Small, high-impact charities do big things for Washington’s residents.
By Jane Hess Collins
When you’re in a room with 600 people whose mission is to heal the world, it’s hard not to feel inspired. That was the feeling when the Catalogue for Philanthropy hosted their 2010/2011 “Inspiration to Action” celebration at Sidney Harman Hall.
Many of the attendees represented the most high-impact, local nonprofit organizations throughout the metropolitan DC area. Together they work to eliminate hunger or homelessness, introduce inner city children to the arts, protect the environment or offer dozens of other programs to the area’s most needy.
ABC7/WJLA-TV’s Maureen Bunyan kicked off the event by introducing Catalogue for Philanthropy President and Editor Barbara Harman, who praised the organization as a “voice for the small but mighty nonprofit organizations that do extraordinary work here in our nation’s capital.”
Harman also recognized the nonprofit attendees for their “completely unselfish participation which makes us greater than the sum of our parts.” As a network, she said, we can be a stronger force for good than we are alone.
Although giving has declined nationally in the last few years, donations to Catalogue for Philanthropy nonprofits are holding steady, with the 2008/09 year boasting a record high of $2.5 million. Harman credits the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s success to their ability to retain donors and attract new ones, and to the stories of the nonprofits featured in the print and online Catalogue. The stories, said Harman, allow potential donors to “feel connected to the work that these great small nonprofits are doing.”
Part of the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s mission is to generate resources for these hard-working nonprofits by featuring them on their website and in their annual Catalogue, which is mailed to select high-income households each year. Conservatively, every dollar donated to the Catalogue yields $5.50 for the featured nonprofits. Since its inception in 2003, the Catalogue for Philanthropy, dubbed the “Neiman Marcus of catalogues” by board chairman Don Neal, has raised over $12.5 million.
Both keynote speaker Ted Leonsis and Neal emphasized a leading a life of service and giving, rather than leaving charitable donations as an end-of-life parting gift. Leonsis, a self-proclaimed student of happiness, shared his “double bottom line” belief that good business is both profitable and gives back, and companies should be judged by that. Happiness comes from giving back, he said, along with involvement in many interests, empathy, self-expression and a belief in a higher calling.
Milton Whitley, whose story won the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s “Power of 8” video contest, embodied the nonprofits’ work. Wearing a tailored gray suit, Whitley told the audience of his decision, at age 52, to contact the Literacy Council of Montgomery County to finally learn to read. His next goal, he vowed, is to attain his GED in July.
Nearly 350 local nonprofits, each of which has a budget under $3 million, are included in the Catalogue. So how can other small nonprofits join? Easy, said Harman. Just apply. The online application will appear on the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s website in January. Likened to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, acceptance into the Catalogue for Philanthropy, after a rigorous screening process, brings visibility, funds and honor to the nonprofits featured.
Jane Hess Collins is a former Air Force colonel who writes to inspire people to contribute. She is also a public speaker, conducts workshops which match clients’ values with service opportunities, and has established game nights for at-risk families throughout the country. You can contact her at email@example.com.