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

Magnifying Our Power for Change

By Karla Bruce, Chief Equity Officer for Fairfax County

Nationally and locally, there has been a growing understanding of the role of federal, state, and local government in creating and maintaining inequity—specifically racial inequity—through policy and practice. While overtly discriminatory acts based on race are now illegal, the effects of policies from previous generations, often considered “race neutral,” that regulated features of communities, including who could live where and how wealth could be built, still linger. 

Reports from the Urban Institute, and the Northern Virginia Health Foundation have documented this variance in opportunity and vulnerability within Fairfax County and across the region. The Equitable Growth Profile, produced for Fairfax County by PolicyLink in 2015, established that people of color are driving Fairfax County’s population growth, and their ability to participate and thrive is central to the county’s continued economic success. 

Adopting an Equity Lens

Fairfax County, as a local government and a community of committed service providers, has exerted considerable effort and resources to meet the basic needs of our most vulnerable residents, yet our work has not produced improvements in life outcomes at the scale desired.  The efforts, while well-intended, have focused primarily on the delivery of programs and services to individuals and families, often missing the root causes of these differences in outcomes.  

Through an “equity lens” however, the focus is shifting from centering on addressing perceived "lack” in people, to tackling the situations and conditions that are driving the inequities people face.

One Fairfax

November 2020 marks three years since the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board adopted the One Fairfax Policy, committing the county government and Fairfax County Public Schools to intentionally consider equity when making policies and delivering programs and services.

We are now gaining a better understanding of how opportunity varies, depending on who you are and where you live in the county. Our Countywide Strategic Plan is connecting our jurisdiction’s success to our ability to address the structural barriers to opportunity that exist—and build the productive capacities of all neighborhoods and residents. The plan is grounded in the concepts of Targeted Universalism and building Communities of Opportunity, which abandon a one-size-fits-all policy formula, in favor of an approach that is more place and population focused. 

Ultimately, inequities must be challenged and dismantled through the collective action of government and all aspects of community. The transformative institutional work happening inside government is informed, enhanced, and emboldened by the outside work happening with residents, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, business, and philanthropy.

Inclusive Prosperity  

The cornerstone of Fairfax County’s approach to advancing equity is addressing the wide gaps in income, employment, entrepreneurship, and other wealth-building opportunities by race and geography. With the Greater Washington Workforce Collaborative (an initiative of the Greater Washington Community Foundation) and support from Capital One, we are working with an expanding group of stakeholders, representing county agencies and nonprofits, to align efforts and fill gaps through the formation of an Inclusive Prosperity Network.  

This network will align, leverage, and develop strategies to create an ecosystem that will support the full integration of people of color into the economy, putting more residents on the path toward reaching their full potential. Initially focused on the Richmond Highway Corridor, but with a goal of applying successes and lessons learned to other lower opportunity areas across the county, the Inclusive Prosperity Network is positioned to inform the county’s future economic growth. And now, in the context of COVID-19, the Network is also positioned to foster sustained economic prosperity in Fairfax County in the county’s equitable recovery.

I appreciate having The Greater Washington Workforce Collaborative as a partner in the work of becoming One Fairfax.  

When we come together as institutions, government and philanthropy, and live into our unique roles, we are able to magnify our power to disrupt the status quo and dismantle the deeply rooted inequities that plague us and hinder our community’s progress.  Working together, we can bolster connections to the region’s assets and resources and facilitate full participation in and contribution to the region’s economic and social vitality and readiness for the future.

About Karla Bruce

Karla Bruce - Headshot.jpg

Karla Bruce has over 20 years of local government management experience and is known as a driver of innovation in public service delivery, bridging the efforts of local government with the collective action of residents and broad networks of partners to strategically address issues facing vulnerable populations and neighborhoods.  Karla currently serves as the Chief Equity Officer for Fairfax County, Virginia where she successfully championed the adoption of the One Fairfax Racial and Social Equity Resolution and Policy and provides overall management of the One Fairfax strategic framework, advising and supporting the Board of Supervisors and Executive Leadership in shaping and directing policy and practice to foster equitable opportunity for all Fairfax County residents.

#MakeADifference Monday: Workforce Development

These past several months, while exceptionally challenging at times, have also been inspiring. We’ve seen our community come together to care for our neighbors in need, springing into action to support those most adversely affected by the pandemic.

Through our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, were able to invest $10 million to support low-wage workers who have been laid off, expand access to medical care, provide shelter and services to people experiencing homelessness, increase food access, and so much more. This would not be possible without our compassionate donors – a diverse group of individuals and businesses who helped us mobilize $10 million for coordinated relief and recovery efforts. Thank you for standing with us to make a difference.

You can read about our impact here – and, below, learn more about how our nonprofit partners helped create this impact. Their stories of kindness and courage are truly inspiring.


With funding received from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, CareerCatchers hired additional staff and part-time contractors so that the organization could expand its reach and serve more clients during the pandemic.

Notable milestones include:

  • Working with 355 clients to help them with upward mobility and stable employment

  • Increasing the number of clients participating in work skills and trainings programs by 200 percent

  • Helping more than 100 clients with unemployment insurance claims—through both one-on-one support and Zoom workshops

  • Acting as a processing agency for Montgomery County Government’s Emergency Assistance Relief Payment (EARP) program, providing immediate financial assistance to households not eligible for federal or state COVID-19 aid

CareerCatchers will continue to fulfill its critical mission—providing personalized and individualized career counseling for survivors of domestic violence, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, people with disabilities, returning citizens, youth aging out of foster care, and disconnected youth.

Future Harvest

Future Harvest advances agriculture that sustains farmers, communities, and the environment through mini-cash grants to farmer entrepreneurs who do not qualify for federal stimulus programs.

Future Harvest combined its Greater Washington Community Foundation grant funds with other sources to create the “Feed the Need” Fund, which awarded more than $60,000 to 22 small-to mid-sized, financially struggling family farm operations—14 of whom were BIPOC farmers.

One grant recipient, Owl’s Nest Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD, grows a diverse array of vegetables on 4 ½ acres of land. “Last year, we made a commitment to see how we can share our produce with people who otherwise couldn't afford it.” Each week, Owl’s Nest Farm provides CSA shares to families at the Richardson Dwellings public housing complex.

Funding from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund will allow Future Harvest to continue advancing agriculture that sustains farmers, communities, and the environment.

New Futures

New Futures supports under-resourced young people who are pursuing community college as the launching point to further education and rewarding careers—young people who also provide in some way for their families or are their household’s primary financial provider.

In the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, many were laid off suddenly from part- or full-time jobs in the most vulnerable industries of food service, hospitality and retail, among others.

New Futures established a Scholar Emergency Fund to play a role in preventing Scholars’ sudden, short-term financial disruptions from cascading to devastating challenges that impacted their ability to persist in and complete their credentials. This fund is saving lives and preventing financial disaster.

“My family is so happy because of this support. Please, let all the New Futures personnel know that we are so grateful with this unconditional love and support.”

People for Change Coalition

Small businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and pivoting business strategies has proven critical to staying afloat.

That’s why People for Change Coalition used its funding to create a COVID-19 Small Business Rescue (SBR) program—a program that ultimately helped 10 Prince George’s County small businesses and entrepreneurs develop a digital strategy to adjust to the new norms caused by Covid-19.

“Businesses were caught unexpectedly by Covid-19 and needed a rescue plan to keep their doors open, retain existing customers and clients, as well as secure new ones.”

The businesses who participated in SBR are using their new brand, look, and marketing materials to promote their business, get new clients and contracts, and increase their sales.

Forging Workforce Equity and Inclusive Prosperity during COVID-19

Dawnn Leary

Dawnn Leary

By Dawnn Leary, Senior Community Investment Officer

COVID-19 has disrupted how we work, play, and connect with one another. It has challenged both our view of work and how we value and support the individuals who make up our workforce, especially our frontline essential workers. The pandemic has worsened community members’ ability to find sustainable work, whether at former jobs or in new jobs, pushing more people into the informal and “gig” economy which will have implications for our region’s health and prosperity. 

In seven short months, our region’s unemployment rate has more than doubled, growing from 3.5% in February 2020, to today’s 8.5%. This has not been experienced evenly, however, as COVID-19 has alsoelevated long-standing, structural racial inequities for our black and brown neighbors. As stated in Policy Link and Burning Glass Technologies’ report Race, Risk and Workforce Equity in the Coronavirus Economy: 

“While the pain (of the pandemic) has been widespread, it has not been equally shared: workers of color and immigrant workers, especially women, are being hardest hit by the loss of jobs and income and are disproportionately employed in the lowest-wage, essential jobs that place them at risk of contracting the virus.”

 The challenges in the world of work are many and require multifaceted solutions, handled with patience, persistence, and intention. We need the leadership of residents with lived experiences working in partnership with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, grantmaking institutions, philanthropists and business owners to develop, test, and implement solutions.  

Investing in the Future of Work

In 2008, the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative was born as a philanthropic response to the Great Recession. For more than a decade, The Collaborative has pooled resources from individuals and institutions to support both innovative job training approaches, such as career pathways and sector partnerships, and critical advocacy and organizing efforts for quality legislation, centering on policies such as paid family leave. There was an early recognition that philanthropy needed to invest in more than just job training. We needed to invest in systems change—efforts that address the root causes, components and structures, which prevent our neighbors from realizing economic security and mobility. 

Now, in the face of the current economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, the Collaborative is exploring how we, as investors in systems change, engage in the fight for an equitable and comprehensive recovery and reconstruction in the world of work, in partnership with our black and brown workers. This moment is calling us to adapt again—to listen to new voices, learn about different approaches, cultivate new partnerships, and then invest in those new approaches and efforts. 

An Equitable Road Ahead

The Collaborative seeks to expand its investments this year and support efforts that center those with lived experience and engages them as leaders in both discussing our current challenges and creating and implementing the solutions.

“These voices (those with lived experience) are a critical missing piece of the puzzle, and listening to their perspectives should be a key part of unlocking solutions for the present and future of work.” -New America’s report Worker Voices: A Guide to Solutions

As a starting point, with a group of our partners, (DC Jobs with Justice, Many Languages One Voice, One DC, Restaurant Opportunities Center-DC and Movement Matters) the Collaborative is supporting a community participatory research action project that seeks to engage community about their work-related experiences since the beginning of COVID-19. Workers themselves will be engaged in developing the research questions, paid a living wage as researchers, and will help analyze the results of that research to develop solutions.   

In Fairfax County, the Collaborative has developed a new partnership with the Fairfax County government’s One Fairfax Office. We’re working with them to develop approaches, alongside residents, to help residents living in the route one corridor build assets that enable them to support their basic needs, invest in themselves and their families and contribute to a strong and growing economy.

Reconstruction will not be easy nor quick. It requires us to listen to new voices, learn about different approaches, cultivate new partnerships and invest in new efforts. The future of work depends on it. We hope you will join us in this fight.

DC Cares Program $5M Undocumented Workers Relief Package

Events DC, Washington DC's official convention and sports authority, finalized its programs for the $5M undocumented workers relief fund through the DC Cares Program.

The DC Cares Program will provide financial assistance to workers in the District of Columbia who have been excluded from federal stimulus efforts and are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This critical program is in partnership with the Executive Office of the Mayor and the Greater Washington Community Foundation. Both the DC Cares Program and the grant awardees were approved by Events DC's Board of Directors and represent an important component of the organization's commitment to building an ever-stronger city. 

"While we are known for our work in conventions and meetings, sports and entertainment, Events DC is deeply committed to the community and its residents, many of whom form the backbone of our restaurant and hospitality industry.  Supporting our undocumented community is personal —my grandfather came to this country when he was 13 with nothing. He was as an immigrant and couldn't get a job because of his last name and how he looked. He was hired in a hotel restaurant and began his journey in America. We owe it to our friends in the undocumented community to share in the success we have as a city. The success of our work and projects depend on the vibrancy of our city, thriving non-profits and cultural institutions.  The undocumented workers relief fund and the Cultural Institutions Grant Program will help serve our neighbors and make our diverse city stronger and more resilient," stated Max Brown, Chairman, Board of Directors, Events DC. "The relief fund distribution is a critical step forward in helping our city get back on track following the devastation of the pandemic. We also extend our congratulations to the organizations that have been awarded cultural institution grants, each of them is eminently deserving and a terrific example of what we can achieve together to enhance our world-class city." 

The DC Cares Program
The distribution for the $5 million undocumented workers relief funds will be managed through the Greater Washington Community Foundation with the purchase of pre-paid debit cards in the amount of $1,000 per card.  The Community Foundation will then disseminate the pre-paid debit cards to designated community-based organizations in collaboration with the Executive Office of the Mayor. The identified community-based organizations will issue the pre-paid debit cards to eligible undocumented workers determined by criteria set forth by the Mayor's Office. 

The Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity that manages hundreds of charitable giving funds on behalf of generous individuals, families, and businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. The community-based organization currently designated by the Mayor's Office to receive the pre-paid debit cards include the following:

  • Bread for the City

  • The Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)

  • CentroNía

  • Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)

  • Mary's Center

Events DC will continue to work with the Community Foundation to implement ongoing efforts surrounding the DC Cares program to provide future financial assistance to DC workers who by reason of their status do not have access to other COVID-19-related public relief programs.  The DC CARES program will be administered by the Community Foundation through its Greater Washington Workforce Collaborative, an initiative with the mission of enabling people to increase their skills, credentials, employment and wages with an emphasis on systems change that eliminates income gaps based on race, ethnicity and gender.

"A core part of Events DC's mission is to serve and give back to our communities which will help to continue to propel our city forward. The critical cultural grants program will help strengthen these important cultural institutions and empower new programming for generations to come while the undocumented workers relief fund will provide a vital lifeline to our neighbors in need," said Gregory A. O'Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC.  "Through the relief funds and the grant program, we are humbled by the opportunity to assist District residents and the extraordinary organizations performing vital work to educate and enhance the lives of Washingtonians and visitors. Together, we look forward to continuing to enrich our community."

“We are proud to partner with Events DC, the Executive Office of the Mayor, and our nonprofit partners to bring critical relief to workers who have been excluded from other forms of relief intended to help our most vulnerable neighbors during this difficult time. Immigrant communities are some of the hardest hit in this region by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. Our goal is to support disproportionately impacted communities, especially low-income and black and brown communities, by providing emergency cash assistance to cover basic needs for food, housing/shelter, medical care, and other services.”

The Starbucks Memorial Fund: Strengthening DC Communities through Nonprofit Partnerships

By Ryan Hudnall, Starbucks partner resources associate and The Starbucks Foundation grant ambassador

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts which provide an introspective look at the partnership between Starbucks and The Community Foundation which resulted in more than two decades of grant support to tackle the various issues that local communities face.

Recognizing the memorial fund and its grants in the Starbucks store on Wisconsin Avenue

Recognizing the memorial fund and its grants in the Starbucks store on Wisconsin Avenue

In December 1997, the Starbucks Memorial Fund (funded by Starbucks and The Starbucks Foundation) was created at The Community Foundation in response to the tragic killings of three Starbucks partners (employees) during an attempted robbery of their Georgetown store. The fund was created to help support nonprofit organizations who were working to help better communities in order to help mitigate issues of violence. It’s been more than 20 years but the memory of Mary Caitrin Mahoney, Aaron David Goodrich, and Emory Allen Evans continues to burn brightly in our hearts and in the Washington, DC community with the help of the fund created in their honor. Their store on Wisconsin Avenue continues to be a living tribute. Over two decades, the fund supported more than sixty nonprofits based in the Greater Washington region with more than $1.3 million in grant support.

Grants have supported a variety of local organizations, from those providing emergency services to survivors of domestic violence and child abuse, to organizations leading violence prevention programs through peer education and advocacy. In 2016, the focus of the Starbucks Memorial Fund shifted to supporting local organizations that create opportunities for underserved populations and that strengthen communities in Washington, DC, including supporting job training opportunities for Opportunity Youth, veterans, and refugees.

DC partners with Dog Tag Bakery, a memorial fund grantee

DC partners with Dog Tag Bakery, a memorial fund grantee


“Participating in the process to select beneficiaries of the Starbucks Memorial Fund allows our local store leaders to both learn about philanthropy and the local nonprofit landscape, as well as share their valuable perspectives and experiences from engaging with community both inside and outside our stores.” – Stephanie Jasek, Starbucks district manager and Washington, DC regional community lead

The grantees support causes that many local Starbucks partners are passionate about. Local Starbucks partners participated in the review of grants every year under the guidance of the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s philanthropic advisory services team to select organizations that serve the diverse needs of the city. Starbucks partners were also encouraged to invest in building relationships and volunteering their time to support programs led by the Starbucks Memorial Fund grantees.

Starbucks partners have shared their personal and professional experiences with Opportunity Youth participating in workforce readiness training and have served as mock interviewers and mentors. They have also prepared meals, served coffee at community events led by the grantees, and helped to raise awareness and other financial support for the organizations. Many of these relationships have lasted long beyond the term of the grant and continue to be valuable in strengthening Starbucks partner and customer connections to the Greater Washington community.

DC partners with Public Allies, a memorial fund grantee

DC partners with Public Allies, a memorial fund grantee


“Our partnership with the Greater Washington Community Foundation over the past 20 years has helped us identify and support local organizations that truly share our mission and values. With the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s deep insight into the nonprofit ecosystem and issues affecting the community, combined with our Starbucks partners’ commitment to creating community in our third place, we hope to both honor the memory of our partners and build a strong community in partnership with local DC nonprofits for years to come.” – Virginia Tenpenny, executive director, The Starbucks Foundation and vice president, Global Social Impact, Starbucks Corporation

DC partners with SOME, a memorial fund grantee

DC partners with SOME, a memorial fund grantee


Quarterly Community Update

Dear friends,

Happy new year! I want to take a moment to share how thankful I am for the generosity and continued partnership throughout 2019 and beyond. I am so proud of what we have accomplished together — here are just a few highlights from last year:

  • The Community Foundation joined with Mayor Bowser’s Interagency Council on Homelessness to launch the District’s first-of-its-kind public-private Partnership to End Homelessness.

  • The Children’s Opportunity Fund doubled its impact for a total of $1.2 million invested towards closing the opportunity gap for children and families in Montgomery County.

  • The Workforce Development Collaborative celebrated its 10th anniversary by updating its strategy to focus on eliminating inequities based on race, ethnicity, or gender and providing new career pathways and wealth-building opportunities for local workers.

  • The Resilience Fund mobilized community support for nonprofits providing emergency cash and food assistance to our neighbors during the partial Federal Government shutdown.

Last quarter (October-December 2019), our community of givers collectively awarded nearly $20.4 million in grants to organizations serving the most critical needs of our communities. With your support, The Community Foundation continued its critical work to Build Thriving Communities in the Greater Washington region by awarding new grants from:

  • The Resilience Fund to increase civic engagement, support advocacy on behalf of immigrants and asylum seekers, and expand outreach and services to marginalized communities;

  • The 2020 Count DMV In Census Project to ensure an equitable future for our region through a fair and accurate Census count by supporting education, outreach, and assistance focused on hard-to-count communities; and

  • The Partnership to End Homelessness in the form of “flex funding” to help nonprofits expedite housing placement and increase stabilization for single adults experiencing homelessness.

I hope to see you at our 2020 Celebration of Philanthropy on March 12, where we will recognize the collective effort of our region’s nonprofits, donors, and community leaders who work to make our communities stronger. We are excited to present the 2020 Civic Spirit Award to the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation at the Celebration. Sponsorship packages are available for individuals and businesses — please contact Emily Davis at edavis@thecommunityfoundation.org.

It is our generous donors who make this all possible! Together, we are building a more vibrant, equitable, and enriching community for all who call the Greater Washington region their home.



Tonia Wellons
Interim President and CEO

SOME CET Preparing Adult Learners for Careers in Healthcare


This post is part of a series highlighting the impact of our grantmaking through the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative. Launched in 2008, this coalition of funders aligns its investments in effective, data-driven workforce development efforts. Grantees are selected to receive funding and lead sector partnerships. So Others Might Eat Center for Employment Training (SOME CET) is one of three grantees from our most recent round of awards.

The SOME CET is a tuition-free adult workforce-training program that prepares adult learners for national, industry-recognized certifications for careers in healthcare and building trades like engineering, electrical, HVAC, and more. The program empowers people to move themselves out of homelessness and poverty and into living wage careers through hard and soft skills training, adult basic education, and career development.

Greater Washington Works selected SOME CET to lead a healthcare sector partnership that trains and places DC and Prince George’s County residents in Certified Medical Assistant and Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist occupations. The organization has partnered with the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation and employer partners including Abundant Health Chiropractic & Wellness Center, Providence Hospital, and Unity Health Care. “Because of this initiative, the number MD residents enrolling in SOME CET has increased by 172 percent between January and October of 2018, making them the fastest growing subpopulation of our students,” says Emily Price, SOME CET’s Chief Program Officer. “Moreover, the grant funds offered through GWW have allowed us to expand to meet this demand and initiate some best practices in the field of Adult Ed and Workforce Development.”


Charles Dozier is one of the most remarkable individuals we have worked with during this grant period. Mr. Dozier distinguished himself throughout the program with his professionalism, enthusiasm for the medical field, and drive for excellence and self-improvement.

Mr. Dozier maintained a 3.6 grade point average while excelling in his basic skills courses. As evidence of this, he attained an educational functioning level gain in reading (equivalent to 2 or more grade levels of primary school) and a point gain (equal to more than one grade level) in math. Mr. Dozier also successfully passed his National Healthcareer Association Certified Medical Administrative Assistant exam. During this time, he was also in the process of applying to Georgetown University and was accepted after completing their interview process.

Mr. Dozier served as an extern at Providence Hospital, one of our industry sector partners, and was hired on 4/9/2018. One of the benefits about this job that he found most appealing was that Providence offers tuition assistance, allowing him to continue his education. While he has delayed his enrollment to Georgetown due to both time and financial considerations, Mr. Dozier has registered at UDC and intends to begin prerequisites for a nursing degree this coming fall.

The Workforce Collaborative is a coalition of local workforce investors who share a common commitment to addressing poverty and income inequality by helping workers advance their skills and credentials so they can earn family-sustaining wages. Current Collaborative partners include The Community Foundation, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Consumer Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, the Moriah Fund, Northern Virginia Health Foundation, the Weiss Fagen Fund, the Marian Osterweis Fund, United Way of the National Capital Area, and the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

Greater Washington Works is a $1 million grantmaking initiative of the Collaborative designed to address local employer hiring challenges by meeting the talent needs of local IT and Healthcare employers. Greater Washington Works will support at least 250 local workers to launch living-wage careers in the IT and Healthcare sectors.

Preparing Our Region for the Future of Work

By Benton Murphy, Senior Director of Community Investment at The Community Foundation


As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, I am reminded of how The Collaborative was established at a time when our region was gripped by the Great Recession, with unemployment spiking to more than 7 percent and many of our neighbors unable to meet basic needs for food, shelter and healthcare. The Greater Washington Community Foundation helped mobilize and direct the local philanthropic response with major investments in homelessness, hunger, and education. The Collaborative was an opportunity to bring local philanthropists and businesses together to support both immediate and long-term solutions by investing in job training in fields from green construction to healthcare to help more of our neighbors get good, living wage jobs.

Ten years later, unemployment in our region is down (currently at 3.5 percent) and conditions have improved for many of our neighbors. Yet economic insecurity still remains a major challenge for many residents, especially people of color, and the Workforce Collaborative’s work is even more relevant today than when it was founded. Our recent VoicesDMV community engagement initiative surveyed more than 3,000 local residents on their experience in their communities and their overall quality of life. When asked what would happen if they lost their current sources of income, one in three people said they would not have enough money to continue to live as they do today for more than two months. This share rose to nearly half of people without a bachelor’s degree and more than half of people with household incomes below $50,000.

Our low unemployment rate masks deep issues of income inequality in our region. Black workers make just 47 percent of what whites make in Washington, DC alone, according to Census data. Since the Great Recession our local job market has become even more competitive, with a greater and greater share of job openings requiring some form of post-secondary education. Many jobs that once were the mainstay of the middle class—from bank tellers to librarians to cashiers at your local grocery store—are disappearing due to automation.

The impact on our workforce is clear—today average firms employ fewer workers and offer fewer opportunities for workers with no postsecondary education or training. The result is a widening gap between rich and poor that is keeping many un- or under-employed stagnating in low-wage work or struggling to meet the demands of multiple part-time positions. Yet access to job training programs is a challenge for many in our region, with nearly a third of Prince George’s County and Montgomery County  residents rating access to education and training as a “major” barrier to finding a job, according to VoicesDMV.

It is with this reality in mind that The Community Foundation has refreshed our workforce development strategy to orient toward the Future of Work. We will continue our work to eliminate income gaps, especially those based on race or ethnicity, but with a specific focus on connecting workers to quality job opportunities in the occupations of tomorrow to help them enter and advance in their careers, build skills, and increase wages. We will also make investments in small businesses and local entrepreneurs that make up an increasing share of our local economy.

Enter into this new economic reality the potential for Amazon HQ2, with an estimated 50,000 new high-paying jobs. HQ2 presents a tremendous opportunity to spur our region’s growth, but what will it do to our relative prosperity? A recent op-ed by our CEO Bruce McNamer and Sarah Rosen Wartell from Urban Institute pointed out how racial and economic inequities that have long plagued our region could prevent many residents from having equal access to these new jobs, modern housing and other amenities that growth brings. 

I interviewed some of our region’s workforce development system and policy leaders to hear their thoughts. Will these new jobs be offered to local residents rather than importing workers from across the country to fill these high-skill, high-wage jobs? Local leaders are hopeful that at least 50 percent of Amazon’s new workforce will be local, and yet they are also concerned that many in our region do not have the skills or experience to compete effectively against imported workers from other regions. Amazon’s recent partnership with Northern Virginia Community College— to provide a specialized Cloud Computing credential for its Amazon Web Services operation in Northern Virginia— has made local leaders hopeful that Amazon will think locally to meet its talent pipeline needs and provide opportunities for local residents to land fulfilling careers at Amazon.

As we consider the Future of Work in our region, we will look to continue to find ways to help employers—like Amazon—get connected to the right workers with the right skills. We will also work to examine closely how our region can offset the negative consequences that economic development on the scale that HQ2 can bring. From massive pressures to our transportation infrastructure, local schools, and, perhaps most worryingly, an increase in the upward pressure on housing prices and exacerbate our region’s existing housing affordability crisis, Amazon’s presence is a double-edged sword. The Community Foundation, through the Collaborative and our other Future of Work investments—can be a place where philanthropy can support efforts to ensure that all our region’s residents can benefit from the prosperity that Amazon may bring to the region.

If you’re interested in learning more about our focus on the future of work, I encourage you to take advantage of the following resources:


Investing in Root Cause Solutions to Addressing Poverty

The Green Clean Coop, photo courtesy of Impact Silver Spring

The Green Clean Coop, photo courtesy of Impact Silver Spring

Starting a business can be challenging under any circumstances, but especially when you are committed to doing it cooperatively. That was the challenge—and opportunity—when five Montgomery County residents came together under the auspices of the nonprofit IMPACT Silver Spring to start a worker-owned environmentally-friendly cleaning service. Cooperative members pooled their savings for start-up equipment and supplies while graphic design and marketing help were provided by connections made through the IMPACT network. The result: The Green Clean Cooperative.   

IMPACT also helped birth a financial lending cooperative, among other ventures. It’s an entrepreneurial model that attracted the attention of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and led to a grant from the Catalyst Fund. The new fund is focused on community-based efforts to support small business, mirco-enterprise development and entrepreneurship. In addition to IMPACT Silver Spring, grants ranging from $50,000 to $75,000 were awarded to CASA, Crossroads Community Food Network and Life Asset. Read more about these grants from the Catalyst Fund.

“The Catalyst Fund grants underscore the importance of investing in wealth-building and entrepreneurship and signal a need for more philanthropists and funders to invest in preparing workers for The Future of Work,” said Tonia Wellons, The Community Foundation’s Vice President of Community Investment. “The Community Foundation is making this one of the hallmarks of its strategy to disrupt poverty and build thriving communities across the Greater Washington region.”

According to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, the median net worth of business owners is almost 2.5 times higher than non-business owners. For people of color, the distinction is even greater. Just ask Amilcar Pena. As a worker-owner of the Green Clean Cooperative, he is taking home around $20 an hour, compared to the $10 to $12 he would earn working for a private company, he says.

“It’s heartening to see The Community Foundation investing in innovative strategies that go beyond managing symptoms to root cause solutions,” said IMPACT Silver Spring Executive Director Jayne Park. “While jobs can help people get out of poverty, they need assets to stay out of poverty.” 

The Catalyst Fund grew out of The Community Foundation’s long history of supporting job training and workforce development solutions, including through leading the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative for the last decade. It was created after an anonymous donor passed away in 2016, leaving a $6 million bequest for an endowed fund. His wish was to see the gift benefit the Greater Washington region—a place he called home for 50 years.

In his later years, the donor discussed with his financial advisor, Nicholas Durso of Sun Trust Bank, how best to create a lasting legacy. “He was a good man who wanted to help people who wanted to help themselves,” says Durso. The Community Foundation offered the perfect vehicle: a field of interest fund that allows donors to support organizations working within a specific geographic region toward a specific purpose.

“The Community Foundation offered the infrastructure and expertise and has been the perfect partner,” said Durso, who works closely with the staff. “In recommending grantees, they’ll say, ‘you knew the donor best, what are your thoughts?’ It’s a collaborative relationship.” The Catalyst Fund “is a reminder of what a great man he was,” says Durso of his client. 

The anonymous donor would undoubtedly be pleased to know that 10 months after the Green Clean Cooperative was launched, it already has 19 clients and is providing steady income for the worker-owners who share in profits and continue to put money back into the business every month.


Establishing a legacy fund with the Greater Washington Community Foundation is an excellent way to create a lasting impact. To learn more, please contact Vice President, Development and Senior Philanthropic Advisor, Rebecca Rothey at 202-263-4766 or rrothey@thecommunityfoundation.org.

A Framework for Building Thriving Communities

Dear friends and community members,

As a community foundation, having a finger on the pulse of our community is central to who we are and our ability to make a difference in the lives of those who call our region their home. Last year, in partnership with Urban Institute, we launched Voices of the Community: DC, MD, VA (VoicesDMV) to connect directly with the people and communities we serve and understand our neighbors’ experiences in their neighborhoods, jobs, schools, with local government, and with each other — and to identify the role philanthropy can play in enhancing or improving those experiences.

VoicesDMV revealed a region in which, while separated by income, education or geographic boundaries, all of us share similar hopes and dreams. We all want a better overall quality of life for ourselves and our families, including the opportunity to live in a safe and welcoming environment, obtain a quality education, earn a living wage, and build assets for a secure future. And yet, as prosperous as our region is, our survey found that deep disparities in income and opportunity persist and the gap continues to widen, preventing many of our neighbors, particularly people of color due to historical discrimination, from accessing the region’s economic growth and prosperity.

A decade ago, our Economic Security Framework was created as a direct response to the economic crisis and its impact on the region, with a focus on workforce development, safety-net services, and education. But the nature of today’s challenges requires a different approach, one that goes deeper toward addressing systemic issues to improve the economic and social well-being of people and communities who have long been marginalized, particularly communities of color. While economic security will remain part of our work going forward, we have taken this opportunity to refresh our focus areas to fully capture the range of efforts that are critical to building thriving communities. Our new Building Thriving Communities Framework will broaden our work with donors and partners across the region to disrupt poverty, deepen human connection, and prepare for the future of work.

With this refresh, we seek to deepen and expand existing work by leveraging new tools, prioritizing strategic partnerships across sectors, and developing innovative approaches to addressing the region’s most pressing challenges. This includes a new partnership with the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness to launch a broader public-private partnership that will build off the District’s plans to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring by making critical investments to accelerate our community’s response.

We are also deliberately centering racial equity and community voice in our community leadership efforts and in our grantmaking. For example, as our Workforce Development Collaborative celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the focus will remain on supporting programs and policies which help workers advance their skills and credentials, but with a special emphasis on eliminating inequities based on race, ethnicity or gender and providing new career pathways and wealth-building opportunities.

We hope you see a connection between our Building Thriving Communities Framework and your own charitable giving plans. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss how The Community Foundation can support your broader interests. You can also make an unrestricted gift to the Fund for Greater Washington to support our ongoing community change work across the region. Your continued partnership and support are crucial as we seek to build thriving communities today and for generations to come.


Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment


An EPIC Expansion: Byte Back Offers First Certification Classes Outside of DC

This post is part of a series highlighting the impact of our grantmaking through the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative. Launched in 2008, this coalition of funders aligns its investments in effective, data-driven workforce development efforts. Grantees are selected to receive funding and lead sector partnerships. Byte Back is one of three grantees from our most recent round of awards.

Byte Back Training Manager Ellen Bredt speaks to prospective EPIC students in August 2017.

Byte Back Training Manager Ellen Bredt speaks to prospective EPIC students in August 2017.

Unemployment in the District of Columbia ranges from ward to ward, with the highest being in the city’s lowest income neighborhoods. Byte Back, a DC-based nonprofit organization, was founded in 1997 to help open doors to living wage jobs for low-income residents through IT training. To date, thousands of economically disadvantaged students in Washington, DC and neighboring Prince George’s County have been served, acquiring marketable skills and obtaining meaningful employment.

In early 2017, Byte Back received a grant from The Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Works initiative.  The organization was selected to lead an IT sector partnership to train and place DC and Prince George’s County residents for Computer User Support Specialist occupations. In the fall of 2017, Byte Back launched the Education Partnership for IT Careers (EPIC) program with the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation. This program made way for expansion into Prince George’s County, marking the first time the organization offered certification courses outside of the District. Their employer partners include: ANGARAI, PC Metro, OCTO; International Software Systems, Inc., NucoreVision, SAGE Services Group, Soft-Con Enterprises, Inc., and SSAI Science Systems and Applications, Inc.   

The program has paved opportunities for active employer partners to connect directly with participants and help them launch careers in IT. One such example is Ms. Kristina Francis of EsteemLogic, an IT consulting and training firm. Ms. Francis is an active participant in EPIC’s strategic meetings and contributes to developing participants’ careers. Three EPIC participants will be referred through EsteemLogic’s apprenticeship program, which helps develop soft skills and ensure placement in careers that use their newly acquired tech skills. Participants also receive access to professional development, mentorship, and internships. Click here to learn more about EPIC and its impact.

Greater Washington Works is a signature grantmaking initiative of the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, a coalition of local workforce investors who share a common commitment to addressing poverty and income inequality by helping workers advance their skills and credentials so they can earn family-sustaining wages. Greater Washington Works is a $1 million grantmaking initiative of the Collaborative designed to address local employer hiring challenges by meeting the talent needs of local IT and Healthcare employers. Greater Washington Works will support at least 250 local workers to launch living-wage careers in the IT and Healthcare sectors.

In 2018, the Collaborative celebrates its 10th anniversary. To learn more and get involved, visit http://www.gwwdc.org.

New Investments in Job Training to Benefit More than 100 District Residents

The Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, an initiative of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, today announced new investments in five local community-based organizations designed to help DC residents get the skills and training they need to gain employment. The funded programs will offer training in a host of industries including hospitality, IT, healthcare, education, and the construction trades.

These investments are the result of a philanthropic partnership between the Workforce Collaborative and the developers of a new mixed-use property at 965 Florida Avenue NW in the District, a joint venture between MRP Realty, JBG Smith, and Ellis Development. As a part of the Planned Unit Development for this 10-story mixed use project, the developers have worked in partnership with The Community Foundation to establish the 965 Florida Avenue NW Job Training Grant Program, administered by the Workforce Collaborative.

The Workforce Collaborative is a partnership comprised of local foundations, philanthropists, and business. Its investments help workers acquire the skills and credentials they need to launch successful, family-sustaining careers, and help businesses attract, retain, and advance the skilled workforce they need to provide critical services to our community and remain globally competitive.

All five funded projects were asked to propose work that will specifically focus on residents living within one mile of the 965 Florida Avenue NW development.

The 965 Florida Avenue project will help prepare local residents with the workplace skills and training they need…" said MRP Realty Vice President for Development Michael Skena, "…it is this type of public-private partnership between business, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector that will provide high quality career opportunities for residents in our neighborhood."

Partnering Together for Community Benefit

The developers worked alongside The Community Foundation and the Workforce Collaborative to develop a targeted grantmaking approach to ensure residents have access to a wide-range of services and opportunities to learn new skills and launch living-wage careers in industry sectors primed for growth. The Community Foundation developed its Request for Proposals and vetted applications from local training providers in lockstep with representatives of ANC 1B, the ANC in which the 965 Florida Avenue NW development sits.

“The process that The Community Foundation developed was inclusive and took into consideration the needs of our local community,” noted James A. Turner, Chairman of ANC1B. “We are thrilled to have been able to help drive the process that has yielded grants to these five great local nonprofits.”

Funded partnerships include:

Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School will serve 25 residents of the target area through their integrated Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education and Career Pathways program. Their goal is to help each adult learner attain a high school credential and enter post-secondary workforce training or higher education. Academy of Hope focuses its efforts in the area of hospitality, healthcare and IT careers for adult literacy learners.

Community Services Agency of Metro Council AFL_CIO will provide construction pre-apprenticeship training, case management and job placement services to 20 low-income residents of the target geographic area to be served.

Literacy Lab will build capacity to recruit ten young men of color from DC public high schools in Ward 1 to participate in the Leading Men Fellowship, a program to increase workforce readiness by engaging young men of color in careers in early childhood education.

Literacy Volunteers and Advocates will create a program for 30 adults with an interest in obtaining a job in the technology field who need to improve their basic skills in order to become employment ready. The development of the AT Work! (Adults, Trained and Working) program will focus on integrating adult basic literacy skills with Information Technology skills, with a specific focus on preparing these adults for entry level administrative or help desk positions.

New Futures will provide comprehensive services to 15 low-income, first generation young adults pursuing degrees in IT and healthcare, including scholarships, post-secondary persistence and completion support, and career planning, skill-building, and preparation programs—all in service of launching high-growth careers that lead to financial stability.

A Win for Workers, Employers, and Our Community

Greater Washington is home to hundreds of thousands of working age adults who lack a post-secondary credential, most of whom currently work in front-line or entry-level jobs in every sector. Despite our region’s return to historically low unemployment rates, stubborn pockets of un- and under-employment persist. Initiatives like the 965 Florida Avenue Job Training Grant Program will target investments to those who need assistance most.

The Workforce Collaborative has a long history of supporting job training grantmaking as a component of community benefit agreements for clients including Hines, Walmart, and Trammel Crow.

“Supporting local business and employers to meet their philanthropic goals is core to our mission at the Greater Washington Community Foundation,” notes Benton Murphy, Senior Director of Community Investment at The Community Foundation. “We are proud to partner with ANC 1B, MRP Realty, JBG Smith, and Ellis Development on this project that will directly impact the lives of local residents.”

More information on the Workforce Collaborative is available online at www.gwwdc.org.