development consultant/ former development director
Women Empowered Against Violence
Truth be told, it was this nomination from Lauren Hines, development director at the Council for Court Excellence and a colleague of Miriam Isserow's, that prompted us to go with the "superhero" theme for this year's awards.
Last year was difficult for so many organizations, but few have lived as close to the edge as the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Women Empowered Against Violence. When WEAVE faced the very real possibility of having to close its doors because of the economic downturn, Miriam made for the phone booth and donned her (invisible) cape.
WEAVE provides holistic services including legal support and counseling to survivors of domestic violence. The organization reaches across communities by employing a bilingual staff and targeting efforts to D.C.'s gay and lesbian population, as well.
Its troubles began in 2008, when the District of Columbia announced it would provide the organization $200,000 less than it had requested. WEAVE drew on savings and made cost-cutting efforts, bracing against the first blows of the economic downturn. It initially cut four staff positions, then cut more; it outsourced accounting, gave up half its main office space and pinched every possible penny.
But a year later, in September 2009, WEAVE found itself in the same situation — only worse — when the District of Columbia announced it would cut its funding to WEAVE's emergency and counseling services — two critical components of its holistic model — as of Oct. 1, 2009. About 75 percent of WEAVE's $2 million budget was supported by federal and local government funding, and the massive reductions hit WEAVE hard and fast. On Sept. 9, WEAVE's board voted to close the organization after 13 years of operations.
The director of development at the time, Miriam was determined to keep WEAVE alive. Along with Interim Executive Director Katherine Morrison, Miriam reached out to both the grant-making community and to long-term donors of the organization. They also reached out to media contacts and got the story out to major media, including NBC Washington Channel 4, NPR, The Washington Post and the local Washington City Paper.