The Importance of Giving

Chef Marianne Tshihamba hosts a virtual Paella cooking class from the Hill Center kitchen. Courtesy: Hill Center

November kicks off the season of giving, with Giving Tuesday and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) taking place, as well as outreach by community nonprofits. It is a critically important time for these organizations, many of whom receive the bulk of the donations funding their work in the last two months of the year.

This year, the demands are higher for many of these organizations, as they work to help individuals and families hit by the pandemic. At the same time, COVID-19 has made fundraising activities extremely challenging. With in-person fundraisers cancelled, and programming limited to low-revenue virtual events, major sources of revenue have been cut right when these organizations and the people they serve need it the most.

It is always important to give, but this year it is be more important than ever. Here we profile three worthy community organizations. In December we will profile three more: Everyone Home, Little Lights and So Other Might Eat.

CHCF: “Individuals give a little, and it adds up to a lot.”
The Capitol Hill Community Foundation (CHCF) has been working to support Hill organizations that are helping individuals, families and businesses make it safely to the other side of the pandemic. Over the last 30 years, CHCF has given more than $9 million in grants to support the community. All of that money has come from neighborhood businesses and residents and goes back to supporting local efforts, said Executive Director Nicky Cymrot.

The idea behind CHCF financing is simple, said Cymrot. Many small donations make for large collective funds. The CHCF gathers these gifts, some as small as $10 or as large as $2,500 and puts them in a pool. They are disbursed to Hill-based organizations and schools in two annual grant cycles, one in spring and one in fall. A micro-grant program that provides up to $350 for small projects is ongoing throughout the year.

Close to half of the funds go to support schools or education, but the CHCF also funds social service organizations, arts projects, community gardens and festivals. In April, CHCF provided $50,000 in special grants to four organizations working to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus on the community.

CHCF has also missed out on fundraising opportunities. The Literary Feast fundraiser, during which volunteers host book-themed dining events at their homes, raises between $30-40,000 annually but was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Cymrot said the upcoming months are critically important to CHCF which sees the bulk of donations coming in during this time of giving. A direct-mail fundraising campaign will kick off in mid-November, appealing directly to residents of the three-mile-square geographic area served by CHCF.

“We’re sitting right now in a situation where those who can help, need to do it and need not to put it off,” Cymrot said. “The reason the Community Foundation has been successful in what we’ve been doing all these years is because we live in a community of extraordinarily generous people.”

Donate to CHCF by mail: Capitol Hill Community Foundation, 419 East Capitol St. SE Washington, DC 20003 or visit

“It’s About Community”: The Anacostia Playhouse
Adele Robey wants to believe the Anacostia Playhouse will make it to the other side of the pandemic. The organization opened its doors as the H Street Playhouse in July 2002. The arts organization helped jump start commercial growth on H Street with new bars and restaurants eagerly taking advantage of the theater’s foot traffic.

In late summer 2013, Playhouse reopened as The Anacostia Playhouse at 2020 Shannon Place, SE. Uniquely positioned to serve the local community east of the river, one of the goals of the theater is to spur local economic development as they provide a place for many established artists to showcase their work.

“What we helped provide was a sense of ownership to our community that could say, ‘This is our Anacostia Playhouse”,” said Robey. “And that’s now all gone.”

On March 10, “This Bitter Earth” was playing to rave reviews and packed audiences, On March 11, the theatre went silent, shows cancelled due to COVID. The Anacostia Playhouse has been dark ever since.

In addition to productions by Theater Alliance and Ballou High School and Young Playwrights Theatre, the theatre hosts jazz concerts, fundraisers, community meetings and school activities. This will be the first December in years that the playhouse will not host the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) Multicultural Holiday Celebration and youth gift drive, where hundreds of toys are donated for local children. This is all lost to the community for the foreseeable future, said Robey.

“I feel like this community has been so short-changed for so long that this would be an unconscionable loss for our community that has come to love and partake in the work that we all do,” she said.

Robey has been spending her time filling out grant applications and figuring out ways to adapt the theatre to sustain it throughout the crisis. In early October, the theatre began some video work and recorded some readings from the performance that ended in March.

Robey points to the ways that the arts draw people, planting the seeds of economic development. She said that the arts are essential to the well-being of the District but are often the first to be cut. Without the help of donors, she can’t see a way to the other side.

“It’s the real deal, it’s serious, and I think unfortunately a lot of us won’t be back.”

You can donate to the Anacostia Playhouse by visiting

“All Hands on Deck”: Hill Center
In 2002, a diverse group of neighbors organized the Old Naval Hospital Foundation with the dream of turning the building into the center of the Capitol Hill Village. As part of the transformation, hundreds of Hill residents contributed ideas and funds. After an $11.2-million restoration, Hill Center opened to the public in 2011 and a new community began to emerge.

Before COVID, more than 50,000 visitors a year came for classes, concerts, lectures, art exhibits and other quality programs in the beautifully refurbished building. The carriage house that once held horse-drawn ambulances now houses a Michelin-starred café. The main building is fully accessible and responsibly green.

The Hill Center was intended to be self-sustaining, and for the last nine years it has succeeded. All bills from payroll to water are paid with proceeds from events that take place at the venue.

COVID ended all that, and since programming was cut, the Hill Center has lost 65 percent of its revenue. To keep the lights on for the next six months, the organization is asking donors to designate funds for operations through its “All Hands on Deck” Campaign.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had to ask for help,” said Executive Director Diana Ingraham. Reluctant to deplete giving to nonprofits on the front lines of the fight to help families affected by COVID, the Hill Center is not officially participating in Giving Tuesday or in the CFC Campaign instead, but is focusing on their own fundraising effort instead.

To donate to “All Hands on Deck” go to or mail your tax-deductible donation to Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington DC, 20003.


Find A Charity
More than 500 District-based participate in CFC, including organizations such as Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CFC # 71262), Sasha Bruce Youthwork (CFC # 71809), The Anacostia Community Boathouse Association (CFC# 87883) Capitol Hill Village (CFC# 55474), Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CFC# 50747), the Greater DC Diaper Bank (GDCDB, CFC #18074), Casey Trees (CFC# 24598), Central Union Mission (CFC# 85786), My Sister’s Place (CFC# 97535) and Martha’s Table (CFC# 29262)