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For five decades Greater Washington Community Foundation (GWCF) has served as a liaison and nucleus for Washington metropolitan area philanthropic efforts, as well as a hub for raising awareness and addressing some of the DMV’s most critical challenges and economic disparities. In a celebratory event that focused on GWCF’s history and revealed plans for the future, the organization concluded a day of celebrating 50 years of serving the community with a festive gala at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on May 3.
“We hosted three events on [May 3]. We had a legacy luncheon with donors who have decided to include the Community Foundation in their estate plans and the professional advisors that refer them to refer them to us. Then we had a VIP reception at about 5 p.m. to acknowledge our sponsors for the event. And then we had the big show that started at 6:30 with about 500 of our closest friends from across the region,” said Tonia Wellons, GWCF president and CEO, in an interview on The Informer’s WIN-TV.
Wellons said NMAAHC was the perfect
“It takes a lot to get to 50 years and we really wanted to make sure that we acknowledged all of the people who were instrumental in establishing the Community Foundation back in 1973,” Wellons explained. “We wanted to tell the story about our history at a museum of national history— African American history,”
“We recognized Terri Freeman, who was the longest serving first Black woman CEO of the Community Foundation, and then many of her former staff members and trustees were in the audience,” Wellons added. “We’ve disbursed over $1.7 billion in philanthropic capital to the region and beyond over the course of those 50 years.”
The foundation serves a few purposes, answering to, advising, managing and housing donors’ assets and funds, maintaining a pulse on area-wide challenges and addressing issues affecting the DMV through designated support of individuals and organizations, as well as their discretionary fund.
“We have an amazing staff that does donor advisory services to our clients every single day. I have a program team, a community investment team that’s responsible for developing our request for proposals and making grant decisions across a broad range of issue areas. And then we have a donor services team who’s really helping funders to establish their funds to figure out what they care about and how it can best serve our immediate community,” Wellons said.
Recent Achievements and Future Goals
The GWCF president and CEO emphasized some of the foundation’s recent achievements and future goals.
“Just last year, we disbursed about $80 million in grants to the region,” she added. “We have a new health equity fund that’s a $95 million fund that is specifically to focus on the social determinants of health in Washington D.C… We are applying both a racial racial equity lens and an economic mobility lens.
Closing the racial economic gap in the Greater Washington area is GWCF’s “new North Star,” Wellons told The Informer.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We can’t do it alone. We have to do it in partnership with almost every major institution in town, government, private sector and the nonprofit sector along with our peers in philanthropy.”
GWCF’s new major target is a $50 million, three-year campaign, called “Together, We Prosper,” in order to begin working towards their hope for economic justice and equity in the Washington metro area.
Celebrating 50 Years
In a celebration that had drinks flowing, appetizers circulating and a buffet of food options, and dynamic performances from the likes of After School Dance Fund/ Baila4Life, tunes from DJ Styles and the engaging multi-rhythmic sounds from Christylez Bacon, the GWCF’s gala celebration was a night filled with fun. A party with a purpose, Wellons reported that the “anniversary events raised a record-breaking $1 million” to support the foundation’s philanthropic missions.
Activist and multi-cause justice organizer Keslye Adams said celebrating 50 years of GWCF intersects perfectly with the District’s half-century commemoration of the D.C. Home Rule Act– which allowed for an elected mayor and a District of Columbia Council, with representatives from the District’s eight wards, at-large members and chairman.
“Fifty years is important because it highlights the unison the foundation has with D.C. as a city since it was incepted the same year the city gained Home Rule. The foundation truly recognized the need for support in the local nonprofit space and the lack of resources to really propel organizations to the top of their level,” Adams told The Informer, before thanking the foundation for its contributions.
“I admire the work of GWCF and more than appreciate the support it gives to my entities as well as across the city and nation,” Adams added.