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

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

A note from Nancy

September 30, 2010 at 11:54 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Community Partners, Donors, Volunteers | Comments Off on A note from Nancy
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On Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, I attended Booz Allen Hamilton’s Nonprofit Conference on Fundraising Development as a member of LCNV’s Board of Directors, along with Suzie Eaton, LCNV’s Senior Director of Development.  

The topics presented on fundraising were timely and the speakers offered workable, real life suggestions drawn from their experiences in the nonprofit sphere. I am eager to implement many of these ideas as tools in my role as a member of LCNV’s Fund Development Committee as we proactively restructure our fundraising strategy.  Ultimately, the information presented will make me a more effective spokesperson for LCNV’s mission of increasing literacy in Northern Virginia. For Suzie, the biggest take away from the session were tips on how to create a culture of fundraising for the organization that involves not only development staff, but also Board members, volunteers, students and the entire staff. It was also a chance to reconnect with colleagues and LCNV partners, such as The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Loudoun Literacy Council, Reston Interfaith, Helping Children Worldwide, Leadership Fairfax and Arts Council of Fairfax County. 

We both highly recommend this speaker series to anyone involved in working with or volunteering for nonprofits. Please feel free to contact Suzie Eaton or me to find out how to receive information about this speaker series. Kudos to our host, Booz Allen Hamilton, and its partners for supporting this terrific program!

Nancy Needs, LCNV Board of Directors

National Book Scholarship

August 25, 2010 at 2:48 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Community Partners, Donors, News | Comments Off on National Book Scholarship

ProLiteracy Logo

The Council recently received a National Book Scholarship award from ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy organization in the United States. This award provided the Council with almost $2,000 worth of books from ProLiteracy’s publication division, New Readers Press. Those of us connected with the Council’s tutoring programs were especially delighted with the award, since New Readers Press publishes many of the text series used with our learners. Thanks to the award, we were able to add additional copies of the student books and teachers’ manuals to the library. Tutors often like to try several different texts with their students before deciding which one would be best to use. Now they are less likely to be disappointed by finding that all the copies have been checked out.

Many of our learners are interested in obtaining their citizenship, and New Readers Press publishes an excellent series, entitled Citizenship: Passing the Test, which is designed to help students prepare for the interview. The materials are always in high demand by our tutors. The National Book Scholarship award enabled us to obtain additional copies of these books and accompanying audio CDs for the library. In addition, it provided us with additional copies of the series’ literacy skills workbook. Instead of being added to our library, these copies of the workbook will be distributed to tutors who are helping learners with especially low literacy skills prepare for the exam.

Elise Bruml, Tutoring Programs Director

Challenge Grant Met!

April 30, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Announcements, Development, Donors, News | Comments Off on Challenge Grant Met!

Thank you for helping to turn our learners’ goals into realities. Because of your loyal support of LCNV, we are celebrating a great milestone: meeting the $20,000 challenge offered by an anonymous donor!

I mentioned this challenge in a post here on February 1, and you responded!  The challenge was designed to encourage community support and increase Council funding from individual donors. New or increased gifts from individuals received between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010 would be matched dollar for dollar up to $20,000. Because supporters like you enthusiastically stepped up to the plate, you helped us meet this challenge in just nine months!

More than 260 individuals either became new donors to LCNV or increased their giving to qualify for this challenge – meaning that over 75 percent of you participated! The donor was so thrilled by the outpouring of gifts by December that the donor generously gave LCNV the first half of the challenge grant. Within days of fully meeting the challenge, the donor sent the final payment. We are so grateful for the opportunity that this challenge grant presented!

LCNV has fared reasonably well during these tough economic times. Though we experienced a significant decline in government support (from 50 percent of our operating budget in 2006 to 33 percent in 2010), with your generous support, we have sustained our organization without cuts to staff or programs for our students. We have adapted by developing a diverse funding portfolio that relies not only on the government, but on hundreds of foundation, corporate and individual donors – like you! That way LCNV’s programs are not solely dependent on one particular source of funding.

Like spring flowers, LCNV wants to grow so that we can meet the continuing demand for adult education programs in our community. We have much potential, with a strong board and staff, dedicated volunteers and a strategic vision for the future. Your continued support will help us move beyond just sustaining to growing again!

Visit http://lcnv.org/donors/donateNow.cfm to make an investment in LCNV today.

– Suzie Eaton, Sr. Director of Development

In-kind and monetary gifts essential to helping LCNV students

April 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM | Posted in Announcements, Community Partners, Development, Donors, News, RAFA, Volunteers | Comments Off on In-kind and monetary gifts essential to helping LCNV students

Earlier this month, I hope you had a chance to visit LCNV during Reading: A Family Affair, otherwise known as RAFA. You can also read about this fun family event here. LCNV keeps this event free and open to the public through the support of our generous sponsors, which include our headlining sponsor, Verizon, and additional support from TD Bank, Target, Rotary Club of Crystal City-Pentagon, Rotary Club of McLean, Virginia Commerce Bank and WETA Kids, who brought everyone’s favorite furry friend, Clifford the Big Red Dog!

The day would also not have been complete without the generous in-kind support that LCNV received. The generous donations of children’s books from Books for America and the employees of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and USA Weekend Magazine allowed LCNV to give a free book to each child in attendance, to ensure that parents have books to read at home with their children. Many local businesses donated snacks and beverages for the families in attendance and our volunteers to enjoy throughout the day:

These generous monetary and in-kind donations are needed to benefit LCNV’s students not only at Reading: A Family Affair, but throughout the entire year. LCNV has worked hard to make it easy for you to contribute to the success of our students. You can make a financial gift of general operating support at any time through Network for Good. Or, if you prefer to determine exactly how your donated dollars are spent, you can directly purchase items that LCNV’s students need – such as books and other supplies – through Amazon.com. Just as with your cash contributions, these donated items are fully tax-deductible. LCNV staff regularly update this list with our program’s most urgent and specific needs. We hope you have fun browsing it!

~ Suzie Eaton, Senior Director of Development

RAFA is this Saturday, March 20th!

March 19, 2010 at 8:39 AM | Posted in Development, Donors, RAFA | Comments Off on RAFA is this Saturday, March 20th!

Check out the artists who are performing at this huge event!

Verizon’s See a Book Room

The Great Zucchini’s show is full of magic, comedy, and audience interaction.   The Great Zucchini has been performing his magic act for children all over Washington, including the White House, for 12 years.  He even teaches children their own magic trick that they can perform later for their friends.

Good Life Theater: A husband and wife team with over 30 years of experience teaching and entertaining children.  The duo will use puppets to present Going Buggy, a collection of insect tales from African, Mexican, and Native American cultures.

Cathy and Marcy: These talented musicians, who play over a dozen instruments apiece, will be hosting a sing-a-long for children.

Hear a Book Room

Glenna Ohlms: Miss Glenna’s interactive storytelling is sure to keep children engaged and participating.  Glenna’s programs are always interactive and often include songs, instruments from around the world, “scissor and string stories” and puppets, as well as traditional, original and multicultural tales.

Margaret Chatham: A top-notch story teller, Margaret Chatham brings to life many favorite stories so old that they may be new to many people.  Along with stories of Brer Rabbit or things that go “bump” in the night, her repertoire includes folk sing-along songs and stories told with Russian nesting dolls!

Become a Book Room

H-B Woodlawn Theatre Department: Made up of talented actors from grades 8-12, this group will lead an interactive show in which audience members jump in and play characters in well-known stories.  No memorization is required-the scripts are provided!

The Rainbow Entertainment Company Inter-Active Children’s Theatre: Children who wish to step out of the audience and onto the stage are encouraged to do so in a wide variety of fairy tales, folk tales, legends, and lore.  Once in costume, they find themselves contributing significantly to the production and gain a new perspective on the theatrical experience.

Read and Write a Book Room

In this creative, interactive space, families write their own stories and read books together, as well as enjoy time to relax and take a break.  As a gift to all families in attendance, all children will take one free book home with them!

Click a Book Room

The computer lab will become an interactive playroom where parents and children can explore two exciting children’s reading websites: Verizon’s Thinkfinity and WETA’s PBSKIDS.

Friends of LCNV

Children’s book authors will be present to read books, answer question, and even sign books for children.  Local authors planning on attending include Jacqueline Jules, Debbie Levy, Laura Melmed, Susan Stockdale, and Janet Stoeke.

~Erin Andrews, AmeriCorp Instructor

Why Support from Individual Donors is Vitally Important to LCNV

March 9, 2010 at 9:00 AM | Posted in Community Partners, Development, Donors, News | Comments Off on Why Support from Individual Donors is Vitally Important to LCNV

I feel like I am just now getting used to the new year and to dating documents “2010.” But my life as a fundraiser is further complicating my transition. Since LCNV’s fiscal year runs from July 1 – June 30, Fiscal Year 2011 is just around the corner for us!

I kicked off my new year by spending a good chunk of time working together with Executive Director Patti Donnelly and Senior Director of Operations Randi Littman, reviewing the first half of LCNV’s fiscal year, analyzing what has worked well so far and what needs improvement. In February, it is my job to draft LCNV’s income plan, so that we know where LCNV will get the money that we need to support our vital programs.

LCNV’s budgeted income for our current Fiscal Year 2010 is pictured to the left. Our largest sources of funding are government grants, comprising over one-third of LCNV’s operating support. This money comes from several programs within the Virginia Department of Education, the Office of Volunteerism & Community Service (AmeriCorps), Arlington and Fairfax Counties, and the City of Alexandria.

Just four years ago, government support accounted for nearly half of LCNV’s budget! As the years have passed and the economy has changed, however, funding from government sources has decreased. LCNV has adapted to this change by developing a diverse funding portfolio that relies on hundreds of different individual, foundation, corporate and community donors, as well as the government. That way LCNV’s programs are not solely dependent on one particular source of funding.

Besides shifts in the economy, each year circumstances in the fundraising world change. Foundations and corporations shift their funding priorities. At other times, a nonprofit’s current campaign does not match up with the priorities of past funders. Sometimes a nonprofit can only receive funding once every two or three years from a particular grantor. These reasons are why it is particularly important to have a broad range of support from individual donors.

While figuring out which year I’m talking about can be difficult, the easy part is knowing that my work each day is helping members of my community read, write, speak and understand English and become confident, productive citizens.

~Suzie Brindle Eaton, Senior Director of Development

Celebrating Family Literacy

March 2, 2010 at 5:54 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Calendar, Community Partners, Development, Donors, ESOL, Family Learning, News, RAFA, Volunteers | Comments Off on Celebrating Family Literacy

The Literacy Council of Northern Virginia’s mission is to educate adults. Many adults are parents, so it follows that the Family Learning Program is a critical component of our service delivery. Currently, we offer six Family Learning classes throughout Fairfax County, including a brand new class at our new satellite location Connections for Hope in Herndon. Our Family Learning serves parents and their grade school children, ages 2-12. The FLP curriculum focuses on the acquisition of life skills key to the success of low-income, disadvantaged, foreign-born parents. The curricular topics are: Civics, Community and Schools; Finances and Employment; and Health and Nutrition. The parents’ children study similar lesson plans and receive homework help in a separate but nearby classroom. Classes are offered at both morning and evening time slots to accommodate families’ complicated schedules. To volunteer or promote our family learning program to a family in need, please call 703-237-0866 or visit our Family Learning Programs website.

LCNV has declared the month of March as our time to promote our Family Learning Program. Dr. Seuss’s birthday is March 2nd, as is the celebration of National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, an event promoting reading for kids of all ages. The Literacy Council hosts its own celebration of reading on Saturday, March 20th at our Reading: A Family Affair, where we bring books to life through the performing arts, story telling, songs, and technology. Sponsored by Verizon, and hosted in partnership with the James Lee Community Center, Reading: A Family Affair is a free, family, fun-filled event to promote reading and learning activities. I hope you will come join us on March 20th to experience the energy and enthusiasm that grows from reading and learning as a family. For more information visit the Literacy Council’s website.

~Patti Donnelly, Executive Director

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