Budgeting Challenges – Rely on the Mission

April 6, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Posted in Class, Community, Community Partners, Development, donations, Donors, ESOL, Finances, Staff, Volunteers | Comments Off on Budgeting Challenges – Rely on the Mission
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Watching the Federal Government struggling with budgeting challenges isn’t easy, but quite honestly it isn’t easy in any organization.  This is the time of year when the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia is developing the fiscal year 2011- 2012 budget (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012), and we are making similar very difficult decisions.  In a small non-profit educational organization, such as LCNV salaries are the largest part of the budget.  Without the teachers, program support professionals, and administrative support, the organization would not function.  Non-profit salaries are considerably lower than public and private sector salaries for similar positions, and yet we need to be competitive to attract qualified candidates who live in this Northern Virginia region.  So, to keep expenses down, LCNV uses the support of AmeriCorps members, functions with a number of part-time positions, and supplements with volunteer office support as much as possible.   Program books and materials are a necessary expense and LCNV will not sacrifice the number of books, the quality of the materials, or the variety necessary to meet the need s of the range of adult learners in our programs.  This, too, is a large portion of our operating budget.  Then there are the operational costs like telephones and technology, building maintenance, printing, supplies and equipment, mailing . . . items that need to be paid to successfully run an educational service, but seem to add up to too much too quickly.  Where can we cut the budget?

Like the Federal Government, we also look at the revenue side.  Where does the money come from? In the case of the LCNV, it is primarily fund-raising income.   All of our grants, including state and local government funds are annual competitive grants, meaning every year we start from scratch raising necessary operational funds.  There are no guarantees in fund-raising and often private foundations or corporate giving programs change their funding priorities, or in a difficult economy, cut back their grant awards.  We do charge fees for volunteer training and fees for our adult learners (though scholarships are available for those in need), but added together those fees account for less than 5% of the operating budget.  Creating the income side of the budget requires strategic guessing, taking risks, and having faith in the kindness of others.

How do we balance the growing needs of the organization, fairly compensate the small staff, make sure our educational programs are cutting edge and responsive to the needs of adults in our community, while depending upon revenue that’s based on strategic guessing?  In some ways it’s a lot like the Federal Government:  there is considerable discussion and compromise.   For the most part, though, at LCNV we rely on the strength of the mission.  We believe there is no better cause than giving the gift of reading to an adult.  With the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and understanding English, adults have the tools to launch a whole new future.   The LCNV budgeting process is to manage the expenses as close to the edge as is fairly reasonable, and talk about the importance of the mission over and over and over until the money follows.

-Patti Donnelly, Executive Director


Another Successful Reading: A Family Affair

March 24, 2011 at 2:32 PM | Posted in Community, donations, Donors, ESOL, Family Learning, RAFA, Volunteers | Comments Off on Another Successful Reading: A Family Affair
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“Thank you for the free book and a great morning!,” “Thanks for doing this wonderful program!,” “Clifford gave me a high five!.” These are just a few of the comments heard throughout the James Lee Community Center last Saturday, when 600 children and parents filled the hallways to experience books coming to life at LCNV‘s 5th Annual Reading: A Family Affair.  Thanks to our visitors, donors, staff, and over 50 volunteers, the event was a huge success! Emily Gleichenhaus of “Sing Books with Emily” commented, “As a former event planner, I was impressed with the organization and flow of the event and activities.  And the facility and stations were wonderfully staffed by friendly and helpful volunteers.” Check out Emily’s blog for more on her take of RAFA.

From musicians and dancers to puppeteers and storytellers (and Clifford, of course!), there was something for kids of all ages to enjoy.  New performers at this year’s RAFA included Emily Gleichenhaus of “Sing Books with Emily,” who delighted kids of all ages with her songs based on picture books, and Bob Brown Puppets, whose show “The Reluctant Dragon” was punctuated by audience laughter and applause. LCNV also introduced dance to this year’s event, with the Bolivian dance troupe Fraternidad Cultural Pachamama and senior students from the Kalavaridhi Indian dance school captivating a full house. Storytellers Diane Macklin and authors Lulu Delacre, Mary Quattlebaum, and Tom Angleberger were also big hits, with families with upper-elementary aged children giving especially rave reviews of Tom’s interactive program based on his book, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. One parent said, “Tom was the highlight of RAFA for my 8 1/2 year old son and his buddy.  While the whole family enjoyed the Indian dancers and other activities, Tom’s presentation was especially meaningful to my son who was worried there wouldn’t be enough for ‘older kids like him’ to do.” And last but not least, RAFA veterans The Rainbow Entertainment Company got kids moving with their lively reader’s theater.

Reading: A Family Affair was a true community collaboration, and LCNV is grateful for the support and enthusiasm of the James Lee Community Center staff, LCNV volunteers, RAFA performers, our event sponsors and in-kind donors*,  and of course the children and parents who attended the event! We hope to see you next March for the 6th annual Reading: A Family Affair!

*Event Sponsors: Verizon, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, WETA Kids, Don Beyer Volvo, Target, Dominion, Crystal City-Pentagon Rotary Club; In kind Donors: Congregation of Floris United Methodist Church, Cosi, Day and Night Printing, Inc., Giant, Safeway, Gimme Dem Cupcakes, Harris Teeter, Jason’s Deli.

-Stacy Nall, Development Specialist

Thank you to RAFA Planning Committees

March 9, 2011 at 11:04 AM | Posted in Calendar, Community, donations, RAFA, Volunteers | Comments Off on Thank you to RAFA Planning Committees
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From the first Reading: A Family Affair five years ago, the event has been a true community collaboration, a partnership among the Literacy Council, the James Lee Community Center, the Fairfax and Arlington County Public Libraries, and WETA. And of course, the event wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of our many volunteers in the weeks leading up to and the day of the event. This year’s RAFA is more collaborative than ever thanks to the dedicated work of several volunteer planning committees, who began meeting to plan the event in the fall and have continually impressed us with their outstanding creativity and insight. These committees have played a leading role in the selection of performers; the formation of a public relations strategy, from flyer design to media lists to press releases; solicitation of in-kind donations; and planning for decorations and set up. Thank you to all!

Performers Committee: Rachel Harlan; Julia Zurkovsky; Karen Kostreba

Publicity Committee: Susan Larson (Committee Chair); Misty Jones; Ferne Barrow

Decorations Committee: Kelly Chroninger; Kate Brodeur

In-kind Committee: Rebecca Riddell; Amali Amarasinghe

 -Stacy Nall, Development Specialist

Donor Spotlight: A Holiday Gift from Macy’s

October 28, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Posted in Development, donations, Donations, Donors | 1 Comment

An ongoing LCNV tradition is our Holiday Party for the families we serve, featuring festive music, holiday crafts, presents from Santa, and a potluck dinner representing the home countries of our ESOL students. This year, LCNV is proud to announce that our Holiday Party will be sponsored by Macy’s, thanks to a $2,500 local grant made through their store at Tyson’s Corner.

According to Joe Vella, Director of Corporate Marketing for Macy’s, the retail company funds five areas: women’s health, HIV prevention, the arts, education, and the environment. Within education, Macy’s places a high priority on literacy, over the last six years donating more than 15 million dollars to the national literacy organization Reading Is Fundamental. Only through Macy’s customers was this possible; during the back-to-school period, shoppers made $3 donations to Reading is Fundamental in exchange for $10 store coupons. “The customer,” Vella says, “really is an integral part of our giving back to communities.”

“It’s very important,” he adds, “that our customers know their dollars are staying in the community.” To strengthen its commitment to community-based programs in addition to national organizations like Reading Is Fundamental, Macy’s has recently divided corporate giving among its 69 districts, so that each has their own pool of money to give back to their own neighborhoods. LCNV is grateful that 2,500 of these dollars are benefiting LCNV and the families we serve. We thank Macy’s for their generous support this holiday season!

Stacy Nall, Development Specialist

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