Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Across large swaths of the District, the signs of prosperity are hard to miss these days. If there’s not a new luxury condo project being built down the block from your house, there’s a high-end supermarket opening up nearby—or both. The city and its region are thriving, especially compared to other places in the country; you don’t have to buy into the overhyped “boomtown!” stories in the national press to realize a lot of your neighbors had it pretty good in 2013.
But a lot of your neighbors didn’t. The booming real estate market that’s dotted the District with cranes is also making an already expensive city even pricier. All that growth is largely concentrated in Northwest, anyway. And the number of applications for relatively low-wage jobs at the new Walmarts opening next week—enough to make it more competitive to get hired there than to get into Harvard—shows that for all the lucrative government contracting gigs around town, there’s still plenty of demand for a paycheck, period.
Thanksgiving, of course, is the perfect week to contemplate these dichotomies: a whole weekend devoted to gorging yourself on seasonal bounty! (Unless, that is, you work for one of the growing number of big retailers that canceled the holiday and called in employees to help sell heavily discounted stuff.) For the third year in a row, Washington City Paper has partnered with the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington to present a guide to local charities. The Catalogue has helped raise more than $21 million for area nonprofits in the decade since it was founded, vetting and reviewing applications from about 250 different groups each year to pull together a list of 70 based on how creative, effective, and efficient they are. Each of the chosen has a budget of less than $3 million. “The Catalogue provides a roadmap for local giving right here in our community,” says Barbara Harman, its president. “We feature ‘smaller’ nonprofits where a contribution will have an immediate impact. And we thoroughly vet each charity so readers can trust that their hard-earned dollars will really make a difference in people’s lives.” Giving to charities doesn’t have to be the domain of the uber-wealthy, either; you’ll find suggestions for what as little as $10 can do to help out, as well as organizations that are looking for donations of time.
So flip through this list and peruse the Catalogue’s full write-ups from this year and others at cfp-dc.org—and give it up, D.C.—Mike Madden
2013 Giving Guide
A 225-acre facility that includes a spring-fed stream, hiking trails, plant and animal identification areas, camping sites, an animal lab, and an observatory, the Arlington Outdoor Education Association’s Outdoor Lab annually brings 9,000 Arlington children face-to-face with the extraordinary natural world.
Earth Sangha (from the Buddhist term for “community”) maintains a wild plant nursery with more than 250 native species; supplies native plants to school gardens; protects tropical forests on 40 farms in Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic; and restores stream-buffers, forests, and meadows around the D.C. region.
At 10 producer-only farmers markets around the area, residents can buy local food directly from 150 small-family farmers and artisanal food producers from the Chesapeake Bay area, bringing the wealth of 10,000 farmland acres into the heart of D.C.
A regional leader in safeguarding the river and its tributaries, Potomac Conservancy is providing effective, long-term conservation solutions and building an active base of local river advocates—and protecting the home of more than 200 rare species and natural communities.
Few theaters in the region provide challenging arts opportunities for adults with disabilities; fewer still encourage those adults to be artists as well as audience members. ArtStream helps build confidence in—and understanding of—its performers.
In downtown Silver Spring, CREATE offers ceramics, painting, sculpture, cartooning, and visual arts classes to children, adults, and families. Its smARTkids program delivers free after-school programs and creative outlets to students in need.
Critical Exposure empowers underserved D.C. youth through photography, writing, and advocacy. Students learn the fundamentals of photography and put their training to work, documenting the issues that matter most to them. First capture your world, then change it.
D.C. Creative Writing Workshop believes that students can persevere and flourish through the power of the written word. Professional writers-in-residence, after-school classes, literary magazines, and performances reach 500 aspiring writers in Congress Heights each year.
Open 350 days a year for classes, rehearsals, performances, and arts education, Joe’s Movement Emporium is a hub of cultural and community activity. The largest independent performing arts center in Prince George’s County, Joe’s keeps at-risk kids learning, moving, and creating.
Dance is for everyone! That’s the rallying cry of Joy of Motion Dance Center. Reaching 60,000 individuals a year through classes, concerts, companies, and outreach, JOMDC creates communities that dance—and ensures that dance’s benefits and pleasures are accessible to all.
An after-school arts program for children from wards 7 and 8, Project Create provides classes in mixed media, graphic design, dance, music, theater, painting, and sculpture in small, personalized settings—sparking creativity and confidence while improving the prospects for academic and social success.
In-school playwriting residencies integrate artist-taught workshops into the DCPS curriculum—employing the art of playwriting to enhance student literacy, creative expression, and communication. A New Play Festival of professional performances honors outstanding student work by putting it on in public.
The longest-running professional theatre for children and families in the D.C. region, Adventure Theatre MTC enthralls 75,000 young people (and parents), cultivating the next generation of artists and audience members. From Goodnight Moon to A Little House Christmasclassic stories come to life on stage.
Since 2005, the summer Fringe Festival has infused palpable energy into the local arts scene—selling 29,000 tickets to 130 productions at more than 20 venues around the city last year alone. Launched in 2009, fallFRINGE offers extended runs for standout pieces.
Let’s start with the numbers: 170 volunteer singers, 700 alumni, and 20,000 audience members. One of the premiere symphonic choruses in the country, Choral Arts has sung under the world’s leading conductors and orchestras, recorded 18 albums, and boasts a range of local education programs.
Showcasing the talent of local artists, The In Series offers a unique blend of accessible, affordable chamber opera, Spanish zarzuela (light opera), cabaret, and dance—telling stories of universal appeal in small “chamber” settings and focusing on their human essence.
Perhaps best known for its fiction awards, PEN/Faulkner also hosts one of the most distinguished literary series in the country. Locally, it brings nationally recognized authors into District classrooms and the D.C. Jail, and it unites writers and readers to foster a literate, creative society.
Dedicated to revitalizing poetry as a living, breathing art form with profound relevance in our daily lives, Split This Rock offers diverse readings, workshops, colloquia, contests, electronic publications, and events that integrate poetry into social change movements.
In Hebrew, “avodah” means “work” or “service.” In a year of service, AVODAH’s post-college corps members invest 40 hours per week at local anti-poverty organizations, adding $470,000 in staffing capacity and making a positive impact on more than 28,000 people in need.
A vacant lot becomes a thriving community garden. An unused yard at an urban school becomes a living green space. For 10 years, City Blossoms has been dedicated to such transformations, collaborating with community partners to take unused or underused land and create dynamic community green spaces.
Some families who come to Community Family Life Services have struggled with poverty their entire lives. For 43 years, CFLS has been providing short-term assistance (food, clothing, breakfast) to those in crisis, and long-term support as they seek permanent homes and the opportunity to turn their lives around.
CASA/Prince George’s County gives a voice to abused and neglected children in the foster care system by training and supervising volunteer advocates and promoting the timely placement of children in stable homes. For many young people, their advocate was the first adult on whom they could rely unconditionally.
For countless families, DC Diaper Bank answers a critical need. Partnering with 16 social service organizations, the bank distributes 35,000 diapers each month to more than 1,000 families, alleviating the financial stress on new parents and providing for our community’s littlest members.
The only organization in the District providing free and comprehensive employment law services to the working poor, the Employment Justice Center answers an important call. Securing, protecting, and promoting workplace justice, EJC has provided legal representation and advice to more than 10,000 workers since its founding in 2000.
The only homeless service provider in its immediate neighborhood, Georgetown Ministry Center has grown into a year-round drop-in center, providing psychiatric and medical outreach, social and mental health services, case management, shelter and housing support, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and laundry facilities.
Many children who are immune-compromised cannot enjoy the programs that hospitals offer pediatric patients. That is where Hope for Henry comes in. Fun packs (filled with electronics, games, toys, and arts and crafts), visits from celebrities and children’s authors, spa days, carnivals, and birthday parties ensure that sick kids don’t miss out on feeling like kids.
In Prince William County, The House offers out-of-school youth development programs for “risk-susceptible” students in grades 4-12—keeping young people engaged before school, after school, on weekends, and in the summer. The goal is to get kids to finish high school and go to college.
An innovative community housing development organization, HIP creates housing and economic opportunity for people for whom owning a home seems just about impossible. It develops high-quality, affordable, green rental housing, and acquires and renovates foreclosed homes, which it then sells to low and moderate-income buyers.
Every fall, students receive lengthy lists of school supplies. But for families who struggle to afford rent or groceries, these extra purchases are too much of a stretch. Kids R First makes up the difference—providing custom orders for 19,500 school kids in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
This AmeriCorps-run program competitively recruits aspiring leaders for a 10-month training course: Four days a week are spent in full-time paid apprenticeships at community-based nonprofits, and the fifth day is dedicated to a rigorous leadership development curriculum.
Four times a year, Stone Soup selects new partners with limited communications budgets. Staff and volunteers work with each to develop a clear communications strategy that culminates in a short film. Stone Soup builds the storytelling capacity of nonprofits and magnifies their capacity to effect change.
Since 1997, Capital Area Asset Builders has worked with single mothers buying their first homes, low-income high schoolers aiming for college, and young adults rebuilding their credit. Classes, one-on-one coaching, CAAB-supported savings accounts, and free tax preparation help clients save (and plan) for the future.
For over 125 years, the Christ Child Society has filled the needs of our region’s most at-risk children—distributing 3,500 “starter kits” annually to mothers in need, providing students with books, sports equipment, tutoring, and summer programs, and offering direct services for families.
The Day Shelter Program at Rachael’s Women’s Center supplements evening shelters, providing refuge and healing for homeless women ages 17 and older. The program offers meals, counseling, case management, and referrals, along with a welcoming place to receive mail, bathe, and do laundry.
501cTECH serves as a trusted technology advisor to nonprofits around the region, providing more than 100,000 hours of consulting and guidance to more than 1,000 partner organizations. A small tech solution, and a little know-how, can greatly expand a nonprofit’s reach and impact.
Each year, for 130 inner-city youth, City Kids Wilderness Project offers life-changing adventures designed to build their self-confidence, develop their leadership skills, and improve their academic performance.
The lawyers, staff, and volunteers at Just Neighbors offer help and hope in abundance, providing high-quality legal services to low-income and impoverished immigrants in Northern Virginia, helping them to navigate the immigration system and access the benefits to which they are entitled.
Outreach lies at the heart of Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. Staff take to the streets every day, seeking out homeless adults and distributing 2,400 bagged meals, 1,000 articles of clothing, and 950 hygiene items. The network’s Opportunity Place Drop-In Center welcomes homeless single adults year-round.
Serving all members of the adoption circle—birth parents, adoptive parents, adopted children, and anyone touched by adoption—the Barker Foundation makes sure that everyone’s needs are respected. Most importantly, children find permanent, loving homes, and special assistance as they grow up.
The only station in Montgomery County funded and run by volunteers, Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad operates 24 hours a day and provides its neighbors with the highest quality fire, rescue, and ambulance services—all at no cost.
Begun in 1988 with two volunteers and 10 cots, Carpenter’s Shelter has since moved into an 80-bed, mortgage-free emergency shelter. Other key services include a winter shelter, day shelter, job training, life-skills classes, and ongoing case management for 1,000 homeless and formerly homeless people.
Founded in 1999 with the mission of cutting teen pregnancy in half by 2005, the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy exceeded its original goal. Today, the mission is to halve the rate again by 2015—through data sharing, advocacy, training, organizing, and spreading the word.
DC SCORES believes that every child deserves a “team.” An innovative model combining poetry and spoken word, soccer, and service learning helps participants improve fitness levels, develop their capacity for self-expression, and establish deep community connections through service projects.
Founded in 1976, the Downtown Cluster’s Geriatric Day Care Center provides crucial therapeutic and supportive services to at-risk, functionally impaired, and low-income elders—fostering independence, preventing isolation, and enabling them to remain in the communities and homes that they love.
More than 90 percent of the nearly 800 families served at The Family Place are low-income and newly arrived from Mexico and Central America. The organization weaves together parent and early-childhood education, drop-in care, support groups, and case management to create an effective, comprehensive support system for families.
More than 1,500 people enroll in the Jubilee Jobs program each year. Some have sizable gaps in employment history; others have no work history at all. Jubilee Jobs offers compassionate job preparation, placement, and retention services, guiding each applicant in applying, securing, and holding on to that first job.
Nearly all of Mary House’s clients have been traumatized by natural disaster, violence, war, or loss. So the transitional housing program comes first, supplemented by food deliveries, clothing, school supplies—and counseling. After-school programs, support groups, and in-house advocates all help families rebuild their lives.
When young men return home from a residential treatment facility, poverty, violence, and unemployment await them. So Mentoring Today targets 17-to-19-year-olds before, during, and after re-entry, pairing each youth with a Washington College of Law student who can act as a confidante and advocate.
Every night in D.C., nearly 7,000 people have nowhere to sleep. Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless seeks to prevent and end homelessness through legal aid, education, and advocacy. Reaching 1,400 clients annually, staff lawyers and 250 volunteers provide direct representation at no cost.
While Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital provide care for gravely wounded service members, the Yellow Ribbon Fund provides programs that make daily life more manageable for families and caregivers: lodging, cab rides, therapeutic massages, social events, and mentoring.
Senior Services of Alexandria serves as a one-stop shop for information about services, activities, and resources for elderly residents in need—helping seniors age in place, providing weekly visits and 45,000 meals, and offering in-depth education for seniors and their families.
Managing three area shelters, Jobs Have Priority provides food and safety, as well as counseling, support groups, day care, and financial assistance, to 382 individuals. Case managers work with each one to pinpoint the challenges in finding a job and home—and craft next steps.
For teenagers with developmental and intellectual disabilities, services end when they “age out” of the school system at 21. Potomac Community Resources steps in at this key moment, providing therapeutic, community-based services that enable the full inclusion of those with developmental differences into community life.
Since 1973, Ayuda (“help” in Spanish) has welcomed tens of thousands of immigrants who want nothing more than a new start. Ayuda provides a range of immigration and family law assistance, plus social services support for men, women, and children from anywhere in the world.
With no legal right to an attorney, few adults detained for immigration reasons (let alone immigrant children) can navigate the complex legal system on their own. The only D.C.–area nonprofit dedicated exclusively to assisting detained immigrants, CAIR Coalition is their last and best hope.
More than 37 percent of District households with children report experiencing “food hardship”—the highest rate nationwide. D.C. Hunger Solutions not only educates the public about hunger, poverty, and obesity, it also ensures that those who serve needy families can connect with existing nutrition programs and help make hunger a thing of the past.
At the Wendt Center, a fundamental tenet is that no one should have to grieve alone. Counseling for all ages, holistic mental health services, camps for youth, and crisis response services all ensure that, amid anguish and loss, there can still be hope.
Helping low-income, underserved Asian-American youth, AALEAD makes sure these youngsters don’t fall through the cracks. Elementary school students receive academic support and after-school enrichment; older students have academic, social, and college preparatory support, and significant opportunities for leadership and civic engagement.
Focused on disadvantaged and disengaged young people, Build Metro DC runs a comprehensive, four-year business and academic program that immerses students in entrepreneurship training, teaches critical thinking and problem solving, and propels young people through high school and toward college.
Literacy Lab’s trained professional instructors are devoted to increasing low-income children’s basic literacy skills—providing intensive reading intervention to 250 students in grades K-5, all of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and each of whom has fallen an average of two years behind.
At One World Education, writing is the first and primary focus. The One World Writing Program teaches students to craft exemplary original work about issues that matter to them. Beginning in 2013, OWEd will implement the program in every 9th- and 10th-grade DCPS literacy class.
Emerging Scholars annually recruits and enrolls 18 rising 5th-grade students who have the potential, desire, and family support to attend D.C.’s most rigorous private middle and high schools—and then develops the academic, leadership, and personal skills required to succeed in them.
Consider the complexities of applying to college: negotiating the SATs, grappling with finances, preparing for interviews. First Generation College Bound provides the crucial support and guidance that low- and middle-income students need to get into college and succeed.
Focused on under-resourced schools and neighborhoods, Global Kids provides D.C. children with the tools to become successful students (and ultimately leaders) in a global society, with after-school programs, guest lectures from diplomats and policymakers, college prep, and more.
Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is committed to improving graduation rates in Prince George’s County. A nationally-recognized youth development program, it serves more than 200 at-risk kids at five middle and high schools, developing the “whole student” with an approach that interweaves academics, social services, and employment.
By third grade, more than half of D.C. students have fallen behind in reading. So Reach Incorporated takes a novel approach: recruiting teens who have experienced significant academic struggles themselves to be tutors for elementary school students in need. The results? Both groups experience significant growth.
At 12 elementary schools across five wards in the District, Reading Partners transforms a simple space into a welcoming reading center stocked with books and trains 40 to 100 volunteers at each site to provide one-on-one instruction to struggling readers from low-income communities.
From learning-disabled students who struggle with literacy to high-achieving students who are not challenged in their classes, RICH offers support and enrichment across the spectrum at the Academies for Anacostia and Cesar Chavez PCS, reaching over 250 students a year.
In the District’s Shaw neighborhood, 100 students have an alternative “home away from home” where they can tackle reading, math, science, and social studies and take charge of their futures. College is the goal for all New Community students.
Partnering with six Montgomery County schools and one D.C. charter school, CDI selects high-achieving, low-income 11th graders and provides academic, emotional, and social support from the start of the daunting college application process through graduation.
Some 1,400 people seek out Language ETC each year. A sequence of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at an array of days, times, and levels ensure that all students feel comfortable and challenged. Scholarships are available, and no one is turned away for financial reasons.
For the past 50 years, the Literacy Council of Montgomery County has helped make daily reading and writing tasks easier for more than 15,000 adult learners. Through one-on-one Basic Literacy and ESL tutoring and classes, LCMC provides cost-effective instruction to both foreign-born and native-born students.
For 25 years, the Reading Connection has helped open up the world of books to to at-risk children and parents by bringing literacy services and programs into emergency shelters, domestic violence safe houses, long-term shelters, and transitional housing, offering Read-Alouds, Book Clubs, and family workshops.
The Center for Inspired Teaching’s innovative teacher-certification program recruits committed individuals and trains them, through coursework and classroom time, to teach students not what to think but how to think. Its demonstration charter school now serves 210 children and hosts education professionals from around the world.