewed focus on ‘soft skills’ during third book club (WaPo, 4/26)

- Target giving D.C. schools millions for literacy (Examiner, 4/26)

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS | A D.C. auditor has found that the city provided nearly 70 homeless individuals with two-bedroom apartments between 2008 and 2011. The city says that the arrangements were partially due to a lack of available single-bedroom homes (makes sense), though it cannot account for more than $6 million in other program spending (does not make sense). (Examiner, 4/26)

FOOD | I’ve included two “food desert” articles this week without realizing their connection – and also missing two links of the chain. Here’s the arc.

Last week, the Times wrote about a study questioning the link between ‘food deserts’ and obesity. David Bornstein followed up with another article. Then DC Central Kitchen’s Mike Curtin responded in the Huffington Post. Yesterday, David Bornstein wrote a follow-up to his own article. And then today, I wrote this.  We’ll have more follow-up, so stay tuned.

NONPROFITS | Challenge to Conservative Group’s Advocacy Raises Questions About Charity Lobbying (Chronicle, 4/26)

LOCAL | Lydia DePillis looks at how temporary uses of empty local spaces are helping the economy and bringing residents to places they might not otherwise visit. (City Paper, 4/26)

I think my parents might have had an easier time getting me up for school when I was a kid if they had tried this tactic – an awesome father of three sings Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with his kids on the way to school everyday. I especially like how the kids completely and appropriately rock out around the 1:04 mark.

“Disruptive Demographics” and the Greater Washington region

By Rebekah Seder, Program Manager

As reports from the 2010 census began rolling in last year, it became clear that the Greater Washington region – along with the rest of the country – is experiencing tremendous demographic change. At the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’ Brightest Minds event last week, Dr. Jim Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke to funders and nonprofits about the implications of these changes for our region.

He began by noting a number of trends that are impacting our region, including:

  • The “browning of America” as the fertility rate of non-Hispanic white women declines below replacement levels, and foreign immigration, as well as interracial marriage, increases;
  • The “silver tsunami” – the rapid aging of the population as Baby Boomers turn 65, begin phasing out of the workforce, and become eligible for government entitlement programs; and
  • The rise of women in the workforce, as the median wage for men has declined, male college completion rate has plateaued, and male participation in the workforce has decreased, particularly since the beginning of the recession.

These changes pose challenges that the social sector, as well as the for-profit and government sectors, must position themselves to meet. For instance:

  • Demographic shifts hold the potential to further entrench the racial achievement gap in schools in areas where there is a racial generation gap. This can create patterns where school-aged people are largely minorities and older people, who do not have children in school, are largely white, and may feel less of a commitment to financially support the public school system.
  • Likewise, disparities between males and females in educational attainment have increased, while long-term unemployment has disproportionately affected all people with college degrees; and
  • Professional occupations are increasingly in competition with global companies that have access to cheaper workers, putting a strain on many sectors of the workforce

However, with these changes come many opportunities that must be leveraged to ensure the sustainability of the region:

  • Because of the rapid aging of the population, elder care is the biggest growth area of the economy;
  • Businesses and nonprofits must engage in strategic succession planning to prevent a loss of knowledge and talent as a large segment of the workforce retires; and
  • K-12 education must be re-invented in order to foster entrepreneurialism to enable the next generation of workers to compete with their international counterparts.

To ensure that the Greater Washington region capitalizes on the opportunities offered by these changes, Dr. Johnson underscored the need to rebrand the region as a sustainable place to live and do business by embracing immigration, focusing on improving educational outcomes, and recognizing the business development and job creation potential of the elder care economy. Most importantly, the region must achieve this sustainability by emphasizing social justice and equity to ensure that every individual, regardless of their demographic background, has equal access to resources and opportunities to succeed in our changing society.

Dr. Johnson’s presentation is available here.

This was the first program in Brightest Minds, a special colloquium series in honor of WRAG’s 20th anniversary. Registration is now open for the rest of the series. More information at www.washingtongrantmakers.org/brightestminds.

Trayvon Martin, Silent. We Must Speak.

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

By now, you have heard about the 17 year old, African-American boy who was killed tragically on February 26th by a neighborhood watch captain. According to reports, Trayvon was on his way to his dad’s home in a gated community after going to a nearby convenience store. George Zimmerman, the watch captain, saw him and perceived him as a threat to the neighborhood.  He said he thought Trayvon was going for a gun. Trayvon only had Skittles and an iced tea in his hand.

As the mother of an African-American male teenager, this event has sickened me. For days, I put it out of my mind. I couldn’t think about it or talk about it.  I know what it’s like to have to talk to your teenage son about walking-while-black, driving-while-black, shopping-while-black … simply what it means to be a black male in America. Today, I decided that I had to talk about it. Today, I decided that I had to use my voice to talk about something that too many of us don’t want to talk about or don’t know how to talk about: race and racism.

Last week, Jim Johnson, a noted demographer spoke about what he calls “disruptive demographics” at a Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’ event.  He talked about the growing number of interracial marriages and increases in immigrants of color in our country. He spoke of multiple ways in which the U.S. is “browning” and suggested that visual racial cues may become less pervasive  … over  time.  This African-American academician also spoke poignantly about being a well-dressed, polite, Ph.D. from a renowned university who was recently stopped while speeding and asked how he could afford the BMW he was driving.

Not two months ago, an African-American, female colleague and her white male companion were confronted as an “N word” and an “N-word lover” as they left a nonprofit organization in nearby northern Virginia.  Some would say, well that’s just an ignorant person yelling a hateful word. Was George Zimmerman hateful or ignorant or did his fear of someone who didn’t look like him lead to the death of this 17 year old?  We don’t know yet.

What we do know is that while we have legislated racial equality in this country, issues of race and racism still plague us, often hidden, rarely discussed. Racial equity and social justice still elude us. We must change those policies, for example, that enable more toxic waste sites in places where low income people, often people of color, live. We must determine why the education achievement gap has remained the same for decades and fix it.  We have to work at changing how we perceive each other, how we understand people who are different from us.  This will be hard work – work in which all Americans must play a part.

As nonprofit leaders, we must go deeper than discussions about diversity in staff leadership and in board composition, topics with which we have developed some comfort, to conversations about the impact of race and racism.  We must understand that today people are discriminated against based on race, assumptions are made based on race, and treatment is unequal – today in our region, not 60 years ago in another part of the country.

As leaders, we must start what might be difficult conversations in order to uncover truths that can lead to powerful change. I look forward to starting this discussion here on the Daily, and I hope you will share your thoughts by commenting below.

Racism is a reality that permeates and weakens our society. It affects every person in our region, in our country.  We want to think it is behind us. It isn’t. Each of us can, and must, help to put race on the table.  Let that be Trayvon Martin’s legacy.

Putting Race on the Table: The Community Foundation explores race and neighborhood revitalization on H Street

By Rebekah Seder, Program Coordinator

Earlier this month, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region launched its Putting Race on the Table Community Tours series by examining the issues of race and neighborhood revitalization as they are playing out on the H Street NE corridor in the District. H Street, once called the “Georgetown for African Americans” and later neglected after the 1968 riots devastated many of the neighborhood businesses, has become a nightlife hot spot with restaurants and bars that attract people from all over the city. This influx has created a dynamic between residents and newcomers that is receiving much attention lately, as long-time residents experience the impact of major changes in their neighborhood.

Tour attendees, among them several local funders, spoke with H Street residents about the impact of rising property taxes, visited Mason’s Barbershop, a decades-old family business, and heard from Jane Lang and Sam Sweet, respectively the founder and executive director of the Atlas Performing Arts Center. While the challenges resulting from the changing character of H Street were a major focus of the day, the group also saw the positive impact that these changes have had.

Although some small businesses have disappeared due to the disruption caused by the streetscape and streetcar projects, others, such as Mason’s, have continued to thrive with a more diverse clientele. Jane Lang, who refurbished the long-abandoned Atlas Theater into a state-of-the-art performing arts center, made community engagement an integral part of re-opening the theater. Thanks to these efforts, Atlas has become the hub of H Street development, allowing people from all over the city, as well as neighborhood residents, to enjoy and benefit from the arts.

In a panel discussion, Derrick Woody, formerly of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Anwar Saleem, head of the nonprofit H Street Main Street, talked about the great potential for H Street to once again become the vital and inclusive residential and business district that it once was, particularly with the opening of the streetcar from Union Station to Minnesota Avenue in 2013.

Critical to the success of inclusive development, however, is ensuring that housing remains affordable through strong inclusionary zoning practices and progressive tax policies, and that government, local businesses, and nonprofits partner to create equitable opportunities for all by helping the corridor attract diverse new businesses – beyond restaurants and bars – that serve and employ neighborhood residents, old and new.

Related: Jane Lang and the impact of the Atlas Performing Arts Center on the revitalization of H Street were profiled in WRAG’s 2009 publication Beyond Dollars.

CFNCR’s Putting Race on the Table Community Tours series continues next month with a look at race and community wellness in the Port Towns Communities of Prince George’s County. More information here.


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