Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.


May 2007

Thu, 2007-05-03

From VPP

Business Entrepreneurs and Philanthropy—Contributions and Challenges

I was privileged to be on a panel to discuss what business entrepreneurs bring to philanthropy and the greatest challenges they face when they do. As someone who falls into this category, I shared my own experience—things that went well, missteps I’ve made and observed, and lessons we’ve learned in our work with Venture Philanthropy Partners. And, my own experience is amplified by my direct involvement with and observations and careful study of the successes and less successful efforts of other business entrepreneurs engaging in their own philanthropy. More »


Building a Community

We have always believed that there is great value in bringing together our investors and friends to enhance and enrich this special community we are building through our work at VPP. Last autumn we inaugurated our Investor Event Series with the appearance of Patty Stonesifer from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—the idea being to have a small, intimate dialogue with a notable person who is actively driving and serving as a change agent in philanthropy today. More»

In This Issue

Chairman's Corner

Business Entrepreneurs and Philanthropy—Contributions and Challenges

VPP campaign update

Building a Community


"100 Pumps in 100 Days"

From VPP

Notes from COF Conference

    Investment partner update


    board changes

Programs & serviceS

  • LAYC


  • CFNC


From VPP

Business Entrepreneurs and Philanthropy—Contributions and Challenges

Editor’s Note: Mario Morino recently participated on a panel as part of the “21st Century Trust Seminar: Changing the World? The potential and pitfalls of new philanthropy,” held at the Columbia School of Social Work in New York City. The panel was moderated by Matthew Bishop, Chief Business Writer/American Business Editor of The Economist, and author of, "The business of giving: A survey of wealth and philanthropy," which appeared in the February 23, 2006 issue of the Economist. Panelists included Mario’s long-time friend, Jacqueline Novogratz, who has been the guiding force behind the creation and growth of the Acumen Fund; Sally Osberg, head of the Skoll Foundation, who has had great success in advancing social innovation and doing seminal work in social entrepreneurship; and Lance Lafia, co-founder of “Hedge Funds vs. Malaria,” an innovative effort to combat malaria.

Mario Morino

I was privileged to be on a panel to discuss what business entrepreneurs bring to philanthropy and the greatest challenges they face when they do. As someone who falls into this category, I shared my own experience—things that went well, missteps I’ve made and observed, and lessons we’ve learned in our work with Venture Philanthropy Partners. And, my own experience is amplified by my direct involvement with and observations and careful study of the successes and less successful efforts of other business entrepreneurs engaging in their own philanthropy.

Endless books and articles describe business entrepreneurs and their traits. They bring many of these characteristics versus the more traditional patterns and habits of established philanthropy as they move into the social sector, as described in “The Seeds of Change in Philanthropy” report , authored by Katherine Fulton, Andrew Blau, and Gabriel Kasper. As new philanthropists, in general, they are younger, more “hands on,” prone to “giving while living,” more results-focused, involved in efforts both close to home and globally, and more. But from my personal standpoint, business entrepreneurs also bring additional characteristics to philanthropy and the social sector:

  • A resourcefulness and, at times, a free-wheeling style;
  • The ability to see problems and opportunities where others don’t and the aptitude to find new ways to solve problems and capitalize on those opportunities;
  • An impatience with the status quo and “traditional thinking;”
  • The capacity to get things done, make things happen—ideas are a dime a dozen and those who turn ideas into reality, often against the odds, are greatly valued;
  • An obsessive compulsion or, some say, an irrational drive, to make vision a reality. Often in business, no one believes them at the outset and they generally got more discouragement than support until they had something tangible to show;
  • Perseverance, often overcoming the insurmountable, so the same expectations are present with philanthropy;
  • An unrelenting focus on results, rather than process; and
  • A need (or want) for “big impact.”

When business entrepreneurs make the transition into the world of philanthropy and the social sector there will be change—often with a flurry of questions ranging from the motive behind their actions to the “goodness and badness” of their efforts. There is no doubt the pot will be stirred—it’s in the DNA.

Here then are some generalizations about behaviors I‘ve observed or done myself:

They bring money ― Wealth makes business entrepreneurs sought after as money is a scarce resource, required by all in the nonprofit world. Not afraid to spend or, in this case, give it away, they bring money to a sector always in need of funding—and this alone makes them important.

They want to be part of the solution ― Writing a check isn’t enough. They want to be engaged. Many have built organizations, raised money, forged partnerships, hired talented people, and made difficult decisions. They like to use what they know to be effective in their philanthropy—to them it’s natural to think this way.

They find ways to leverage money and efforts ― It is more than making a gift. Often, they see it as an investment in their cause or community. And, as such, they’re willing to use their influence to leverage their money and efforts several times over if possible. This is how it worked in business, and continuing this approach with philanthropy is innate. They will use their influence to drive issues and bring people and resources to augment efforts.

They believe in talent ― They place a premium on highly driven, smart people. They understand how critical the right talent is to success and, as such, are impatient—a lot—with mediocrity.

They network with purpose ― Most instinctively understand how to network and use its power to the fullest. Eager to learn and leverage their efforts, business entrepreneurs reach out to peers and pull people they know into ventures (or try to). Ironically, they don’t always reach out to those who aren’t peers or inside their normal circles of contacts, which I believe has been one of the grating factors underlying the real or perceived divide between the new and the established. They use networks to open new doors and facilitate the flow of ideas and resources for the causes they support.

They’re not afraid to team up with others ― Because they had to find ways to work with the very firms with which they competed, working with others is not new. But, don’t make this more than it is, because they tended to work with those they liked and respected or, more often what is not said, they had to because of competitive pressures. The willingness to team and partner with others can be a positive for their efforts.

They’re more risk-oriented or, better said, less failure conscious ― For an entrepreneur, not getting something right or coming up short is not viewed as failure, but just another step in the journey. They often learn by trying. Probing, testing, and learning through an iterative process can drive folks not used to this mode of development crazy—just ask anyone who has ever worked with me! They bring a healthy understanding of what it takes to build a start-up, along with the risks involved, and are naturally drawn to support new leaders.

They want scale ― They did things quickly in business, some even moved and changed industries, and speed is an adrenaline source. They’ll push to make things happen faster and bigger. Business entrepreneurs will drive growth in size and impact.

They don’t think in terms of sectors, but rather broad impact ― It doesn’t matter whether a vision is achieved through a for-profit, nonprofit, or even public venue; it’s simply an interim vehicle (the means) to an end. They are more likely to look at how to solve a problem and then determine whether to do so through a for-profit, nonprofit, public, or hybrid approach.

They are increasingly global ― Their business careers have taken them to many parts of the world. They’re comfortable, even at home, abroad for both business and pleasure. They vacation all over the world, even having homes in other countries. They encounter global issues more and more and are choosing to focus their efforts on a broader basis.

Business entrepreneurs have much to offer and are a growing force with profound implications—economically, politically, and socially. And, here in America and increasingly on a global scale, society will benefit from their broader view of life engagement, as they move in the words of Bob Buford “from a life of financial success to life significance.”

Many make the transition from business, but it is seldom an “either/or” event. For most, it’s a gradual shift in their focus from business to becoming more vested in social or civic actions to give something back to their community and make contributions to society.

There is no assurance of how the new philanthropy of the 1990s and early 2000s will be viewed in 2050 or 2100. In my relatively limited 15 years of observing the transition of business entrepreneurs to a broader philanthropic venue and having lived it myself, I suggest that the success from a social and civic standpoint—the real fruits of our labors—will be achieved or negated based on how well some of the challenges are encountered and handled.

With the benefit of hindsight, here are some thoughts to consider for business entrepreneurs making the transition, particularly those involved with direct service organizations or efforts to serve targeted populations directly. It’s important, however, to set some caveats. First, what follows reflects the views and opinions I’ve developed—not right/wrong or good/bad scenarios. They are certainly not all inclusive. And, most important, these ideas have different and varying degrees of relevance across the broad spectrum of philanthropy and social innovation.

The social/citizen and the public sectors are really different from the private one—and it’s a big transition. Some of the differences I’ve observed and experienced include:

  • Relationships play a much greater role in the social sector as does protocol in the public sector, often having greater importance than the “systems,” e.g., processes, products, and services.
  • Context has an extremely significant function, again taking precedence over the content of an issue. Protocol, form, and respect are essential in this world and can sometimes obviate the “right” answer. At times, formal or informal credentials will override raw talent. The issue itself may be crystal clear to you, but understanding the context within which the issue is framed is key (and the difference between success and failure).
  • All organizations deal with external factors, but social sector organizations confront and work through more outside conditions beyond their control and that are more social and people-based in nature.
  • Social complexity—the combination of all of the above and then some—makes working in this sector more difficult, a point made quite well by Jim Collins in his monograph Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

There are certainly additional views of these differences. These particular points, however, illustrate that the business leader who brings an ability to read people and situations, understands nuance, and thinks beyond business practices, systems, and processes has a much greater chance to succeed in the social sector.

Understand the importance of respect and empathy. First, having a genuine respect for the people your philanthropy is meant to help is vital. And, second, regardless of your business fame or stature, realize you have to earn a new respect in this space, and it takes a lot of time and personal investment. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Earning the respect of the organizations we seek to work with and the children and people we hope to serve is absolutely essential. It can only be done over time and by getting engaged. Legitimate empathy (not sympathy) is another characteristic which helps you gain credibility within the sector and be effective with your efforts. You don’t have to have parallel experiences, but compassion and care about your philanthropic counterparts will be tested quickly. Fakery is soon “outed” in this world, but genuine concern is recognized and appreciated.

Recognize that things take longer, but don’t capitulate that it has to be as long as everyone tells you. We have learned the hard way that things just take longer to get done. Some of the delay deals with the differences noted above. Sometimes it’s a function of the acute shortage of capital and available executive talent. Sometimes it’s caused by the remarkably fragile ecosystem that surrounds most nonprofit and social initiatives, quite different from the world enjoyed by most business people. And, sometimes it’s because people can get stuck in how they have always done things and their own expectations for performance. Things will take longer, but there is substantial room for improvement, where fact-based decisions, strong execution, greater rigor and discipline in management, clearer aspirations, more engaged boards, and strong management can make remarkable strides in relatively short times (compared to the field).

Keep your ego within “reasonable” check. The private sector strokes you enough to cause swelled heads, but philanthropists are literally deified—and it can be hard to stay grounded and build the filters you need to get truth and “unvarnished” opinion…few will tell the person with the gold that his ideas are bad!

What I’m about to say next shouldn’t generate any sympathy, but perceptions scale directly to your level of wealth. What am I talking about? I couldn’t get over how I was suddenly smarter, more eloquent, invited to more events, and told funnier jokes once I had more zeroes after my name. And, I wasn’t even a geek before (at least I don’t think I was). As my work in philanthropy grew, I would look in the mirror and say, “I’m the same guy I was back in 1985 when all I had was a meager start-up and just enough money to get by (sometimes). So why, to my amazement, have I suddenly become something bigger, more noble, and more important?” I don’t think I’ve changed much, but my net worth has apparently affected the perceptions of others. And, I believe this is a general phenomenon in the field.

Ironically, this change in expectations and perceptions, if gone unrecognized, can be a huge disadvantage to a business entrepreneur’s efforts in the social sector. Many entrepreneurs literally thrive on hard feedback as they test new ideas and early products. If they don’t get constructive and, at times, piercing feedback, they’re apt to take a position or advance a new product or service that will likely miss the market. They’ll be wrong. Business entrepreneurs run this risk many times over in philanthropic efforts. The reason? The lion’s share of the field—nonprofits and foundations alike—are not about to tell major donors, once they have a vested interest, that their ideas don’t cut it and risk “biting the hand that feeds it.” The glaring danger? The well-intended business entrepreneur continues the effort unabated, poorly advised, with a high likelihood of ultimate failure, or even worse, damage to the organization or cause. Having people in your circle of contacts who will tell you “how it is” is invaluable.

Not all business entrepreneur traits transfer well. Some of the characteristics that were effective in the private sector may not work now. In fact, I’ve also learned that some of these traits don’t endear you as a spouse or a parent either. The highly driven nature, the adrenaline kick-in, the brashness that is valued in business settings, the “take it on at all costs” mentality, all have their consequences in a world where relationship, context, and social complexity play such important roles in being effective. The leader of a remarkable global charity told me the story of a high-profile business entrepreneur who approached him to make a major gift. It quickly became apparent that this donor wanted an excessive level of control as a quid pro quo, and the leader wisely demurred. The rest of the story is only believable if you’ve been on the for-profit side with exposure to buy-outs, mergers, and acquisitions. The entrepreneur, unfazed, told him that he was becoming the major supporter of another charity that did similar work globally and conveyed “we’ll run you out of business.” Clearly an exception, but illustrative of how business entrepreneurs bring not only their characteristics but their business values to their philanthropy—for most it works well, but for some it can be their downfall.

Be able to navigate formal and informal systems. Many of the factors vital to success are outside of your immediate control—the multiplicity of stakeholders, the interdependency of “supply chains,” and the expectations society places on nonprofits. These dynamics include governments who purposely underfund services because they are provided by nonprofits; funders who won’t fund operational costs or, even worse, penalize organizations for what they consider high overhead costs without regard to the impact or value being provided; or those who insist that nonprofit professionals should work for lesser compensation because they are “mission-driven.” One of the skills and characteristics that has served our work so well has been having leadership at VPP that is both knowledgeable of and able to navigate the formal and informal systems—political, cultural, social, jurisdictional and other—that create an ecosystem capable of “organ rejection” to any new approach. In this world, knowing who to involve, organizations to touch, and context issues to address is critical.

Don’t assume “market forces.” Many business entrepreneurs relied on market forces for success in the private sector. But, such reliance may be misplaced, or maybe better said, misjudged in the social sector. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take advantages of market forces where they can, but avoid the assumption that the market forces at work in the private sector carry over to the social sector.

Government funding and programs are important. There is a romantic, idealistic view that we can scale solutions without government funding. In some areas this may be true, but in areas where public funding approximates from 85 to 95 percent of the available funding, e.g., human services, this is simply not realistic. To drive home the dramatic nature of this point, consider Melinda Gates’ acknowledgment in her keynote speech at the Council on Foundations conference: “If we spent our entire endowment [the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation], we couldn’t even cover the cost of schooling California’s students for one year. That one state spends more than $50 billion educating its children every year.”

Business entrepreneurs reluctantly come to grips that effectively navigating the labyrinth of government bodies and agencies is critical to their philanthropic and civic efforts and requires specialized knowledge. Ironically, those who were most effective within government markets in their business lives reached that same conclusion.

Move beyond the “Dance of Deceit.” Some worry that the power of philanthropy can corrupt the aspirations of those it aims to help. We all too often see this dance at work: Really great leaders with equally great ideas allow themselves and their ideas to be sidetracked, even taken fully off mission, to capture the resources they need, which then go to something different than either the leader or the donor originally conceived. Foundations are equally responsible because they can be seduced by their power and may not explicitly work to contain it. Mission dilution for the leader and organization can occur as multiple donors each require subtle, but real shifts in the organization’s direction. So aspirations and innovation risk subversion, money is delivered and the leader can be compromised. Both the leader and the philanthropist run the chance of sub-optimizing the potential of their relationship and the opportunities they could have explored.

Instead, by building a true respect, understanding each other’s respective side, and setting clear expectations of what each one wants and needs, both funder and recipient can come away with great experiences.

Remember your limits. One of the realities of the business world is that when the Peter Principle kicks in and you hit a level above your competence, change will soon be in your future (unless you own most of the stock). Those “checks and balances” are nonexistent in philanthropy and the social sector. Regrettably, this is something I fall prey to all too easily. All I can suggest is to look back on your business life and know where you had to make adjustments and where your skills didn’t match the needs. The same may be true of your work in philanthropy, but no one will remind you. That’s why it is always good to have a true “consigliore” in your inner circle. You may hate what they say when they say it, but if you’re honest, it will make a great difference in the long run for you and your work.

We are in a remarkable period. Business entrepreneurs will have a stunning impact on philanthropy, global issues, and society. There is simply too much wealth creation underway with a volume and velocity never before witnessed, and philanthropy and societal contributions traditionally follow this movement. The challenge before business entrepreneurs, myself included, is to ensure that the impact we have is highly positive and not inadvertently seen historically as naively misplaced efforts and priorities. One way we can help ensure a path to the former is our willingness to step back, learn, and adapt to the ways of the world beyond the private sector.

- Mario Morino

Building a Community

Jack Davies

We have always believed that there is great value in bringing together our investors and friends to enhance and enrich this special community we are building through our work at VPP. Last autumn we inaugurated our Investor Event Series with the appearance of Patty Stonesifer from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—the idea being to have a small, intimate dialogue with a notable person who is actively driving and serving as a change agent in philanthropy today. Stonesifer offered some special insights as she and her colleagues see the doubling of their foundation assets and how they see this new challenge as an opportunity to make even greater investments in organizations worldwide. Also, the commitment by Warren Buffet to the Gates Foundation to leverage their expertise and infrastructure offered some interesting parallels to VPP’s model. Before the holiday break we hosted an event with Charles Collier from Harvard who led an inspired discussion about the challenges that families face today in raising responsible and “charitable” children.

Filmanthropist Ted Leonsis, flanked by event hosts Raul Fernandez (left) and Jack Davies (right), at the special screening of
Filmanthropist Ted Leonsis, flanked by event hosts Raul Fernandez (left) and Jack Davies (right), at the special screening of "Nanking" for VPP investors and friends.

We envision a number of these programs yearly, and, in 2007, we have hosted two programs for our investors: the special screening of Ted Leonsis’ documentary film, “Nanking,” and an afternoon dialogue with Ted Turner around “Planetary Philanthropy.” Leonsis, a founding investor of VPP, spoke about the phrase he has coined “filmanthropy” and how VPP has played an important part in influencing and shaping his philanthropy—all of which touches upon people and organizations who are powerful brokers of social change. Ted believes that documentary films can also contribute to this change.

Turner, a renowned philanthropist and business leader, addressed trends he sees in the field today and where and how his decision-making and his own personal giving, including his historic $1B gift to establish the UN Foundation, have helped global organizations and institutions advance human rights, nuclear disarmament, and the preservation of our global environment. In an insightful, provocative, and entertaining conversation with VPP Chairman Mario Morino, Turner shared his proudest philanthropic accomplishment: putting his kids through school, as well as the advice to not think of philanthropy as a chore, but as something fun. He also advocated against the term “giving” and instead encouraged the group to think of it as “investing…investing in humanity and investing in your children.”

I know our investors and some special friends who have attended have benefited from these lively discussions. And these discussions allow us to probe and evaluate our work at VPP even more closely.

As we formally launch our Campaign for Venture Philanthropy Partners, I will continue to share updates with you about these investor gatherings which build our community of philanthropists and weave a common theme around the need to share best practices. As organizations and individual philanthropists, we will explore together to find the challenges and the opportunities to improve all of our work.

We hope you find these events informative and inspiring and can join us at future get-togethers. If you have any ideas of speakers or topics that you would be interested in learning more about, please let us know.

- Jack Davies 

Investor Update


"100 Pumps in 100 Days"

An update on PlayPumps International, an innovative initiative that Jean and Steve Case have supported through the Case Foundation.

PlayPumps International, together with Save the Children USA, has launched a campaign to bring clean water to 100 schools and communities in Africa. Supported by tennis star Nicole Vaidisova, the "100 Pumps in 100 Days" campaign aims to raise $1.4 million to fund PlayPump water systems—a pump powered by a merry-go-round. The campaign, which began on World Water Day, March 22, and ends June 29, engages students, clubs, faith-based organizations, and others in raising money and awareness. An Action Kit contains 100 ideas for fundraising and outreach. So far, the campaign has raised money for more than 30 pumps.

A PlayPump water system is a child’s merry-go-round attached to a water pump and storage tank that provides clean drinking water and powerful educational messages to schools and communities in Africa. By 2010, 4,000 PlayPump systems will be installed in 10 sub-Saharan African countries.

PlayPumps International, which raises money to donate PlayPump water systems to schools and communities in sub-Saharan Africa, is known for its collaborative approach. PlayPumps has enjoyed the support of foundations, corporations, governments, and celebrities, including music artist Jay-Z, whose MTV documentary "Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life" raised awareness of the water crisis.

Additional campaign supporters include the Case Foundation, National Geographic Kids, Flashbags, Hard Rock International, Allido Records, Anheuser-Busch, the Film Connection, the Center for International Education, the National Youth Leadership Council, and APCO Worldwide. 

From VPP

Notes from Council On Foundations Conference in Seattle

VPP stakeholders played integral roles at the 58th Annual Conference of the Council on Foundations, held in Seattle, April 29 to May 1.

Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and VPP board member, was Chair of the Program Committee which built the conference around the theme: “Philanthropy and the Challenges of Our Time: Making a Difference at Home and Around the Globe.”

Governor Mark Warner was the keynote speaker at the opening plenary, which drew upwards of 1,600 attendees. He talked about the unique role of foundations today in a “most challenging” world and urged a coming together of the “old and new giving entities” to respond to recent and pressing societal issues. He urged foundations to reach across the aisle and build relationships and working opportunities with the public sector and with elected officials.

Warner spoke about his own personal commitment to philanthropy and said that in addition to the work that he and his wife do through their family foundation, he co-founded VPP, describing it as an innovative model of engaged, venture philanthropy today.

During the afternoon sessions, VPP presented an outline of its work—the nuts and bolts of the operation—and then addressed questions from a standing room only crowd. VPP Board member Ed Skloot facilitated the panel, with participants including Governor Warner, VPP investor Kathy Bushkin Calvin, and VPP President and CEO Carol Thompson Cole.

During the Q&A period, the audience asked a number of probing questions, including: What is the true meaning today of the social entrepreneur and what really is venture philanthropy? You comment on the need to strengthen and build good leadership, but is there a healthy supply of good leaders today? If a nonprofit grows to scale, can it still be effective and produce quality programs?

In response to the question, “What is the real impact for the children and families you serve?” Thompson Cole said, “Time will tell, but we are focused on being able to articulate that and will be working more closely with all of our investment partners to determine exactly where and how their work impacts the lives of the kids and families served.”

Monday’s plenary session included a keynote address from Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She discussed the lessons learned from her perspective of what she called a “young” foundation with a commitment to bring about social change. She cited her numerous personal visits areas where the Gates Foundation is involved and a recurring message was “listen to the people in the field” for they can “guide and advise” in a way that will dramatically assist in giving. Reinforcing Governor Warner’s remarks from the previous day, she said, “We would be nowhere today if we had not worked to build powerful relationships with governments and local elected officials.”

Other conference attendees included VPP investors Julie Jensen and Candy Bryant of the Graham Fund, Board member Terri Freeman of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and Honorary Board member Julie Rogers of the Meyer Foundation.

Thompson Cole reported that many people said it was “one of the best annual conference they had ever attended—largely due to the diversity of programs and the highly substantive sessions.”

Investment Partner Updates

Management Changes

AALEAD Announces Planned Leadership Change
Thanks to Rosetta Lai, VP for Development and External Affairs, for this update.

Sandy Dang, Founder and Executive Director, will resign from AALEAD effective September 30, 2007. After nearly 13 years of service to the Asian American community in the Washington, DC area, Dang intends to pursue new opportunities but will continue to serve as an advisor/consultant to the organization. AALEAD’s board has been working closely with her to ensure a smooth and orderly leadership transition, including developing plans and procedures to capture and document her knowledge and experience. The Board will conduct a national search to find the best candidate for the executive director position.

In announcing Dang’s planned departure, the Board noted that AALEAD is well-positioned for success. In the last decade, AALEAD has grown significantly and has attracted both local and national recognition for its programs. Its leadership has adopted a set of strategies to guide the organization’s growth and development over the next five years, including expanding its programs into Montgomery County, strengthening its programmatic structure, and building sustainability.

In her message to the AALEAD staff, Dang said, “For more than a decade, I have had the privilege of working with many committed and dedicated people like you to build a vibrant community-based organization. Together, we have made a difference for thousands of children and their families. As I prepare for this big change, I look forward to being a cheerleader for AALEAD in a new and different way, and I hope that you will continue your strong commitment to our youth and families.”

Board Changes

Mary's Center Clients Join Board
Thanks to Lyda Vanegas, Advocacy and Communications Officer, for this update.

Luisa Sanchez and Andrea Lopez have been Mary’s Center clients for several years. They didn’t know each other until a few weeks ago, yet there are parallels in their lives. Both are immigrants from Colombia in South America and they have actively participated at Mary’s Center activities as volunteers. Now, Sanchez and Lopez have one more thing in common. They were elected by the board of directors to join the team as part of the 51 percent of the board that represents the clients of the Center.

Sanchez is currently completing her Master’s of Business Administration at the University of the District of Columbia and, prior to that, she completed a BA in Early Childhood Development at the same university. She also holds a degree in accounting from the Universidad Externado de Colombia. She has extensive experience in the field of public relations, marketing, and communications.

“There can’t be a better opportunity for me to support a center that has supported me throughout the years I’ve been in this country,” she said.

Lopez works at American Family Life Assurance Company, AFLAC, as an insurance agent and she is receiving training at Kaplan University. She also volunteers at the Centro Cristiano Ebenezer A.D., as an administrator. In her native country, Lopez studied the business administration of small and medium-sized organizations and theology with a goal of better assisting others in the community.

“My children are part of Mary’s Center’s Teen Program and they have received training and support that has been essential to their lives,” Lopez said. “I have many reasons why I feel the need to serve others through the work at Mary’s Center Board of Directors.”

Programs & Services

Job Fair Connects Youth with Employers
Thanks to Jim Whitney, Director of Communications, for this update.

More than 650 youth and 65 employers in Montgomery County took part in the “Let’s Get It Started Job Fair for Youth” on Saturday, April 14, hosted by Latin American Youth Center’s (LAYC) Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers and the Montgomery County Youth Council.

Held at the Montgomery College Rockville Campus Gymnasium, the Job Fair matched employers in the county with youth and young adults, providing 16- to 21-year-olds with one-stop exposure to employment opportunities, internships, and apprenticeship information.

Luisa Montero, Managing Director of LAYC’s Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers, said, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the Job Fair. Turnout was terrific. Employers and youth were very pleased with the opportunities available through the fair. Employers enjoyed easy access to engaged, committed employees and more than 300 youth lined up follow-up interviews through the fair. It was great to work with the Montgomery County Youth Council, employers in the county, and other community organizations to offer the Job Fair. The county deserves a lot of credit for focusing on employment opportunities for young people.”

Awards & Recognition


Heads Up Tutors Spruce Up School and Receive Awards
Thanks to Sara Brandspigel, Development Manager,, for this update.

On April 21, Heads Up staff and tutors gathered at Browne Junior High School to participate in a DCPS beautification project on National & Global Youth Service Day, the largest service event in the world.

The school needed a facelift—peeling paint, scattered trash, and dead foliage contributed to an air of neglect. Approximately 200 volunteers from Heads Up and other service organizations divided into teams to paint motivational murals in the hallways, pick up garbage, and plant flowers and trees.

200 volunteers from Heads Up painting murals

At the end of the day, David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, presented the Presidential Service Award to 13 Heads Up AmeriCorps members.

“I was thrilled to see our tutors being honored,” said George Gray, Jr., Director of College Programs. “Each of our AmeriCorps members makes an incredible commitment to helping low-income children for one year. Many of them pass up better-paid internships and jobs so they can give back to the community.”


College Summit Recognizes Student Leaders
Thanks to Bryan Carter, Site Associate National Capital Region, for this update.

On April 19, College Summit recognized more than 200 local high school seniors, alongside their teachers and College Summit supporters, as outstanding student leaders at the First Annual Peer Leadership Awards. Held at Phillips Seafood Flagship Restaurant, the inaugural ceremony exemplified College Summit’s core value of celebration.

“We’re proud to honor these students and teachers who have gone above and beyond to help students enroll in college,” said Donna Fleming, Executive Director for College Summit—National Capital Region. “Our high schools are firmly committed to ensuring all college-capable youth in the community enroll in college by building an environment where students are prepared for college, and motivated to pursue their postsecondary goals.”

Ebony Harris of Laurel High School, Laurel, MD, received the “Peer Leadership Award;” Lisa Labella of Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA, received the “Most Compassionate College Summit Teacher Award;” and her students, the Peer Leaders of Wakefield High School, received the “Creating College-Going Culture in Your School” award.

Harris said, “College Summit has impacted our school incredibly. Last year, no one was talking about college, but this year everyone wants to be a part of College Summit.”

Labella added, “I believe in turning everything into an opportunity and College Summit does that for the kids.”


CMHS LogoCMHS Video Wins Silver Telly
Thanks to Executive Director Dennis Hunt for this update.

The Distance Traveled, a video documentary featuring a Center for Multicultural Human Services (CMHS) client hailing from Sub-Saharan Africa, won a Silver Telly Award. Founded in 1978, the Telly Awards honor local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs; and video and film productions. Fewer than 10 percent of entries are chosen as winners.

The video, submitted under the “Non-Broadcast Productions – Charitable/Not-for-Profit” category, was commissioned by CMHS and produced by Emperor Productions, a Virginia-based company that specializes in visual storytelling for the nonprofit community. The video consists of sound bytes, selected from interviews with the client, each bearing testimony to the value and effectiveness of the CMHS holistic care model, and complemented by slice-of-life visuals.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of CMHS’s efforts to educate other communities about a service delivery model responsive to the needs of refugees and immigrants, The Distance Traveled is the second CMHS-commissioned video production to receive a Silver Telly Award; the first was Children of War: A Video for Educators, produced by Video/Action, Inc.

Announcements of Note


CFNC's Relationship with Virginia Senator Highlighted
Thanks to Kate Lyng, Manager of Development, for this update.

In early April, the Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC) was chosen by Virginia State Senator Patsy Ticer as the context for a portrait to be included in an upcoming exhibition entitled “Living Legends of Alexandria” slated to be shown at Alexandria’s Lyceum in 2008. Alexandria artist, Nina Tisara, envisioned this project after being approached by the City for some photos of notable Alexandria community members. In partnership with the Alexandria Gazette Packet, Tisara ran an essay contest asking area citizens to nominate prominent local celebrities.

About 40 nominees have been photographed and all will be included in the upcoming exhibition. Tisara explained that the project aims to capture “the City’s changing landscape,” offering an ongoing record of its history. Each nominee was asked to choose an issue important to them and a portrait would be taken within that context. As a long-time supporter, Ticer chose to have her photo taken with the children of CFNC.

Ticer learned about CFNC shortly after CFNC opened its doors more than 20 years ago. Since then, she has demonstrated her interest in Alexandria’s children and her commitment to CFNC by visiting classrooms, attending special events such as CFNC’s annual Multicultural Celebration and annual “An Evening in the Vineyards,” and participating in CFNC’s signature Tips for Kids.