Phil Schiff knows plenty about what goes on behind the scenes of a nonprofit like NCCF — governance, infrastructure, program support. After decades of working in the nonprofit world, it’s the language he speaks.
But those aren’t the things that have kept Phil and his wife, Janis, connected to NCCF for almost 20 years.
“We come back to NCCF because of the results.,” Phil says. “You see it in the data, you see it in the smiles of the staff, you see it in the clientele.”
Phil was working for the American Association of Blood Banks in 2000 when he met John White, who had lived as a child in the Baptist Home for Children on Greentree Road in Bethesda, which became known as NCCF in 2001. White was looking for local residents to help him build the organization and save what he considered his childhood home. Phil lived in Bethesda at the time and had experience with nonprofits, so it seemed like a good fit.
That bit of happenstance turned into 18 years of involvement for the Schiff family. Phil chaired NCCF’s board until he eventually moved over to the board of The Neediest Kids, an NCCF program that supports kids in nine of the area’s school systems, in 2016. Janis, who is active on the boards of Easter Seals, the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and the D.C. JCC, has worked alongside him over the years, including drumming up support for NCCF’s programs in her professional community. Even their son, Justin, now a lawyer at the University of Miami, spent his childhood lending a hand to NCCF’s programs.
And while Phil is committed to building program infrastructure and ensuring that NCCF continues to grow and adapt, it isn’t those tasks that keep him coming back to NCCF.
Phil remembers handing out certificates of appreciation to NCCF volunteers at an afternoon tea. A young man — a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School — was being recognized for starting a program that brought kids in the Greentree Shelter’s daycare program to a pottery studio in downtown Bethesda.
“He asked if he could say something,” Phil says. “And then he said, ‘I need to tell you something, folks. Seven years ago, I came into the shelter with my mother, with the clothes on my back. I’ve just been accepted to Dartmouth University.’”
Phil can offer so many similar stories he’s collected over the years, and says he sees those anecdotes as proof that NCCF has found a niche.
“Every time we do something, we are successful,” he says. “Our clients go out, they rejoin the society that we all live in every day. We are building not only people, but the whole community. It’s our gift back, in a way. At the end of the day, we produce really healthy people.”
Today, Phil is focused on securing the sustainability of The Neediest Kids, a program that NCCF has worked hard to shore up over the last five years. He calls it a “spectacular” program, but knows there is still work to do — structurally and financially — to secure its survival. And his roots in nonprofit governance lead him to go back time and again to the data that show that NCCF programs really work.
But still, it’s the stories of client success that drive the work he and Janis do.
“I absolutely love hearing from the clients, being a part of their story,” he says. “When you sit and listen to them telling their stories, it’s just amazing.”