On the 17th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we honor and remember the innocent people who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks carried out on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We mark this tragedy by finding hope in the response of our community which came together to help victims and their families during a time of immense devastation and loss. Following the attack on the Pentagon—which claimed the lives of 184 innocent people and directly affected thousands of other individuals and families—the Survivors’ Fund was established at The Community Foundation to direct the charitable response and caring spirit of some 12,000 donors, including families who sponsored lemonade stands and bake sales to major corporations and foundations contributing millions of dollars. Their generosity and care amounted to a $25 million fund, the largest dedicated solely to the Pentagon attack, which aided 1,051 victims and their families by providing access to both financial support and case management services needed to achieve long-term financial and emotional stability. Donors’ contributions, compassion and hope helped to sustain the Fund and, in turn, survivors of that terrible day, for nearly seven years (from 2001-2008). As our country reflects on these tragic events, we find inspiration from the stories of the individuals and families helped by the Fund and the generous contributions of our community. You can read more about the Fund and the people it served in a final report to the community released in 2008.
What if you could visit a nonprofit, talk with key staff, and get a behind the scenes tour before deciding to give? What if you could get together with like-minded individuals to share your observations and learn about important issues facing Washingtonians every day? Sharing DC, an initiative of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, provides an opportunity to do just that. It allows donors and stakeholders alike to experience philanthropy in a visceral and meaningful way.
Meeting in early spring, the Sharing DC Committee gathers to learn about pressing community issues in the District. A lively discussion among members is facilitated by The Community Foundation’s dedicated Community Investment team, and a decision is made about which issue to focus on for the year.
This year, the Committee’s focus area is homelessness prevention and intervention. Our goal is to help single adults, families and youth exit homelessness and move to permanent housing by providing funds to help them meet key needs and address barriers to homelessness.
Starting in late September, Committee Members will travel across Washington, DC to visit nine amazing organizations that have been selected to apply for funding. The Committee will meet one last time, in early December, to share feedback and learnings and collectively make funding decisions.
The Sharing DC process helps answer our most fundamental questions about philanthropy: what are the most pressing issues in the District, what questions should I be asking of an organization I’d like to support, how can I ensure that my grant will have a meaningful impact? These are some of the questions we explore through Sharing DC’s hands-on, collaborative and donor-centered approach. This is the perfect opportunity for anyone who may wonder if they are making wise investments to immerse themselves in a grant review process.
Sharing DC is a remarkable program. Just ask the many participants who join us each year on visits to some of DC’s most promising programs, or read about one of our grantee organizations and its mission to provide DC youth with technology-driven education, information and skill development for sustained futures. This is but one example of The Community Foundation’s efforts to encourage philanthropy in our region and to bring people together. Collectively, we’re making a real difference in the lives of our neighbors and communities.
To join us for one or more visits, please contact Gisela Shanfeld.
Rob and Sheri Rosenfeld opened a donor-advised fund at The Community Foundation in December 2007. A native Washingtonian, Rob is a real estate developer and investor who was previously a Managing Partner of JBG Rosenfeld Retail. Sheri is a native of Chicago who has lived in the Washington area for nearly 30 years. She is a psychotherapist and was in private practice. Over the years, the Rosenfelds have donated their time serving on nonprofit boards and contributing to causes near and dear to their family, such as the arts and cancer research. However, they decided to expand their approach to philanthropy when they heard about The Community Foundation’s Resilience Fund. The Fund was created in March 2017 to support the critical needs of nonprofits working on behalf of vulnerable communities affected by changes in federal policies. Rob and Sheri recently spoke about their experience serving on the Fund’s steering committee.
What drew you to the Resilience Fund?
When we learned about the Fund, it felt like an “aha” moment. We both had been searching for what one person or what one couple could do to speak to the troubling direction that this new administration was taking. Rather than moaning and groaning about changing policies, we wanted to take action. The Resilience Fund spoke to us.
What inspired you to join the steering committee?
We took great comfort in knowing that both The Community Foundation and Meyer Foundation were involved in creating the Fund. We recognized the value of the two foundations, along with other foundations and individuals, joining forces to have a greater impact. While we were prepared to make a significant financial contribution, we wanted to do more than just write a check. We saw this as a significant time in our country, in terms of the political and social climate. If we were going to make a material commitment of our time and resources during our lifetime, it felt like this was one of those times.
How do you feel about the committee’s decision to focus on immigration, deportation policies, the rise of intolerance and the adverse impact of the federal budget on our region?
Some may see these issues – especially immigration – through a partisan lens. We see them through a humanitarian and economic lens. In fact there are people on both sides of the aisle who see the merits of a robust immigration system. Having friends and colleagues from many different backgrounds, we feel that ALL people deserve the same rights and freedoms, including due process. We feel this in our bones and in our hearts. It’s heartbreaking to watch so much social and economic progress be rolled back. The Resilience Fund is ensuring that our neighborhoods “remain resilient, thriving, and more equitable and inclusive places to live despite policy shifts and ‘anti-other’ sentiments.”
How does the steering committee make its decisions?
The committee has conference calls or meetings at least once a month. We ask critical questions about potential grantees: Is the organization strong enough? Will this funding make a difference? Is this an urgent need? There are so many groups doing good work. It’s our job to determine which organizations will have the greatest impact. For instance, in September, we made an emergency rapid response grant of $25,000 to support Ayuda. That is exactly what this fund is intended for. At the time, Ayuda was addressing the urgent need for emergency clinics to prepare and file Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal applications in DC, Northern Virginia and Maryland before the filing deadline. Our rapid response funding also provided legal services and consultations to advise DACA recipients about avenues of relief available to them.
Would you recommend this Fund to friends?
Absolutely. For the past year, we’ve been raising money from our friends and colleagues – and we aren’t done yet. Our goal is to raise support from friends toward the Fund’s ultimate goal of $1 million. In every administration there’s going to be a rollback of something. But this time, things are happening so fast and with such a large sweeping hand. Together, we hope to soften the blow from these shifting policies.