Peer Navigators Jennifer Watson and Danielle Jackson prepare to answer veterans' questions at a Ladies Night event at the D.C. VA Medical Center.

Community Foundation for Northern Virginia

Making a difference through grassroots philanthropy

The name says it all: Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. Community residents support the Northern Virginia community and its most critical needs through their generous donations. The impact is far-reaching in this grassroots philanthropic model.

The Community Foundation responds to need

The Capital Area Food Bank is now in its third year of partnership with the foundation. To expand food distribution to needy families in Manassas Park, the Food Bank partnered with the Community Foundation to establish a program for families with children from Pre-K through 12th grade. The schools developed a great team to hold a monthly fair that includes food distribution, participation by the police and fire departments, flu shots, and book distribution. The Food Bank sees 200-300 families a month, providing 30 pounds of non-perishable food plus fresh produce totaling 10,000 pounds at a single site.

That partnership is just one example of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia using discretionary grant funds donated by caring local philanthropists to respond to a critical need. In all, the Community Foundation awarded more than $4.6 million in grants and scholarships in 2016.

According to Maria Booker, Partnerships Manager for the Northern Virginia branch of Capital Area Food Bank, Manassas Park is their most successful effort out of the ten in Northern Virginia and two in Prince William County. Although the Food Bank started this type of program before getting involved with the Community Foundation, the partnership has allowed them to open additional markets. (For more information on CapitalArea Food Bank, visit

The foundation is perhaps the easiest and most impactful way for generous Northern Virginia residents to make a difference in advancing the quality of life throughout the area.

How can an individual family create that impact? A donor can certainly create their own private foundation which can be challenging and frustrating, in terms of expenses, filings, accounting needs, and a restricted tax advantage. Or they can partner with the Community Foundation to experience the joy of giving without any of the work while realizing a much more significant tax advantage.

The Community Foundation is uniquely positioned to address the most critical needs of the community by working with the nonprofits serving those needs.

“ServingTogether has a mission to improve veteran access to benefits and services through a network of veteran organizations, service providers, local governments, and others interested in helping our vets. ServingTogether helps with issues of housing, transportation, employment, VA benefits, etc.—anything that veterans need,” says Michael Ball, director of ServingTogether.

Reaching veterans is accomplished through collaboratives, informal bi-monthly meetings in the National Capital region led by community resource partners. Resources, events, and information are shared to broaden the knowledge and understanding of support available to veterans. Also peer navigators, veterans themselves, take calls from veterans on any question and will find the appropriate services or benefits. Then they initiate a warm hand-off to make sure there is good follow-through.

Christy Kenady, program manager for Fairfax County explains that ServingTogether started in 2011 in Montgomery County, but with the support from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, they were able to bring their much-needed service to Northern Virginia vets two years ago. They have witnessed a huge influx of calls following that implementation, and could hire the peer navigator to work on behalf of Northern Virginia veterans. Chief Development Officer Nikki Thrash further shared that the investment by the Community Foundation gives credibility to the work of ServingTogether and other funders take notice of their good work. (For more information on ServingTogether, visit

That kind of extended impact because the Community Foundation has been trusted by caring Northern Virginians for almost 40 years to make a huge difference in their donations

One of over 700 Community foundations across the country, the Northern Virginia group serves Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington Counties, plus the cities of Falls Church, Alexandria, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Their mission is to grow philanthropy to respond to critical need and seed innovation in the region. They are a “broad-based funder with a community lens.” By coordinating with the numerous non-profits in the area they are aware of all the resource requirements and can answer specific shortfalls.

PIT Connection is from Cornerstones. CEO Kerrie Wilson (r) is interviewed during the 2017 Homeless Point In Time Count results announcement—a 47% total decrease in the homeless population from 2008 to 2017!
Photo credit: Fallon Forbush, The Connection

The Community Foundation seeds innovation

Another partner working with the Community Foundation is Cornerstones. A multi-service organization serving people in need in Fairfax County, they provide affordable housing, emergency shelter, child and youth services and employment support. Starting in Reston 47 years ago, they have expanded to become the area’s largest, most comprehensive multi-service organization.

CEO Kerrie Wilson explains that their efforts go beyond offering direct services to also working on long-term systems change to meet the evolving needs of the community, “The Community Foundation makes a difference for us in so many ways. We have been a grantee over the years, of course, but where they have been especially important is in understanding what the needs are and they have really been able to step in with donor-advised funds or their own leadership initiatives around employment and job readiness. They’ve been a believer in our non-profit center.

“What is also important is the innovation and the listening,” says CEO Kerrie Wilson. “The staff and the board understand the role of philanthropy today. The Foundation has reached out to the community, holding listening sessions, finding out what is important to the organizations they serve. That resonates with Cornerstones because we have always been out there as an innovator.”

As the Foundation states, “We use philanthropy as an innovative tool to solve complex social issues. The Community Foundation strategically partners with donors, nonprofits and schools to launch promising innovative programs and initiatives that have the potential to transform our region.” The Innovation Fund was launched in 2012 as a traditional discretionary grant-making fund. Since then it has morphed into venture philanthropy. For example working with education foundations, the Foundation has launched cyber security courses of study in four school districts.

For more information on Cornerstones, visit

Pictured above: Peer Navigators Jennifer Watson and Danielle Jackson prepare to answer veterans’ questions at a Ladies Night event at the D.C. VA Medical Center.

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