Victories in Advocacy

What do paid sick leave in Maryland, limiting drinking water contamination in Virginia, and protecting housing for Chinese Americans in DC’s Chinatown all have in common? These are victories that were made possible by advocacy, led by our nonprofit partners.

Advocacy—activities that can influence public policy, including work connecting community members to other decision-makers—is a key tool we use to build thriving communities.

“Investing in advocacy is a critical part of creating real and lasting social change,” says Silvana Straw, Senior Community Investment Officer and Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation. “Advocacy efforts increase public awareness and public will, increase public and private funding, and strengthen public policy.”

One example of a recent victory is the work of Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), which we have helped fund. WIN’s campaign in DC’s Northwest One neighborhood engaging community residents and leaders in housing advocacy, led to a plan to build 518 units of affordable housing at 33 K Street NW, formerly Temple Courts. WIN and former tenants have been working with the developer to secure jobs commitments for former and current tenants.

Building on 30 years of experience, including advocacy which preserved $80 million of public funding for safety net services in the region, Straw’s current work focuses on housing and ending homelessness.

DCFPI is a key partner of the Way Home: the campaign to end chronic homelessness in Washington DC and helps organize major advocacy events led by the campaign.

DCFPI is a key partner of the Way Home: the campaign to end chronic homelessness in Washington DC and helps organize major advocacy events led by the campaign.

Straw also works with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI), a key partner in the fight for affordable housing and ending homelessness in DC. Their research revealed that in the past decade DC lost more than half of its affordable housing. Last year DCFPI laid out a blueprint for the investments needed to fully address DC’s housing needs. DCFPI’s research shows that extremely low-income families face the greatest need and supports advocacy for DC’s Local Rent Supplement Program, including a 2019 increase which was the largest in years.

Another victory is thanks to Housing Counseling Services (HCS). Their advocacy has helped tenants at Wah Luck House, mostly Chinese American seniors, keep their housing in DC’s Chinatown. They helped tenants exercise their Purchase Rights when their building went up for sale. Ultimately, tenants successfully negotiated a contract with the purchaser that preserves the HUD subsidy for 20 years and guaranteed an entire building upgrade.

Workforce development remains another key advocacy area for The Community Foundation. Benton Murphy, Senior Director, Community Investment, says,

“Over my years at The Community Foundation, my grants portfolio has included a large number of advocacy projects focused on things like encouraging transparency in our local and state government funding and budgets, advocating for better working conditions and rights for undocumented workers and day laborers, and helping more adults with literacy challenges receive better, more targeted education and job training supports.”

Last March, members of Job Opportunities Task Force spent the day in Annapolis, marching, advocating, and meeting with legislators to advance key issues, including colleges and universities removing the arrest/conviction question from applications.

Last March, members of Job Opportunities Task Force spent the day in Annapolis, marching, advocating, and meeting with legislators to advance key issues, including colleges and universities removing the arrest/conviction question from applications.

Some recent workforce victories include the passage of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. This act will require employers with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven days of paid sick days in one year thanks to work alongside Job Opportunities Task Force and Maryland Center on Economic Policy. Another victory with these groups was the passage of the Maryland Fair Access to Education Act that requires colleges and universities who do not use a third-party admissions application to remove the arrest/conviction question from the initial admissions application, ensuring more equitable access to education.

In DC, the DC Adult and Family Literacy Coalition led by a Steering Committee (Academy of Hope Public Charter School, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, DC Public Library, Literacy Volunteers & Advocates, So Others Might Eat, Southeast Ministry and YWCA National Capital Area) convened at the Community Foundation’s offices, successfully advocated for the District to provide free public transportation to adult learners. This is important because many students miss class and fail to complete their programs if they don't have bus or subway fare. The 2018 DC budget included $2 million so that adult learners can travel for free using public transportation to and from class

Advocacy remains a key practice for community foundations and nonprofits to make the region more equitable for all our neighbors, including our most vulnerable populations.

To read about advocacy in action, check out this blog post from the Potomac Riverkeeper Network about how they worked to ensure passage of a bill to properly dispose of more than 27 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash currently sitting in holding ponds, safeguarding Virginia residents at risk of toxic contamination from pond leakage.

Protecting Our Community from Unsafe Drinking Water

Guest Post by Emily Franc, Vice President of Development/Philanthropy, Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN)

The Greater Washington Community Foundation manages The Spring Creek Environmental and Preservation Fund, of which the Potomac Riverkeeper Network was a grantee in 2019, 2018 and 2016. The Spring Creek fund was created to support local nonprofit organizations with a demonstrated track record in successfully preserving, protecting or encouraging sustainable use of exceptional natural or built environments in the Greater Washington region, particularly those environments affecting low-income populations.


Possum Point is a sleepy rural community of families and military veterans who live a simple life along Quantico Creek and the Potomac River. Dan and Patty Marrow chose to raise their three children on Possum Point Road because they believed it was a safe, wholesome community. Little did they know that carcinogens had been leaching from toxic coal ash ponds owned by the nearby Dominion Power Plant through ground water, slowly poisoning their drinking wells.  Residents of Possum Point and other communities across Virginia were unaware of the dangers of living next to coal ash ponds.  

That is until newly hired Potomac Riverkeeper, Dean Naujoks, came on the scene in 2015, fresh from battling Duke Energy and its leaking ash ponds in North Carolina. Those lessons learned proved invaluable in the fight to bring polluters to justice and uphold regulations that protect human health and our drinking water supply.

We assume when we turn on our tap, clean water will come out.  The Clean Water Act legitimizes our right to clean water, but right here in the Washington, DC, region, our Riverkeepers uncover illegal pollution regularly.  Ensuring enforcement of Clean Water laws, Riverkeepers become the last line of defense, protecting our waterways on the public’s behalf.  

Photos from Possum Point, showing ash piles being bulldozed into Pond D. Photos by Alan Lehman, Potomac Riverkeeper Network.

What Dean uncovered at Possum Point was alarming – water containing heavy metals called seeps had been leaking from unlined ash ponds for decades into the creek.  Independent lab test results of private drinking wells around Possum Point, commissioned and paid for by Potomac Riverkeeper Network (PRKN), proved “untreated water from the wells at the properties addressed [on] Possum Point Road should not be used for potable purposes.” The wells were contaminated by a cocktail of carcinogenic metals linked to coal ash proving ground water contamination had moved off-site into residential drinking wells. 

“It is not easy to tell someone you believe their drinking wells are contaminated and unknowingly poisoning them,” said Naujoks, “but at the same time they have a right to know if their water is safe to drink!”

With growing momentum, PRKN hosted public forums attended by hundreds of people, engaged elected officials, and mobilized coalition partners and the public to join our “Move Your Ash” coal ash campaign. Property owners on Possum Point Road became outspoken after learning that their children had been exposed to unsafe well water for decades. Our coalition’s outreach committee generated over 1,000 calls, emails, and letters to elected officials in support of coal ash legislation.

In January of this year, the Virginia legislature passed a bill requiring at least 7 million of the 30 million tons of coal ash in the state to be recycled and the rest safely landfilled within 15 years! Without a Riverkeeper conducting investigations, informing the public, and pressuring state agencies to take action, these decades of unimpeded pollution would have continued.

This story is just one of dozens of toxic threats we investigate annually.  Taking the time to deeply investigate and understand the nature of threats to water quality, while locating the actual individual sources of pollution is critical to our approach, credibility, and success.

We are grateful for the support of the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s family of donors and the Spring Creek Environmental Fund for their stalwart support of our efforts.  Together, we took on Dominion and took back our right to clean water.

Potomac Riverkeeper Network works to protect the public’s right to clean water in our rivers and streams by stopping pollution to promote safe drinking water, protecting healthy river habitats, and enhancing public use and enjoyment. Learn more.

Farewell to Desiree Griffin-Moore

By Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

This week, we bid a sad farewell to Desiree Griffin-Moore, Executive Director of our local Prince George’s County office. Desiree has been tireless in her efforts, her outreach and her leadership at The Community Foundation for more than 20 years. As Executive Director in Prince George’s County, she has played a vital role in building community, strengthening the capacity of non-profits, engaging with the government and private sectors and raising money to support our work. Underlying all of her work as been her passionate commitment to social justice—a passion that has driven her entire career.

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Desiree arrived at The Community Foundation in 1998 with extensive experience working in the nonprofit sector to advance low-income and marginalized communities through roles with the Freddie Mac Foundation, the United Way of the National Capital Region, and the District of Columbia Department of Human Services. As Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County, she led the way in creating corporate relationships with, among others, the Peterson Companies, Walton Group, and MGM National Harbor.

In times of crisis, Desiree crafted solutions that worked to bring stability and security to our community. During the 2008 housing crisis, she worked with United Communities Against Poverty on foreclosure prevention efforts. And around the same time she helped launch the Neighbors in Need Fund. During her tenure she also initiated Sharing Prince George’s, a communal grant making program; the PGC Coalition for the Enrichment of After School Programs; the PGC Education Initiative Socratic Forum; and the Partnership for Prince George’s County, which raised over a million dollars to support capacity building for non-profits in the County. 

Photo of President and CEO Bruce McNamer, guest Terese Taylor, former Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George's County Desiree Griffin-Moore, and Chair of The Community Foundation's Prince George’s Advisory Board, Bill Shipp, at the Civic Leadership Awards in Prince George's County.

Photo of President and CEO Bruce McNamer, guest Terese Taylor, former Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George's County Desiree Griffin-Moore, and Chair of The Community Foundation's Prince George’s Advisory Board, Bill Shipp, at the Civic Leadership Awards in Prince George's County.

On a day-to-day basis, she was the face of the Foundation in the County, continually engaged with Foundation donors, and acted as our touchstone with literally hundreds of dedicated non-profits. In 2006, she and the Board of Advisors launched the Civic Leadership Awards, which to this day powerfully lift up the civic contributions made in different spheres by so many in building a thriving County.    

And there was more. As important and imaginative as her work has been, we who know her also respect and love her for how she has worked. She is a natural leader and a wonderful human being. Seemingly so comfortable as a speaker, listener, counselor, cheerleader, or friend, Desiree is able to inspire with her passion and her eloquence, to connect with her warmth and great sense of humor, and to lead with purpose, intellect and heart. She is special. We will miss her.


Sincerely,

Bruce McNamer
President & CEO

Promoting Civic Engagement through the Arts

The “DIVAs” may sound like the name of a band or a reality TV show. In fact, it’s a 14-year-old giving circle comprised of about a dozen Montgomery County women who pool their funds and invest in groups that provide life-changing arts experiences to disadvantaged and at-promise youth. “Donors InVesting in the Arts,” or “DIVAs,” is one of the many giving circles managed by the Greater Washington Community Foundation. 

Each year the group, which includes a number of artists and community leaders, focuses its grantmaking on how to use the arts to empower kids and youth. This year’s focus was using the arts to reflect on our democracy and promote civic engagement, “a topic that is always important and relevant, especially at this moment in time,” said DIVAs member Esther Newman, CEO Emeritus and Founder of Leadership Montgomery.

Anna Hargrave, executive director of The Community Foundation’s local office in Montgomery County, agrees:

“Residents of our region are hungry for ways to connect with causes and organizations that are meaningful to them and that have an impact,” she said. “By helping young people develop a voice and shape our democracy now and into the future, the DIVAs are making an investment in the leaders of tomorrow.” 

Newman credits Hargrave with introducing the group to arts organizations with a strong track record. “Anna’s experience and knowledge of Montgomery County-based organizations and her facilitation of our meetings has been invaluable,” said Newman. “With her help, we know our money is being wisely spent.” 

This year, the group made grants to two groups: Young Artists of America (YAA) at Strathmore for its “Hear the People Sing!” social media initiative and Gandhi Brigade, a youth media organization which uses multimedia as tools to promote community building, multicultural understanding and the common good.

YAA provides professional level music theatre training and performance opportunities to the region’s most talented middle and high school instrumentalists and vocalists, resulting in fully-orchestrated works of music-theatre in high-profile venues. As a follow up to last year’s popular performance of “Ragtime,” this spring, YAA will present “Les Misérables,” based on Victor Hugo’s book and featuring YAA’s 60-piece youth symphonic orchestra.

 

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Young Artists of America at Strathmore (YAA) and Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras (MCYO) present RAGTIME: In Concert on April 15, 2018 at the Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD.

Titled after one of the most rousing songs in the Les Mis score, YAA’s “Hear the People Sing!” initiative challenges students to make connections between the social challenges in Hugo’s time and those of today, such as class inequity and gender-based oppression. Performers, as well as invited student audience members from low- and moderate-income families, are encouraged to participate in social media journaling and post-rehearsal discussions to spark dialogue, extending and deepening the conversation to a larger audience.  

“We want to make it cool for students to talk about these topics with their peers and get further involved in local issues,” YAA Executive Director Lisa Larragoite said. “Our vision is to help every student ‘take the stage,’ and by that we mean both the literal stage and the stage of life. Specifically, we want students to see how art can help individuals begin to consider social issues they may not directly face but which are important to society at large.”

“To get a grant from such a well-respected group as the DIVAs allows us to work with students on a deeper level and validates our work,” Larragoite added. 

The DIVAs also made a grant to Gandhi Brigade Youth Media, a Silver Spring-based afterschool program that empowers young people to use multimedia tools to promote community building, multicultural understanding and the common good. The funding allows Gandhi Brigade to expand its free afterschool programs in which participants learn media skills, research and interview techniques and produce short films on timely topics. The program not only benefits participating students, but also the broader Montgomery County community by providing an outlet for youth to share their thoughts and perspectives with peers, neighbors and community leaders. Recent films have addressed such pressing issues as bullying, immigration reform, juvenile justice and police accountability. 

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Student filmmakers from the Gandhi Brigade Youth Media 2018 summer documentary program.

“Not only do young people need vehicles to talk about difficult issues, the larger community needs to hear what they have to say,” said Gandhi Brigade Executive Director Anna Danielson. 

The opening of Gandhi Brigade’s new studio later this year will allow the organization to have more of a public face. In turn, the new editing space and screening room will provide opportunities for students to share their work more broadly, through community screenings of their videos, original podcasts and intergenerational activities with seniors. “The grant from the DIVAs is a real vote of confidence in our civic engagement work,” Danielson said.  

To learn more about how The Community Foundation is enhancing community well-being by promoting philanthropy and civic engagement, supporting arts and culture, and advocating for equity, inclusion and justice, please contact Silvana Straw at sstraw@thecommunityfoundation.org.

MGM National Harbor: A Dedicated Philanthropic Partner

MGM National Harbor is well-known for its stunning views of the Potomac River and expansive resort, but it has also contributed to the local economy while working to make positive contributions that benefit its employees, its community and the environment. When it opened in late 2016 in National Harbor, Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan called the entertainment destination “one of the most important economic development projects in Maryland history.” 

From the beginning, MGM set out to enhance its community by making meaningful investments in workforce development, economic inclusion, and community engagement. Soon after signing a community benefits agreement with the County, MGM chose the Greater Washington Community Foundation to manage its grantmaking through the MGM National Harbor Community Fund. 

“We bring to the process a long history in the County, our knowledge of community needs and a commitment to being transparent throughout the grantmaking process,” said Desiree Griffin-Moore, executive director of The Community Foundation’s local office in Prince George’s County. “In turn, MGM adds value to the community as a responsible corporate partner who is actively engaged in multiple ways. Over time, our relationship has truly blossomed.”

For instance, MGM Resorts International Regional Vice President of Community Engagement Danielle White serves on The Community Foundation’s Advisory Board in Prince George’s County, MGM National Harbor has hosted The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County’s Civic Leadership Awards for several years and Community Foundation staff have been invited to brief MGM’s internal grants council on pressing community needs. “It’s a tight-knit relationship,” says White.

MGM National Harbor employees volunteer at local nonprofit Food & Friends.

MGM National Harbor employees volunteer at local nonprofit Food & Friends.

Nowhere is that more evident than the confidence MGM has placed in The Community Foundation’s management and distribution of $150,000 in annual grants through Sharing Prince George’s. This funding goes to effective nonprofit organizations addressing the economic security needs of county residents by providing education, workforce development and safety-net services. “The bottom line is The Community Foundation makes sure Prince George’s County is successful by identifying funding opportunities that provide a direct impact to the people,” said White.

“Through the course of time The Community Foundation has developed strong partnerships with local nonprofit organizations.” says White. “When they make a recommendation, it involves a rigorous review of large and small institutions that may be unfamiliar to us.” For instance, White was recently introduced to Nick’s Place, a 20-year old organization with a mission to assist young men in their journey through the disease of addiction and alcoholism. 

“We are seeing so many young men who are desperate to have a sober and safe community,” said Rhea McVicker, founder of Nick’s Place, named for her son, Nicholas Cristarella, whose life ended at age 22 as a result of the disease of addiction and alcoholism. “We don’t receive funding from the government, so any grant we receive is meaningful, but the $20,000 grant from Sharing Prince George’s is especially meaningful,” said McVicker. The funding will support the organization’s relapse prevention education and weeknight dinner program. 

In addition to Nick’s Place, the full list of 2018 Sharing Prince George’s grantees is available here. You can learn more about Sharing Prince George’s here

The Community Foundation has a long history of helping businesses establish and manage their philanthropic investments to create benefits for communities throughout the Greater Washington region. The DC Convention Center and Jack Cooke Kent Stadium (now FedEx Field) are among many examples over our 46-year history. If you are interested in learning more about our philanthropic advisory services for businesses, including the facilitation and execution of Community Benefit Agreements, please contact Desiree Griffin-Moore at dgriffin@thecommunityfoundation.org

Corporate Philanthropy that Unites Communities

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP is a New York-based law firm with offices in Washington, DC, Houston, Palo Alto and in the U.K. and Europe. About 15 years ago, Willkie’s DC office was looking for a way to give back to give back to the DC community that would complement the firm’s already-extensive pro bono efforts. Willkie’s goal was to enhance its impact on the community by concentrating its charitable giving on a key area of need in the DC region and harnessing the volunteer spirit of the entire office to serve a common cause, in a way that also would serve as a unifying force for the DC office.

In 2004, Willkie launched the Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP Greater DC Community Foundation as a component fund of the Greater Washington Community Foundation. The Willkie Foundation’s mission is to support educational and enrichment programs for underserved youth in the region.

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Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP attorneys and staff are actively engaged with Principal Grantees.

As the Willkie Foundation was launched, The Community Foundation provided an array of services to assist in the foundation’s organization and management. The Community Foundation’s professional staff helped Willkie develop its grantmaking program, including the strategy and identification of investment opportunities, facilitating meetings, and training on how to review proposals and make grants.

The partnership between Willkie and The Community Foundation led to a highly-customized foundation structure that is unique among law firms, but could provide a blueprint for other law firms and organizations looking to achieve similar goals. The key components of the Willkie Foundation model are:

  • Focused Mission: All efforts of the Willkie Foundation are directed toward organizations that provide educational and other enrichment programming for underserved youth in DC and neighboring jurisdictions.

  • Partnership Consensus: The Willkie Foundation’s mission statement was developed and endorsed by the Willkie DC partners and counsel, whose voluntary, individual contributions are the primary source of funding for the Foundation.

  • Office-Wide Advisory Committee: The Willkie Foundation is managed by a committee that includes partners, counsel, associates and staff across all practice groups.

  • Rotating Principal Grantees: Periodically, the Willkie Foundation selects an organization with which it partners, typically for a period of 5-6 years, making it the recipient of the majority of the Foundation’s annual giving, volunteer hours and other support.

  • Active Engagement with Grantees: Willkie attorneys and staff are actively engaged with grantees through events organized at Willkie DC for its grantees and through volunteer opportunities provided by grantee organizations.

  • Undirected (General Fund) Grants: The Willkie Foundation selects its grantee organizations carefully, but then allows the recipients of its grants to determine how best to use the awarded funds.

The Willkie Foundation awarded its first grants in 2005, and since then has awarded nearly $2.3 million in grants to about two dozen organizations providing educational enrichment and other related services to DC youth. Examples of the work of the Willkie Foundation include:

  • The Willkie Foundation’s first Principal Grantees, DC SCORES and Higher Achievement Program (HAP), received significant financial support that was instrumental in their growth and expansion. Along the way, Willkie attorneys and staff members participated in HAP’s mentoring program (a 26-week commitment), volunteered at their events, sat on their boards, organized school supply drives, and coordinated numerous activities for their students, including mock trials, shadow days and tours of Willkie’s offices.

  • The Willkie Foundation has provided over $100,000 in “rescue grants” to organizations finding themselves in unexpected or difficult situations, such as a $10,000 grant to Life Pieces to Masterpieces, to replace equipment lost due to vandalism of its facility, and $30,000 to DC Scores to cover an unexpected budget shortfall.

  • Willkie provided the lead gift in support of For Love of Children’s 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign, committing to a multi-year lead grant of $350,000. While FLOC was the Willkie Foundation’s Principal Grantee, Willkie lawyers and staff volunteered at FLOC, and Willkie organized events for FLOC’s students and volunteers at the firm, including a mock trial program, Scrabble and Uno tournaments, college fairs, resume reviews and mock interview and shadow days.

  • In 2017, a gift of $75,000 in seed funding from the Willkie Foundation enabled the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project to leverage a matching grant to fund its first-ever Social Worker. Having a full-time social worker has led to more collaboration with partner agencies, more children enrolled in early childhood programs, more parents learning skills to support their children, and more children getting their needs met in school and in the community.

  • The Willkie Foundation’s current principal grantee is Horton’s Kids. Aside from more than $200,000 in grants to date, Willkie has been an active participant in Horton’s Kids programming, including sending volunteers monthly to Horton Kids’ Homework Help sessions and participating in spring and end-of-year holiday celebrations and gift drives. And Willkie has hosted Horton’s Kids for resume and mock interview workshops, trivia night dinners and office tours.

As part of this continuing partnership, The Community Foundation shares its vast knowledge of and relationships with nonprofits across the region to help foster connections to organizations which share the Willkie Foundation’s charitable focus. This includes facilitating opportunities for Willkie employees to learn about the issues facing our region and the nonprofits who are working to address them.

“The Willkie Foundation has been so successful because it not only offers a vehicle to give back to the community by sharing our treasures, time and talent, but in the process brings together the entire Willkie DC community,” said Willkie partner Joseph G. Davis. “What excites people even more than the grantmaking is the fact that these groups and the youth they serve have become part of our extended Willkie family.”

Reflecting on the Legacy of Vicki Sant

All of us at the Greater Washington Community Foundation were deeply saddened to learn of Victoria (“Vicki”) Sant’s passing on Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Vicki was a long-standing champion of The Community Foundation’s ideals, having served as vice chair of the board, an emeritus board member, major donor, and President of the Summit Fund.

“The Community Foundation would not be the thriving organization and community leader that it is today if it wasn’t for Vicki Sant’s hands-on leadership and stewardship,” said Bruce McNamer, President and CEO of The Community Foundation. “Vicki was instrumental to our early growth and success, and The Summit Fund provided major financial support which enabled us to address community needs and to develop as a community leader.”

Vicki began an over 35-year relationship with The Community Foundation in the early 80s when she and her husband, Roger — the co-founder of a global power company — established The Summit Fund as a donor-advised fund at The Community Foundation. As a board member, she chaired The Community Foundation’s grants and programs committee and served on the Steering Committee for the Creative Communities Initiative, focused on creating a strong support system for artists in the region. Vicki was eventually named a board member emeritus, a position of honor she shared with the late R. Robert Linowes.

The Summit Fund of Washington, established by Roger and Vicki Sant, was the first supporting organization of The Community Foundation. Vicki was the co-founder and president from 1993 to 2015, focused on two specific causes of importance to her: restoring and protecting the Anacostia River and reducing teen pregnancy in the District of Columbia. Her other passions included international population issues, global environmental issues and the arts.

“Vicki embodied the true spirit of philanthropy.  She became a mentor of mine in the early 90s when I was a young program officer just starting out at The Community Foundation, and her love and guidance made such a huge difference in my life. Her impact came not just from her strategic mind but also from her enormous heart and emotional intelligence,” said Silvana Straw, Senior Community Investment Officer and Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation.

Vicki’s long history as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations also gave her a unique nonprofit -friendly perspective on philanthropy. She once shared that, “Knowing the complexity of running a nonprofit has helped me enormously as a donor and helped me experience the partnership donors and grantees share as they each work toward the same common goal.”

“Vicki was my great friend—kind, caring and funny.  Most of all we shared a total commitment to children both here and around the world.  She was always an inspiration and had the attitude that anything good was possible, and that attitude meant that good came to pass,” said Charito Kruvant, a Community Foundation donor and former board member, and Founder and Chairperson of the Board of Creative Associates International. 

Underlying her commitment was a belief that, in her eloquent words, “our community’s greatest assets are its citizens, and that their creativity, ideas and energy are essential to the resolution of the challenges facing our community.”

Year-End Giving Tips from Leslie Smith of Chevy Chase Trust

With the end of the year quickly approaching, professional advisor Leslie Smith hopes individuals, families and businesses recognize that expertly managed and cost-effective donor-advised funds offer numerous financial advantages. Leslie, Senior Managing Director with Chevy Chase Trust, notes that a fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation offers a special opportunity to learn about the issues facing the community and can support worthy causes, such as providing scholarships for students or helping to create a brighter future for vulnerable neighbors. There’s no better time to consider the financial benefits than in the last days of December.

Leslie has a long history with The Community Foundation—including as co-chair of The Foundation’s Professional Advisors Council and serving on The Community Foundation’s Advisory Board in Montgomery County and its Sharing Montgomery Grants Committee.

“I quickly went from having an academic understanding to comprehending the tremendous benefits of community foundations and donor-advised funds,” she says. “The bottom line is private foundations are not a very efficient option for most donors.” 

Leslie estimates that she and her colleagues have helped dozens, if not 100 or more clients set up donor-advised funds over the years. One client told Leslie that she wanted to focus on her own charitable giving after her husband passed away. A volunteer with the Literacy Council, the client was personally moved by stories of her immigrant neighbors who were determined to learn English while raising their families and working full-time, usually at low paid jobs. She wanted to find a way to help their children go to college. Leslie introduced her to Anna Hargrave, executive director of The Community Foundation’s local office for Montgomery County. Anna arranged a meeting with staff from the Literacy Council and Future Links, a nonprofit that provides academic support, internships and scholarships to underserved high school students. Fast forward four years: Leslie’s client has provided scholarships to three students, so far. 

“Every time we meet, she talks about those students and her terrific experience with The Community Foundation,” Leslie says. “Of course we also talk about her portfolio, but it’s her charitable giving and those scholarships that really make her light up.”

Leslie and her colleagues at Chevy Chase Trust not only refer clients to The Community Foundation, they also host learning events for clients on topics like hunger and poverty and roll up their sleeves and volunteer in the community. They are not alone. The Community Foundation partners with many corporations, professional advisors and financial institutions throughout the region who have demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing the community’s greatest challenges. 

Leslie recognizes that giving through The Community Foundation makes it possible to maximize the tax benefits and impact of philanthropy. As 2018 comes to a close, Leslie offers these five tips for end-of-the-year giving:

  • As you are considering your 2018 tax situation, you may find the cap of the deduction for state and local income tax as well as property taxes (a $10,000 deduction limit for all) results in higher than expected taxes, despite the reduction in federal rates. It may make sense to give more to charity, or to accelerate charitable giving into the current year.

  • Always consider gifting appreciated securities rather than cash, to avoid the capital gain on the securities. 

  • If you want to take advantage of the standard deduction rather than itemize, it could make sense to bunch charitable giving into alternate years so that one year you itemize and the next you use the standard deduction. 

  • If you don't want to make larger gifts to your usual charities in one year, a donor-advised fund can provide the mechanism to make a large deductible gift now, then take your time deciding how it will be used to benefit the community in the future.

  • If you are at least 70 1/2 years old, consider using your IRA to make a direct contribution to charity. You may give up to $100,000, which can include your Required Minimum Distribution. A donor-advised fund does not qualify for these donations, however, The Community Foundation offers other giving vehicles that allow you to take advantage of this type of gift.