Taproot Foundation Service Grants

From 2012 to 2016, I had the great pleasure to partner with three outstanding non-profits in the Greater Washington Area, as part of the volunteer corp of the Taproot Foundation. The non-profits were varied in direction but singular in mission. As part of a five-person team, I functioned as writer, copy editor and for the last service grant, project manager.


On the fourth floor of Drew Elementary in D.C.’s Ward 7, real life change is happening. Young African-American boys, too often lost in a society inherently prejudiced to them or trying to survive a chaotic upbringing, gather for Life Pieces to Masterpieces, a non-profit that uses art to teach these boys virtue and character. Founded in 1996 by Larry Quick, Mary Brown and Ben Johnson, Life Pieces started with seven boys learning how to create art and process the inner workings of their life. Twenty years later, hundreds of boys have come through the program, now men contributing to the betterment of their community and city.

As a full-fledged non-profit, Life Pieces’s executive team wanted an annual report that featured their wonderful programs and growth, as well as propelled them forward toward a national reach with more partners and donors. As the project manager, I led a team of three, researching, reporting and creating a document that was historical and topical.

We honed in the journey of a masterpiece, starting at their programs for pre-school and kindergartners and ending with their educational aide programs. Form followed function, as we flipped the annual report to a landscape feel to fully convey the journey.

A link to their annual report is found at their website (lifepieces.org) and here.


For more than 20 years, Lucy Bowen McCauley has served the Greater D.C. area with her unique style of dance choreography and educational programs. Being a mainstay in Arlington, Bowen McCauley Dance was looking for a way to highlight the outstanding work they’ve done and also “reintroduce” themselves to potential subscribers and donors.

As part of a five-person team, we got to know the great story of Lucy and her dance company. Interviews and in-person discussions showed a woman dedicated to her craft and to her community. The dancers were top-notch and their educational programs, especially “Dance for Parkinson’s” provided tangible health and wellness benefits.

They came to Taproot needing an annual report and we created an portrait of Bowen McCauley Dance. Their brand is Dance For All and that spirit of inclusiveness drives them into the future.

A link to their annual report is found at their website (bmd.org) and here.


What does it mean to be an advocate? What kind of advocate do you want to be?

Since 1993, the Potomac Conservancy has worked to safeguard the Potomac River and its surrounding lands and connect people to this national treasure. Through land conservation, awareness campaigns and community outreach, they have succeeded in building a member base and gaining influence among land owners, policymakers and the general public.

Based on successes built upon influence campaigns such as the State of the Nation’s River report and current realities of the River, the Conservancy is shifting its focus toward an advocacy posture. Its mission and vision statements reflect this approach, as does its operational goals in the next five to 10 years. But its branding and messaging needed to communicate these priorities.

The Conservancy partnered with the Taproot Foundation to create a new branding and messaging strategy. A team of five, myself included, set out to help the Conservancy in its branding and messaging endeavors.

We conducted an extensive discovery process that included interviews with key stakeholders including the entire board of directors, as well as a competitive audit of other organizations within the sphere of what the Conservancy was doing. From the discovery, we crafted positioning statements that pointed the way the Conservancy wanted to go. From there, new ways to communicate emerged.

With the expanded and enhanced visual vocabulary and key messages, the Conservancy now is well-armed to effectively say who they are, where they are going and why you should partner with them to bring continued improvement to the Potomac River.

In total, the project took close to nine months and many hours of research, writing and conference calls. In the end, the Conservancy’s staff and board were thrilled with our efforts and were energized and affirmed in the direction they are going.

I am honored to partner with the Potomac Conservancy in their important work and the Taproot Foundation in its wonderful mission.

On behalf of the board and staff of the Potomac Conservancy, we thank you for your hard work on our recent Taproot Foundation grant. We’re grateful to you and the rest of the team for a job well done on Potomac Conservancy’s messaging and re-branding. Not only did you put in many hours of pro bono time to help the Conservancy, but your board presentation was professional, thoughtful and will help us move forward with our work.
–Hedrick Belin and Bill Wasserman, executive director and board chair, Potomac Conservancy.