From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business in Alexandria to talk to? Email us!
This week, we are featuring ACT for Alexandria– one of our city’s most well-known community foundations. We talked with Heather Peeler, President & CEO, and in lieu of our normal intro, we’d like to highlight something special for the organization: the 10th anniversary of their Spring2Action initiative, on April 29, 2020. It will be the second year that they are looking to involve “Business Fundraisers” in Spring2Action. Spring2Action is a 24-hour period where people are encouraged to make an online donation to an Alexandria charity. More information can be found here.
Businesses can participate as a “Business Fundraiser” by encouraging their customers and employees to donate to their favorite Alexandria charity on behalf of the business. The organizers are hosting a meeting on March 4th at 9am to help businesses learn more and meet up with other local businesses who have or want to be more involved in the community with Spring2ACTion. Click here to sign up for the event. If you are interested in participating or have questions, you can contact the organizer at Celeste.Flores@ACTforAlexandria.org.
AEDP: To get started, please tell us about ACT for Alexandria.
Heather: ACT for Alexandria is Alexandria’s home for philanthropy and for people who want to make a difference. We are a community foundation dedicated to improving the lives of people in Alexandria. We partner with philanthropic people who care about our community, helping them amplify the impact of their giving. We support Alexandria nonprofits, helping them become stronger and deliver services that meet the needs of our community. And, we partner with civic leaders and community members on key issues and develop solutions for Alexandria’s most pressing challenges.
AEDP: How did the organization get started?
Heather: Launched in 2004, ACT was started when a group of Alexandrians came together to explore how best to stimulate philanthropic giving to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in our community. One of several catalysts was a generous donation from the family of Norma Steuerle, a long-time Alexandria resident, who tragically died on September 11, 2001. After careful consideration, the group determined that a community foundation focused on Alexandria would be the right vehicle to make a deep, long lasting impact on their community.
AEDP: What’s the most rewarding aspect of running ACT?
Heather: We are fortunate to work with so many people who genuinely care about our community. From nonprofit leaders and board members, to civic leaders and donors, many Alexandrian’s are committed to making sure that everyone in our community can thrive. ACT is a hub for people who want to partner with others to address important issues like education, affordable housing and economic opportunity. We are inspired daily by their creativity, dedication and passion.
AEDP: Looking into the future, what is the next big project or goal you’re working on?
Heather: This year is the ten-year anniversary of Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s Giving Day. On April 29, thousands of people across the community will come together to support more than 150 nonprofits. When Spring2ACTion began, we had a humble goal of raising $30,000; in 2019, in partnership with Alexandria’s nonprofits, we raised $2.08M. Each year Spring2ACTion has grown, building momentum and engaging more donors. This year our goal is to engage 10,000 people in the collective act of giving.
AEDP: How do you measure success?
Heather: In our work, it’s easy to become very focused on the money – how much we raise and how much we give away. However, that’s just one way to look at our impact. More importantly, we want to know how our partnership helps others improve. For example, are the donors we work with more effective in their philanthropy? How do our grantees and partners innovate and expand? Are they better able to withstand the ups and downs of running a nonprofit? Are they seizing new opportunities? These stories are hard to capture in charts and dashboards, but this is the data that helps us understand if we are making a difference.
AEDP: How would you describe the culture at ACT?
Heather: Our organizational values are learning, optimism, connectedness, respect and intentionality. Given the strengths and assets of our community, we see extraordinary possibilities and are undaunted by the size or complexity of the challenges faced by our community. At the same time, we know that every small step forward is important and can yield big results. We are committed to learning as we go, setting clear goals while taking time to reflect and assess our progress. We also make the time and space to engage many people in our planning and thinking; we believe our work will be better when different perspectives help shape it.
AEDP: Do you have a favorite quote you’d like to share?
Heather: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King Jr.
AEDP: And to close us out, what’s your favorite thing about Alexandria?
Heather: The diversity of Alexandria is its greatest strength and asset. It is also an extremely generous community. We love that people from all walks of life are committed to helping their neighbors and making our community even better.
To learn more about ACT for Alexandria, visit their website or stop by their office at 201 N. Union St.