Surprising Stats from VoicesDMV

As a community foundation, your perspectives – the voices of our community – are key to our work. We are committed to responding to our community’s needs through responsive grantmaking and by amplifying local voices in public and private sector conversations. To best speak in partnership with our community, we have to listen. We have 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.

About a year ago, the Greater Washington Community Foundation proudly announced the release of Voices of the Community: DC, Maryland, Virginia. Designed to amplify the voice of the people—those who live and work in our region—VoicesDMV included a survey of more than 3,000 of our regional neighbors as well as community conversations with hundreds of stakeholders across the region. This allowed The Community Foundation to hear directly from locals about the region’s strengths, challenges, and overall quality of life.

We saw this as a way to better understand the story of our region. We launched this initiative recognizing that although our region is data rich, few efforts systematically capture the voices, experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of people who live here, especially across jurisdictions.

VoicesDMV was envisioned as a north star for The Community Foundation – a way for us to ensure our grantmaking and community leadership efforts are aligned to the needs most strongly felt by our neighbors. We have also offered the data collected through this initiative as a public good, available to anyone seeking to do good in our region. And we made a commitment to revisit this survey every two years to keep our finger on the pulse of our region.

Our efforts have paid tremendous dividends. Through VoicesDMV we learned so much more about our region, especially our neighbors experiences in their communities and the role philanthropy can play in enhancing or improving those experiences.

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A community member speaks at a community conversation in Northern Virginia.

Photo by AOTA Creative Group.

VoicesDMV revealed that even as our region continues to prosper, deep disparities in income, education and opportunity persist and the gap continues to widen:

  • Nearly one in five residents has faced some form of housing or food insecurity in the past 12 months. That number increases to one in three people for our region’s black and Hispanic populations.

  • One in three people would not have enough savings to continue to live as they do today for more than two months if they lost current income sources.

  • The cost of living, especially renting or owning a home, was raised as one of the most challenging aspects of our region.

  • Nearly a third of Prince George’s County and Montgomery County respondents rated access to education and training as a “major” barrier to finding a job.

  • One in four people were discriminated against in the region in the past year, and the majority said it was because of their race or ethnicity.

VoicesDMV has influenced The Community Foundation at its very core. These findings drove the development of our new Building Thriving Communities framework, which underscores the importance of our continued focus on affordable housing in our region and led us to explore new opportunities to support entrepreneurship and prepare for the Future of Work.

And while we have put so much new work into practice as a result of VoicesDMV, our work to stay in touch with the community is not over. In the nearly two years since we initiated our first VoicesDMV survey, we have seen the birth of the #MeToo movement, new administrations taking the reins of power throughout our region, and Amazon deciding to set up shop.

With so much change happening, we are excited by the opportunity to circle back to the community for our second VoicesDMV survey, this time with a few new bells and whistles and plenty of opportunities to engage with us on the results. Stay tuned for more from The Community Foundation on ways that you can be engaged with VoicesDMV!

If you’d like to sign up for news and more information about our VoicesDMV initiative, please contact Benton Murphy at bmurphy@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.

Sincerely,

 
Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

 

Amazon HQ2 journey exposes region's challenges

In a new op-ed for the Washington Business Journal, Bruce McNamer and Sarah Rosen Wartell from Urban Institute discuss how racial and economic inequities that have long plagued our area could threaten our progress, and they offer 3 strategies to get the region on a path for inclusive growth.