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GT E-News - Issue 3, Spring 2015

GT’s Grant-Making Theme for 2015: Workforce Development

Last year, Giving Together members chose “housing and homelessness” as the theme for our 2014 grants cycle and awarded two $20,000 grants to outstanding organizations in that field: Interfaith Works and Sasha Bruce House. Now, our 2015 grants cycle is just beginning.

With a record 78 percent of members casting votes from among several categories, “Workforce Development” was chosen as this year’s grant-making theme. Workforce development programs improve the skills of individuals already in the workforce or seeking to join it. They also remove barriers to work, such as the need for transportation and child care.

A number of local non-profits with relevant programs already have been identified and some will be asked to submit grant applcations. The deadline for submissions is June 15. Over the summer, the Grants Committee will evaluate applicants’ proposals and conduct site visits, leading to a recommendation to the GT board for a slate of finalists. Committee activities are open to all GT members. Everyone is welcome to participate in the process. Awardees will be decided at the Annual Membership Meeting next fall and each member will be able to vote for their favorite organization.

Members Volunteer with Our Grantee Organizations

GT volunteers at Interfaith Works: (standing, l-r) Sandy Walker, Lori Ulanow, Nancy Jacobson, Jeanne Spivak, Marjorie Elson; (seated, l-r) Ruth Kincaid, Claire Livingston.

In February, Giving Together members gathered at Interfaith Works’ Silver Spring vocational training location to meet the women who are benefitting from our 2014 grant. Our $20,000 award established an in-house Giving Together Fund to pay for educational and job training opportunities for women living in Interfaith’s shelters.

The GT volunteers coached shelter residents on job-interviewing skills. They also met some of the women who’ve already been helped by the Giving Together Fund, including one who received $1,500 to renew her license as a radiation technologist and another who is having her tuition paid in order to train as a child care assistant. “Both women were incredibly appreciative for the opportunity to strengthen their job skills,” said GT member and volunteer Lori Ulanow. “Meeting them was a great experience for all of us, especially when they thanked us for ‘believing’ in them.”

Ulanow called the afternoon at Interfaith Works “one of the most uplifting and worthwhile experiences I’ve had as a Giving Together member, enlightening me about a slice of Montgomery County life with which I was previously unfamiliar. Clearly, our support is making a tremendous difference and is truly appreciated.” The volunteers were feted with a “thank you” cake by Interfaith’s staff.

Other recent volunteer projects sponsored by GT’s Community Service Committee include two with A Wider Circle at the end of last year. GT members donated food and packed Thanksgiving bags for AWC’s client-families, and also wrapped holiday gifts at AWC’s “North Pole.” On March 21, GT volunteers gathered at Wheaton High School to serve as teachers’ assistants at the George B. Thomas Saturday School.

In addition, there are several upcoming projects, including a volunteer activity at Sasha Bruce House on Saturday, May 30. Members who would like to participate in that activity, or sign up for the Community Services Committee can do so by contacting committee co-chair Jeanne Spivak (

GT Participates in MLK-Day Volunteer Fair

GT Secretary Karen Gilgoff staffs info table.

On January 19 – the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and Day of Service – Giving Together sponsored an information table at the Montgomery County Volunteer Center’s Volunteer Fair. The event, which took place at the North Bethesda Marriott Conference Center, provided an opportunity for Montgomery County residents to learn more about all the great non-profit organizations that are providing services to the community. In addition to Giving Together, information tables were sponsored by some of our grantee organizations, including 2014 grantee Interfaith Works.

The event also featured on-the-premises volunteer activities, such as sandwich-making for homeless shelters and stuffing gift bags for U.S. troops overseas. Hundreds participated in these projects, including many teens who were fulfilling community-service commitments required by their high schools and middle schools. GT’s participation helped spread the word about the work we do in DC and Montgomery County and resulted in inquiries from prospective grant applicants and volunteers.

Interview with a GT Member: Ann Nichols

GT: Tell us a little about yourself, Ann. Where are you from originally? What brought you to the Washington area?

AN: My early childhood was spent in New Jersey, but in 1960 my father’s job with a multi-national oil company took us to Italy, Sweden and the U.K. for several years. I returned to the U.S. for college, then worked briefly on Wall Street. Finding limited finance jobs for women in those years, I went to graduate school to prepare for a teaching career and taught at a high school in Vermont for eight years.

After a brief marriage that left me widowed at 31, I moved to New York City and found a job at Columbia University as a fundraiser. Education – especially women’s education – was an important cause for me and the job allowed me to use my skills to further the cause.

I moved on to do similar work at Smith College, then became a fundraiser for my true passion: nature conservation. I was recruited by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which brought me to Washington in 1993 to oversee the individual giving program. Next, I joined the staff of Conservation International (CI) as a VP for development. The job took me to many beautiful and wild places, working with some of the world’s top environmental scientists and learning a lot about global warming, threatened ecosystems and endangered species. Along the way, I married Wes Nichols, who’s in the real estate business and a professional oboist as well. We have a son, John, who is 25. He’s a rock musician in the DC-based heavy metal band Aerist.

GT: We know you’ve continued to work in the non-profit sector. Could you tell us about the activities you’re involved in?

AN: As a passionate believer in nature conservancy, I am committed to do what I can to help. After working at WWF and CI, I retired in 2008, but I’m continuing my environmental work as board chairman of American Forests, a non-profit dedicated to protecting forests and educating the public about forest conservation issues.

GT: When and how did you connect with Giving Together? Why did you join?

AN: I connected with GT through Cheryl Baird, a longtime friend and neighbor. I joined because I already knew a lot about global problems and human needs, but wanted to learn more about these issues as they exist in our own community.

GT: You’re on the GT board and chair the membership development committee. Could you describe your responsibilities, Ann, and explain how the committee contributes to the work of GT?

AN: We value our contributors greatly, because they are the heart of GT’s vitality and commitment. Our membership program must always strive to ensure that the members know how important they are to Giving Together.

In order to maintain a strong organization, we have to “spread the word” effectively about what we’re doing, using our website, special events, the newsletter and our volunteer services. Many women want to help in the community, but don’t know quite how. It’s our committee’s job to get the word out – to show how simple it can be to make a difference and how rewarding and fun a giving circle can be. We develop our organization by helping to maintain and build the membership.

By joining GT, our members can make a real impact on our community. They increase their knowledge of area non-profits and gain a better understanding of local needs. As a result, their financial contributions and volunteer activities have more meaning. While making a difference, GT members have a good time and build lifelong friendships with like-minded women. It’s such a great experience that we’ve been able to grow GT every year since our founding in 2010.

Women’s Foundation Forum Welcomes GT

Above: Women’s Foundation Program Officer Lauren Stillwell (3rd from left) with GT board members (l-r) Karen Gilgoff, Cheryl Baird and Paula Norwood. Not pictured: GT Grants Committee co-chair Renee Licht.

On April 22, several GT members attended the Washington Area Women’s Foundation forum for local fundraisers, which concentrated on the foundation’s current program on “Girls’ Economic Security in the Washington Region.” The foundation recently funded a demonstration project that’s based on a two-generation strategy for moving low-income women and girls out of poverty. Middle-school girls at Caesar Chavez Charter School will engage in learning and cultural enrichment activities along with their mothers, so that they can advance together and reinforce each other’s progress.

A panel of women involved in the project outlined its objectives. It included representatives of the two organizations that will be conducting the project – the YWCA of the National Capital Area and the College Success Foundation of the District of Columbia – as well as staff of the Chavez School and two students who look forward to participating. The Women’s Foundation said the project will begin in September and continue throughout the 2015-16 school year. The plan is to track the women and girls over time to see if the program has lasting effects. If it succeeds, and if additional funding is available in the future, it could be offered to other schools.

Save the Dates!!

April 30: GT Spring Dinner/Fiesta

May 30: Sasha Bruce House Volunteer Activity

Report Says Giving Circles Appeal to Diverse Demographic Groups

One in eight American donors has participated in a giving circle—nearly half of them under the age of 40—and giving circles can both strengthen a participant’s communal identity and expand their philanthropic reach. These are some of the findings of the 2014 report, Connected to Give: Community Circles, which provides insight into the philanthropic phenomenon of giving circles. The report, coauthored by Evelyn Dean-Olmsted, Sarah Bunin Benor, and Jim Gerstein, and published by Jumpstart, outlines the demographics of giving circle participation by age, gender, ethnicity, household income, family status, and more.

With nationally representative research, Connected to Give: Community Circles not only paints a picture of strong participation in giving circles among large numbers of Americans, but also reveals pronounced differences across race, ethnicity and gender. More than one in five African American donors (21%) have participated in giving circles, as have high proportions of Asian/ Pacific Islander donors (16%), and Hispanic/Latino donors (15%). These are higher rates than among both Jewish donors (14%) and other Caucasian donors (10%), who may be somewhat more likely to donate individually rather than pooling their resources with others.

Also, giving circles have a particular appeal for younger people. Unlike other aspects of charitable giving, nearly half of all giving circle participants are under 40, the report says.

Complementing the surveys, a team of researchers conducted comparative ethnographic fieldwork with twenty adult giving circles associated with an array of ethnic and affinity groups. “Based on our interviews and observations, we noticed a ‘virtuous circle’ effect,” said research team leader and report co-author Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor. “Giving circles connect people to like-minded individuals and lead to more meaningful, intentional, and hands-on charitable giving, as well as increased communal engagement.”

Jumpstart is a 501(c)(3) philanthropic research & design lab based in Los Angeles.

A Wider Circle Puts Down Roots in Silver Spring

On March 18, GT’s first grantee organization - A Wider Circle - purchased the headquarters building in Silver Spring that it had leased for several years. According to AWC Executive Director Mark Bergel, the purchase will allow the anti-poverty organization to “control our own destiny and not be subject to increasing rents.” Bergel predicted considerable cost savings over the next few years, as well as opportunities for growth. “We currently receive more than 500 telephone calls per day and owning the building will allow us more service space and more volunteer opportunities to create a model for community service.”

Shortly after the purchase, Bergel sent a note of appreciation to Giving Together President Paula Norwood. He said GT’s support “has allowed us to take these steps. These are steps that we believe light the way for us to be able to be able to serve with significant impact in the coming years.” Bergel said AWC was planning an open house to celebrate the building purchase and GT members would be invited to join in the festivities.

Congratulations to all the clients and staff at A Wider Circle!


For more information on Giving Together, contact President Paula Norwood at or visit the GT website:

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