Historic Investments and New Opportunities to End Homelessness

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In July 2021, the city released Homeward DC 2.0, the city’s updated comprehensive plan to end homelessness. The plan outlines lessons learned over the last five years, current needs, and strategies to help us achieve the vision that homelessness in DC will be rare, brief, and nonrecurring and that we will eliminate racial inequities in the homeless services system and create systemic fair treatment for all people.

In order to achieve this vision, the plan outlines roles for key stakeholders including the Partnership to End Homelessness. While federal and local government resources are instrumental in this work, there is also an essential role for private philanthropy including individuals, foundations, and corporations. The Partnership to End Homelessness was created to leverage private philanthropy and align with public resources and strategies to create more nimble, strategic, and sustained investments in the homeless services system.

We are excited that both our federal and local government partners have made substantial and unprecedented investments in this work. However, even with these investments there are gaps that public funding cannot fill. In order to take advantage of these historic public sector investments, we must align the private sector to ensure that we leverage these resources for the future. We have an opportunity this year to make huge strides in our efforts to end homelessness. Join us in ensuring that we take advantage of this moment in time and don’t let this opportunity pass. Contact Jennifer Olney or Silvana Straw to find out how you can get involved today.

Celebrating Historic Investments in Ending Homelessness


This year, DC passed a budget with historic investments in housing justice. We are celebrating with our nonprofit advocacy partners who were instrumental in fighting for these investments that will end homelessness for 3,500 households including 2,370 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. In order to quickly turn these investments into housing for our neighbors, we are working with our public and private sector partners to ensure our homeless response system is able to respond to this growth and move people into housing and out of homelessness as quickly as possible.

For more information about this year’s budget and where some of our advocacy partners are focusing next, read our partner Washington Legal Clinic’s budget recap.

Eviction Prevention: Protecting Low-Income Renters

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Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the long-standing housing crisis and inequities in our country, and our right here in our Nation’s Capital. Thousands of tenants in the city are behind on rent and at imminent risk of eviction. It is estimated that 30,000 households are currently at risk of eviction. Both DC and the federal government have eviction moratoriums in place to protect tenants while they apply for available emergency rental assistance and other resources and supports. Unfortunately, those protections are already starting to phase out and evictions will resume.

The Community Foundation, along with the DC Bar Foundation, has been co-convening a group of key stakeholders including nonprofits, the courts, advocates, public officials, and landlords, to prevent immediate evictions and to create systems and policies that are more equitable and that ultimately lead to greater housing stability in DC.

We have also awarded a grant to Housing Counseling Services (HCS) to support a pilot community outreach program in Washington, DC with a priority on Wards 1, 4, 7 and 8. With this support, HCS will assist low-income tenants at risk of eviction in accessing emergency rental assistance and other services to maintain stable housing. HCS will partner with churches, schools, daycare centers, medical offices, and others to meet tenants where they live, learn, pray and play. HCS will also be present in the courts to help tenants apply for rental assistance and avoid evictions.

Partnership in Action: Preventing Evictions in Ivy City

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In our most recent blog post, Leadership Council Co-Chair, David Roodberg from Horning Brothers, talks about an innovative partnership with Empower DC, one of our grantee partners. Together, they are working to support tenants to access rental assistance and maintain stable housing.

“Evictions aren’t good for anyone. STAY DC provides a win-win opportunity for landlords and tenants.”

-- David Roodberg, CEO and President, Horning Brothers

About the Partnership to End Homelessness

The Partnership to End Homelessness, led by the Greater Washington Community Foundation and the District Government’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), brings together the public and private sectors to ensure homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring in DC. We believe that all DC residents deserve a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home.

By joining together, we will increase the supply of deeply affordable housing, help everyone find a home they can afford, and help more people access housing and exit homelessness more quickly.

Get Involved

Every action, whether large or small, can make a difference in ending homelessness. Visit EndHomelessnessDC.org to learn more.

This blog post is from the Partnership to End Homelessness newsletter. Sign up here to receive these quarterly updates.

Partnership in Action: Preventing Evictions in Ivy City

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Since the start of the pandemic, housing stability for tenants has been a focus for the Partnership to End Homelessness and for many of our Leadership Council and nonprofit partners. David Roodberg, co-chair of the Leadership Council and CEO and President at Horning Brothers, recently launched an exciting partnership with one of our grantees, EmpowerDC, aimed at making sure that tenants can access critical rental assistance and remain stably housed. We spoke recently with both David and Parisa Norouzi, Executive Director of Empower DC, about their work together.

How did this partnership start?

David: “We recognized early on in the COVID-19 crisis that our tenants would need support. We invested in a new position on our staff – a housing stability specialist – whose role is to help our tenants connect to resources. Recently, that’s included helping tenants with their applications to the STAY DC program for rental assistance. We’ve had a lot of success with this new position, but there are some tenants who are reluctant to work with staff members hired by a landlord. We knew we needed to find another way to reach that group to ensure everyone got the assistance they needed.”

Parisa: “Empower DC has a longstanding commitment to Ivy City –one of DC’s most historic Black neighborhoods. Our goal at Empower is zero evictions in Ivy City. I’ve worked with David in the past on other tenant issues, and I wanted to make sure his tenants were accessing STAY DC. I decided to reach out to him to see what we could do to help.”

David: “Evictions aren’t good for anyone. STAY DC provides a win-win opportunity for landlords and tenants.”

Parisa: “This is a very clear time when landlords and organizers should also have the same goals. It is important to take advantage of those moments when we have more in common than not, and to leverage our collective ability to make something positive happen. It was great to see a landlord who had already invested their own resources in helping tenants, and who was willing to work with us to do more.”

Your partnership to help tenants apply for rental assistance is a collaboration between property management staff, the Horning Brothers’ housing stability specialist, and Empower DC staff and volunteers. What roles do each of you play?

Parisa: “We take the lead on outreach to the tenants. We also offered up our own space – our Ivy City Clubhouse -- close to the property to meet with tenants and work on applications. We set up appointments for tenants in our space, where they could meet one-on-one with the Horning staff person to complete their application”

David: “We had done everything you can think of to let tenants know about STAY DC – letters, emails, phone calls, door-knocking – but having a nonprofit community-based organization involved was key to reaching tenants who were hesitant.”

Parisa: “When you get a notice from a landlord, your first thought won’t be ‘This is to help me,’ so communication from a third party helps. By collaborating with the landlord, who was able to share information about who needed the assistance, we were able to target our follow up to those tenants who were behind on the rent. Management also understands more about the actual application process and could provide a lot of the necessary information for the applications. Their staff also did a training for our volunteers so they could understand how to help people submit applications for non-Horning tenants as well.”

David: “Spending time on education about the program was important. Some of our tenants thought they didn’t qualify for STAY DC, but they did. By investing in communication and education, we were able to help more tenants apply for and receive more assistance.”

What would you say to others who are interested in setting up a similar partnership?

David: “You also want to make it very easy for tenants to access the assistance. STAY DC is working. The money is getting out to people. This is a great opportunity for landlords and tenants to be on the same side.”

Parisa: “I’d say that it is important to approach potential partners first in the spirit of collaboration and with an interest in creating an equal partnership. If others are interested in working together, I hope that these partnerships can extend beyond STAY DC. We have opportunities to continue these relationships to ensure that there is quality housing for everyone in our city.”


Parisa Norouzi, Executive Director of Empower DC

Parisa Norouzi has over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations and organizing communities.  Parisa co-founded the city-wide community organizing group Empower DC in 2003, an organization which works to build the confident self-advocacy and organized political power of low-moderate income DC residents with a focus on fighting the displacement of residents amid DC’s gentrification boom. 

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David Roodberg, CEO and President of Horning Brothers

David Roodberg is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the business including operations, development and strategic planning.



The Greater Washington Community Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Jane Bainum, a beloved wife, mother, and philanthropist.

Jane and her husband, Stewart Bainum, were deeply passionate about supporting the well-being of children and families.  In 1968, they established a charitable foundation which is known today as the Bainum Family Foundation. Guided by their values and vision, the Bainum Family Foundation strategically works to build an equitable society that supports all children and families, particularly those who have been systematically excluded from power, resources and opportunity because of poverty and racism.

“We are grateful to Jane and the entire Bainum family for working toward our shared vision of communities where every child has the opportunity to thrive. Her extraordinary commitment and generosity deeply impacted the lives of children across our region,” said Tonia Wellons, President and CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation.  

We send our heartfelt condolences to the Bainum family and all those touched by Jane’s extraordinary life.  She will be sorely missed, but her enduring legacy will continue to inspire all of us. 

In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer that memorial donations may be made to the Jane Bainum Fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation, which supports a range of nonprofits serving children and families as well as faith-based organizations. Gifts can be made online at www.thecommunityfoundation.org/donate (specify the "Jane Bainum Fund") or by check to Greater Washington Community Foundation, PO Box 49010, Baltimore, MD 21297-4910. For online condolences, please click here.

Our 2020 - 2021 Year in Review

Over the past 18 months, we have all been impacted in some way by COVID-19. Although our experiences may be different, our community came together -– as neighbors helping neighbors -– to support each other through this crisis.

Since March 2020, we have mobilized over $40 million in community support to help our neighbors facing hardship. Thanks to the incredible donors, nonprofit partners, and community leaders who stepped up to meet this challenge, our collective response demonstrated the power of what our community can accomplish by coming together. 

Our Annual Report features the impact that The Community Foundation, our donors, and partners have had on this region from April 2020 – March 2021, and beyond.


Read our Annual Report

Deepening Our Impact: 8 Highlights from the Past Year

Along with the release of our annual report, we’re celebrating our most impactful stories from the past year--from helping launch the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellowship, continuing our work to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, to advancing housing justice in partnership with Flock DC’s birdSEED Fund. Read on for stories of meaningful collaboration and coordination that helped make a difference in our community. 

Uniting for Change

We believe true change rises from strong alliances. We’re proud to share stories about how our community partnerships have helped make a difference.


Introducing the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellows

Launched last fall (2020) in partnership with the DC-based nonprofit GOODProjects, and with seed funding from Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Black Voices for Black Justice DMV Fellowship supports activists, organizers, and leaders who are on the front lines of advancing social justice and racial equity. Each Fellow received a $30,000 grant to support their racial justice work in our region, and beyond. Meet these inspiring change-makers, and learn what fuels their fight for justice.


DC Cares Program: $5M Undocumented Workers Relief Package

Thousands of immigrants in Greater Washington were excluded from federal stimulus efforts due to their documentation status. Together with our partners at Events DC and the Executive Office of the Mayor, we launched the DC Cares Program in summer 2020, disbursing a total of $5 million in direct cash assistance to excluded workers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. In January 2021, we launched Phase II of the program, providing over $8 million in relief funding.

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$1 Million Arts Forward Fund

In partnership with the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and eight other funders, we launched Arts Forward Fund to provide critical support to local arts and culture organizations impacted by COVID-19. In October 2020, we awarded over $1 million in grants to 43 arts organizations. Currently, we’re reviewing a second round of proposals, supported by a generous $1 million gift from MacKenzie Scott.

Investing for Impact 

Learn about some of our most impactful investments this year.

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Legacy Fund for Small Business Development

Seeded with a $1 million gift from a generous donor, the Legacy Fund for Small Business Development provides critically needed access to capital for small businesses in Prince George’s County. It’s part of our work in Prince George’s County’s to advance equity and economic mobility by eliminating social and economic disparities in the County. In November, we awarded relief funding to 173 small businesses in Prince George’s County to help minimize business closures and retain 650 jobs.

“Ninety-five percent of all businesses in [Prince George’s County] are small businesses and they contribute nearly half of all jobs in the county. Through the Legacy Fund, we hope to preserve the small business infrastructure, ensure job retention, drive economic development, and enable the transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, leaving a lasting legacy for families and Prince George’s County.” --Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

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Fund for Children, Youth, and Families Awards $1.99 Million

At the end of last year, the Fund for Children, Youth, and Families (FFCYF)awarded nearly $2 million in grants to 49 nonprofits serving disadvantaged children, youth, and families. Local WDVM covered the announcement, highlighting the investment’s focus on closing the achievement gap, supporting children in foster care, and helping families experiencing homelessness.

Jana-Lynn Louis, Community Foundation program officer for FFCYF, said:  “It’s all about supporting where our region needs help the most and trying to fill in those gaps that often fall by the wayside.”

Community Connections

Oftentimes, it's our staff and partners who say it best. These guest posts highlight different voices and perspectives in our community on the issues that matter most.


How to reconstruct an equitable future for our region

How can we reconstruct an equitable future for our region coming out of the COVID-19 crisis? In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, our CEO Tonia Wellons and Ursula Wright explore a new framework to respond to emerging needs, re-engage our community, and reconstruct and shape a new normal for this region.


Flock DC: Down payment Grants for a more just future

BirdSEED Fund, launched in partnership with local real estate firm Flock DC, helps advance housing justice by providing down payment grants for first-time Black and Brown home buyers. In her guest-authored blog, Flock DC founder and CEO Lisa Wise shares her passion for justice and why she believes it’s crucial we work together to reimagine a more equitable future.


Food for Montgomery: A Community-Wide Response to the Rise in Hunger

As our community’s need for food skyrocketed during 2020, our Montgomery County leaders, community stakeholders, and The Community Foundation teamed up to create Food for Montgomery. Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County, shares how this remarkable public-private partnership is helping prevent food insecurity in the County, and ensure no residents go hungry.

Hungry for other Community Foundation impact stories? Check out ‘A Year of Impact: Our Top 10 Stories of 2020,’ published as an annual wrap-up last December. 

The Community Foundation will be closed Sept. 1-6

Dear Friends of The Community Foundation,

Please be aware that The Community Foundation will be closed from September 1-6 to allow our staff the time to rest, reflect, and recharge after an incredibly challenging 18 months.

We have been proud to work alongside you, and thousands of our donors and partners, to mobilize more than $40 million in critical investments to address housing stability, learning loss, health and safety, food security, and more. These investments have gone a long way towards meeting urgent needs and ensuring an equitable recovery for our region.

We appreciate your patience while we take the time to refresh and renew our commitment to serving this community. We will return to this work with even more passion and vigor when our office reopens on Tuesday, September 7. 

If you anticipate needing any assistance with gifts, grants, or payments, please submit your requests by August 25 for processing by August 31. Any requests that come in while our office is closed will be addressed when it reopens.

Please note that our donors always have 24/7 access to Donor Central, our secure online donor portal where you can view your fund balance and activity, submit grant recommendations, and see past grant history. If you are new to Donor Central, or just need a refresher, you can view the Donor Central quick start guide.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at donorservices@thecommunityfoundation.org or 202-955-5890.

Tonia Wellons
President and CEO

Community Foundation Invests Nearly $1 Million in Black-led Organizations Leading Systems Change

The Community Foundation is proud to announce an investment of $940,000 in 17 Black-led organizations in Greater Washington working in the critical area of systems change. These one-year awards will help support organizations’ immediate infrastructure needs, including staffing, strategic planning, marketing and communications, professional development, and more. 

Enabled through a generous $1 million gift from Facebook, The Community Foundation launched this new funding opportunity in April 2021. The following investments align with our new strategic focus, which prioritizes support for BIPOC-led and serving organizations and local neighborhoods where racialized socio-economic disparities are the greatest. 

“Discrimination and disparities based on race, income, and gender continue to threaten both the lives and livelihoods of people of color, especially Black residents. It is vital that we invest in organizations that are working to disrupt and transform systems perpetuating those inequities,” says Dawnn Leary, Senior Community Investment Officer at The Community Foundation. “I am thrilled this funding opportunity will support the immediate infrastructure needs of 17 organizations on the front lines organizing, empowering, and advocating with and for residents of Greater Washington.” 

African Communities Together, to support building an infrastructure for  member recruitment, retention, and leadership development, including a member phone bank and data clean-up project. 

Bread for the City, to support the hiring of a racial equity manager to drive efforts, that shift organizational culture to ensure racial equity. Funds will also support workshops for staff hosted by Service 2 Justice and the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.

Collective Action for Safe Spaces, to sustain and expand staff and board leadership through strategic planning, financial planning, and personnel recruitment.

Community Grocery Co-Op, to strengthen marketing and communications, fundraising, canvassing community stakeholders, hiring of staff, and leadership team development.

Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria, to support fundraising, training and mobilization, and website and video upgrades.

 Critical Exposure, to support hiring a full-time Human Resources and Operations Manager, a key role to meet sustainability goals for the organization.

DC Justice Lab, to support organizational needs such as equipment for a home office/remote work, IT, marketing and communications, development and fundraising collateral, and staff/board professional development and training. 

Dreaming out Loud, to support the installation of a new CRM system, the implementation of public relations, and developing a comprehensive communications plan that improves community engagement. 

Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, to hire a second full-time staff member, and support cover artist and speaker fees at their vision salons. 

Life After Release, to support leadership development and wellness for a team of six organizers (five formerly incarcerated women and one man), the development of their organizational communications infrastructure, and office equipment for staff to work from home as needed. 

Mamatoto Village, to support data collection, leadership training, and marking and communications needs. 

Many Languages One Voice, to support MLOV’s investment in and building of a membership database in Salesforce, and  hiring a strategic communications consultant. 

ONE DC, to help re-open Black Workers and Wellness Center (BWWC) and resume activities housed in the center, namely Cooperation DC.   

Progressive Maryland, to invest in new AI technology, provide training, streamline processes, and expand contacts.  

Racial Justice NOW!, to support the development and implementation of a five-year strategic plan.  

Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid, for the organization including, conducting a board assessment, and hiring a consultant to train the board on governance, fundraising, budget allocation, human resources management and strategic planning.

The National Reentry Network of Returning Citizens, to support the development of a community space hub focused on returning citizen visibility and leadership, and provide the critical infrastructure needed for their staff and programs.

Eviction Prevention: Working Across Sectors to Ensure an Equitable Recovery

By Jennifer Olney, Community Investment Officer, Partnership to End Homelessness

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the long-standing housing crisis and inequities in our country, and even right here in DC. Thousands of tenants in the city are behind on rent and at imminent risk of eviction. Currently, both DC and the federal government have eviction moratoriums in place to protect tenants while they apply for available resources and supports. Unfortunately, those protections are already starting to phase out and evictions in DC are set to resume in October.

The Community Foundation has a long history of supporting housing justice and working to end homelessness in DC. Addressing inequities and supporting our community is at the center of our mission and housing justice is a key component of our work through the Partnership to End Homelessness.

In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis led us to take swift action to address the growing concern for tenants falling behind on rent and at risk of losing their housing in the middle of a global health pandemic.

Even with federal and local eviction moratoriums in place, tenants faced mounting back rent and the severity of the situation continued to threaten the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors. In DC, tens of thousands of households fell behind on rent and we knew that many would be at risk of homelessness if they were evicted.  

In order to prevent a large wave of evictions and increases in homelessness, we convened a group of key partners, including the DC Bar Foundation, for weekly discussions to identify strategic opportunities for private sector investments amid a rapidly changing environment. This group met regularly with our government partners and other nonprofit partners working on the ground to coordinate our learning and response strategies.

From the beginning, our work has focused on creating more equitable outcomes for our Black and Latinx neighbors disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the economic crisis, and the ongoing housing crisis in the city. Even before the pandemic, 87% of extremely low-income, severely rent-burdened households in DC were headed by a person of color. According to a 2021 report by the Urban Institute, the risk of evictions is greater for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx residents. Almost one in two Hispanic/Latinx renters and more than one in four Black renters were worried about paying next month’s rent.

Through our conversations with partners and by examining new research and data, we identified two key areas for private sector investment that would lead to more equitable access to rental assistance resources.

  1. Support outreach to target communities most at risk of eviction. Using the Urban Institute Emergency Rental Assistance Prioritization Tool we identified areas of the city that had high risk of housing instability; high impact from COVID-19; and a high share of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx renters, extremely low-income renter households, households receiving public assistance, and people born outside of the US. 

  2. Support trusted partners to answer questions and provide support. Many tenants have questions and need assistance to complete the rental assistance application for government resources. Our partners on the ground are critical to the effort to support tenants and share essential information about emergency rental assistance, legal services, and other available resources.

In response, we invested in Housing Counseling Services (HCS) to help tenants apply for rental assistance by meeting them where they live, learn, pray, and play. At these key locations, HCS is providing outreach and assistance to households behind on rent and most at risk of eviction and homelessness. HCS is also providing support in court to help tenants who face evictions apply for assistance.

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We know that our resources are limited and that in order to address the eviction crisis and prevent homelessness, we need everyone working together to create long-term solutions. In June 2021, we were invited to participate in a White House Eviction Prevention Summit as the philanthropic representative from DC. At that summit, we heard Matthew Desmond talk about the devastating impact of evictions and successful diversion efforts across the country. We also heard from leaders in the federal government who were committed to working with communities to help prevent evictions. After meeting with the DC delegation and discussing local opportunities, we agreed to continue convening the group along with our partners at the DC Bar Foundation.

Since the White House Summit, the members of the DC delegation have been meeting weekly to discuss challenges and identify opportunities. This group is comprised of over 65 representatives from nonprofits, tenant advocates, local government agencies, the courts, landlords/housing providers, and philanthropy. Our immediate goal is to prevent evictions by increasing rental assistance to target at risk households and to strengthen legal supports, services, and mediation with the court system.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to support a more equitable recovery and to increase housing stability given the availability of federal resources and this strong partnership with federal government. We have the right people around the table and know that in addition to preventing the immediate eviction crisis, we also have an opportunity to create systems and policies that are more equitable and that ultimately lead to greater housing stability in DC.

If you are interested in this work, please contact Jennifer Olney at jolney@thecommunityfoundation.org or Silvana Straw at sstraw@thecommunityfoundation.org.

Quarterly Community Update

Dear Community Foundation Fundholders,

I hope you and your family are enjoying a safe and happy summer break!

Last quarter, thanks to the continued generosity and care of our community of givers, we collectively awarded nearly $24 million in grants to nonprofits working to strengthen our region and beyond.

At The Community Foundation, we remain focused on supporting our community through the COVID-19 crisis and ensuring an equitable recovery now and for the future. Last quarter, our work leading the region’s coordinated philanthropic response effort included:

As we are wrapping up our strategic planning process and preparing to release our new strategic vision to the community, we are also updating some of our policies and procedures to ensure greater alignment and clear purpose. As a social justice organization with a mission to build equitable and thriving communities for all, we have adopted an anti-hate group policy that is consistent with how our peers are prohibiting funding to organizations designated as hate groups. We have also updated and clarified our policies and procedures for funds that participate in fundraising to better support your efforts to mobilize resources for the causes that matter most to you. 

In the fall, we look forward to sharing with you our new 10-year strategic plan with the goal of increasing our impact on this community now and long into the future. This moment in time demands that we leverage our leadership capacity and ability to mobilize resources to ensure an equitable recovery and a brighter future for our region.

Thank you for your continued partnership in serving our community’s needs today, and in building a better tomorrow for the Greater Washington region. 

Tonia Wellons
President and CEO

Food for Montgomery Partners with Feed the Fridge and Mary's Center to Fight Hunger

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Food for Montgomery, a COVID-19 response initiative co-led by the Greater Washington Community Foundation, has partnered with Feed the Fridge to innovate another solution to solving hunger in the region with a new fridge at Mary’s Center. The new location partners with Jalapeño Mexican Grill from the community kitchen of Crossroads Community Food Network to provide meals for those in need.

Announcing the 2021 David Bradt Nonprofit Leadership Award Winners

As nonprofit leaders in Greater Washington, Mike Di Marco, Kahina Haynes, and Heather Peeler are invested in improving and advancing their organizations—and themselves. This year, we’re excited to announce them as our fourth annual David Bradt Nonprofit Leadership Awardees. Di Marco, Executive Director of Horizons Greater Washington; Haynes, Executive Director of the Dance Institute of Washington; and Peeler, President and CEO of ACT for Alexandria, will each receive up to $15,000 to attend an intensive executive training program of their choice.

Launched in 2017 as a salute to former trustee David Bradt and his many years of service to our community, the David Bradt Nonprofit Education Fund supports senior level nonprofit leaders in advancing their careers and leadership skills. Local business leader Alex Orfinger and Diane Tipton, David’s wife, established the Fund to surprise and honor David. 

Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, extends her congratulations to this year’s class:

“Congratulations to the 2021 awardees!  We are thankful for all you have done and will continue to do to strengthen our community. The Community Foundation is so pleased to support investments in exceptional nonprofit leaders and support the Fund’s impact in our region.  Our thanks to David for the inspiration, and to Diane and Alex for creating such a wonderful way in which to honor him.”  

Read on to meet these inspiring local leaders, and watch the July 20 virtual award ceremony. 

Meet Our Awardees

Mike Di Marco is the Executive Director of Horizons Greater Washington, where youth in the Greater Washington region take part in academic, artistic, and athletic activities that inspire and build a love of learning. After joining Horizons in January 2020, Mike led the organization’s transition from providing intensive in-person summer programs to accessible in-home experiences for students, finding new and inventive ways to better serve their students. Dedicated to helping youth from low-income families overcome the opportunity gap, Mike spent his previous 12 years at Higher Achievement where he oversaw out-of-school programming for middle school students in under-resourced communities in DC, Baltimore, Alexandria, Richmond, and Pittsburgh.  Mike plans to use his award to participate in a fundraising course taught by Senior Research Fellow at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University, Jennifer McCrea.

Kahina Haynes is the Executive Director of the Dance Institute of Washington, a pre-professional dance organization spearheading dance equity causes in the DMV and impacting racial and economic inclusivity and representation in dance nationally and globally. In her role, Kahina not only oversees financial and general operations, but serves as a passionate arts activist and visionary architect of artistic programming. Under her leadership, the institute has significantly increased revenue, undergone renovations and facility upgrades, and introduced new and revamped curriculum which led students to be recognized at the regional and national levels.  Prior to her tenure at the Dance Institute of Washington, Kahina spent time as a United Nations Fellow and Fulbright Scholar in Morocco. Kahina is hoping to apply her award toward attending the Harvard Business School Women's Leadership Forum.

Heather Peeler is the President and CEO of ACT for Alexandria which helps donors achieve philanthropic goals and supports nonprofits in achieving their missions. Recently, Heather led the organization in the launch of the biggest grantmaking initiative in their history and has helped to establish ACT as a leader in mobilizing community conversation and action around pressing issues facing Alexandria. Before assuming her role with ACT, Heather worked with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, where she mobilized a national network of thousands of grantmakers in adopting practices to make the greatest impact and strengthen their local communities. Heather will be utilizing her award to attend either a program hosted by Harvard University or the Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

Stop the Violence: Responding to our Community's Spike in Gun Violence

By Jamie McCrary

Last July 4, as DC’s annual fireworks display burst over the National Mall, an 11-year-old boy lost his life.

Davon McNeal, who was visiting family in Anacostia, was fatally struck by a bullet in crossfire from a neighborhood shooting. He was coming from a Stop the Violence cookout that his mother, who works as a city violence interrupter, helped organize. Davon was shot as he stepped from their car. 

"This is ridiculous," John Ayala, Davon’s grandfather, told National Public Radio. “Our babies are being gunned down. This has got to stop."

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Davon McNeal

Davon was one of at least six children killed by gun violence across the country that weekend, and one of four killed in DC during the first few days of July 2020. This aligns with an alarming trend seen in 2020, which, according to the Gun Violence Archive, was the deadliest year for gun violence in two decades. 

COVID-19, which confined many to already volatile home and neighborhood environments, helped fuel this uptick in violence. The country’s largest cities, like Atlanta or Los Angeles, suffered the highest spike, at 30%. And like COVID-19 itself, this has disproportionately affected our nation’s Black and Brown communities. 

This spring, DC residents Mary Grace and Al Rook leveraged philanthropy to respond. The couple was deeply troubled by this spike in violence in our community. As a magistrate judge for DC’s Superior Court, Mary Grace has seen the impact of violence on children and families, and felt she needed to do something. 

After consulting Crystal McNeal, Davon’s mother, the Rooks founded the Davon McNeal Memorial Fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Established in April 2021, the Fund aims to give at-risk youth in Wards 7 and 8 a respite from potential violence through pro-social programs in sports, the arts, and education. The Rooks hope this Memorial Fund will also help to increase awareness about community violence, which Al says is lacking, due in part to “a real dichotomy between one side of the river and the other,” which ultimately fuels this violence. 

“Mary Grace and I believe that our community can step up and help to provide support and resources that will create safe and healing spaces for kids,” Al says. “The constant exposure to violence and resulting trauma that [these] young children face impacts them in so many ways.”

The Davon McNeal Memorial Fund builds on a history at The Community Foundation of addressing violence in the Greater Washington region. From 2013-2018, we administered the City Fund, established with DC government to invest $15 million in programs focused on reducing incidents of violent crime, and combating domestic violence and human trafficking. More recently, we partnered with the Public Welfare Foundation on the DC Fund for Just and Peaceful Neighborhoods, which supported nonprofits working to transform the criminal justice system and implementing violence intervention and prevention services in DC.

Other efforts include supporting the implementation of a pilot program targeting a small set of District neighborhoods using the Cure Violence Methodology, partnering with the City on The Navy Yard Relief Fund in 2013, and, most recently, becoming the fiscal sponsor to the Peace for DC Fund. Peace for DC will build community capacity and fund evidence-based gun violence intervention solutions to drastically reduce DC homicides over the next 5 years—and help bring racial and economic justice to DC’s most under-resourced communities.

We’re proud to support these anti-violence efforts as they continue. However—it is important that we also acknowledge that this violence derives from a longer and more protracted history that is embedded in American culture. 

Systemic racism, disinvestment, economic exclusion and other social determinants reside at the heart of generations of targeted violence against BIPOC communities. Our will and capacity to address these issues will directly impact our collective efforts to eradicate this kind and all forms of violence from our city. In the face of these challenges we remain committed to finding real solutions and mobilizing our community to support those most affected by this public crisis. 

A little over a year has passed since Davon McNeal lost his life, and while the pain of this loss ensues, so does our hope for a brighter future. We hope you’ll join us in honoring his legacy and re-imaging our community as a place free from the painful binds of violence and trauma. 

For more information on The Community Foundation’s anti-violence initiatives and impact funds, visit https://www.thecommunityfoundation.org/grantmaking

Introducing Our New Advisory Board Members

The Greater Washington Community Foundation welcomes Anna Behnam, Christopher J. Martin, and Ana Morales to its Montgomery County Advisory Board, and Glenda Wilson to its Prince George’s County Advisory Board. 

These individuals join a diverse group of passionate and dedicated advisory board members. They, along with their colleagues, are responsible for advising The Community Foundation on the challenges and opportunities specific to their respective counties, and sharing their knowledge on issues of community leadership for greater impact.

Meet our Newest Montgomery County Advisory Board Members


Anna Behnam
Behnam & Associates

Anna has worked 22 years in the financial advisory business and is the managing director and active financial advisor with Behnam & Associates. Anna is an active member of The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce. She has co-chaired committees such as the Chamber’s annual gala, The Big Event and is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors. Anna is also a member of the Chamber’s Elite Forum Club. In addition to the BCC Chamber, she has served on the board of Coral Reef CPR and Dast2Dast.

Anna graduated from George Mason University with a B.S. in Accounting and a B.A. in Biology. She also has a Certificate in Financial Planning from Georgetown University. Anna lives in Bethesda with her husband, and two children. Her family puts great emphasis on charitable actions and giving back to the community. In her spare time, Anna enjoys photography, painting and reading.

Christopher J. Martin
C. J. Martin Law Group

Christopher J. Martin is a seasoned attorney, experienced in helping individuals, families and small business owners with their legacy planning needs. Chris works closely with his clients to create and implement plans to benefit their families and communities through various methods including both lifetime gifting and postmortem wealth transfers. In addition to his work with individual clients, Chris regularly speaks to both public and private organizations and has contributed to numerous publications including articles for the National Business Institute and The Business Monthly.

Formerly, Chris worked for a boutique estate planning firm in Montgomery County, Maryland, overseeing a variety of estate planning and probate matters and managed a solo estate planning practice. Chris also had the pleasure of serving as a law clerk for the Honorable Sheila R. Tillerson Adams, Chief Administrative Judge for the 7th Circuit of Maryland.

Chris earned his law degree from Howard University School of Law, and his undergraduate degree from Saint Louis University, from which he graduated magna cum laude and was on the Dean’s List.

Ana Morales
United Bank

Ana is Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Commercial Services at United Bank. Her Team is responsible for driving commercial deposit growth throughout United Bank’s footprint, which comprises of 223 offices across Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Ana has been in the financial industry for 22 years and has worked in various areas of banking, including International Banking, Private Banking, Retail Management and Treasury Sales.

Ana serves on the Board of Directors for NAMI-MC (National Alliance on Mental Illness – Montgomery County) and the Catholic Business Network of Montgomery County. She collaborates with Catholic Charities’ Financial Stability Network to organize financial literacy workshops in Spanish, and volunteers as a financial mentor. Ana previously served on the Board of Cornerstone Montgomery and Liberty’s Promise. She also served on the Business Engagement Committee for Imagination Stage.

Ana was born in Guatemala and moved to Montgomery County with her parents and 3 sisters when she was 9 years old. She lives in Kensington with her husband, daughter, and English Bulldog.

“Anna, Chris, and Ana share our commitment toward building thriving communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive,” says Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County at The Community Foundation. “We are thrilled they will bring their knowledge, creative thinking, and community leadership experience to the Advisory Board as we seek to help our community rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and build a stronger, more equitable Montgomery County for the future.”

Meet our Newest Prince George’s County Advisory Board Member

Glenda Moore Wilson
Vice President, LEARN Foundation

Ms. Glenda Moore Wilson has been in service to Prince George’s County for over three decades.  She was appointed Chief of Staff, in 2011, by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.  She guided and facilitated the implementation of the Baker Administration’s vision and mission in the core areas of economic development, public safety, education, and healthcare. Ms. Wilson was a pivotal team member in the development of the unprecedented Prince George’s and MGM Community Benefit Agreement associated with the $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor Casino Project.  

Previously, Ms. Wilson served as Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff during the administration of Wayne K. Curry, the County’s first African American elected County Executive. During that eight-year tenure, she played a critical role in Mr. Curry’s transformative accomplishments that turned Prince George’s County into a regional economic hub.  

Ms. Wilson is actively engaged in the county, but she has an unparalleled dedication to the LEARN Foundation, established during the Curry Administration as part of the Redskins Stadium project to relocate the team to Prince George’s County. The LEARN Foundation awards scholarships to youth in the stadium impact zone and grants to nonprofit organizations serving the impact area.

Ms. Wilson is a graduate of South Carolina State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She is the recipient of numerous awards and a member of Leadership Greater Washington.

“Glenda shares our deep commitment to improving the quality of life for Prince George’s County residents. Her work very much aligns with our goals to increase philanthropy and ensure equity and economic mobility,” says Amina Anderson, senior director for Prince George’s County at The Community Foundation. “We are grateful that she continues to serve the county in a myriad of ways and honored that she has chosen to work with The Community Foundation. We look forward to partnering with Glenda to ensure that each and every Prince Georgian has an opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

Summer 2021 Grant Round Now Open

As the region’s largest local funder, The Community Foundation is proud to partner with and support thousands of nonprofits working to make our communities more equitable, just, and thriving places to live and work. We are now accepting proposals for grant opportunities from the following funds at The Community Foundation:

Arts Forward Fund

Arts Forward Fund, a collaborative partnership between The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Community Foundation, and several other individual and institutional contributors, aims to support arts and culture organizations as they stabilize, adapt, and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fund’s focus is on community-based organizations with annual revenue of $3 million or less. Arts Forward Fund will prioritize organizations that are BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving. Typically grants will range from $5,000 to $25,000.

Friday, July 30

Webinar session I:
July 16 at 11 a.m.

Webinar session II:
July 20 at 11 a.m.

DIVAs Call for Ideas: Addressing Mental Health & Wellness through the Arts

The Donors InVesting in the Arts (DIVAs) Giving Circle is focused on providing Montgomery County youth with artistic experiences. The DIVAs would like to hear from arts-focused nonprofits as well as youth-focused organizations which provide highly engaging, top quality artistic programs promoting children’s mental health and well-being. All artistic mediums are welcome.

Friday, August 20 at 5 p.m.

Food for Montgomery: Resilience Building

Food for Montgomery is a public-private initiative created to address the alarming spike in food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This RFP is for nonprofit partners committed to building a more resilient, efficient, nimble, and equitable food security system across Montgomery County. Specifically, this Resilience Building grant opportunity will focus on helping partners pivot, collaborate, and/or innovate their food security work.

Grant awards for proposals benefiting a single organization will be capped at $75,000, while collaborative proposals will generally be considered for up to $150,000.

Tuesday, September 28 at 5 p.m.

Webinar session:
Monday, July 13 at 3 p.m.

Fund for Children, Youth, and Families

The Fund for Children, Youth, and Families invests in the betterment of underserved children, youth, and families across the Greater Washington region. This funding opportunity provides programmatic or general operating support for nonprofits offering housing services, permanency support, academic support, and early career development programs.

Grants of up to $100,000 are available. This will be a multi-year grant.

Tuesday, August 31 at 4 p.m.

Webinar session:
Monday, July 13 at 10:30 a.m.

Sharing Montgomery: Call for Ideas

This year, the Sharing Montgomery Fund will invest in organizations helping the people and areas within Montgomery County that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most grants will range from $5,000 to $10,000. A limited cohort of grantees will receive multi-year grant commitments.

Thursday, August 12 at 5 p.m.

Webinar session:
Wednesday, July 14 at 2 p.m.

Upcoming Grant Rounds

As a trusted steward of local charitable assets, The Community Foundation operates quarterly grant rounds for its competitive and discretionary funding opportunities. The next RFP open date will be October 2021*.

*Please note that dates are subject to change

‘The Sum of Us’ Is Within Our Reach: Reflections on Book Club Convening

By Ronnie Galvin, Managing Director, Community Investment

On June 25, a cross-racial, cross-sector, cross-jurisdictional group of 30 people representing different aspects of the Greater Washington Community Foundation family convened to discuss Heather McGhee’s Book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. This was the second meeting in a new Community Book Group experiment we launched at the beginning of this year to connect members of our community in more meaningful ways. As much as we desire to become more collectively informed as a result of reading important books together, we also intend to use the occasion to build a community of will that is aligned and ready to work on challenging issues affecting our region. 

Matters related to racial equity and the racial wealth gap are at the top of that list.

As we gathered together last Friday, people offered their reactions to the book and McGhee’s central argument: that racism has a cost that is accrued to all of us. She points out that the same system that stole land from indigenous peoples, that exploited Black people’s labor—and left us out of America’s capacity for producing prosperity—is now turning on the White working-class and middle-class. In a sense, “the chickens have come home to roost.”

Truth be told, it has always been this way. To this point, McGhee lifts up the history of drained public pools all across America (including in the North) as an example of the determination to avoid integration and to deny Black people’s access to public goods and opportunities for better health, wealth, education, and overall well-being. This practice, sanctioned by governments and underwritten by corporate power, signaled White people’s readiness to discard any public benefit that they had to share with Black people. Essentially this meant if White people couldn’t have the pool all to themselves, then nobody would have a pool.  

This posture, born of what McGhee calls the “zero-sum" paradigm, resulted in hundreds of closed pools around the country. Everyone’s quality of life was diminished as a result. This scorched earth pattern has played out well beyond the example of the drained pool. It is front and center in current day efforts that are intended to ensure more equitable public education, healthcare, housing, voting rights, employment, income, and wealth. 

A compelling through-line emerged from the perspectives of several Black book group attendees.  Each of them, in their own way, made it clear that the idea of racism costing all of us is yesterday’s news to most Black folks. They plainly articulated how they could no longer spend their energy educating White people about racism, nor invest their hopes in the possibility that White folks (as potential allies) might finally embrace this truth and move toward what McGhee calls the “solidarity dividend”—benefits that accrue to all of us if we were ever to believe that “we are all in this together.” 

There was also discussion about the durability and efficacy of multiracial coalitions as away to our collective salvation within our nation.  As we wrestled with the implications of this question, these same commentators expressed a level of suspicion and skepticism that many Black people have long held about multiracial coalitions and their ability to deliver the freedom and liberation that we have long struggled to achieve.

I hold this suspicion too—and at the same time, I am guardedly encouraged. The sentiment expressed by these Black commentators, could signal that the terms of engagement and what it means to be in solidarity with each other—perhaps in the context of the kind of multiracial coalitions that can produce equity, justice, and healing—are being redefined by the very people who have suffered the most in America’s racial caste system. The fact that this level of boldness and conviction found its way into an open forum that included nonprofit partners, philanthropic leaders, individual donors, and Community Foundation advisory board members, trustees, and staff could indicate that the “sum of us” contemplated by McGhee is within our reach.

At the end of our time together, I extended a soft invitation to the folks who convened with us. I asked them to consider joining us at the Greater Washington Community Foundation in an effort to design and establish the kind of truth, racial healing, and transformation effort that McGhee speaks about in her book. To be sure, the manner of transparency, deep listening, candor, and aspiration for something greater than we are already witnessing in our community book group could be the spark that just might catalyze such a game changing possibility for our region. 

Who’s with us? If you’d like to get involved, you can contact me at rgalvin@thecommunityfoundation.org.

Greater Washington Community Foundation Awards Over $330,000 in COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Grants

Ten Local Nonprofits Receiving Support to Address Vaccine Hesitancy, Mental Health, Food Access, and Reopening Schools

The Greater Washington Community Foundation is proud to announce an additional $337,000 in relief and recovery grants from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Since March 2020, The Community Foundation has raised and distributed more than $11 million for coordinated emergency response and recovery efforts. These rapid response grants have helped local nonprofits to expand critical services, ensure continuity of operations, transition to virtual service delivery, and counteract lost revenue due to closures or event cancellations. 

The Community Foundation established the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to lead a coordinated regional philanthropic response to the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Together with our peers in philanthropy, this effort focused on addressing urgent needs and reaching adversely affected communities, especially low-income households and communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis.

As we continue responding to urgent needs while fostering an equitable recovery, The Community Foundation’s new round of funding will make investments in 10 nonprofits working across four priority areas:

Supporting efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy and to open vaccination sites in impacted communities:

  • Family & Medical Counseling will receive $15,000 to support COVID-19 testing and vaccination targeting residents of DC and Prince George's County, especially those living in Ward 7 and 8 and in the southern areas of Prince George's County.

  • La Clinica del Pueblo will receive $15,000 to support COVID-19 testing and vaccination targeting majority Latinx communities in DC and Prince George's County.

  • Latin American Youth Center will receive $27,000 to support engagement and outreach efforts to disseminate information on combating spread of COVID-19 and testing and vaccination options to increase the vaccination rate among Black and Latino populations in the region.

  • Mary’s Center will receive $50,000 to replicate its mobile vaccine clinics, currently serving disproportionately impacted communities in DC, and expand into Montgomery County and Prince George’s County with a focus on hard-to-reach populations.

Addressing the mental health needs of frontline workers:

  • Wendt Center for Loss and Healing will receive $85,000 to provide emotional support sessions (workshops and process groups) for frontline professionals and social services nonprofits whose staff members have been deeply impacted by COVID-19.

Advancing efforts to increase food access:

  • DC Hunger Solutions and Maryland Hunger Solutions will receive $40,000 to deliver critical outreach to prospective and eligible SNAP participants, provide technical assistance on school meal programs, offer education and training, and advance advocacy campaigns to increase access to federal nutrition programs.

  • The Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition (MAFRAC) will receive $45,000 to extend its local food mini-grant program to resource BIPOC-led organizations with funds to purchase food through MAFRAC’s extended network of local food producers, including a number of Black-owned farms.

Ensuring an equitable and safe return to school:

  • Community Youth Advance will receive $25,000 to recruit, onboard, and train mentors for 25 students to work on a pathway for re-engagement in school, as part of a partnership with PGCPS and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) focused on re-engaging at-risk and chronically absent high school students.

  • DC Action for Children will receive $35,000 to support building strong partnerships between schools and Out of School Time programs to ensure an equitable and safe return to school and advocate for access to high quality learning opportunities beyond the school day that prepare DC’s youth for success in education, careers, and life.

“Due to the deep pre-existing inequities that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, we know that many communities in our region are still struggling—and will be for some time,” said Benton Murphy, Senior Adviser for Impact at the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “As our region’s crisis response leader, The Community Foundation and our partners will continue to respond to the critical needs of our community as we work towards building an equitable recovery and future for our region.”

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund was established on March 12, 2020 with support from nearly 1,500 foundations, corporations, and individuals/families. A list of the major partners and contributors to the Fund can be found here.

More than 1,600 nonprofits applied for a total of $60 million in grants – approximately six times the amount of funds raised to date. The Fund has provided support to 300 nonprofits providing food, shelter, educational supports, legal aid, and other vital services to our neighbors facing hardships due to COVID-19. Over half of all recipient organizations are led by people of color. A list of nonprofit partners can be found here.

Statement on Saving DC’s Rental Housing Market Strike Force

We are honored that our President and CEO, Tonia Wellons, was invited to participate in the Saving DC’s Rental Housing Market Strike Force convened by Mayor Bowser to develop balanced solutions to address the current rental housing crisis. We recognize the crisis that is facing our community and the need for an expedited process to identify a set of recommendations to resolve the immediate and urgent issues facing renters and landlords. 

While we support many of the short-term recommendations to prevent evictions and ensure tenants can remain stably housed, we are concerned that many of the recommendations also focus on longer term issues and address some of the most important tenant protections in the city like TOPA and rent control. We believe these recommendations can be used as a starting point for further conversation. However, we feel strongly that these matters deserve more deliberation from a diverse and varied group of stakeholders that includes substantial representation from renters, advocates, and those most affected by any proposed policy changes.

The pandemic and economic crisis have made it crystal clear that stable, affordable housing is the foundation of healthy communities. Now is the time to take bold action to alleviate the suffering and address the economic damage caused by the pandemic -- and to ensure that everyone has safe, stable housing they can afford. Part of that is prioritizing investments and policies to preserve and create PSH and 0-30 MFI housing, including public housing. It also means continuing to examine the systems that have created our current housing crisis. We are committed to being a part of the solution and look forward to continuing these conversations. 

Greater Washington Community Foundation Announces $1 Million Gift from MacKenzie Scott to Arts Forward Fund

Ten Local Funders Also Supporting New Funding Round in July

Author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has awarded $1 million to the Greater Washington Community Foundation to support Arts Forward Fund, an equity-focused funder collaborative formed in 2020 by local funders to help arts and culture organizations in the DC region to stabilize, adapt, and thrive through the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift to Arts Forward Fund is one of 289 grants totaling $2.7 billion that Scott announced through a June 15 blog post on Medium.

In her post announcing the gifts, Scott wrote:

“Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility . . . and improving mental health, so we evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook.”

The purpose of Arts Forward Fund is to provide resources to help arts and culture organizations continue their work despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and respond to the national movement for racial justice. Created with a lead gift from The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Arts Forward Fund awarded 43 grants totaling $1,048,500 in October 2020. More than 60 percent of these grants and grant funding went to organizations that are BIPOC-led and predominantly BIPOC-serving, with most grants supporting the shift to online and digital programming. 

Including Scott’s gift, more than 20 foundations and individual donors have contributed just under $3 million to Arts Forward Fund since 2020. Major supporters include the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Diane & Norman Bernstein Foundation, England Family Foundation, Philip L. Graham Fund, Harman Family Foundation, Linowitz Family Fund, Nancy Peery Marriott Foundation, Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation, and Weissberg Foundation. 

In March 2021, a follow-up survey of 2020 Arts Forward Fund applicants confirmed ongoing uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic and a return to in-person events and programs. Frequently cited challenges included increased costs and limited revenue for online and limited in-person programs, audience reluctance to return to venues, staff capacity to maintain virtual programs while simultaneously restarting in-person programs, and concerns about maintaining individual donor support.

To provide relief and recovery funds to help organizations address these issues, Arts Forward Fund will open the application for another round of funding on July 6. With Scott’s gift and commitments from local funders, Arts Forward Fund anticipates an additional $1.7 million to award in grants. For the 2021 grant round, Arts Forward Fund’s focus will be on providing general operating support funding for community-based organizations with annual revenue of $3 million or less. Arts Forward Fund will continue to prioritize organizations that are BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving. Details will be posted here.

“As a steadfast supporter of the arts community, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation is honored to be part of the collective effort to help our local cultural organizations recover and reopen,” says Calvin Cafritz, President and CEO of the Cafritz Foundation, which made a lead grant of $500,000 to establish Arts Forward Fund. “In its first round of grantmaking, the Fund received 227 applications totaling nearly $8 million, evidence of the enormous disruption the COVID-19 pandemic created in the sector. Arts Forward Fund, including MacKenzie Scott’s generous gift, is only part of the ongoing community commitment that will be needed to support our region’s arts and cultural organizations as they rebuild and thrive.”

“Arts and culture organizations are a critical economic engine for this region, and they contribute immeasurably to our sense of community and our well-being,” says Tonia Wellons, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “We are humbled by this recognition of the Arts Forward Fund’s efforts and proud to bring much needed relief to organizations in the region that enrich our communities and touch our lives.”

Juneteenth: The Gap Between The Promise and the Experience of Freedom

By Ronnie Galvin, Managing Director, Community Investment

Juneteenth, an African-American ‘high-holy day,’ marks the date (June 19, 1865) that enslaved African people in Galveston, Texas, learned of their emancipation from slavery. This was over 2 ½ years after the initial issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and its actual enactment on January 1, 1863.

You might ask (as I did when I first learned this history), why it took so long for Galveston’s African peoples to learn about their release from chattel slavery? Some have rationalized that Texas being the Union’s outermost slaveholding state is the reason why news of the proclamation arrived so late. Others ascribe to the belief that slaveholders in Galveston purposely withheld news of the Proclamation as a way to maintain their power, and to extend the exploitation of Black bodies. 

The first rationale here is perhaps plausible. The second rationale is most probable and likely.  

In preparation for our next DMV Community Book Group, I’ve been reading and contemplating Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. McGhee uses economics, history, and storytelling to make a point that some may know, yet others fully reject: that the persistence of racism that has undermined Black people’s aspirations and progress also has high costs for us all.

Connecting McGhee’s book to the history of Juneteenth and Lincoln’s Emancipation, I find myself reflecting on the gap between the promise of freedom, and the experience of freedom. She cites countless moments when a nation that proclaims to be “home of the free” actively reneges on the promise of freedom for Black people.

While the national narrative amplifies the idea that America is the greatest democracy the world has ever seen, electoral gerrymandering, police assaults on Black bodies and neighborhoods, and disparity gaps between white and Black people in the areas of income, debt accumulation, access to higher education, health, and wealth suggest otherwise. So much promise pronounced in anthems, speeches, and national myth, is only contradicted by so much pain, disappointment, and the feeling of betrayal that Black people continue to experience in this stolen land.

Even as I pen this piece, the United States Senate has unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. For some this is a cause of celebration. I cannot join them, however. Not while they actively block reparations legislation, fuel voter suppression efforts meant to discount Black voting power, bristle with the rise of critical race theory, and amplify “alternative facts” meant to sanitize America’s racist settler colonialist history. 

Symbolic pronouncements such as this, and the social-moral contradictions it reveals, are too much to ignore and can no longer be tolerated. To paraphrase the great Langston Hughes, this incongruity is yet another indication that the America that professes to be, “has never been America to me.” 

This nation will never reach the pinnacle of its potential as long as Black people continue to suffer this demise. As the country continues to grow in its awareness about the cost and loss that Black people have endured, McGhee gracefully (but poignantly) reminds us that this pain also accrues to the masses of Americans. In other words—we all lose as long as systemic racism prevails. 

It’s been nearly 160 years since the first Juneteenth, and our nation is still very much grappling with the origins of this milestone day. The way forward will require the kind of cross-racial, cross-class coalitions that have inspired the best moments in our democracy’s history. Moments that are once again taking their rise in current-day movements for better wages and income, healthcare for all, the generation and enjoyment of wealth, and repairing the damage we have done to the climate. To be sure, the threats to Black people—and all people—are significant and seemingly insurmountable, but they can be confronted and turned back in the face of the sum of us.

We are all in this together. We’re all we got. That’s more than enough.

How Intersectionality Fuels My Activism

By Nora Olagbaju (she/her/hers), LGBTQ+ Fellow

Growing up in a Nigerian home as a lesbian, I often had to grapple with my own identity. Knowing that it was unsafe to be myself on the land of my ancestors still is a painful reality that I have come to terms with. Fortunately, my parents are both activists who encouraged me, from a young age, to advocate for myself and my community.

As early as high school, I was active in the community, interviewing people all over the DC area at the intersections of many avenues of oppression. Many of the topics that came up included issues like violence against the LGBTQ+ community, mental health disparities, unemployment, housing inequality and homelessness—issues that align with many of the priorities at The Community Foundation.

More and more, I see how social issues like these are interconnected. For example, did you know that almost half of the youth experiencing homelessness in DC identify as LGBTQ+? According to Maggie Riden, who runs the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, many more are at risk of winding up on the streets, too.

This is a perfect example of intersectionality, which I define as the unique challenges or discrimination one can feel as it relates to overlapping aspects of their identity and position within society. Intersectionality is deeply intertwined with the LGBTQ+ work we do at The Community Foundation because understanding these intersections helps better shape our priorities and navigate next steps. 

As the LGBTQ+ Fellow at The Community Foundation, I’m thankful for the opportunity to help address some of these inequalities. Our recent work with direct cash transfer programs, which provide immediate financial aid to those in need, and budget advocacy, to help increase funding and support for organizations, will have a direct impact on a vast portion of the community that is often overlooked. It is our hope that by advocating for LGBTQ+-focused or serving organizations, we can empower them to fight discrimination, and address intersectional issues like homelessness.

Outside of The Community Foundation, as a Howard University student who has grown up in the DC area, I feel a need to make sure that students are providing support to DC advocacy  organizations. In my junior year, I joined the Coalition of Activist Students Celebrating the Acceptance of Diversity and Equality (CASCADE) as the deputy director of community service. Now, I serve on the Advancing Black Strategists Initiative advisory board, which aims to provide a network to amplify black strategists’ voices and power, while also providing leadership resources. My experience has been rewarding and healing, as I’ve been able to connect with like-minded people. 

My identity and lived experiences have made me an advocate both by necessity and passion. As a Black lesbian woman, I am more likely to experience violence, poverty, homelessness, and discrimination just for being who I am. I have seen the growth of my city while simultaneously seeing many of the people who have made a home here for generations being pushed out. I have seen the deep need for support of the LGBTQ+ youth in DC.

I’m excited to be working to help The Community Foundation emphasize intersectionality through its LGBTQ+-focused work. As we celebrate Pride Month, it is inspiring to see how far we’ve come--and it motivates me to continue to do the work that is needed. 


About Nora Olagbaju

Nora Olagbaju is the LGBTQ+ fellow at The Community Foundation. She is currently a Senior at Howard University where she is pursuing a degree in political science and African studies. Her lived experience as a Black and lesbian woman has driven her advocacy within her community.