Annual Report 2019

Overview
Friends of the Dominican Republic (FDR) is a non-profit corporation created to continue supporting Peace Corps’ work in the Dominican Republic (DR). We summarize our work quite simply. We are a “cyber-based” membership organization of former and current Dominican Republic Peace Corps Volunteers, staff and supporters. Our members:
  • Raise funds to support the work of current Volunteers in the Dominican Republic,
  • Advance the Third Goal of Peace Corps by sharing our knowledge of the Dominican Republic with other Americans, and,
  • Foster “connectedness” by growing our membership network to provide news and information about Peace Corps DR and encourage participation in and support for their work.
For 2019 we continued working on our strategic goals:
Goal 1: Focus on Organizational Sustainability
Goal 2: Strengthen Core Programs
Goal 3: Increase Membership/Supporter Involvement

FDR’s Significant Accomplishments in 2019
  • We funded 9 Community Challenge Fund Grants for Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) projects in the DR.
  • We funded 10 Program Support Fund Peace Corps Volunteer and partnership programs in the DR.
  • Our Growth and Professional Development Committee produced a webinar on applying to graduate schools for viewing by Volunteers nearing the end of their service period in the DR.
  • Developed new project partnerships with three Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in the DR including: Wine to Water, Techo and Puente International, for the purpose of helping low-income Dominicans through our Community Challenge Fund.
  • Increased the maximum amount of our Community Challenge Fund grants from $4,000 to $5,000, in recognition of increasing cost of projects.
  • Attended a national Brigada Verde youth environmental conference and the graduation ceremony for the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa
  • Visited Volunteers with underway and completed projects; and, Non-Governmental Organizations working in the DR to discuss potential partnerships for future projects.
  • Reorganized our Communications Committee to focus on the transfer of our website to the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) SilkStart platform used by many affiliate organizations.
  • Refocused our annual fundraising effort to promote support for the Community Challenge Fund, the Program Support Fund and our General Fund.
The Community Challenge Fund
The Highlights of 2019:
  • The Friends of the Dominican Republic Board approved entering into Partnership Memorandums of Understanding with three Dominican Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and authorized the Community Challenge Fund to solicit and fund grants to construct community development and economic development projects meeting the needs of low income Dominican families. Two of the three organizations (Techo and Wine to Water) had been on the list of recommended organizations provided by Peace Corps DR; and the third organization (Puente) was a newly organized organization founded by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. After approving 121 Challenge projects over 16 years (all requested and coordinated by Peace Corps volunteers), FDR approved its first grant to an organization other than Peace Corps, with the award of $4,965 to Puente for the construction of 27 bathrooms. Ultimately, each of the three new partner organizations submitted and had at least one application approved during the year. A total of 5 applications from the new partners were approved in 2019. One project by Techo represented the first housing project approved by the Challenge Fund. The project (which was the 125th Community Challenge Grant awarded) consisted of 2 small homes which were designed as starter homes that owners could expand and improve as their financial ability improved.
  • The Board approved an increase of the maximum Community Challenge Fund Grant from $4,000 to $5,000.
  • The $35,420 grant awards to nine projects in 2019 represented the third highest grant allocation since the Challenge Fund was created in 2004.
The following projects were provided Community Challenge Fund assistance during 2019:
Judea Nueva/Monte Cristi - Peace Corps - Court for Kids - $4,000
Tejada Alta/Los Hatillos - Peace Corps - Youth Courts - $3,533
Buen Hombre/Villa Vasques – Peace Corps - Court for Kids - $1,503
Los Rios/Neyba – Peace Corps – Court for Kids - $4,000
Los Gajitos/Constanza – Puente – 22 Bathrooms - $4,965
Los Gajitos/Constanza – Puente – 29 Cement Floors - $3,677
Progreso/Santiago – Techo – Community Library - $4,833
Progreso/Santiago – Techo –Construction of 2 Starter Homes - $3,909
School Drinking Water & Wash Facilities - Wine to Water - 100 Filters/18 Wash Stations - $5,000
Total CCF Investment: $35,420

Program Support Fund Activities in 2019
March - Printing of 80 copies of the 140-page Volunteer-written Brigada Verde training manual used by PCVs forming Brigada Verde youth groups in their communities. Half were distributed in May to the graduating class at the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa. ($310)
- Attended the National Brigada Verde youth environmental conference at the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa and met with PCVs involved in Brigada Verde youth group activities to help plan regional Brigade Verde workshops.

April - Printing and free distribution 150 copies of the Spring 2019 issue of the PCV-written and edited newsletter formerly known as Gringo Grita and now titled AplataNow! Printing of the approximately 70-page publication was previously paid by Peace Corps but funding was eliminated in 2019 due to budget cuts from Washington.  ($1,070)
- Support for a one-day regional Brigada Verde youth environmental workshop organized by PCVs in the communities in the Northwest and held in Monte Cristi in cooperation with students and faculty from the National Environmental School.  ($655)

May - Support for a one-day regional Brigada Verde youth environmental workshop organized by PCVs in communities in the East and held in Hato Mayor in cooperation with students and faculty from the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa. ($402) 
- Attended graduation ceremony for the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa and conferred with school faculty and administrators concerning selection of an outstanding graduate for the proposed Brigada Verde University Scholarship Program.

July - Support for a PC Skilz "train-the-trainers" course held in Hato Mayor for 15 PCVs and 15 community counterparts. The course prepares the PCVs and counterparts in Peace Corps' Youth, Family and Community Sector to teach PC Skilz training courses focused on sexual health, healthy decision making and HIV/AIDS education. ($3,000)

August - Creation of a revolving fund to support the printing of the Fall issue of AplataNow! and future issues of the PCV newsletter on a self-supporting basis. Under the plan worked out with PCV editors, copies of the newsletter will be sold and proceeds from each issue will go into the revolving fund to pay for printing succeeding issues. Pricing, print-runs and printing-costs will be adjusted to keep the publication self-supporting once the fund was established. ($900)

September - Began scholarship support for the first graduate of the National Environmental School to be awarded the Brigada Verde four-year university scholarship under a joint agreement with the environmental school. The student, Keisel Rivas, was chosen by the school faculty and is majoring in industrial engineering at Universidad Tecnologica de Santiago (UTESA), with mentorship by a member of the environmental school faculty. The scholarship cost of $2,000 per academic year is being jointly shared by FDR and Fondo Quisqueya. ($1,000) 

November - Provided a grant for a series of six workshops over two months taught by outside experts and facilitators for 30 local community leaders from 12 communities in and around the city of Samana. The workshops concerned gender equity and equality, new masculinity, empowerment of women and girls and implementation of national legal mandates for greater participation by women in municipal governance and budgeting. The workshops were organized by Zena Clements, a former PCV living in Samana, in collaboration with a local neighborhood association in the community of La Colonia-Ranch Espanol, which received the grant. ($2,229)
- Provided funding for a bus to take about 30 students from three schools in Montecristi Province on a one-day field trip to the Cilpen Global plastics recycling plant in Santiago. The trip was organized by a PCV and a local counterpart. ($268)  

December - Completed funding for a regional Construya Sus Suenos entrepreneurship conference and competition on Montecristi Province organized by a Volunteer in the Community Economic Development Sector. Total funding for the project was $5,156 and PSF provided $320 needed to complete funding for the project to be held in early 2020. ($320)

Total Program Support Fund Support: $10,154

Growth and Professional Development Committee 
Activities in 2019 In 2019, the Growth and Professional Development Committee organized an online webinar for current PCV’s interested in pursuing advanced degrees following their Close of Service. Three recent PCV’s served as panelists providing answers to questions posed by current PCV’s. The webinar was recorded and available to FDR members and current Volunteers upon request. Those interested should contact Board Members Susan Stine at scstine@gmail.com.

The History Committee
The History Committee primarily collects information about current and former Volunteers who served in the Dominican Republic, in cooperation with the Membership Director, and gathers articles and information about what DR/RPCVs have done since leaving their PC Service. Some of this information is shared via La Voz, our electronic newsletter. The History Committee also collects original copies of Gringo Grita from RPCVs and has duplications of earlier DR Volunteer publications such as El Cuchicheo. 

Some current projects of the History Committee are organizing original materials from the formation of FDR, reviewing these materials and drafting a new, brief history of FDR and responding to requests from FDR members for information about the work of previous Volunteers, groups and cohorts that served in the DR. The History Committee also provided Alana de Joseph, the producer of A Towering Task, the documentary about the history of the Peace Corps, with information about the history of PC in the DR, during her research and visits to the DR during filming.

The Temporary Communications Committee
FDR recently organized a Temporary Communications Committee to deal with problems on our website. FDR has not had a volunteer website manager since 2012 and has been relying on a contractor to post materials prepared by board and committee members since then. In addition, the long-term host of our website, who was a DR/RPCV, retired and closed his business. This required us to move the website to a new host that was familiar with the software on which it operates. While this transfer took place in 2017, there have been minor hosting problems since then. 

The Committee’s purpose was to explore potential new hosts and operating systems for the website and recommend how to operate the website in the future. As a result of the Committee’s work, the FDR Board approved a recommendation to move our website and membership operations to the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) Peace Corps Community Builder Platform powered by SilkStart. This platform is used by many of NPCA’s Affiliate Organizations and offers online technical assistance and training through their Technology Migration Consultant. 

FDR has begun this transition and will be rebuilding our website on the new platform over the next year. During this process our current website will remain available and much of the outdated material and non-performing links have been removed. The address of the website will not change during this process and once the new website is ready, it will replace the current version.

The Third Goal Committee
The Committee’s purpose is to educate Americans about the work of Peace Corps across the world and to introduce Americans to the people and culture of the Dominican Republic. As a “cyber-based” organization with members around the country and the world, it is more difficult for FDR to accomplish this goal when compared to “place-based” NPCA Affiliate Organizations.

Membership Report
The following chart outlines the number of RPCV’s and other friends of the Dominican Republic that are in FDR’s membership database as of the end of 2019.
Grand Total: 4578
Everyone Including Deceased 311
Deceased PCVs 202
PCVs or RPCVs 4173
Bad Email or unsubscribed 279
No Email (all PCVs) 735
No years of service 59
Facebook 1211
Linkedin 2241
Sites listed 2328
Projects Listed 2491
Not a DR PCV 136

Goals for Membership:
  • Getting more PCVs to be champions for their cohorts/groups
  • Working successfully with PC/DR to have current PCVs and trainees learn more about FDR and join while in the DR
  • Increase publicity about the benefits to current PCVs and RPCV’s joining FDR
  • Having every board and committee member to complete their database profile and to be a champion for their cohort/group.
  • Successfully migrate the database and website to a new platform.
The primary job of the Membership Director is to maintain the database and help people who have trouble logging in to access the database.

2019 Treasurer’s Report
In the simplest terms, the Treasurer’s primary job is to handle corporate finances, that is to process and account for all monies received and to account for all monies disbursed.  In 2019, three quarterly Income and Expense Reports as well as a year-end Income and Expense Report were prepared and submitted to the Board.  Similarly, Balance Statements and Trial Balance Statements for the same periods were prepared to better reflect the organization’s overall financial condition, including investments.  Form 990, the annual report to the IRS for non-profit organizations, can be viewed on our public website.  In 2019, the Treasurer continued to rely exclusively on the accounting software we acquired in 2014.  Except for a manually produced Trial Balance, all reports were generated by the software.

In summary, on a cash accounting basis, the organization started the year with $67,243 Cash on Hand.  We received $40,519 in new dues and donations. In turn, the organization disbursed a total of $35,206 leaving $72,556 Cash on Hand at year-end including funds in a money market account.  Note, additional administrative expenses for postage and printing of our 2019 year-end mailing were not available for this report and will be included in the 2020 report.  Given the magnitude of our principal program, Community Challenge Fund (CCF), the Treasurer maintained separate reports for donations to, and disbursements made on behalf of, that program and liaised frequently with the CCF Program Manager and the Peace Corps Partnership specialist at Peace Corps headquarters.  

In addition to the annual cash flow of revenue and expenses, FDR has an investment portfolio that can be used to support CCF should annual revenue be insufficient.   During 2019, the portfolio gained back all losses from 2018 and continued to increase in value throughout 2019.  Total assets as year-end, including cash and investments, totaled $458,474.

In addition to the principal financial responsibilities, the Treasurer completed the following actions in 2019.
  • Annual filing of Form 990 and supporting schedules to the IRS
  • Annual report to the Virginia Corporation Commission on status of the organization
  • Confirmed 122 donations to our smaller program funds for tax deduction purposes
  • Updated expiration dates of individual memberships in corporate web database
  • Updated address changes received from USPS in corporate web database
  • Participated regularly in monthly FDR Board conference calls as well as occasional calls and emails to/from the President and Executive Committee