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Nonprofit Tips: Building an Effective CEO/Board Chair Relationship

As part of a Board Chair Series, Leadership Metro RichmondThe Community Foundation and Sands Anderson brought together Board Leaders from around Greater Richmond to learn and discuss best practices for building effective organization leadership – particularly around the relationship between the Executive Director (ED) and Board Chair.

The CEO of ChildSavers Robert Bolling, along with Immediate Past Chair Linda Schreiner, talked in-depth about how they created an effective working relationship during their tenure of leading the organization together.

For those who aren’t familiar, ChildSavers works to ensure that all children are safe, healthy, happy, and ready to learn. They provide immediate response, outpatient mental health counseling and early childhood development services so that children have a chance to reach their potential and thrive.  Robert joined ChildSavers in 2012 and immediately began making major changes to the organization that had been under the same leadership for several years.  Robert, along with the guidance of the Board, and especially Linda, set out on a strategic planning process and rebrand for the organization.  Building a successful relationship between the two was incredibly important to guiding the organization and Board through this period of transition and change.

Here are a few tips Robert and Linda shared that helped them create an effective relationship:


Robert Bolling, CEO of ChildSavers and Linda Schreiner, Past Board Chair, share tips on building an effective CEO/Board Chair relationship.

1) Build Trust

Building a foundation of trust, understanding and respect is arguably the most important factor in a successful ED/Board Chair relationship. Robert and Linda said first they had to get to know each other’s style, personality and background.  Because they began their working relationship during a time of organizational transition and change, they had to start having difficult and fierce conversations early on; and knowing each other’s approach to problem-solving, motivation and communication was key to doing so.  Linda praised Robert for being very self-aware and open to feedback.  This inspired Linda to do the same and it allowed them both to create the safe environment they needed to build trust with one another and effectively run the organization.

2) Create Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Separating management and governance duties can be mucky and muddy when leading a nonprofit organization.   Many times, a board chair began as a volunteer for the organization and it can be difficult to adjust from that role to one with higher-level duties.  It’s incredibly important to determine upfront what a formal decision is and what isn’t, what requires board oversight and what doesn’t.

When you’re first beginning the ED/Board Chair relationship, setting up standard operating procedures will help.  You may want to even take the full board through a formal process of defining oversight, like ChildSavers did.  For example, as the Board Chair, Linda would approve any spending request over $5,000.  Robert and Linda worked together on a compensation and performance review process for Robert that went to the Executive Committee of the Board for approval.  Overall, it was imperative that they work together to create guidelines on decision-making as a first step to a great working relationship, as well as distinguish between their unique roles.

3) Educate Your Board

Both Robert and Linda thought it would be helpful to provide continuing education for the Board and subcommittees during the period of cultural change and transition; helping them fully understand the organizational shift and to encourage their ongoing investment in ChildSavers’ mission.  Reiterating new messaging became important, so the new mission and vision were written out at the top of each board agenda.

At every Board meeting ChildSavers’ staff were brought in to share “Mission Moments” and deep dives into their programming.   Families positively and profoundly impacted by the organization were brought in to share their stories.  The two even coordinated tours of the neighborhoods that ChildSavers typically works in.  Robert and Linda working together to educate the Board was not only critical for better decision-making and deeper investment from the Board, but also important in showing the Board a solid and consistent “front” from the two leaders of the organization.


4) Keep Succession Planning a Top Priority

Succession planning shouldn’t be a taboo topic between the Board Chair and Executive Director of the organization.  In fact, it should be discussed often.  Robert says that he frequently has discussions with his Board Chair about his vision for his role, as well as how he is planning to groom staff to grow into leadership roles.  On the Board side, Linda was constantly planning how she would create a smooth transition for her successor Clayton DeArment, who is now the ChildSavers Board President.  Getting to know his personality and communication style was important, she said, as was bringing him into important conversations as her term came to an end.  Ultimately, passing on knowledge, wisdom and advice proved to be a successful way to transition the role of Board Chair to Clayton.


5)  Discuss and Plan for Staff Development

When he first joined ChildSavers, one of Robert’s first priorities was changing the organization structure from very flat to one where staff could grow and advance.  “Often in nonprofits, great staff won’t stay with an organization because there is no room to grow or advance,” he said.  In addition to organization structure changes, he invests in staff development through classes, trainings, conferences and even leadership programs like Emerging Nonprofit Leaders offered by The Community Foundation.

But, he cautions, it’s important that both the Executive Director and Board understand the importance of this type of investment in staff and organizational growth, because at the end of the day “growth must be funded” and we look to the Board to take on this role.


We want to sincerely thank Robert and Linda for sharing insights with Board Members across the region, and we want to thank LMR for being a great partner in our “Board Chair Series”!

Are you bringing on new Board Members soon?  Use the Building Blocks for Nonprofit Board Members workshop on 5/17 as a part of your orientation process!  Participants will get an intro to the nonprofit sector, nonprofit organization and board lifecycles, an overview of board roles and responsibilities, and resources for continuing board development and growth. You can register here.

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Robbie Schureman, Volunteer, Virginia Dental Association Foundation

We are excited to share another Help Somebody Spotlight – Robbie Schureman!

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing each quarter from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

Robbie is a dedicated volunteer and Board Vice President at the Virginia Dental Association Foundation (VADF), but, as the person who nominated him (who asked to be anonymous) says, “Robbie is one of the most committed volunteers and advocates that the VDAF and its Mission of Mercy (MOM) program has ever had, always keeping his “MOM hat” on and an eye open for opportunities to further support the program. He is also one of the most down-to-earth, genuine folks you’ll ever meet!”

Read more about Robbies’s story and his impact in the community:

How does this Robbie demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Several times each year for the past 17 years, in the dark, pre-dawn hours of the day, Henry Schein Dental sales consultant Robbie Schureman can be found, hours away from home, helping set up a dental clinic to treat patients in need. The next couple of days are spent loading or unloading trucks, comforting nervous patients, holding babies while their parent receives treatment and more. It’s no hardship, he says. Short of spending time with his family and servicing his dental customers, volunteering for Missions of Mercy (MOM) – a program of the Virginia Dental Association Foundation launched in 2000 in Virginia by Dr. Terry Dickinson to help the underserved, underinsured or uninsured population – is the most fulfilling way Schureman knows to fill his time.

Robbie with VDA President, Dr. Terry Dickinson, celebrating his 100th MOM project.

Today, 26 states have adopted the Missions of Mercy model, in part thanks to America’s Dentists Care Foundation, a non-profit organization that coordinates and launches new Missions of Mercy programs. In Virginia, where Schureman lives and volunteers, the Virginia Dental Association Foundation (VDAF) coordinates the MOM program, providing and maintaining dental equipment – much of which is donated or purchased with grants from corporations, foundations and the government. The total operational cost of MOM is $300,000. In addition to fronting equipment costs, organizers must coordinate and feed the many volunteers, including volunteer dental students from the VCU School of Dentistry, as well as coordinate logistics and raise funds to continue the program. Over the past 17 years in Virginia alone, MOM has provided over $41 million in free dental services to 62,000 patients across 90 project sites. More than 25,000 volunteers have worked together to make this happen.

Robbie has participated in about five projects each year for 17 years. He sometimes needs to be on site as early as 4:30 a.m., and stays until evening. Most clinics are open for a day or day-and-a-half, so volunteers end up contributing as much as 2 ½ days of their time, not including their travel time, which can take as long as five or six hours to and from the site. But the service they provide is clearly valued. Patients have been known to come from as far as Florida to receive much-needed treatment and sometimes even come in days or a week early and sleep in tents or cars to increase their chances of receiving treatment.

ABOVE: A video of MOM in action – the program happens throughout the state of Virginia.

What is the impact of Robbie’s generosity? 

Because of volunteers like Robbie and so many others, the VDAF has been able to provide care to over 62,000 patients through the MOM program since 2000. This dental care is valued at over $42 million. In 2016, Robbie celebrated service at his 100th MOM clinic, having also assisted at events outside of Virginia over the years.

Governor Terry McAuliffe thanking Robbie for his service to VDAF.

Is there anything else you want to share Robbie?

In addition to his volunteer service to the MOM program, Robbie also serves as the Vice President on the Board of the VDAF, and is just as energized about volunteering as at the start. Once a year, he cooks a thank-you meal for about 200 volunteers. This fall, he drove six hours to Grundy, Va., where he helped set up the MOM event there, and then busied himself shopping for food and ingredients to prepare dinner for the other volunteers. In addition, every year, he and his family host a fundraiser dinner for MOM volunteers and friends. The VDAF is so fortunate to have passionate volunteers like Robbie – we couldn’t begin to have the impact on serving so many in need without him!

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame:The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing each quarter from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here

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Creating a More Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: An Introduction

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of inclusion in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities leads Emerging Nonprofit Leaders through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on creating a culture of inclusion in local nonprofit organizations and across the sector.


Diversity and Inclusion

By now, you’ve probably heard the buzzword “Diversity and Inclusion” or “D&I” for short.  So, what is it and why is it important in our sector, particularly in the workplace?  According to VCIC, diversity is the presence of difference generally related to one’s identity and might include ability status, age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or many other factors that make a person unique.  Inclusion is the accepting, respecting, and valuing of this diversity.  Jonathan explained that, “it is very possible to have diversity without inclusion and if you’re not being intentionally inclusive, it’s very likely that you will end up being exclusive.  Organizations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.”

The Case for Creating Inclusiveness

Working to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace should be a fundamental part of fulfilling the mission of any nonprofit. It creates an environment of involvement and connection and allows for the richness of ideas, backgrounds and perspectives to be harnessed to create value for the organization, clients and the community.  It has been proven to enhance creativity, produce better and more productive communications, result in faster problem solving and enhance programs and services to constituents.

D&I is an ongoing process for creating change and requires a commitment to education, collaboration and vigilance. Jonathan reiterated that the work itself can be uncomfortable, and the territory unfamiliar, but it can move organizations and communities towards health, harmony and justice.  He suggested three steps:


Examine Your Lens

To begin moving towards active inclusion in the workplace, nonprofit leaders must first examine their own lens.  Having a deeper understanding of your perspectives and perceptions will help you create a framework for approaching and addressing your own bias – whether that be conscious or unconscious.  The Association for Talent Development suggests that as a leader you should develop the habit of deliberately becoming aware of any unconscious bias you may have regarding a person and the feelings that bias elicits, such as discomfort, uncertainty, or impatience.  As your awareness grows, your unconscious biases weaken and eventually disappear, replaced by trust, respect, value, and acceptance of that person as a benefit to your organization.

“To reach others, we have to first know ourselves. And to contact the deeper truth of who we are, we must engage in some activity or practice that questions what we assume to be true about ourselves.” –Adapted from A.H. Almaas

Tip: You can take these Implicit Association Tests (IATs) to get a better understanding of your bias.


Ask and Encourage Tough Questions

Nonprofit leaders must ask and encourage tough questions to create deeper dialogue within their organization.  Although this might seem difficult at first, it will allow you to connect and overcome challenges with others in a much more meaningful and productive way.

An important factor in committing to diversity is to recognize that you aren’t familiar with the culture, values, and practices of people whose backgrounds are different than yours. You need to be willing to learn and develop a clearer understanding of how their experiences affect their work styles, behavior, communications, and relationships.  Asking and encouraging tough questions will help you gain insight into the current landscape of your organization regarding how diverse and inclusive it actually is.   More importantly, it will allow you to build deeper relationships, empathy and understanding with those who are different than you.

Local nonprofit leaders discuss barriers our organizations create in regards to race. Stay tuned to next week’s blog for what they discussed and action steps to breaking down diversity and inclusion barriers locally!


Acknowledge Institutional Bias

Nonprofit leaders must acknowledge institutional bias, which are the practices, policies, structures and traditions that push some people up and others down based solely on identity.  In the nonprofit sector, here are some examples of institutional bias:

  • the pay gap between women and men is significant
  • fewer than 45% of CEO positions are held by women, even though women make up 70% of the nonprofit workforce
  • nationally 89% of CEOs and 80% of board members are white even though only 64% of the population is
  • In a 2010 survey of nonprofit employees, more than a quarter of the respondents of color reported having left a job “due to lack of diversity and inclusiveness”
  • Volunteer demographics often don’t reflect the population being served; one example shows the disparity between clients of Voices for Children and their volunteer base of mostly white, heterosexual, white women
  • Studies show that the majority of foundations are governed by white individuals and the majority of benefactors to foundations are white individuals
  • Nonprofits often require a formal degree for every job in our sector by default

Nonprofit leaders must recognize that certain bias exists within the sector and this may permeate into their own organization causing barriers towards inclusion and ultimately, equity and justice.  Making sure to include individuals who may be facing these barriers in the conversation, may seem obvious, but is often overlooked.

Jonathan gave the group an example of how many organizations will post a job opening for a Bilingual- Spanish Staff Person and the day the position opens is the first time they are reaching out to the Spanish speaking population.  Instead, Jonathan recommends, long before the position opens, or is even official, begin building relationships and having conversations with partners who will help connect you to that population ie The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; you may even want to hold “interest interviews” to have a better understanding upfront what barriers may exist and interventions you can take to make your organization more attractive to those candidates.

So, what are some of the barriers that organizations, leaders and staff create in local nonprofit organizations that prevent inclusion (in both the workplace itself and with clients and the community) and what are actions steps that they can take to intervene and overcome these barriers, leading to a more inclusive nonprofit environment?   Stay tuned to next week’s blog to learn more!

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Heather Conner, Virginia Hemophilia Foundation (VHF)

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Heather Conner and I serve as the Program and Communication Director for the Virginia Hemophilia Foundation (VHF).  I moved to Richmond in the 90’s to attend VCU. I started off studying Anthropology and along the way met many Religious Studies professors that captured my attention; so much so that I stuck around, took more classes and ended up with a double major. A year of service with AmeriCorps solidified my passion for serving the community and in a roundabout way led to the work that I do today as Program and Communication Director for the Virginia Hemophilia Foundation.


What is the focus of your work?

The focus of our work at VHF is to serve the entire Virginia inherited bleeding disorders community by supporting the needs of those impacted by a bleeding disorder through education, advocacy, and community. The needs of the community vary, but due to the nature of inherited bleeding disorders (chronic, expensive, and very rare), we strive to build connections between our community members to increase the social health of patients and their families by decreasing isolation. For some, the first time they met anyone else with a bleeding disorder was at one of our events!

ABOVE: A video that was conceptualized, designed, shot, and edited by VHF teens at the 2014 Teen Retreat. It was based on that year’s World Hemophilia Day theme 1 in 1000.


What do you find most rewarding about your work?

The direct connections and relationships that I have forged within the community. Since it is a small population it feels like family and I get to hear personal stories on a regular basis about how the organization is meaningful and adds value to their lives.

A group photo that truly shows how VHF’s organization is like one big family; taken at the Annual Education Meeting in 2013 in Natural Bridge, VA.


What are some major challenges you have faced and how have you handled them?

Our major challenge right now is moving our funding from one that relies on industry donations and sponsorship to one that is based more on individual donors. We have been moving in the direction of online and peer-to-peer fundraising at our action based fundraising events (Bowling for Bleeding Disorders and Trick or Trot 5K) but have been running out of steam lately and are ready to hire a third employee to help our two-person office. We will be hiring in the next few months and are a great place to work if anyone out there is looking for a development position!


What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

People are most surprised to learn about how expensive the medications can be for a person with an inherited bleeding disorder. Costs for a child with severe hemophilia can be over $200,000 per year to treat bleeding with intravenous doses of the missing clotting factor. Some people build up inhibitors to treatment and costs can exceed $1,000,000 per year – this is just for medication alone. This is one of the many reasons why we have a history of strong advocates within our community.

Recently an article in Vox talked about a parent in the community who was so persistent that she convinced former Senator Byron Dorgan to introduce legislation to end lifetime caps on insurance which became a part of the ACA.

VHF members meeting with their US Representative for Virginia District 4, Donald Mc Eachin, at the National Hemophilia Foundations Annual Washington Days on March 9, 2017.

Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

I am in the process of working with board and community members to develop a teen leadership program. We have slowly built up a core group of teenagers that attend events and are active in our chapter and next steps are to formalize a program that would give our teens the opportunity to help develop new events/programs, receive advocacy training, get volunteer hours, and give them tools they can take away and use in their everyday life. We hope to then use this program to one day develop a junior board and/or committee that would report to the board at large and inform them of any new ideas or initiatives that they would like to see for the youth of our community.


Are you and/or your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

We are always open to partnership and find a lot of meaning in collaborative work. We currently have on-going working relationships with the National Hemophilia Foundation, the Hemophilia Federation of America, the Hemophilia Association of the Capital Area, Camp Holiday Trails, and our Hemophilia Treatment Centers at CHKD, UVA, and VCU.

Group photo from the 2016 Camp Young Blood, which VHF provides each summer for our members at no cost at Camp Holiday Trails in Charlottesville, VA.


How are you leveraging ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

We find ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to be a valuable resource to our small operation of just 2 employees. We are reminded of this as we interact with other bleeding disorder chapters throughout the country; we are lucky to have such a robust and supportive non-profit community in Richmond and ConnectVA/The Community Foundation is at the center of it.

We use our Give Richmond profile when we want to share easy to read financial and management information about VHF, we utilize ConnectVA for sharing events and for hiring new employees, also we love the opportunity for professional development that we receive through non-profit management classes offered and both our ED and myself are graduates of the ENLP program.


Anything else you would like to share?

I love my job and feel honored to be able to share my gifts with our community in meaningful and creative ways – there is never a dull moment in the non-profit world and I would not have it any other way!

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News from the Community: TCF Announces Grant Awards

The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia (TCF) awarded over $2 Million to 47 local organizations through their community grant making program along with The Jenkins Foundation, a supporting foundation that focuses its grant program on improving health care in the region.  Each year, a portion of The Community Foundation’s grant making is awarded through a competitive process, in which local organizations apply for funding for programs and operations.  The process is guided by a framework in which the Foundation identifies nonprofit partners that are effectively, and many times collaboratively, working to lift up Richmond as a place where all of its residents can thrive.

The Community Foundation’s grant making is focused on investing in a healthy and thriving community in four specific results-based goal areas: Cultural Vibrancy, Economic Prosperity, Educational Success and Health and Wellness. Learn more about the community grant making process here. The next round of competitive grant applications are due May 5thth.

Below is a list of the grants made in the first of two annual grant cycles for 2017 by TCF:

Cultural Vibrancy

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that community members have access to and an appreciation for arts and cultural opportunities.


Capital Trees
$25,000 to provide programming and operational support for projects to restore and enhance Richmond’s urban green spaces.

CenterStage Foundation
$25,000 to facilitate the strategic planning process.

CultureWorks, Inc.
$120,000 to support awareness of the rich arts and cultural offerings in the Richmond region.

Richmond Symphony
$30,000 to fund community-led Big Tent festivals.

School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community 
$40,000 to advance performing arts education outreach programs.

Virginia Repertory Theatre
$30,000 to support work with TRG Arts.


Economic Prosperity

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that the region’s resources are sustainable and its residents are economically stable and secure.


$50,000 to support the CARITAS Shelter and Case Management Program.

Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, Inc.
$50,000 to support Business Development integration and Customer Service certification training.

Greater Richmond Bar Foundation
$25,000 to expand the Pro Bono Clearinghouse program.

$150,000 (over 3 years) to support the convening and coordinating of 30+ public and nonprofit homeless service providers.

Housing Families First
$30,000 to provide families and single women experiencing homelessness with permanent housing and stabilization services.

Junior Achievement of Central Virginia
$50,000 to support programming to tenth-grade students and sponsor of the Philanthropy Center at Junior Achievement Finance Park.

Neighborhood Resource Center
$35,000 to support NRC Works as well as youth development programs for individuals and families in Greater Fulton.

Sacred Heart Center
$40,000 to build organizational infrastructure to grow and serve the Latino population in Greater Richmond.

Virginia Supportive Housing
$50,000 to support permanent supportive housing services to ensure formerly homeless individuals remain stably housed.


Educational Success

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that young people achieve in school, engage in their community and are prepared for the workforce.


Armstrong Priorities Freshman Academy
$30,000 to support the Third Pilot Year of the Armstrong Priorities Freshman Academy.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond
$50,000 to support ongoing core programs to over 400 youth daily at four Clubs in the City of Richmond.

$50,000 to support quality early child care and education.

Communities In Schools of Richmond, Inc.
$100,000 to support coordination services for students in Richmond Public Schools.

Friends Association for Children
$30,000 to provide operating support for childcare and youth development programs.

Higher Achievement Program, Inc.
$50,000 to support the growth of programming focused on expanded learning, caring role models, and high expectations for low-income 5th-8th grade children.

Partnership for the Future
$50,000 to support programming for low-income, college bound students as well as to support a strategic plan to evaluate program expansion.

The Literacy Lab
$30,000 to support 36 full-time tutors.

The Podium Foundation
$15,000 to support middle and high school academic-year writing programs.

VCU Foundation
$54,000 to support the Richmond Teacher Residency.

Virginia Mentoring Partnership
$25,000 to provide general operating support.

YWCA of Richmond
$50,000 to support the Sprout School.


Health & Wellness

Grants awarded in this category aim to ensure that community members are safe and healthy.

Access Now  Jenkins
$40,000 to support access to donated specialty medical care for low-income, uninsured patients.

Better Housing Coalition  Jenkins
$40,000 to support the Senior Coordinated Care program, which provides health and wellness supports to older adults.

Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation  Jenkins
$15,000 to expand a prevention-based mental health program into additional high schools.

Chesterfield CASA  Jenkins 
$20,000 to support training and supervision for volunteers serving as court advocates for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

CHIP of Virginia 
$30,000 to support the merger of CHIP of Virginia and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

The Daily Planet  Jenkins
$50,000 to provide access to medical transportation for older adults, promoting health and wellness in underserved communities.

Family Lifeline  Jenkins/TCF
$75,000 to support early childhood home visiting programs.

FeedMore  Jenkins/TCF
$100,000 to support Meals on Wheels and Senior Nutrition Programs.

Full Circle Grief Center  Jenkins
$25,000 to support community-based bereavement support groups.

Gateway Homes  Jenkins
$40,000 to provide training, counseling, and support for individuals with serious mental illness.

Greater Richmond SCAN  Jenkins/TCF
$100,000 to support Trauma Informed Care services that provide weekly intensive treatment groups for families affected by abuse.

Henrico CASA  Jenkins
$25,000 to support training and oversight of additional volunteers serving as court advocates for abused or neglected children.

Honoring Choices
$35,000 to implement an electronic health record system.

Jewish Family Services  Jenkins
$12,500 to implement an electronic health record system.

McShin Foundation  Jenkins 
$25,000 to provide residential and wraparound services to clients in substance abuse recovery.

Senior Connections  Jenkins
$25,000 to support Family Navigators who help families navigate and access children’s mental health resources.

Side by Side
$30,000 to support transgender youth by increasing access to mental health services.

St Joseph’s Villa  Jenkins
$30,000 to develop patient and family-centered educational tools.

Virginia Dental Association Foundation  Jenkins      
$25,000 to support the Crisis Stabilization Unit, which serves youth experiencing mental health crises.

Virginia Treatment Center for Children  Jenkins
$40,000 to support a Clinical Practice Manager position to oversee operations at the Children’s Mental Health Resource Center.

 Learn more about how to apply for a grant through The Community Foundation, visit the ConnectVA “Funding Resources” page for more information on local funders, funding databases and subscribe to our ConnectVA “Grants and Funding Opportunities” Community Discussion Forum to stay up-to-date on funding announcements!

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Lisette Johnson, YWCA Richmond

Tell us about yourself.

I am Lisette Johnson, YWCA Richmond’s Healthcare Navigator, supporting survivors of domestic violence requiring assistance with a range of healthcare needs.

Prior to my role at YWCA Richmond, I served as a volunteer hospital advocate for survivors in the emergency room through the community collaborative Regional Hospital Accompaniment Response Team (R-HART). I most recently served at VCU Health as an advocate for patients experiencing intimate partner violence and assisted in health care provider domestic violence screening training. I was also the Trauma Survivors Network patient liaison.

I am a survivor of an attempted partner homicide/suicide and have served on various metro Richmond domestic violence task forces. I am an active voice for legislation to reduce violent injuries and homicide, and have testified for passage of landmark laws before the Virginia General Assembly and United States House of Representatives.

Last week Lisette Johnson was awarded the Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?

We know that survivors of intimate partner violence access the healthcare system more frequently than others. We also know that the long-term effects of trauma include chronic health issues. YWCA Richmond is committed to providing a holistic approach to crisis intervention by adding the healthcare navigator to connect clients with available resources to address their health conditions as well as helping them access health insurance coverage.

ABOVE: YWCA Richmond is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.  YWCA Richmond strengthens our community by creating and advancing opportunities to empower individuals, children, and families to live their best lives.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

It is wonderful helping survivors understand the role of physical health in their overall well being and seeing them utilizing the connections made on their behalf to take charge of their health and dental needs. Many of our clients are overwhelmed by navigating systems and simply do not have room in their already stressful lives for one more responsibility, and I’m glad to ease that burden and make the healthcare process a bit easier.

I enjoy being able to connect survivors with primary care doctors who can manage their health conditions and being proactive about prevention. Providing referrals to specialists removes that added layer of vulnerability and dependence and strengthens the long-term outcomes for the survivors I work with. Everyone deserves to the opportunity to be healthy and live their best life.

YWCA Richmond counselors and case managers provide free, trauma-informed care to empower survivors.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

While The Affordable Care Act is still in place today, rules have changed this year for the domestic violence hardship exemption. There also remains a gap between Medicaid and ACA and many single, low-income earners are not qualifying for insurance outside the ACA open enrollment period. Fortunately, Richmond has several clinics offering income-based, sliding scale payment plans, even on copays. We have made tremendous progress establishing relationships to facilitate easier and trauma informed access for YWCA Richmond’s referred clients.

ABOVE: A PSA About Intimate Partner Violence by the YWCA.

What are some misconceptions about the YWCA?

YWCA Richmond is often referred to as a “women’s shelter” or it is believed that we only help women. While our agency started 130 years ago with the mission of empowering women (still at the core of our mission today), we serve survivors of all gender identities and approach domestic violence and sexual assault as community health epidemics, not just as “women’s issues.”

Our services extend far beyond a “shelter,” too. Through partnerships with other agencies and hospitals, we can provide emergency housing in private apartments and furnished hotel stays, 24/7 advocacy for adult survivors in emergency rooms, and ongoing services like counseling, case management, employment navigation, healthcare navigation and more.

Our clients are given the choice of what combinations of services they wish to enroll in, as we understand that in abusive relationships, the survivor is stripped of their power and control. As a trauma-informed agency, YWCA Richmond is committed to empowering survivors to make decisions about what care best suits their needs following their individual experience with abuse.

YWCA Richmond advocates for legislation that support survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Here are YWCA Richmond team members are General Assembly for legislative advocacy day.


Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

We see a sizable number of pregnant women seeking services, many of which are unplanned. YWCA Richmond is currently exploring an educational program around reproductive and sexual coercion as a component of intimate partner violence.

We are also exploring further strengthening our partnership with Greater Richmond SCAN and developing collaborations with Family Lifeline and Urban Baby Beginnings. We have been met with open arms at The Daily Planet and they have been great to provide ease of access for our clients.

The Greater Richmond Regional Hotline is a free, 24/7, confidential resource for survivors and their advocates. If you or someone you care about are experiencing domestic, sexual or intimate partner violence, 804-612-6126 is the first point of entry for services in the Richmond region, including YWCA Richmond’s healthcare navigations.  The Greater Richmond Regional Hotline operates as a collaborative service by six local agencies: The James House, Project Hope, Safe Harbor, Hanover Safe Place, Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services, and YWCA of Richmond.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA and The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

The Community Foundation has been a fantastic resource in supporting our programs, like our early childhood education initiative and women’s empowerment program, and has connected us with amazing philanthropists in the Richmond area who have a fervent passion for the work we do. Our GiveRichmond portrait has given us the opportunity to share our work in a comprehensive package with funders and community members who want to learn more about all our services, leadership and the direction our agency is headed. ConnectVA has helped us find talented, passionate team members to join us on our mission to eliminate racism and empower individuals in the Richmond region.


Anything else you would like to share?

YWCA Richmond always encourages community participation in our mission to empower RVA! If you would like to get involved with our work to support survivors, strengthen families and educate young children, prevent violence and empower women, we have several events coming up, as well as opportunities to support our work as a volunteer or donor. All this information is available on our website at www.ywcarichmond.org. If you’d like to stay connected to learn about our current initiatives, you can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ywcarva.

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ConnectVA Q&A: Tips for Partnerships from John Toscano

Nonprofit organizations are frequently called upon to work together in partnerships or alliances to meet the community's needs or to apply jointly for funding. These interactions can range from networking and information sharing, to simple cooperation and coordination of services, to full collaboration where achieving a common goal supersedes individual agency interests. John Toscano, the President & CEO of Commonwealth Autism, shares a few tips on fostering collaborative partnerships (make sure to sign up for the full day class on 10/12):

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News from the Community: Updates from the Capital Region Collaborative

On Friday March 10th,  The Capital Region Collaborative (CRC) shared important updates to their regional work in a community-wide meeting.  A captive audience listened intently as CRC Organizers, elected officials, local nonprofit leaders and even the Mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, discussed the “shared vision for our region” and the ways that our community must work together, across sectors, to achieve this goal.


About the Capital Region Collaborative (CRC)

The CRC is an active collaborative effort between government, business, and the community to identify and implement regional priorities that will enhance the quality of life in the Richmond Region.

Through a series of focus groups, community conversations, and surveys, the CRC identified eight key priorities, which was produced in the original CRC – Building the Framework report in 2012. The public was invited to join work groups in each priority area.  The work groups were then asked to identify specific ways that the collaborative cross-sector efforts could make a difference in each area.  The 8 priority areas (and what they aspire to do) are:

  • Education – to ensure that every child graduates from high school college or career-ready
  • Job Creation –  the region enjoys a diverse economy that is competitive in the global marketplace and provides job opportunities for all
  • Workforce Preparation – to better align workforce skills to employer needs
  • Social Stability – the region embraces our social diversity as an asset and supports a community where all residents have the opportunity to succeed
  • Healthy Community – the region is known for an active and healthy lifestyle
  • Coordinated Transportation – the region remains one of the most uncongested transportation networks in the country while supporting all modes of transportation
  • James River – the region will make the James River a centerpiece for entertainment, recreation, and commerce
  • Quality Place – the region is a leading attractive, inclusive, and accessible community for arts, culture, recreation, and entertainment

In the past year, the CRC’s organizing council assembled Action Teams – made up of community leaders and subject matter experts to take the initial Work Group recommendations, community feedback, regional indicators (see below) and national best practice models to find cross-sector solutions to the region wide priorities.

Regional Indicators

Over the past year, a major focus of the CRC has been to find a standard way to measure progress on economic and social goals related the region’s priorities to assist community leaders, elected officials, and funders in making informed, strategic decisions to drive change. In 2016, they announced the launch of the Regional Indicators Project.

At the latest Community Meeting the CRC shared an up-to-date RVA Snapshot – which provides a benchmark framework for comparing the Richmond region to peer cities and measures progress in the eight priority areas. “There are a few excellent reports out there covering these key priorities individually, but our goal is to provide a comprehensive report and accountability tool that brings these regional priorities together in one information source,” said Ashley Hall, Manager of The Capital Region Collaborative.

Ashley shared an update on the Indicators, and in general, the region saw modest gains and losses between 2016 and 2017 across most areas the initiative measures.  In education, preschool enrollment decreased by 1.3 percent to 44 percent while the number of high school graduates increased by 2.7 percent to 91.1 percent. When it came to jobs, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.8 percent to 4.3 percent, but the average annual wage also decreased by $655 to $50,574.  The poverty rate dropped by 1 percent to 11.8 percent while the percentage of the region’s homeless held steady at .08 percent. The region fares poorly against others when it comes to public transportation — a report by the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies ranked Richmond 41st out of 49 regions in transit accessibility to jobs.

However, since the Indicators only measures data from 2015 to 2016, we are cautioned to remember that it is too early to view the indicator changes as trends quite yet.

Regional Projects and Activities

During the Community Meeting, different leaders shared some highlights of regional projects, events and activities that the Action Teams have worked to tackle together over the past year.  Here are some highlights:

  • From the original Healthy Community work group arose The RVA Food Collaborative (RVAFC), which brings together individuals from organizations and businesses working to improve the region’s food system and close the enormous “hunger gap” that exists. Recently, the RVA Food Collaborative, in partnership with Shalom Farms, created “Grown to Go”, a mobile food market that brings fresh produce directly to the neighborhoods that need it the most.
  • KaBOOM, an organization dedicated to promoting play as a fundamental part of a healthy childhood recently designated Richmond as a “Playful City USA”.  This designation was a result of the partnership between the CRC Quality Place Action Team, the City’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities (PCRF) and Active RVA.
  • One of the recommendations made by the CRC Social Stability work group was to work with local housing groups to produce research on existing housing availability and impediments to quality housing. Thus, the Housing the Richmond Region: Needs, Impediments, and Strategies report was born. The report was commissioned by the Partnership for Housing Affordability, and involved collaboration with the CRC, Regional Housing Alliance, the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, and the VCU Center for Urban and Regional Analysis.
  • In February 2017, The James River Action Team released the Regional Rivers Plan which offers recommendations and identifies strategies to leverage the James, Appomattox, Chickahominy, and Pamunkey Rivers to improve quality of life and catalyze economic activity. The plan expands and enhances public recreational access, encourages business development, and promotes tourism on the rivers of the region.
  • The Workforce Preparation Action Team created Mission Tomorrow, a regional interactive career exploration event for 8th grade students. The inaugural event was held in October 2016 and 12,000 students participated in activities and discussions with almost 100 employers.


New Year, New Look

This year the CRC launched a new brand, revealed a new tagline – “Our RVA.  Better Together.” and launched a new interactive website which provides users the ability to track progress on the economic and social goals related to our region’s priorities.   Each priority area has a dedicated to page that features the Action Team’s progress, regional and related news, information on data indicators, and interesting regional statistics and facts.  The CRC is also partnering with HandsOn Greater Richmond to direct people to volunteer opportunities within the priority areas – another feature on the new website.


Keeping Up with the CRC

The regional approach and activity of the CRC may seem super “high-level” and some might be wondering, “how does the work of my nonprofit fit in?” or “how can my organization get involved?”  Here are a few suggestions for staying up to date with the latest CRC news, joining conversations and aligning your work to the regional priorities:

  1. Follow the CRC. Likeand follow them on social media, subscribe to their monthly e- newsletter and check out their website capitalregioncollaborative.com. This is how they promote upcoming events and opportunities, along with sharing progress on the indicators and collaborative regional work.
  2. Evaluate Your Own Work. What data are you collecting, tracking and measuring in relation to your programs, services and impact? How does that contrast and compare to the Regional Indicators? If you don’t already, begin thinking about your work in a larger context and what Priority Area you are moving forward.
  3. Align. The true opportunity through the Collaborative is to better align the amazing work already happening in the region. Let the CRC know how you or your organization is moving the needle in a priority area.
  4. Join Community Conversations. Throughout the year, you can be a part of community-wide dialogue on important regional topics. The Valentine hosts these events along with the CRC, Richmond Family Magazine and TMI Consulting. The April topic is on “Family” – registration opens soon.
  5. Volunteering. If you have volunteer opportunities that align with a priority area consider working with HandsOn Greater Richmond – the local hub connecting volunteer opportunities to passionate people and official volunteer partner of the CRC.
  6. Share. Do you have a story about a successful collaboration? An event that helps educate around a priority area? A study or article worth sharing? An idea for an indicator? Share it with the CRC.

Interested in learning more about how you can create more collaborative work?  On 4/5 there’s a class for that! Join us for Fostering Collaborative Partnerships where you will examine the pitfalls and best practices of partnership, focus on practical tools for making partnership work, assess the strengths and weaknesses of various collaboration models and develop specific tools to support current or future collaborative activities.

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Help Somebody Hall of Fame: Patricia Taylor, CNA, Family Lifeline

As we continue to share stories and examples of great work in our community, through the Help Somebody Hall of Fame, we wanted to spotlight another unsung hero working in the nonprofit sector.  Often, the individuals working on the front line – with clients and hard to serve populations aren’t recognized for their tireless efforts to make a difference.

Jennifer Case, Program Manager for Family Lifeline’s Home Care Program reached out to ConnectVA and The Community Foundation to share more about her colleague, Pat Taylor – a Certified Nursing Assistant who is known for her can-do attitude, unwavering dedication to her patients, and attention to detail with care.  Here’s more about Pat and how she is making an impact throughout Greater Richmond:

How does Pat demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Patricia Taylor, or Pat, as she is known to her recipients of care, embodies the Spirit of the Help Somebody Hall of Fame through her work as a care provider in Family Lifeline’s Home Care Program.  She also embodies our vision of bringing health and hope into the home.  Providing hands-on one-on-one care to someone who needs assistance with personal hygiene, nutrition, as well as social interaction to combat loneliness is challenging work.  However, Pat always finds extra ways to serve her recipients of care and meet their needs while maintaining their dignity.  She has been working as a certified nursing assistant at Family lifeline for the last 2 ½ years and has 19 years’ professional experience as a care provider.

Pat puts the needs of her recipients of care and their family caregivers first and always goes above and beyond when providing care.  She takes time to get to know her recipients of care well.  She listens. She gives them a voice in the care they receive.  She asks how they like their hair done, what their favorite meals are, and/or what card games they like to play. To make someone feel special – she will paint their nails or fix that favorite meal.  No matter what her recipient of care needs or wants Patricia always finds a way to make them smile and brighten their day before she leaves their home. There is no task too small for Patricia to complete and no job too big for her to say yes too. Pat is truly a gift to the RVA community.

ABOVE: A video of Pat with one of her beloved clients in Family Lifeline’s Home Care Program, which works to promote health and wellness of individuals in the comfort and safety of their own home by providing supportive services that delay the need for costly institutional care, prevent illness and injury, and relieve the stresses placed on caregivers. 

What is the impact of Pat’s generosity?

At Family Lifeline, we measure our impact of our care one recipient at a time; and, being on the frontline of care – Pat plays a major role.  We ask ourselves daily:  Have we helped them remain independent and safe in their own home; remain free from falls and hospitalizations? Do the families of those in our care feel supported and cared for as well?   Do we help relieve worry and stress by providing trusted, consistent, and dependable care? Have we helped the community by delaying the cost of more expensive nursing facility care?

But, how do you measure how a warm bath and clean clothes feel? How do you measure the benefit of a home cooked meal on the body or the spirit?  How do you measure what a kind word, a laugh or listening ear means in the life of another person who may be socially isolated?  These intangibles are at the core of Pat’s generosity.   She not only gives her time, her expertise and skills – she gives her heart – and with that makes a huge individualized impact on the life of every older adult she visits.  As one of our family caregivers said, “Patricia is loving, caring…comes in with a big smile…talks to my mother, listens and includes her…”

She is also a mentor or role model to the care providers just starting out in this profession…we often use her standard of excellence in our orientations and trainings to help guide the next generation of care providers.


Is there anything else you want to share about Pat?

Recently, Pat has been experiencing her own health challenges; yet, she calls in to the office regularly to check on the care needs of her recipients of care and picks up every extra shift she can to ensure that everyone is receiving care. During the January 2017 Richmond snowstorm, Pat was not scheduled to work that weekend; yet, knowing that the storm would impact care and that there were vulnerable isolated older adults in need of care, she called the office to see if anyone needed care and went to the client most in need of care that day.  Going above and beyond…that’s Pat.

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame:

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express gratitude for a person in the community who acts selflessly to improve the lives of others.  We want to share these stories in hope of inspiring more people in Greater Richmond to act with generosity.  There will be random drawing each quarter from those who are honored, and two honorees will select a nonprofit of their choice to receive $1000.  Read more about how to nominate someone here.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Vicki Yeroian, Programs Director, Podium RVA

Tell us about yourself.

Hello. My name is Vicki Yeroian, and I am the Programs Director for Podium RVA, working within the Greater Richmond Metro area to provide reading, writing, and communication programs for middle and high school-aged youth.

While attending VCU, I received the Scholarship for the Advancement of Women, the School of Social Work Social Justice Award, and spent time in leadership with the National Organization for Women. I graduated in 2013 with a BA in Political Science and Bachelor’s in Social Work. In 2014, I completed a Master’s in Social Work, and am currently working on my 120-hour certificate in Non-Profit Management.

What is the focus of your work?

Podium provides workshops and writing mentorships year-round that result in quarterly youth publications, showcases, such as Open Mics or regional debates, and in summer leadership projects. Programs work together to:

  • Raise English and Writing SOL scores
  • Address lack of programs combining writing, communication, and leadership
  • Create equitable outlets for growth in youth voice, confidence, and achievement
  • Build safe and supportive spaces for youth personal and professional development
  • Bridge the regional achievement gap for underserved and minority youth

Podium’s youth education approach is based on our transformative model of intervention: Educate. Empower. Transform. This focuses on understanding values and experiences, collaboration, and transforming oneself by empowering youth through active learning and engagement in leadership.

Vicki with students and an alumni at a Podium after-school program at Thomas Jefferson High School


What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I started at Podium from 2009 – 2012 as an intern for Armstrong High School’s program and returned as Programs Director in 2014. I have been a part of Podium for most of our existence and have seen a lot of changes but one consistency I also find most rewarding.

Podium is oftentimes referred to as a family by our youth. Watching them go from quiet, stand-offish writers to confident public speakers; seeing the lightbulb click as a new concept or perspective is understood; reviewing college scholarship or application essays or professional resumes: all are humbling. Empowering youth to build the tools they need for aspirations beyond graduation is my favorite part of Podium.

WMP (Writing Mentorship Project) mentors facilitating a workshop with middle school youth from YHELI (youth health equity leadership initiative), a former program of the East District Family Resource Center. WMP is a six week long program open to upperclassmen in Podium programs, where interns learn about program quality, create their own workshops, and become writing mentors themselves!

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

Being an after-school program provider, I think it is safe to say that most of us have experienced the major challenge of reliable transportation. At Podium, we believe in addressing inequity by bringing programs to our youth. While maintaining after-school relationships, Podium has additionally continued expanding programs into community or youth development centers.


What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

Some may think Podium programs focus solely on combining art with creative expression, and we do, but Podium programs are much, much more! We are committed to combining culture, art, academics, and leadership. Programs first work towards building an appreciation of writing and comfort in one’s own voice and in sharing with others, but as youth progress through Podium, they sharpen focus on academic writing, critical thinking, communication confidence, leadership and professional growth, and post-graduation planning.

Vicki and a Podium student at Henderson Middle School.


Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

Yes! Now that we have created a seven-year, continuous learning and professional development environment from middle to high school, and beyond, Podium seeks to spread the vision of understanding writing and communication as an integral part of everyday society.

In the spring we have our 6th annual RVA Awesome Adult Spelling Bee fundraiser at Hardywood’s Brewery on Thursday, May 18th. Doors open at 4:30pm; the competition starts at 5:30pm!

This summer, Podium launches our 3rd annual, regional Writers’ Leadership Conference. New this year, Podium will be opening the conference to all regional youth writers (ages 14 – 19). You no longer have to be part of a year-round Podium program to join us during the summer!

Is Podium involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Podium has long standing partnerships with RPS, CIS of Richmond, VCU, and Virginia Union University, and have engaged in recent partnerships with Boys and Girls Clubs and Peter Paul Development Center as programs expanded into middle schools.

Winter High School Open Mic (regional)


How are you leveraging ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

ConnectVA is a wonderful community resource that connects individuals with professional, educational, and volunteer opportunities throughout the region. As interns and volunteers (many of whom are Podium alumni) plan next steps in their careers, I always pass it on as a resource. Podium is a grant recipient of The Community Foundation, helping to fund programs year-round.


Anything else you would like to share?

Celebration of youth voice is so important to building healthy, equitable futures. Any opportunity you have to support a young author, poet, performer, or artist, I encourage you to take it! Whether attending a showcase, volunteering with organizations, mentoring youth, or donating resources, there are many ways to make a difference that play to your strengths!

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