What is DC WISE?
DC WISE is a non-profit that raises and donates money to local charitable organizations that serve women and children in the District of Columbia.
How was DC WISE formed?
Claudia Vitale (principal of KVS Title, LLC) initially approached Valerie and Jennifer Landgraff about forming a non-profit with other women in the real-estate industry. We all had some history with non-profits and the idea of forming a small organization of women benefiting women and children with a homelessness focus just sounded like a great opportunity to come together and give back. From there it just snowballed. The three of us discussed approaching other women in our business circles and we came up with a great list of potential board members. All the women in the group are so like-minded, once they heard the idea for the non-profit, they all jumped at the chance to participate. Now we have a wonderful group of 11 women and we are in our second year of fundraising. Each year we come to the table with charities we would like to support and we vote on one. This year our charity is FAIR Girls which works to prevent the exploitation of girls, with a special emphasis on girls who have experienced homelessness, life inside the foster care system, sexual abuse, and trafficking.
How does DC WISE raise money?
This is one way we differentiate ourselves. The 11 members of DC WISE fully fund our organization so that 100% of the proceeds from any of our events go directly to the non-profit we are supporting. We have a few small events during the year like shopping parties where we partner with the likes of J.Crew and WINK boutique and a portion of the sales are donated to us and we, in turn, donate that full amount to the charity.
Since we are in the real estate industry, we all spend a lot of time networking and working with people all over DC. We are then able to call on those networks to help support DC WISE. As a group we are able to cover a lot of ground and create a great buzz around our events and our fund raising efforts are more successful for it.
Why do you think it is important to get involved in the community?
Valerie: I feel so fortunate to have had some success in my career as a mortgage professional, and to be able to use that to contribute to the community I live and work in, I feel honored to do it.
Heather: A lot of the work that we do in real estate is about community—helping people become part of a community or change a community or build a community. To take it one step further and directly help a community member in need by raising money to cover, say, the cost of a meal or a facility where they can sleep for the night, is very rewarding.
What does business with humanity in mind mean to you?
Valerie: To me, it means you can be successful in business but, in order to be fulfilled, you have to contribute to others’ happiness and I hope that our efforts help someone.
Heather: I think it also means building a business with care for others in mind. Even if your business is not a charitable organization, if you bear in mind how you tread through the world and consider the mark you leave, you will be more successful for it.