Touchstones Discussion Project, Inc.

Building critical thinkers & collabortaive leaders.

aka Touchstones   |   Annapolis, MD   |  www.touchstones.org

Mission

Through inclusive discussion-based programming, Touchstones develops highly effective speakers, listeners, critical thinkers, and collaborative leaders.

Ruling year info

1997

Executive Director

Ms. Stefanie Takacs

Co-Founder & Director of Leadership Programs

Mr. Howard Zeiderman

Main address

PO Box 2329

Annapolis, MD 21404 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

52-2009938

NTEE code info

Elementary, Secondary Ed (B20)

Higher Education Institutions (B40)

Public, Society Benefit - Multipurpose and Other N.E.C. (W99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

In school settings Touchstones works to close gaps in educational systems, encouraging students to think for themselves and develop interpersonal abilities in an academic environment. Skills which are often overlooked in the classroom are honed by discussions and teamwork through Touchstones: students think independently and abstractly about complex problems, pursue open lines of inquiry in conjunction with their classmates, and are encouraged to pay close attention to the social dynamics of their discussions. The role of classroom leader is shared between all participants of the discussion, making the student not only aware of the quality and direction of the conversation, but responsible for it. Touchstones programs work as an expansion of standard curricula, widening perspectives and learning habits to prepare students for life beyond the classroom.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

School Programs

Touchstones school programming is designed to be a complement to existing curriculums, with students meeting for one hour each week to consider and discuss selections from seminal works of literature, poetry, fine art, and mathematics. In these sessions, students develop the skills essential for success in the emerging global and dynamic 21st century world by learning systematically to question, listen, and cooperate through respectful discussion. In using Touchstones classmates share in an open exploration of influential texts and issues central to civil society, examining complex ideas in the context of their life experiences. Unlike a Socratic seminar, Touchstones sessions are structured to include pair and small group work as a tool to strengthen the quality of class discussion and encourage all students to participate actively. Students in Touchstones discussions share the role of group leader among themselves, evaluating their own work and the work of the group, self-correcting unproductive behaviors, and setting goals collectively for improved discussion outcomes. These essential skills transfer to many dimensions of academic settings and extend outside of the school. Touchstones emphasizes social and emotional learning, independent critical thinking, and attentive active listening. Academically rigorous yet accessible to all, Touchstones’ school programs, after-school programs, and workforce development programs help students of all academic abilities and backgrounds become active collaborators in their own learning. Touchstones materials are used in programs for advanced learners, ESL and ELL students, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, AVID elective and critical reading, students with special needs, and in inclusive classrooms. Touchstones school programs are in more than 39 countries and have been translated into Arabic, Burmese, French, Haitian Kreyòl, and Spanish. More than two million students of all ages have used Touchstones programs since the organization was founded in 1984.

Teachers who use Touchstones programs develop their classroom management skills, guide and empower students through direct engagement, differentiate instruction based on individual students’ strengths and challenges, and become leaders among educators. To foster optimal implementations and outcomes, Touchstones provides professional development training that teaches educators the Touchstones discussion method through direct experience. Touchstones’ interactive workshops at three levels (Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced) help teachers to learn strategies for discussion leadership, to examine and devise solutions to issues in discussion dynamics, to practice associated discussion activities central to the Touchstones method, to tailor lessons to their students’ needs, to measure student progress over time, and to continue their own development as discussion leaders and classroom managers. In-class coaching provides additional and tailored guidance to support continued development in instructional and leadership capacities.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Students

Executives and managers in government agencies, not-for-profit organizations, businesses of all sizes, and private groups gain a better sense of teamwork through custom Touchstones programs and collaborative discussions. Executives systematically improve their abilities to access, assess, and utilize diverse perspectives and collective knowledge in problem-solving. At the same time, the Touchstones format helps them to grow their leadership capacity, build cohesive teams, and improve their organizational management.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Through Touchstones programs in correctional institutions, juvenile and adult detention centers, and jails, incarcerated participants reflect on their values and choices and take greater responsibility for their actions. Touchstones is actively used to strengthen socio-behavioral in a number of correctional centers in Maryland, Virginia, and California. Touchstones discussions afford prisoners the opportunity to experience efficacy in their own thinking and empower them through self-respect and respect for others. In Touchstones, participants learn essential socio-behavioral, cognitive, and meta-cognitive skills, which they employ to improve their lives in prison and to achieve and sustain productive lives after release. Each year, Touchstones donates hundreds of staff hours to run programs with the incarcerated and their families in Maryland prisons, the majority of whom are from minority households living below poverty level.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

Post-secondary students learn to examine, formulate, and articulate their ideas through reading, speaking, and listening in Touchstones’ collaborative seminars. They tackle challenging issues and academic concepts and learn to work independently and in teams. College students in Touchstones programs overcome the passivity that generally characterizes pre-college learning. They learn to evaluate and refine their own work and skills and take initiative in developing themselves as reflective and life-long learners and leaders in their communities. Touchstones curricula strengthen a range of essential skills that students in post-secondary programs must possess for success in rigorous academic environments and the workplace. Touchstones programming is used in U.S. college bridge programs, ELL and ESL courses, First-Year Experience courses, freshman orientation programs, teacher education courses, honors leadership seminars, and faculty & administration professional development.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Touchstones discussions provide a welcoming and friendly environment in which senior citizens stay intellectually and socially active. As a Touchstones group, seniors explore new ideas and perspectives as presented by their peers. They develop community and friendships within the program and stay connected to the world. Drawing from their own experiences, the seniors participate in lively and enriching discussions that continue well after the sessions end, providing access to continued, meaningful, and authentic engagement with others.

Population(s) Served
Seniors

A generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017 enabled the launch of a discussion program specifically tailored to veterans. "Completing the Odyssey: A Journey Home" is a program designed to explore the timeless experience of homecoming after serving in a military force. Veterans blend their own unique experiences and memories with the great Homers' The Odyssey, examining selections from the epic poem in conjunction with more contemporary works concerning warfare. Discussions will confront a variety of themes and issues relevant to veterans of any age or experience: leadership, courage, loyalty, and the challenges service members face when returning to civilian life.

All veterans of US uniformed services are welcome to participate and are encouraged to reach out for additional information!

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this page do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Population(s) Served
Veterans

Where we work

Awards

Martin Luther King, Jr. Peacemaker Award 2015

Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award

Volunteer Service Certificate 2014

Governor of Maryland

Affiliations & memberships

Association of Fundraising Professionals - Member 2016

American Psychological Association 2016

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of hours of coaching

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

School Programs

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of participants engaged in programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

School Programs

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This represents minimally estimated new program participants around the globe for the year.

Number of participants attending course/session/workshop

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Related Program

School Programs

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Number of overall donors

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

2016 was the kick off to the organization's first multi-year campaign. Covid.

Number of volunteer hours

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Adults, Incarcerated people

Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Number of hours donated by Touchstones volunteers and staff for work in our various programs provided for students, the incarcerated, senior citizens and veterans.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

For over 35 years, Touchstones' primary goal has been to address gaps in education in K-12 schools by teaching educators and students to use structured dialogue to activate and enliven their thinking and build cooperation and leadership. While the goals and structure of Touchstones discussions are academic at their core, the collaborative learning style has been shown to provide benefits far beyond that scope, improving test scores while reducing rates of student bullying and creating stronger social relationships between participants. Touchstones strives to prepare students for their lives in and out of the classroom by cultivating skills such as critical thinking, flexibility, and openness to diverse perspectives.

Touchstones offers a fully developed program curricula, which are delivered though over 60 titles in print in six languages. An estimated 380,000 Touchstones instructional volumes are in circulation. To complement this and to ensure program fidelity, Touchstones uses a teach-the-teacher approach to prepare discussion leaders to implement successful Touchstones programs. Touchstones staff is continuously available to teachers and discussion leaders as a resource for conducting a successful and cooperative discussion group.

As Touchstones enters it fourth decade, it brings with it experience and expertise from 35 plus years of systematic program development, piloting, refinement, and increasingly broad implementation and application settings. In recent years, Touchstones organizational structure and business systems have been redesigned so as to more efficiently and effectively support core business while purposefully advancing the mission. Generous gifts and curriculum material revenue are used to enable Touchstones staff to coordinate with program facilitators around the world and to provide materials and support among underprivileged populations.

Building on the success of over 35 years, Touchstones has raised and generated more than $20,000,000 and engaged more than 5,000,000 participants in six languages and from 47 countries. In 2018, Touchstones launched a 5-year, $5 million "Touchstones Legacy Campaign" which seeks to raise funds for program expansion, operations and capacity building and sustainability. With this campaign, Touchstones plans to reach 500,00 new students globally in five years and 3.2 million new students globally in ten years.

Financials

Touchstones Discussion Project, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Touchstones Discussion Project, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Kurt Redfield

Madison Standard

Term: 2017 -

Gregg Steinberg

Growcentia, Inc

Howard Zeiderman

President Touchstones Discussion Project

Sapna Gandhi-Rao

Laurie de Grazia

Wild Thyme Flower Shop

Ford Rowan

Nicholas Maistrellis

St. John’s College

Garreth Heidt

Perkiomen Valley High School

Rachel Lewis

McDermott, Will & Emery

Kurt Redfield

Madison Standard

Debra Valentine

Lamprell Plc

Jonathan Adams

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 4/29/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data