effective philanthropy blog
This blog is courtesy of Beth Offenbacker, an active community volunteer with area nonprofits. You can reach Beth at bethoffenbacker@gmail.com.

A growing number of community organizations, nonprofits, and foundations are bringing younger generations into established giving programs. YouthGiving.org estimates today there are nearly 600 programs in the United States and more than 250 programs in other nations that teach young people how to give.

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Bob Lazaro PhotoRobert W. Lazaro This is an interview with Robert W. Lazaro, Jr., Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, recently sat down with us to discuss his involvement with The Community Foundation. Robert recently worked with us to establish the NoVA Natives Plant Fund. 

Why did you choose to partner with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia?

The Community Foundation does great work in the Northern Virginia community, as such, it was a natural for us to work with an organization that has a great reputation and does outstanding work.

How does your fund at the Community Foundation benefit your organization?

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission undertakes work that has an impact across multiple jurisdictions in an increasingly diverse community of 2.4 million residents. By having a relationship with a well known, well-respected organization like CFNV it lets interested donors know their generosity will be used for the purpose given.

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This blog is courtesy of Whitney Richardson, Director of Agency Communications at the Northern Virginia Family Service in Oakton.

National nonprofit organizations have the capacity and brand recognition to reach a broad range of donors across the country. These organizations are critical to the national conversation about issues such as immigration, hunger and economic independence for families in need.

Also critical to supporting these issues and the people impacted by them are local organizations, right here on the ground in Northern Virginia, doing work in your community every day. These organizations will be impacted by funding cuts at the federal, state and local level, and we could lose critical services right here at home. If you feel compelled to address these and other issues, consider the following:
  • If you support the mission of a national organization such as the ACLU, did you know you could support this cause locally through Northern Virginia Family Service's Immigration Legal Services?
  • If you support the mission of Feeding America, did you know you could address the issue of hunger right here in our community by supporting Northern Virginia Family Service's Hunger Resource Center in Manassas?
  • If you support the mission of Goodwill, did you know you could address the issue of workforce development right here in our community by supporting Northern Virginia Family Service’s Training Futures or Escala (NVFS' Hispanic Entrepreneurship Program) programs?​
And these are just a few key examples on how you can make an impact on your local community around issues of personal interest to you. Help us continue to ensure the success of everyone in Northern Virginia by supporting local organizations who are doing critical work in our area.

To learn about NVFS’ services throughout the Northern Virginia region, visit nvfs.org.
The mission of Liberty's Promise is to support young immigrants in need while encouraging them to be active and conscientious American citizens. This blog, written by Robert M. Ponichtera, Executive Director and Founder of Liberty's Promise, highlights their mission and the grants they have received from the Community Foundation.

Bob PonchiteraRobert PonichteraSince 2005, Liberty's Promise has conducted after-school programs of civic engagement and summer professional internship programs for low-income, immigrant adolescents (ages 15-21) across Northern Virginia. Over the past 12 years, we've helped more than 1,000 youth learn about their communities and American civic life.

Liberty's Promise supports young immigrants in need while encouraging them to be active and conscientious American citizens. Our programs aim to make the immigrant experience an affirmative one for young newcomers while instilling in them a sense of pride and support for American ideals of democracy and freedom. By doing so, we seek to reaffirm our fundamental egalitarian and democratic traditions for future generations.

In other words, we help young people feel at home where they live. Once they do, we've found that they become actively involved in their communities, stay in school, and go on to some form of higher education. More than 99 percent of our participants have graduated high school and 67 percent are enrolled in college. Both of these figures far exceed the national average high school graduation rate of 74 percent and college enrollment rate of 51 percent for low-income, minority students (according to research from Johns Hopkins University and Pew Research). Among our youth are graduates of the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, George Mason, Marymount, and the University of Virginia, just to name a few.

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This is an interview with Sharlean Grinups, Health and Physical Education Department Chair and Wellness Liaison at Westfield High School. Westfield High School has applied for and received a Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation every year for the past three years.

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has been providing Healthy Kids Grants for 6 years.  In collaboration with the J.O.Y. Charitable Fund, a donor advised fund with the Community Foundation, grants are made each year to individual public schools in Northern Virginia that implement a program or strategy to encourage better nutrition or more activity among their student body during the school year.

Examples of school based initiatives the grants could help support include, but are not limited to:
  • Starting an after school activity club that promotes physical fitness.
  • Starting a walking club for students and teachers.
  • Creating and planting a vegetable garden on school grounds.
  • Developing a school health advisory council comprised of students, parents, teachers, administrators, other school staff and community representatives.
  • Developing and sharing calorie counts and nutritional information for all school breakfasts and lunches so students can make healthy choices.
Three years ago, Westfield High School applied for and received their first Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation. “We are so thankful for the grants!” said Sharlean Grinups, Health and Physical Education Department Chair and Wellness Liaison at Westfield High School. Westfield High School has applied for and received a Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation every year for the past three years.

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DianaKatz headshot WCGN copyDiana Katz This is an interview with Diana Katz, who recently established the Latino Engagement and Achievement Fund (LEAF) with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. Diana is also a co-founder of the Giving Circle of HOPE.

Diana, you founded the Giving Circle of HOPE and now LEAF. Can you tell us why you wanted to do this, what giving means to you?

To me, philanthropic giving – like civic participation – means that we have a duty to leave the community better than we found it.  Those of us who feel strongly about this have to lead by example. I feel an obligation to both encourage others to give and to make it easier for them to do so. 

The GCH was born out of this desire to make others see that everyone can give, and that it is more powerful when done in community, strategically and with common purpose.

LEAF was born out of learning, through my current professional experience and from the Aspen Institute’s report, that the Latino immigrant community lags other immigrant communities in civic participation. Applying to LEAF what I learned about collective giving and grant making with the GCH, can make it possible to increase Latino participation in philanthropy and through it, civic engagement. 

Why did you choose to partner with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia?

When we founded the GCH in 2004, the Community Foundation was very small and local, just like us. Even then, the staff was friendly, it was a good value, they were personally engaged in our venture, and their services were what we needed at the time. As the years have gone by, both the CFNV and the GCH have grown together and the GCH benefitted from being with an organization that is innovative in its thinking, and shares our values and goals for the community.

For LEAF, I wanted to make giving by Latinos part of a mainstream organization. Many Hispanic or Latino foundations are by and for Latinos and Latino causes. I believe that, even as we preserve the valuable parts of our heritage, we should all be part of ONE community, and that includes the philanthropic community. The obvious approach was to go with what I know, respect, and trust, and that is the Community Foundation for Northern VA.

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deb matthewsDeborah G. Matthews This is an interview with Deborah Matthews, a local trust and estate attorney devoted to supporting foster children in our region, who recently established the Our Children Fund with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. 

What is the Our Children Fund?

This fund is focused on the needs of foster children, which are immediate and present every single day. It will help provide foster care children access to “normalizing” items and experiences and to address their otherwise unmet medical, social, emotional, and educational needs.  These children in the Fairfax County foster system are between the ages of birth and 17 years, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 21, if permanency (return to home, relative placement, or adoption) is not achieved. Some examples of what might be supported include fees for before or afterschool activities, tutors, field trips, camps, elective activities, sports-related fees, and dental and health services. 

Why did you want to establish the Our Children Fund?

As a long time Northern Virginia resident, I have seen first-hand the ongoing immediate needs of children in our foster care system. I served as a foster parent for seven years, and became very aware of the limited resources available for foster children. No general fund such as this existed in Fairfax County. Creating the Our Children Fund in conjunction with the Community Foundation met many of my goals. The Community Foundation was able to help establish it quickly while also providing tremendous back office support so that I could have the joy of donating and helping these children without handling the administrative and tax responsibilities. I also want this fund to provide for foster children in perpetuity, and I know that in partnership with the Community Foundation, the Our Children Fund is assured to continue to provide direct help for foster children in Fairfax County.

Additionally, many foster parents use their own money and resources to help these children with ongoing needs related to everyday school and activities. As any parent can tell you it is not cheap to raise a child. There are continuous needs for school supplies, field trips, health-related costs, etc.  Also, when I was a foster parent there was a year that the small state stipend foster parents receive did not receive the regular annual increase. The General Assembly had overlooked introducing a bill that year providing for the annual increase.  I worked with Virginia Senator Janet Howell who introduced a bill the following year that tied the foster parent stipend to another automatic annual increase, so foster parents would not be overlooked again. 

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NovaParks 3 Did you know that funds at the Community Foundation are not just for individual donors?  Paul Gilbert is the Executive Director of NOVA Parks, a regional nonprofit organization that recently opened two funds to support its work: the NOVA Parks Fund and the Outdoor Kids Fund.  Read our interview with him to see how how we partner with local nonprofit organizations through dedicated funds at the Community Foundation.

Can you tell us about the mission and scope of work of NOVA Parks?

NOVA Parks is the best of Northern Virginia through nature, history, and great family experiences. We are a regional park system that represents three counties and three cities - Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and the City of Fairfax. 

NOVA Parks owns and operates 32 parks with over 12,000 acres of land offering something for everyone.  A NOVA Parks park is a unique natural and historic place that has been preserved and, in many cases, enhanced with recreational facilities such as golf courses, waterparks, campgrounds, trails and access to waterways. Many of our parks offer educational opportunities, such as our 1753 historic home, working farm, nature center, botanical garden and Civil War battlefield. Amidst the region’s rapid and widespread development, we offer scenic overlooks and quiet, green spaces.

Why did NOVA Parks choose to partner with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia?

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s mission to meet the critical needs of the region aligns perfectly with NOVA Parks’ goal of giving back to the local community and helping youth and their families. Through the Outdoor Kids Fund and the NOVA Parks Fund that have been established, NOVA Parks has been given the opportunity to create and expand programs that engage children in meaningful outdoor experiences and a venue to improve and conserve Northern Virginia’s special natural and historic places and parklands.

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CFNC Kids Working The Child and Family Network Centers received a $10,000 grant from the Community Investment Funds in 2016 to help them provide free, high-quality bilingual preschool education in order to prepare at-risk, low-income 3 to 4 year old children for kindergarten success while improving family stability and health outcomes.  Read below about how this grant impacted lives.

Since 1984, The Child and Family Network Centers’ (CFNC) has worked to provide caring, high-quality, free education and related services to at-risk children and their families in their own neighborhoods in order to prepare them for success in school and life. For over 30 years, CFNC has dramatically changed the trajectory of these children’s lives by providing accredited preschool and the support services their families need to succeed. Among various accolades, CFNC was one of the first programs in the country to receive accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children and we were recognized as a model high-quality, bilingual preschool by President Obama’s “Preschool for All” initiative. CFNC also received the 2015 Nonprofit Leader of the Year award by Leadership Fairfax.

Due to the Community Investment Funds Grant from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia in 2016, CFNC’s free, award-winning preschool program was provided to 148 four-year-old children and their families (approximately 592 individuals based on an average family size of 4) in 9 classrooms at 5 sites in Alexandria’s poorest neighborhoods, including the West End and Arlandria areas.

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Patricia FunegraPatricia Funegra is a member of the Future Fund, the giving circle for young professionals at the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and the Founder and CEO of La Cocina VA, a grant recipient of the Community Investment Funds grant cycle.  We asked her a few questions about her personal philanthropy and commitment to supporting the local community.

What are your philanthropic goals and interests?

For the past three years I have dedicated my life to social entrepreneurship, civic engagement and advocacy through the work that I do as the Founder and CEO of La Cocina VA promoting and supporting workforce development among immigrant communities. It was a natural transition for me to add a philanthropic side to the meaningful contribution of my work and to start offering economic support to help solve and alleviate other issues that also affect our community. I believe that the learning process I have gone through as a social entrepreneur placed me in the intersection where preparation meets opportunity and I was ready to take my contribution for the social well-being of our community to a higher level. 

What does it mean to you to support local critical needs?

I was born and raised in Peru until I decided to move to the United States when I was 38 years old. Coming from a developing country helps me understand with more clarity how it is to live lives where not even the most basic needs are met. I always strive to see a more just and equitable world and I decided to start working towards that goal in our own back yard, Northern Virginia.

Our low-income communities face a wide variety of challenge; lack of access to affordable housing, healthy food, access to education and opportunities among other issues, but I strongly believe that when a community works together combining its resources to provide and facilitate access to those critical needs, our community thrives.

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