First Book-DC Featured in Local Spotlight

I co-lead First Book-DC with Angel McNeil–an early childhood curriculum guru and instructional coach!  Recently, Angel and I had a chat with Jalisa Whitley, founder of Non-Profit Help, LLC, to discuss a variety of things centered around our experience with First Book-DC.  Here’s one of the questions and responses:

Tell me a little bit about your path into First Book, what sparked your passion for literacy?

Darla: I found out about First Book as a corp member with Teach for America in New Orleans.  I participated in a professional development workshop on nonprofit board leadership, and the presenter was a woman who ran First Book’s local advisory board in New Orleans.  As a teacher, I saw the benefit of the program.  I taught third, fourth, and fifth grade English and Social Studies in a “failing school,” and was faced head on with the reality that so many kids cannot read or do not have the basic phonemic awareness and foundational skills to propel them to be critical thinkers and readers in later grades. I had to purchase many supplies out of pocket and I found that I could not afford all of the books and educational supplies that were required in order to ensure that I met the needs of my students.

My personal experience as a teacher really sparked my interest in First Book because the organization supports teachers and nonprofit organizations working to fight illiteracy and put quality resources into classrooms. I initially joined the First Book board as a volunteer board member without a title. I had the opportunity to learn from board members of various ages in a variety of different roles. When I made the decision to move to Washington, D.C.I knew I wanted to be a part of the First Book board here, but found that it had dissolved.

The previous DC board was run by members of Sun Trust Bank’s Mortgage Department. Unfortunately, the previous board fell right along with the mortgage department during the crisis. During my transition from New Orleans to D.C. I stayed in touch with the national First Book organization and they ended up tapping me to lead the effort to establish a new First Book board in DC. As a result of my previous volunteer work and involvement, I was able to transition into a formal leadership role when the opportunity presented itself.

Angel: I have been in education for about six years and it is easy to get wrapped up in work, so I wanted to find a meaningful way outside of work to give back to the community that had provided me with so many great opportunities. I found out about First Book while doing a Volunteer Match search where I found a listing for a position on the Advisory Board. It aligned with my beliefs in terms of literacy and providing resources to children and I had the opportunity to begin as the DC board was in the process of re-launching.

Access to resources was never an issue during my childhood, my parents read to me every day. I loved to read, a fun day for me was going to the library and I was always known as the girl with books in her backpack. So, finding out that many underprivileged schools lacked resources was shocking to me. Access to outside resources is essential for children to learn how to read and write, especially in a time when libraries are closing down, teachers aren’t equipped with the funds to constantly purchase books, and the top priorities of parents may not be going to Barnes and Nobles to buy books.  I know how far the books and resources I’ve been given have taken me in my life and I want that for all children.

Check out more of the spotlight here.  Follow @FirstBookDC on Twitter! LIKE us on Facebook.

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Recap: Buying Books on My Birthday! \o/

 

I made a wish for public schools. Now I can't tell you exactly what, or else my dream won't come true. :)

I made a wish for public schools. Now I can’t tell you exactly what, or else my dream won’t come true. 🙂

For the second year in row, I used my birthday to give for good and benefit an organization where I volunteer my time:  First Book-DC!  This year’s Literacy Movement raised over $1,400 to provide book grants for teachers and literacy programs serving children in need.   Held on November 9th, at Ulah Bistro on U. Street, my birthday friendraiser brought together over fifty young professionals in the DC Metropolitan Area united to fight illiteracy.

My friend and founder of Capital Media USA, Garrett James, served as the night’s photographer and wrote a great piece on the event.  Check out pictures on his website and amazing recap.  Below is a snippet:

Quick Story: I grew up in the great state of North Carolina; home of chopped BBQ (not that ‘pulled’ stuff yall northerners eat), tobacco, and some of theeeee BEST universities this side of the galaxy. And with that, we also have/had pretty good public schools systems. So when I came to the DMV and heard that public schools had a different reputation, I wasn’t happy about it but I understood how that could be. What bothered me most then and even today, was knowing that some kids didn’t have books to read at school or at home. Like really? How can we have high expectations for youth if we don’t prepare them properly? It was challenging for me to accept. It seemed like a hyperbole statement someone created to make a point, but it’s not; it’s true. Even now, it bothers me and it bothers Ms. Bunting also. This is one of the reasons she supports First Book; she’s also the Co-Chair with Angel McNeil.

Darla shared some of the org’s model with me recently: “We give out book grants to teachers and nonprofits serving children in need twice a year–once in the fall and spring.  Since we are volunteer-led, 100% of your donation goes to our book grants.   First Book has partnerships with major book distributors like Harper Collins and Barnes and Noble, so our book grantees use their grants to purchase books for at significantly discounted prices.  The average book costs $2.50 on the First Book Marketplace.  Your donation goes a long way. Once the teacher or nonprofit receives the books, they use them in the curriculum, and then the books become the property of the kids.” #winning

Check out the full post here and browse around Garrett James’ site while you’re there!

Ensuring the Success of Great Startups

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Mark Hecker, Founder and Executive Director of Reach, Inc. published an honest and critical piece on the role privilege plays in the success of our nation’s most innovative solutions. From afar, I’ve always admired Mark’s candid approach to addressing a cause we care about: America’s public education system.

The first time I heard Mark speak was at First Book-DC’s Literacy Bonanza–an event that highlighted nonprofits with innovative solutions to address illiteracy in DC. Mark doesn’t sip the Koolaid of trendy reform. That was evident to me that night as he shared the story of Reach, Inc’s creation and how we all share a responsibility to support the ideas of Reach, Inc and the other startups that night. But what stuck out most to me was his appeal for funding. He didn’t dance around the issue. He was very blunt about the fact that we do need money to make a difference.

After reestablishing the First Book-DC volunteer-led advisory board, I am now in a position where the success of the board is determined by how much money we raise to support our book grant program. As the child of a first generation college student, I know that my network of wealth is slim. When I decided to reestablish the board, I knew that I would have to find a way to tap into DC’s elite philanthropic sector. Slowly, but surely, my board of committed volunteers and I are doing just that. Nevertheless, this is an uphill battle and we’re using all the resources we have.

Moreover, when I read Mark’s piece called “The Power of My Privilege,” I knew that Mark had done it again. He spoke candidly about funding. Yet, this time he spoke not to individuals with small amounts of disposable income who want to make a difference. He called out the huge grantors who truly decide which nonprofits survive the crucial first years.

Below is an excerpt:

For three years, I have been learning the ins and outs of the philanthropy game. And, though the work is often challenging, the community of philanthropists I have discovered are both well-meaning and generous. However, as “data” and “impact” have become larger factors in funding decisions, a frightening selection bias is emerging.

It has become commonplace for funders – corporate, foundation, and individual – to require “proof” before any money is provided. Often, institutional funders will not even consider a request before an organization has been operating for a number of years. So, how is an organization supposed to survive those first few years? How can a great idea see the light of day without the support of the philanthropic community? To this point, the answer has been stated without question. Those in the philanthropic community often say, without reservation, that early organizations must “bootstrap it” or “start off with friends and family.”

I encourage you to read the rest of his piece at Unsectored and share your thoughts.

Additionally, First Book-DC kicked off our Fall into Reading Online Giving Campaign yesterday. I’ll take a page from Mark’s book and ask you to consider making a donation! You can donate here.. 100% of your donation goes to ensuring First Book-DC can continue providing schools and nonprofits with high-quality books to use in their curriculum and ultimately become the property of the kids!

Apply for a Capital Cause Microgrant!

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Is your nonprofit doing work to address the issues of hunger, homeless and poverty in the DC Metropolitan area? If so, your organization may be eligible to receive a Capital Cause Grant!

Capital Cause is pleased to announce its second grant cycle of the 2012 year! Capital Cause is an organization that invests young professionals in philanthropy through collective giving of monetary donations (Capital) and time (Cause). Since 2009, Capital Cause has awarded nearly 20 microgrants to deserving nonprofits across the Washington Metropolitan Area, and your nonprofit could be next!

This year, Capital Cause Young Philanthropists selected poverty to be ourcause of the year. As such, all microgrants we award will be used to assist nonprofits and causes doing work in this area. According to the United Nations:

“Poverty is defined as ‘a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and informations. It depends not just on the income, but also on access to services.'”

During our second cycle, Capital Cause will award monetary grants focusing organizations that aim to eradicate poverty.

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, October 17th at 11:59pm.

Microgrants will be awarded in $500 and $1,000 increments. Nonprofits who meet the requirements below are encouraged to apply:

1. Be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit as defined by the IRS
2. Aim to address poverty
3. Complete the Capital Microgrant Online Application

Qualifying organizations can complete our online application here:http://www.capitalcause.com/capital-bank/apply

Please send any questions, comments, or concerns to Darla Bunting,Capital Director, at capital@capitalcause.com.

Yours in Philanthropy,

Darla Bunting
Capital Director,
Capital Cause