One of my high school English teachers introduced a unit on poetry with a drawing on the blackboard: a large carton of orange juice, standing tall next to a small can of frozen orange juice concentrate. “Which provides more juice?” he asked, and it didn’t take long for us to figure out that the small can of concentrate produces several more cups of orange juice than the large carton, so long as you added several cans of water to the concentrate. More discussion ensued, and it soon became clear that this teacher (himself a poet, and later an Oprah-featured novelist) saw poetry as the can of orange juice concentrate – seemingly small and inconsequential next to a hefty novel, but able to deliver a more transcendent payoff for readers willing to put in the work.
This week, Nicky Goren and I had the privilege of attending the ribbon-cutting for Dance Place’s new 9,500-square-foot dance education and performance space on 8th Street NE in DC. The opening of this beautiful facility represents a milestone in the Meyer Foundation’s 34-year relationship with Dance Place. It’s also a reminder that capacity-building--especially for small, community-based nonprofits--takes time, trust, and leadership. Organizations don’t turn into community anchors after one or two grants over a few years.
As I begin my third week at the Meyer Foundation, I wanted to share how truly honored I am to be leading this institution, and to underscore the enormous sense of responsibility I feel as I assume this role. For 70 years, the Meyer Foundation has been at the forefront of philanthropy in the Greater Washington region—supporting the nonprofit sector and its leaders, and investing in programs and initiatives to improve the lives of those most in need. Given the growing disparities in income and opportunity in our region, this work has never been more critical.
Today the Meyer Foundation’s staff had a farewell lunch with our president, Julie Rogers -- the last in a series of ceremonial moments to honor Julie as she steps down after 28 years of service.
How many nonprofits would consider telling stories to be their job? Probably not many, and with good reason—for there to be stories worth telling, programs need to be run, and services need to be provided. But organizations like Tahirih Justice Center also consider telling their story to be a job (with staff even asking each other, “What’s your story of the day?”), and it shows.
One of the most noteworthy findings from Daring to Lead 2011, the national study of 3,000 nonprofit executives produced by CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation, was the contrast between the large number of executive directors who described themselves as “very happy” after less than a year on the job (more than half) and the much smaller number who said they were very happy after being an executive director for a few years.
At its May 1 meeting, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation board of directors approved 84 grants totaling more than $3.2 million in the Foundation’s four program areas of Education, Healthy Communities, Economic Security, and a Strong Nonprofit Sector. These grants will support organizations whose work collectively touches the lives of more than 250,000 low-income people in the Washington metropolitan region.
This post originally appeared on www.dailywrag.com. As a grantmaker, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve formed an opinion about an organization after reading their proposal, only to change my mind during a site visit.
The board of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation has appointed Nicky Goren, current president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation, as the Meyer Foundation’s next president and CEO, effective July 1, 2014.
During the process of combing through and analyzing more than 195 nonprofit stories this past fall, our research team here at the Center for Social Impact Communication learned a thing or two about what makes certain stories more effective, inspiring or compelling than others. We shared what we consider to be our “basic building blocks” for good stories in our first training session at the Meyer Foundation in February, and below is a summary of some of the key pitfalls to avoid when constructing your organizations stories.