Introducing the 2018-2019 Philanthropy Fellows

Top Row: Pamela Vega, Tenneh Johnson Kemah, Jesse Graves, Sylvia Umegbolu; Bottom Row: Fabrizio Aguirre, Joury Bell, Kayla Good

The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers is excited to welcome the 2018-2019 Philanthropy Fellows! Seven graduate students from the University of Maryland are working at five WRAG member organizations this year:

  • Fabrizio Aguirre is working on the implementation of the Windward Fund’s new strategic plan at Arabella Advisors.
  • Joury Bell is supporting grantmaking and donor services activities at the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s Montgomery County.
  • Kayla Good is assisting safety net and housing security initiatives at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.
  • Jesse Graves is working on strategic initiatives at the Mayor’s Office of Partnerships and Grant Services.
  • Tenneh Johnson Kemah is developing a special report for The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
  • Sylvia Umegbolu is working on donor recognition efforts at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.
  • Pamela Vega is supporting the community health needs assessment implementation strategy at Kaiser Permanente.

The Philanthropy Fellows program is a partnership between WRAG and the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute. This internship pipeline and professional development program provides WRAG members with knowledgeable and skilled fellows, and gives the next generation of philanthropic and nonprofit leaders the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience in grantmaking, build a professional network, and learn about local community needs.

To learn more about each fellow, click here. Check out our website to learn more about WRAG’s Philanthropy Fellows program.

Veterans often faced with long waits for health care

A new audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that veterans enrolling in health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs are typically faced with months-long waits before ever being able to see a medical provider. Wait-time manipulation and scheduling errors were found to be significant factors in causing such delays. (WaPo, 4/19)

The average waiting time — as measured from the time veterans requested that VA contact them to schedule appointments to when they were seen — at the six medical centers GAO studied ranged from 22 to 71 days. Of the 180 veterans GAO tracked, 60 still hadn’t been seen by the time the auditors ended their review last month, in several cases because VA never followed up on their requests to be contacted or because of other administrative errors.

FOOD/ENVIRONMENT | Op-ed: Celeste James of Kaiser Permanente and Ryan Strode of Arabella Advisors discuss the importance of building a “Good Food” system that uses sustainable farming practices and protects the Chesapeake Bay by avoiding large-scale industrial agriculture and over-fishing in the area. (Baltimore Sun, 4/13)

COMMUNITY | Inter-American Development Bank has launched a newly revamped Improving Lives grants program, open to nonprofit organizations serving low-income Latin American and Caribbean communities in the Washington metropolitan area. The program will combine five grants of up to $50,000 each with skills-based volunteering, and is aimed at promoting innovative projects involving community and economic development, health and well-being, education or the arts. Eligible organizations in the region may apply for grants by submitting proposals before 6 pm (EST) May 19, 2016. For more information, please read the requirements or write to

MARYLAND/ECONOMY | In a recent State of the Economy address, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker spoke on his vision for making the jurisdiction a high-demand area for business. (WBJ, 4/13)

– How can organizations in the social sector work to build more diverse workplaces and address persistent institutional biases? Here are three key tools that may lead to success. (SSIR, 4/14)

– Feds urged to fight ‘unconscious bias’ in hiring and promotions (WaPo, 4/14)

TRANSIT | Bikeshare services, convenient and healthy, have long been a great option for those who can afford their annual memberships. Now, one service is expanding its reach to lower-income District residents by implementing need-based annual membership fees. (DCist, 4/13)

Washington AIDS Partnership, an initiative of WRAG that invests more than $1 million annually in local organizations to improve HIV/AIDS and health-related services, seeks a program associate.

– All Ages Read Together seeks an executive director.

New Majority Labs, an organization dedicated to empowering communities of color to identify and build solutions to their own challenges using data and community engagement tools, recently tasked seven black youth from the District’s Ivy City neighborhood with conducting a survey of their neighbors, then used their findings to develop a hip hop song about the evolving community.

– Ciara

Protecting the future of arts spaces

Washington City Paper examines the controversial conversion of 411 New York Ave NE, the home of Union Arts and a long-time DIY arts venue in D.C. that provides affordable space for organizations, visual artists, and underground musicians, into a luxury hotel that, as currently planned, will have a limited supply of studio space available to artists. The organized pushback against the development highlights the severe shortage of affordable space for artists and musicians to live, practice, perform, and work in D.C. (and elsewhere in the region) – and the irony that robust arts and culture scenes contribute to the rising real estate values that push artists out (WCP, 4/1):

[The] hotel project might fit into Mayor Muriel Bowser’s stated goal of “support[ing] and expand[ing] the District’s creative economy,” but for many of the artist tenants of 411 New York Ave. NE and members of the broader arts community, it dissolves a cherished, vibrant, and important arts space. To them, it’s cultural displacement.

To them, this isn’t a struggle to save a building, but a fight to save the future of D.C.’s underground arts communities.

When few question the value of the creative economy to the overall vibrancy of our region, this situation raises important questions about how government, businesses and developers, artists, and funders can preserve and create spaces for artists.

COMMUNICATIONS | On the heels of Twitter’s recent 10th birthday, I ask the question, “What’s the fuss about Twitter?” and explain why you (or the leader of your organization) should start tweeting now. (Daily 4/4)

HOUSING | In their Matters@Hand thought leadership series sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, HAND explores the realities of mixed-income housing in the region and the benefits these strategies have actually had for the area’s low-income residents. (Helping Hands Blog, 4/1)

REGION/WORKFORCE | As National Harbor in Prince George’s County continues to grow into an employment core and regional destination, a transit line linking the hub to Alexandria remains absent. The adjacent communities have yet to compromise on a specific route or funding for a transit project, further underscoring the need for regional cooperation in order to avoid hindering the economic potential of the area and service workers’ ability to commute. (WaPo, 4/1)

– The CareFirst open grant application deadline for 2016 is June 13 at 11:59 PM. 501(c)(3) organizations can submit their online applications in support of health-related services or innovative programs. Find out more here.

– The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is one of 10 organizations from across the U.S. selected administer a three-year USDA initiative called FoodLINC (Leveraging Investment for Network Coordination) to strengthen the region’s local food business sector, while expanding consumer access to healthy, local food. Agua Fund and Prince Charitable Trusts are philanthropic partners. Read more here.

EQUITY | Lately, due to a number of incidents in the news, many voices are calling for more police officers to be required to wear body cameras. But even with camera footage, there is often debate as to what the videos actually portray. The New York Times presents an exercise in a phenomenon known as “camera perspective bias.” (NYT, 4/1)

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: Now or Forever: Rethinking Foundation Life Spans (Chronicle, 3/30)

JOBS | Arabella Advisors seeks a qualified candidate for the position of Associate Director, Consulting Services for their Good Food team.

Are you ready for some baseball? Test your knowledge of the sport with this quiz.

– Ciara

New report on investing in the good food system

Arabella Advisors has released a new report, “Investing to Strengthen the Good Food Supply Chain,” and accompanying graphic, “On the Road to Good Food,” identifying areas where they believe capital investments can yield powerful investment returns and significant impact in expanding access to good food.

Developing the infrastructure to supply good food will require more than philanthropy alone can deliver. Most of the solutions we need must come from private-sector commitments—specifically, from investments in companies across the food supply chain that can bring more sustainable, healthy, and affordable food to market

CSR | The deadline to apply for the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards is Friday, April 1. Hint for Nonprofits: Nominating your corporate partners is a great way to show your appreciation and deepen your relationship!

Related: Interested in learning how to build new, stronger, and more mutually beneficial corporate partnerships? Join WRAG and more than 20 CSR professionals from some of the region’s top companies for the 2016 Fundamentals of CSR workshop on April 14-15.

HEALTHGrantmakers in Health, with support from the Aetna Foundation, recently released a supplement on health equity innovations, published in the spring 2016 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The supplement highlights promising strategies and emerging approaches for building healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities. (SSIR, spring 2016

EDUCATION/INFRASTRUCTURE | A new report looks at the conditions of school buildings across the country, and finds that many are in dire need of maintenance to the tune of an estimated $112 billion to ensure they are safe spaces in good condition. (WaPo, 3/22)

DISTRICT/WORKFORCE | D.C. mayor calls for raising minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 (WaPo, 3/22)

– A new interactive exhibit, “In it Together: Service Members, Community and Dialogue Through Art” at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center, showcases artwork from service members and veterans. (Inside NOVA, 3/22)

–  D.C. Artists Protest Washington Post No-TYA-Review Policy (AT, 3/22)

– Have you been wondering what happened to those plastic white balls from last year’s “The Beach” exhibit at the National Building Museum? Look no further than the forthcoming Dupont Underground. (WaPo, 3/22)

Sometimes, this is what happens when you ask the Internet to name things.

– Ciara 


Nearly one in 10 youth disconnected in the District

Raise DC,  a coalition of public, private, and social profit groups, has released a new report providing  a snapshot of the District’s progress on its five high-level goals related to kindergarten readiness, high school graduation, reconnection of youth to education and/or training, college or credential completion, and youth employment. This marks a first look at improvement in aggregated citywide data since its baseline report card in 2013. Some of the findings in the report include (WaPo, 9/9 and RAISE DC, 9/9 ):

Nearly one in 10 District residents aged 16 to 24 was not working and not in school between 2010 and 2012 […], according to a new report from Raise DC, a coalition of public, private and nonprofit groups.

The city calls such people “disconnected youth,” and officials are trying to find them and help them re-enroll in school or job training.

Click here to view Raise DC’s full Progress Report.

– D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has proposed changes to the city’s summer jobs program that would provide a pathway to higher-earning jobs for young people. (WAMU, 9/9)

– Exponent Philanthropy, along with Arabella Advisors and Mission Investors Exchange, has released a new guide for small foundations interested in the essentials of impact investing. (Exponent Philanthropy, 9/9)

Opinion: Why Success Sometimes Eludes Community Efforts to Fight Social Problems (Chronicle, 9/4)

CSR/SOCIAL PROFITS | Tim McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation and lead faculty member for the Institute for CSR, discusses income inequalities in the social profit sector – more often associated with large corporations – in the wake of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new requirement for publicly-traded companies to disclose CEO pay ratios. (American Express, 9/8)

CHILDREN/HEALTH | The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that extremely premature babies born today have a better chance at survival than they did 20 years ago. Despite this improvement, the rate of significant health problems for those who survive has remained unchanged since 1993. (NPR, 9/8)

– A new book explores what life is like for the many Americans who get by on cash incomes of around $2.00 per day for long stretches of time. Many of those individuals are completely disconnected from the job market and are unable to receive much in government assistance. (Atlantic, 9/6)

Why Boosting Poor Children’s Vocabulary is Important for Public Health (Atlantic, 9/7)

Take a quick guess before you click on this. What do you think is the dirtiest surface on an airplane?

– Ciara

Two things you really (really!) need to know about foundation excise tax rules (even if you’re not a finance officer)

by Katy Moore
Director of Corporate Strategy
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Have you ever finished checking out at the grocery store only to realize that you accidentally swiped your foundation credit card? This might be a bigger deal than you think, even if you immediately pay the foundation back.

Private foundations are held accountable to a strict set of rules and regulations, and can incur costly penalties for breaking these rules. In last week’s Foundation Finance Affinity Group meeting, Andrew Schulz, General Counsel for Arabella Advisors, reviewed a number of useful tips for navigating private foundation excise tax rules. There were two specific topics that surprised many attendees:

Credit cards:  Did you know that if a foundation trustee, staff member, or other disqualified person accidentally uses his or her foundation credit card to pay for a personal expense it’s considered self-dealing? The IRS considers this a loan/extension of credit to a disqualified person and is, therefore, subject to excise tax penalties. Even if that person quickly remedies the situation by paying back the amount, technically it must still be reported as self-dealing and a 10 percent penalty applies. If the situation is not corrected, the penalties go up to 200 percent. Yikes. (NOTE: These penalties are the responsibility of the individual involved NOT the foundation. Also, since figuring out what disclosure is required and what penalty is owed can be complex, be sure to consult with your tax advisor if this has happened to you.)

Event sponsorships: These can be very tricky for private foundations, especially when the sponsorship includes tickets, a meal, or other tangible benefits. For example, let’s say your foundation sponsors a gala table for $10,000 and receives 10 tickets in return. In addition to attending the event, each person gets a meal valued at $100. Foundation staff and trustees who have a reason to be present at the gala for foundation purposes may attend. However, those staff and/or trustees may NOT bring their spouses, family members, or other disqualified persons as guests.  IRS rules clearly state that disqualified persons may not receive goods or services from the foundation or as a result of the foundation’s investments or activities. In this scenario, the disqualified person (i.e. the spouse or other guest) would receive a $100 meal benefit and would, therefore, be subject to excise tax penalties.

These are just two examples of complicated IRS excise tax rules that have everyday implications. For more information about how to avoid costly excise tax penalties, contact your tax advisor.

This event was the second in a three-part series for WRAG’s newest affinity group: foundation finance officers. The last installment in the series is scheduled for October 8 and will focus on Calculating the 5% Distribution. For more information about the group or to register for the next event, please contact Katy Moore.

Friday roundup – May 18 through May 22, 2015

The WRAG office will be closed on Monday, May 25, in observance of Memorial Day. Enjoy the long weekend! 

– Check out some of the key issues that were raised during WRAG’s recent Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference. (Loudoun Times, 5/15)

– Polly Donaldson, the new head of the Department of Housing and Community Development, discussed how the agency plans to extend its focus on affordable housing into efforts to end homelessness. (WCP, 5/15)

– Montgomery County planners released a draft of their Bethesda Downtown Plan, including recommendations for the area over the next 20 years.  Plans involve new park space and the preservation of affordable housing. (Bethesda Magazine, 5/15)

– Arabella Advisors shared some effective approaches that health funders can take to fulfill unmet needs in the constantly evolving healthcare system. (Arabella Advisors, 5/18)

– For the second year in a row, the Washington region was number one in a list of the fittest metropolitan areas. (NPR, 5/19)

Whether you live in the District or just occasionally pass through the area, it’s always nice to know how to get around. Take this quiz to see how well you can navigate D.C. streets. I’m proud of my 5/10!

– Ciara