#Community is the Crimsonbridge Foundation’s commitment to participate, engage, listen, and learn with the communities we support. It is a team driven initiative designed to develop relationships with community partners that go beyond grant proposals. Through #community we engage directly with grantee community partners to better understand challenges, identify solutions, leverage new resources, celebrate success, and build community. It is our approach to philanthropy and community partnership.

MLK Day of Service

For MLK Day of Service 2021, Ward 4’s Crestwood Citizens Association (CCA) hosted a neighborhood-wide alley clean up in conjunction with Rock Creek Conservancy’s (RCC) volunteer events. The Crestwood neighborhood is surrounded by Rock Creek Park on three sides and it’s trash and water run-off have a direct impact on the park and the watershed. Crimsonbridge Foundation’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Danielle M. Reyes who serves as a co-chair of the CCA’s Green Team and on the board of RCC  was an organizer and participant of the outdoor and socially-distant service event! “It was a lot of fun and very gratifying.  We didn’t think there’s be much to do at first, but ten people and two hours later, our alley was cleaner and wider!”

Census 2020: What Worked, What Didn’t, and Looking Ahead

More than 100 representatives from the public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors convened early this year to reflect, share, and report on the Greater Washington region’s efforts to get a fair and accurate count for the 2020 Census. Following a presentation from the Census Bureau, participants shared their experiences working on outreach and advocacy – successes, challenges, lessons learned, and ideas for how to strengthen civic engagement and advance equity moving forward. Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo, who led the Foundation’s Bridges for Census work in 2020, shared the findings of our program and served as a breakout group reporter. The group noted that successful outreach strategies included leveraging social media, relying on trusted sources, expanding multilingual resources, and engaging youth ambassadors. These takeaways aligned with what the Foundation learned from its five Bridges for Census partners – all locally-based, locally-serving nonprofit organizations that played a crucial role in reaching historically undercounted communities in the region.

Building Belonging, Ally-ship and Organizational Culture with Leadership Greater Washington

In July 2020, Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo joined over 200 other professionals for the Leadership Greater Washington Anti-Racist Leadership Series, a six-month journey of learning, listening, self-reflection, and skill-building. Mayo found the monthly sessions challenging, thought-provoking, and encouraging – a much-needed space for dialogue and connection during a highly divisive time in our country. One of Mayo’s favorite sessions of the series focused on specific and practical ways that individuals can create cultures of belonging and inclusivity within their organizations. As a former participant in LGW’s Rising Leaders program, Mayo was grateful for this opportunity to continue to grow her leadership skills, engage in vulnerable conversations, and learn concrete strategies for both individual and collective action against systemic racism.

College Completion Colleagues (C3) bring Innovation and Hope to the Field of College Success

Convening as partners is a central part of the C3 Initiative. This fall, the leadership and program teams of the six participating direct-service nonprofits and two foundations met to continue sharing practices and ideas to support college success work. On November 18th, Program Officer Robyn Attebury Ellis co-hosted a convening where C3 program directors shared innovative programming implemented to respond to immediate and constant barriers to local students’ success. Practices included: direct student support, mental wellness programming, career pathways support, and creative fundraising practices. On December 7th, Ellis and Executive Director Danielle M. Reyes co-facilitated a discussion with the C3 executive leaders that built on the momentum of the last two years. Leaders brainstormed ideas for partnering in new ways, shared data, and offered opportunities to improve persistence and completion for first-generation college students in the region.  This is the third year of the C3 Initiative.

Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund Alumni Share Ideas for Leader Engagement

Listening to the voices of leaders is our best source for learning about their interests and needs.  Crimsonbridge Foundation and Georgetown’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership (CPNL) teams had this opportunity at a recent virtual listening session with 15 Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund (CLF) alumni of the CPNL’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program. Participants shared how the pandemic has pushed them as organizational leaders, from pivoting to provide existing and new services remotely, to expanding their reach, to building more inclusive programming. Leaders also offered ideas for future learning and development that they would be interested in, including advocating for organizational change, prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, executive coaching, board engagement, virtual networking, and strategies for self-care. Based on their input, the Foundation seeks to develop new opportunities for CLF alumni to connect, learn, and celebrate each other’s milestones in leadership.  Since 2016, 81 nonprofit leaders have completed leadership programs and four  program providers have engaged in strategies for more inclusive outreach, through Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund work.

Building Community with ComNet

At Crimsonbridge, investing in effective communications capacity is essential. In this ever-developing field, learning with peers from the sector can be a valuable way for nonprofit communications staff to gain insight and skills.  This fall, Communications and Program Officer Abigail Galván participated in the Communication Network’s V+ Community Ambassador Program, for such an opportunity. The program was an experiment and Ambassadors were charged with building community virtually among communications professionals during V, ComNet’s virtual conference and beyond.  Galván benefited from having a group of seasoned and talented communications professionals to turn to during the events of 2020. She noted that among the many useful communications tips shared by the V+ speakers and panels, was an important reminder: the secret to building community is to build it with people, not for them. Galván looks forward to bringing the tools and resources she has learned to her work at Crimsonbridge and with its community partners.

Literacy Continues to Lift Lives

Crimsonbridge Foundation’s Executive Director Danielle M. Reyes and Communications and Program Officer Abigail Galván, joined the Literacy Council of Frederick County for their 7th Annual Celebration of Achievements. The virtual program premiered via Facebook where students and volunteers in the tutoring, parent literacy, and workplace literacy programs shared their personal stories in their own words. Danielle engaged in the event through the comments section of Facebook, while Abigail live-tweeted during the event. The celebration concluded with a slide showing the many different achievements students accomplished this year, despite challenges presented by the pandemic. The night was a clear testament to this community partner’s motto: Literacy Lifts Lives!

Supporting the Natural World Around Us

In 2019, the Audubon Naturalist Society received support through Crimsonbridge Foundation’s Team Philanthropy program for their Naturally Latinos Conference where executive director, Danielle M. Reyes served as a volunteer on the conference planning committee. This fall, Danielle continued her participation with the organization by completing the Maryland Master Naturalist program. The program engages citizens as stewards of Maryland’s ecosystems through science-based education and volunteer service. Master Naturalist graduates commit 40 hours of volunteer service annually to support ANS education programs, stewardship of Woodend habitats, and conservation outreach. They will also support the Naturally Latinos 3 Conference taking place next month!

Embracing the Newcomer

Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo participated in a virtual discussion featuring Catholic Charities’ Spanish Catholic Center (SCC) staff members who have been working on the frontlines this year.  This discussion highlighted the creativity, resiliency, and strength of both SCC staff and their clients – nearly every program area has adapted to challenges and barriers brought on by the pandemic.  As one example, Laura Irwin, the director of the English literacy program, shared how SCC’s transition to virtual learning has made classes accessible for students who could not travel to Gaithersburg for the traditional in-person classes.  In 2019, Crimsonbridge awarded SCC a grant from its English Language Initiatives program to innovate their curriculum and develop a hybrid virtual/in-person ESOL course. This fall, the ESOL program includes students living in Wheaton, Prince George’s County, and even Guatemala!  If you are looking for an in-person or remote volunteer opportunity during the pandemic, please consider volunteering with Catholic Charities.

Celebrating the Achievements of LCNV Students and Staff

On October 29, the entire Crimsonbridge Foundation team participated in the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia (LCNV)’s Annual Recognition ceremony. The LCNV team provided a stellar virtual program that featured testimonials and stories from students, staff, volunteers, board members, and community partners and a video message from our executive director, Danielle M. Reyes! This year, the Crimsonbridge Foundation was honored to receive a Community Partner of the Year award for supporting and collaborating with LCNV to expand their innovative Destination Workforce® program. Our team appreciated the opportunity to celebrate with LCNV and provide live tweeting during the event to share highlights with others via social media.

Together for Hope Virtual Youth Expo

Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo spent an inspiring and energizing evening with Crimsonbridge Bridges for Census partner Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), alongside more than 100 LAYC supporters, staff, families, and youth at their first virtual youth expo. The Expo highlighted how LAYC continues to connect with youth virtually, and celebrated the accomplishments of LAYC youth using a variety of creative mediums: videos from youth and parents, voiceover recordings of youth sharing poems and short stories, displays of photography, artwork, and activism graphics, and more! The theme of the evening, “Reclaiming our Voices: Art, Dreams, Justice,” reminded the expo participants of the importance of safe spaces where youth can come together to grow, learn, and create 

Abolitionist, Allies, Resistance, and Persistence

Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo joined Crimsonbridge community partner, DC SCORES to learn about the impact of historical inequalities on the communities where their poet athletes live and learn. DC SCORES partnered with the Sandy Spring Slave Museum to host an expert panel on the topic, which kicked off with a virtual tour of the museum. One of the panelists, a volunteer board member of the museum who also serves as the Director of the Montgomery County Public School’s Equity Initiative, offered four “agreements” for participating in courageous conversations about race:  1) stay engaged, 2) speak your truth, 3) experience discomfort, and 4) expect and accept nonclosure. Participants were also encouraged to consider how to use their power and privilege within their spheres of influence to interrupt systems of oppression. Caitlin Furey Mayo looks forward to visiting in-person in the future to learn more about Sandy Spring’s unique role in the history of the Greater Washington region.

Reopening Schools with Latino Families in Mind

As schools all over the country create plans for the fall, the Catholic School Advantage at the University of Notre Dame brought together Catholic school leaders to offer their perspectives on reopening, with a specific focus on Latino students and families. Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo listened alongside leaders to learn about the intentional strategies schools are using to communicate with families during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A central theme that emerged during the webinar is the importance of consistent and effective communications during this unprecedented time.  One principal shared that his school will be creating bilingual videos to help ease parents’ fears and concerns about the upcoming school year.  A superintendent encouraged school leaders to use multiple tools to reach families – WhatsApp, Facebook, robocalls, and email. Panelists agreed that nothing replaces face-to-face communications and recommended setting up a video call with parents when the technology is available.  To learn more, watch the recording of the webinar here.

What You Can Do to Support the 2020 Census

As members of the Communications Network and supporters of regional #completecount efforts, Crimsonbridge Program Officers Caitlin Furey and Abigail Galván joined a national conversation to listen for strategies that could be shared with our five Bridges for Census partners.  The webinar, presented in partnership with Fair Count, focused on action steps nonprofits and foundations can take to support the 2020 Census.  Though the COVID-19 pandemic and shortened deadline of September 30th present new and unique challenges to this important effort, Fair Count encouraged participants to view the census as one of the “three pillars of democracy” along with voting and redistricting. Recommendations included focusing on developing creative approaches to virtual outreach, collaborating with peer organizations to maximize impact, and crafting multilingual messages to engage hard-to-count populations. View the full webinar here.

 

Culture Matters: Creating Culturally Responsive Evidence-based Programs

“To serve others is a privilege and requires excellence.” This statement by an Identity team member captures their commitment to culturally responsive programming and evaluation.  For more than 20 years, Identity has built culturally responsive programs tailored to immigrant youth, many of whom have recently arrived from Central America.  During the webinar hosted by Community Science, Identity team members shared key strategies to ensure that programs are culturally responsive, such as: conducting focus groups with the target population, identifying culturally-competent and bilingual program facilitators, and listening to community needs through youth and parent advisory boards.  Hearing from Identity prompted Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo to reflect on the strategies that inform our Bridges and Bridges for Schools programs, as we consider how evaluation can improve these programs over time.

Virtual Convenings with College Completion Colleagues (C3) in June

A vital component of our three-year C3 Initiative, is connecting as a network. At the request of partners, Crimsonbridge and Scheidel Foundation co-hosted two virtual convenings in June 2020. The first convening engaged executive directors and the second convening brought together the program leaders of the six participating organizations – New Futures, Capital Partners for Education, CollegeTracks, Collegiate Directions, Generation Hope, and College Success Foundation-DC. As the organizations shared how they are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic and engaging in the public outcry against racial injustice, it was clear that these leaders are innovating support for college students by connecting them with new resources and taking community care to the next level. As the academic world goes virtual,  students, many of whom are first-generation college goers, face additional barriers as they continue to adjust their lives and their academic plans, in order to complete their degree. Despite this, Crimsonbridge Foundation Program Officer Robyn Ellis was overwhelmingly encouraged to hear leaders’ stories of hope and courage as they not only support each other and their teams, but serve college scholars, their families, and their basic needs.

A Social Justice Town Hall: From Grief to Action

On Juneteenth, the Greater Washington Community Foundation hosted a virtual town hall to discuss systemic racism and how the DC community can come together for racial justice.  The town hall featured a conversation between Dr. Rashawn Ray, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, and the parents of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, Richard W. Collins Jr. and Dawn Collins. Their son was killed in 2017, in a hate crime, three days before he was set to graduate from Bowie State University.  The Collins now pursue social justice at the local and national level, advocating to change unjust laws and systems.  A message Program Officer Caitlin Furey Mayo heard loud and clear was – educate yourself and VOTE in all local elections!  Watch the full recording here.

 

 

Excelencia in Education’s Greater Than Graduation Event

On June 5, national nonprofit Excelencia in Education hosted a special virtual graduation event, “Greater than Graduation” to honor 2020 Latino college graduates and their families. The event showcased Latino student success at four-year universities and community colleges across the United States, and shared students’ experiences in college and they prepare for their careers beyond graduation. While cheering on the graduates, Crimsonbridge’s program officer, Robyn Attebury Ellis recognized serious grit, reflection, and transformation in the nine graduates selected for an intimate conversation with Maria Hinojosa, host of Latino USA. Students represented Hispanic Serving Institutions and emerging HSIs, and talked about the challenges they overcame in college, their plans to give back to their communities, and amidst a pandemic, how hopeful they are for the future. The Crimsonbridge Foundation supports Excelencia in Education’s ALASS Institute and state research relating to Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Engaging Cross-Sector Leaders During the Pandemic

Investing in diverse leadership is an intentional act, one that involves continued outreach, development, and support.  We also believe in the importance of engaging leaders in cross-sector dialogue and solutions. One organization working on these efforts is Leadership Greater Washington (LGW).  As a featured sector leader during one of three LGW Chair’s Virtual Town Halls, Crimsonbridge’s executive director Danielle M. Reyes, shared an update on the pandemic’s impact on philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Her remarks ended with a call to action for cross-sector solutions, rallying government, private, and nonprofit members to consider how they can support the community personally, professionally, and as sector leaders.

Our Words Our City LIVE!

DC SCORES celebrated National Poetry Month with a virtual event featuring performances from their all star cast of poet-athletes and professional spoken word artists. The event was a major success, with over 2,000 viewers tuned in from their homes including Crimsonbridge team members, Danielle M. Reyes and Caitlin Furey Mayo.  Our executive director noted how the virtual event was a fantastic opportunity for those not familiar with DC SCORES to have a free and accessible experience.  Caitlin Furey Mayo, who enjoyed all of the performances, was particularly touched by the poem, “Community,” shared by a 5th grader from Powell Elementary School. If you missed it, you can watch the recording of the event here.