WASHINGTON — For 17 years CharityWorks worked. Signature events provided the funding, volunteers provided the spirit and the organization that Leah Gansler helped start with Marylyn Pedersen in 1999 became an important resource for smaller charities in the Washington, D.C. area looking to have a bigger impact.
Sadly, Gansler is dealing with recurring health issues and CharityWorks is closing its operations.
The CharityWorks Executive Committee made the difficult decision to cancel its fundraising events planned for 2016, the Dream Ball and 100 Point Vintage Wine Tasting.
“From the beginning, Leah has been the driving force behind organizing our volunteers and a tireless fundraiser. Her personal involvement has been a key ingredient in our success, and now it is important that she take care of herself,” said Mark Lowham, a member of the CharityWorks Executive Committee.
The CharityWorks story goes beyond raising money. To be sure the Washington philanthropic community was engaged and activated by CharityWorks and since its inception in 1999 was able to donate more than $13 million to its nonprofit partners.
To become a partner, a charity had to do its part and present a plan to CharityWorks that demonstrated how it would use a sizable donation over a two- or three-year period and the level of impact on a community. CharityWorks selected two partners every year and then worked with them over a period of time to ensure maximum benefit from the money donated.
“They saved my organization,” said Tom Lewis, founder of the Fishing School, which provides academic support to kids in northeast D.C. “Without the involvement of the people at CharityWorks, my organization would not be here today.”
CharityWorks stepped in when Lewis struggled with poor health. A CharityWorks board member joined the Fishing School board. The school’s operations were restructured and expansion plans were completed.
“Our goal with CharityWorks was to create an impact,” said Fernando Murias, chairman of CharityWorks’ Advisory Council. “We wanted to find small local charities that would be changed with a sizable donation through the expansion of a new program or a new facility.”
The See Forever Foundation/Maya Angelou Schools were certainly changed by CharityWorks. Through two donations totaling $1 million the school was able to make a major renovation to its Evans Campus in 2004 and in 2015 to open its Young Adult Learning Center.
A priority for CharityWorks was to make a difference for military families. Close to $2 million was raised to help build a Fisher House at the Veterans Medical Campus in Washington.
“Without the donation from CharityWorks, we would not have been able to open our new facility in this area to help our veterans recover from devastating injuries with their families at their side,” said David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation. “The exposure to the group of donors they provided has led to years of continued contributions, well beyond the fundraising they coordinated.”
The Dream Ball and 100 Point Vintage Wine Tasting and the money they raised will be missed, but it is hoped that the philanthropic involvement that CharityWorks stirred in its 17 years will continue.
“The ability to create unique platforms for smaller charities that don’t have the resources to pull off large fundraising events and gain access to larger donors is something that I hope doesn’t get lost,” said Murias.