Ann NovakAs we count down to our upcoming “Chat & Chew for Change” donor reception, we invite you to get to know some of our donors and supporters a little better. Our “Digging Deeper” series will feature some of the donors and supporters who are making critical investments into tackling pressing social issues here in the District. Next up a Q&A featuring Ann Harris of the American Institute of Architects.


Tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived and/or worked in the District and what do you do?

I moved to Washington, D.C. in 2010 as a Communications Apprentice at Studio Theater. I’ve been working at the American Institute of Architects for the past four years on email marketing and community managment. For the last year I’ve been working on a digital transformation project which involves a lot of change management as we overhaul the associate management database and redesign the technology that members interact with.

How did you first got involved with DC Social Innovation Project? What interests you most about the organization?

I heard about the pro bono opportunities that were available to provide marketing support to grantees and I thought that would be a great opportunity to get involved. I began volunteering with DCSIP on a 1-day intensive pro bono project for I SAW! I got to help them with their online and digital marketing including working on their website and creating an email newsletter to update their sponsors and supporters.  Most recently, I served on a pro-bono team for Street Sense training them on HubSpot’s tools to help them earn their Inbound Marketing Certification. This was important to me because it can help them create a sustainable model that provides people with a skill-set that they can use as freelancers.

What I liked about DC Social Innovation Project was that it wasn’t a behemoth nonprofit that has a vague measurable impact locally. It felt almost like a startup nonprofit that was fulfilling a very specific hyper-local need. If I’m going to donate my time or resources I want to be able to see what’s happening. With DCSIP I got to meet the grantees and see their faces and their websites. I can meet the other pro-bono people working on their project and read their applications. I like that there’s accountability through the matching grant requirement. It feels more like a partnership- it’s more collaborative and not something that I’ve seen before.

Why do you give to DC Social Innovation Project?

I think what DCSIP does is important, cool and innovative. Having a chance to volunteer and meet the grantees has made me appreciate what the staff and volunteers do much more. I’ve lived in DC for a long time. This is where everything is codified. It’s where decisions are actually made that can impact other people’s lives. Any innovation that’s going to affect the rest of the states will happen in DC.

Moreover, I want to get in the habit of giving to causes I support. It’s easy to get on Facebook and rant about things that upset me. It’s a lot harder to say ‘this is something that I’m passionate about and so I’m going to put my time, talent and treasure there.’ I give $10 a month. That’s $120 over a year that wasn’t there before. No amount is too small. If you can give more later, great. If you don’t have the financial resources give your time.  I would rather give a small amount on a consistent basis for a number of years, rather than let an organization limp along while I wait to have enough money to donate.

What social issues do you care most about? Why do these issues matter to you?

Utilizing technology to create economic opportunities, specifically creating opportunities for young girls to get into STEM careers. Regardless of your living situation, housing situation or criminal background, if you have particular skills, drive and ambition you can better your own economic situation through technology. This is something you can do on your own time wherever you are. There are fewer barriers to access with technology. You don’t need an expensive suit or to look a certain way to succeed. There’s opportunities to better people’s lives that haven’t existed before.

Lastly, if you had the mic to tell your friends about why ending poverty in the district is important, what would you want to say?

We absolutely have the power and the resources to completely eradicate the lowest level of poverty and childhood hunger. Don’t be numb. Don’t be that person that stops caring because it hurts too much to care. Have the courage to be a little uncomfortable.


Want to be featured in our next “Digging Deeper” series? Become a Community Investor today!