A civic group that researched economic and social issues in Washington's neighborhoods for the past decade has shut its doors after it was unable to raise enough money to keep up its work.
The board of directors for DC Agenda, a nonprofit organization that studied issues such as poverty, gentrification and the lack of after-school programs in the city, voted in May to end operations, said its president and chief executive, John H. McKoy.
DC Agenda was created to deal with the budget crisis that plagued the city during the 1990s and wound up a victim of its own money problems. It struggled in the last three years to maintain the level of funding -- about $1.7 million annually -- it needed.
"The budget model that we set up didn't look like it was going to work for the long haul, and the things we did to try to change it were too little, too late," McKoy said.
Officials said the drain on funding was caused by the stock market plunge after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The fallout caused a decrease in the endowments of many foundations that provided its funding, they said.
DC Agenda was funded primarily by several national and local foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation and the Freddie Mac Foundation, as well as a limited number of government and corporate entities.
McKoy declined to discuss which organizations decreased financial support for DC Agenda but said one foundation that typically provided $250,000 annually had decreased its gift to $50,000.
DC Agenda had been a community resource since 1994, when it was launched by the Federal City Council to address the city's fiscal woes and other pressing problems.
The organization worked with the Brookings Institution to draft a revenue study that formed the basis for the White House's 1997 revitalization plan for the District, which ultimately transferred most local government functions from the city's elected officials to an appointed control board. The city since has reassumed responsibility for its operations.
"I do think it was a creature of the crisis," said Ken Sparks, executive vice president of the Federal City Council. "The city was in the midst of a very serious recession. Many of the recommendations that came out of our initial meetings later became part of the gospel of how to cure the city's ills."
DC Agenda helped create the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., which obtains public and private resources to support community-based youth development services, such as after-school programs in the city.
It also helped create the National Capital Revitalization Corp., which promotes economic development in the city's neighborhoods.
Although the city government is in markedly better financial shape than it was when DC Agenda began, officials noted that problems remain in areas such as education, literacy, housing and employment opportunities and that those will require collaboration, research and other steps to address.
Despite the organization's closure, many of its initiatives will continue under the watch of other entities.
Those include the Neighborhood Information Service, which provided neighborhood-level statistics to city officials, business leaders and journalists; the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation awards for distinguished city employees, and the Neighborhood College, which gave local leaders an opportunity to learn more about their neighborhoods and other issues.
The Neighborhood Information Service will now be operated by the Urban Institute and the others by the Center for Excellence in Municipal Management at George Washington University.
"We tried to work on issues we felt that the community could benefit from," McKoy said.