Commentary: Congratulations, But What Does ACT Do Again?

Commentary: Congratulations, But What Does ACT Do Again?


Betsy Micklem

As the new director of development at ACT for Alexandria, I was excited to begin sharing the news with my friends about my new job and this fantastic organization. As I shared about ACT, I received some version of the same reaction — first excitement for me and a positive impression of ACT, but then quickly followed by some confusion. Often they would say something like “oh I love ACT!” or “ACT is a great organization.” But invariably it was then followed up with “‘what is it they do again?” or “are they the theatre group/drug rehab/preschool … fill in the blank?” It was clear to me that ACT for Alexandria needed to help everyone not only know our name, but also know more about what we do

ACT for Alexandria was founded in 2004 to honor the legacy of Norma L. Steuerle, a long-time Alexandria resident who was committed to improving the lives of others. After she died on Sept. 11, when her plane hit the Pentagon, Norma’s family chose to keep her memory and philanthropy alive by helping to launch the Alexandria Community Trust, now known as ACT for Alexandria. In the last 12 years, ACT has awarded more than $10 million in charitable grants from our donor advised funds, and almost $5 million in additional charitable dollars supporting capacity building grants for local nonprofits, grants and prizes for Spring2ACTion, and the creation of the Center for Alexandria’s Children. As our President and CEO John L. Porter likes to say, “we don’t feed the hungry or house the homeless, but we do help the organizations that do that to be able to do it better.” It is a people business and it takes all of us to have this sort of impact.

Now that you know some of the numbers, let’s talk about what it really means.

As Alexandria’s community foundation, our primary goal is to keep charitable dollars at work right here in Alexandria. How we do this is wide ranging and may explain some of the confusion about who we are and what we do. First, ACT helps strengthen individual nonprofits and the sector as a whole through capacity building grants and activities and by encouraging and facilitating collaboration with other nonprofits and local government agencies. Second, we work with donors, many of whom set up donor advised funds with us, to help donate to causes they care about both here locally, but also around the country and the world. We also engage businesses in supporting our work and the work of our nonprofit partners. We are grateful for a number of incredibly generous corporate partners including Alexandria Restaurant Partners, Grant Thornton and Sotheby’s. But ACT does even more than that.

ACT hosts Spring2ACTion, Alexandria’s Giving Day, and last year this event raised $1.3 million in 24 hours for 152 Alexandria nonprofits. All of the money raised supported local organizations benefitting Alexandria causes. In addition to hosting this online event, dozens of local businesses either sponsored this event and/or donated a percentage of sales to nonprofits and individuals provided more than $200,000 in matching grants which only fueled the generosity. Spring2ACTion is the only city-wide giving event in our region. This year’s Spring2ACTion event will be on Wednesday, April 5. Check out and start thinking about the nonprofits you would like to support.

ACT for Alexandria turns ideas into action and resources into results. ACT is Alexandria and the people who live and give here. So next time you hear about ACT for Alexandria maybe it will make just a little more sense and maybe you might want to get involved too. If you want to know more, please stop by our new offices at 201 King St., Suite 200 in Old Town Alexandria or visit us online at