by Mario Morino, Co-founder of VPP
Several events held in March in our metropolitan area highlighted the fact that the Washington region is putting on the mantle of philanthropic leadership while it continues to shed its reputation as just a government center. During the first few days of the month, the region hosted two national meetings on philanthropy and a local conference on women and philanthropy.
More than 500 people — a record attendance–came to Washington for the Grantmakers for Organizational Effectiveness (GEO) conference. Those who attended engaged in rich discussion of how best to support an increasingly burdened nonprofit sector. The meeting was also an important testament to the leadership of Julie Rogers, MaryAnn Holohean, and their colleagues at the Meyer Foundation, who are promoting organizational effectiveness to their grantees and fellow funders.
Other local funders are showing sure signs of leadership as well, rolling up their sleeves and trying new approaches. Among them are the Fannie Mae Foundation and Community Wealth Ventures, who have partnered with Meyer to create peer learning and wealth creation opportunities for local nonprofit organizations through their Paving Pathways initiative. The fifth annual Business Philanthropy Summit, hosted by the Washington Business Journal and Greater DC Cares, called attention to similar leadership in the business sector. The summit recognizes giving, volunteerism, and creative problem solving between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. The 25 corporations and foundations that led in giving, including the Fannie Mae Foundation, Verizon, and AOL Time Warner, invested $114 million in the local community last year, compared with $51 million five years ago. It is gratifying to note that the Philanthropy Summit also celebrates much smaller organizations for their contributions (calculated as a percentage of revenue) and for the commitment and service of their employees in supporting community activities.
In addition, this region is witnessing a new wave of activity from a wide range of new players and new foundations, many of which are affiliated with VPP. Foundations started by Jim Kimsey, Steve Case, Ted Leonsis, Raul Fernandez, Josh Freeman, the Bradleys at the Advisory Board, Caren DeWitt and Phil Merrick of webMethods, and a score more are trying new approaches similar to ours. We at VPP are excited to be part of this dynamic philanthropic ecology and to share what we are learning.