Creating a Culture of Giving in Washington, D.C.

November 22, 2011

Give Where You Live: It’s the first line on the first page of the Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington. It’s a good slogan, but it takes more than marketing to inspire individuals and companies to entrust their time or money to a philanthropic cause.

So the Catalogue came up with an ambitious process to educate the public about reputable local nonprofits. A combination of exhaustive vetting procedures, quality presentation, and targeted distribution proved to be the winning formula—and has helped the Catalogue’s featured nonprofits raise $14.5 million from thousands of new donors over the past eight years.

The Catalogue profiles about 300 small- to medium-sized charities with the greatest impact in their communities. Rigorously researched and assessed, these organizations celebrate the arts, support education, provide job training, comfort the elderly, shelter displaced families, and represent the tremendous range of other good work under way around Washington.

Originally a print document mailed to high net-worth households, the Catalogue is now a multi-media, multi-channel effort dedicated to expanding philanthropy, says president and editor Barbara Harman. She is also executive director of the Harman Family Foundation, which launched the Catalogue in 2003.

Each January, the Catalogue invites nonprofits with budgets under $3 million to apply to be featured. A review team evaluates applicants to find the ones making a measurable difference in the community. Selected nonprofits receive “stamp of approval”—a symbol of trust that the funds they receive will be put to good use.

“The Catalogue has had a broad impact on diverse nonprofits,” says Joe Suarez, executive advisor at Booz Allen Hamilton, a Catalogue funder. “Booz Allen is always looking for quality organizations that drive positive change in our neighborhoods. The Catalogue makes many of these organizations easier to find.

Suarez sends hundreds of Catalogues to Booz Allen officers each November to use as one resource for their giving decisions, and reinforce the spirit of community-based support. It’s also an ideal teaching tool for the next generation of philanthropists: Suarez’s teenagers use it to research nonprofits before they donate or volunteer.

Kathy Jankowski is the Catalogue’s director of partnerships and business development. “Many readers don’t know these needs exist and that there are these inspired ways of dealing with them. With Booz Allen’s investment, we’re successfully building a culture of philanthropy in Washington, D.C.”

Read the full article to learn more about the Catalogue.