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Nonprofit Trends: Challenges for Young Nonprofit Professionals in RVA

In mid-January, The Community Foundations serving Richmond and Central Virginia brought together two of their nonprofit networks – YNPN RVA (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network RVA) and ENLP Alumni (Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program Alumni) for breakfast, information-sharing and discussion at Peter Paul Development Center.

For those who aren’t familiar – YNPN RVA (the local chapter of the National organization/network) supports the growth, learning, and development of young and early-career nonprofit professionals through professional development, networking, and social opportunities (learn more about YNPN RVA here).

The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program, now in its 10th year of operation, is a dynamic eight-month experience for budding nonprofit leaders in the metro Richmond area.  Participants have the opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of their leadership capacity, advance their understanding and practice of leading in the nonprofit sector, and strengthen their network of nonprofit colleagues (learn more about ENLP here and come to an information session – dates announced in March 2017).

During the breakfast, there was a facilitated discussion around the biggest barriers and challenges for young nonprofit professionals in RVA. Fairly quickly, themes began to emerge, as many audience members shared similar experiences and obstacles.  The group continued the discussion of specific challenges by generating ideas, tips and advice for how a young nonprofit professional (or how an organization employing a young nonprofit professional) could work to overcome some of these challenges and barriers.

Here are some of the main challenges that were discussed:

Creating a Work-Life Balance

Not that this challenge is restricted to only young nonprofit professionals – many individuals of all ages and career experience in the sector report a struggle with creating a work-life balance, most likely because of a devotion to their organization’s mission and a passion for their career, creating an inability to separate professional life from personal life.

The young nonprofit professionals in the audience talked about turnover in the sector and their organizations – and that usually this was related to “burnout” and a lack of support from their supervisor in their work.  The group also mentioned that sometimes they feel a “lack of boundaries” in their position –  as many organizations have employees “wearing multiple hats” because of a lack of resources and inability to hire more staff.  

The group discussed the importance of finding an organization and supervisor that really support a work-life balance.  They also stressed the importance of learning to advocate for yourself and your personal time, as well as learning to ask for help and learning how to delegate.  The group even suggested looking at ways volunteers could potentially fill in and help where it makes sense.  Most of these solutions really center around learning to have open and honest conversations with supervisors and peers, as well as giving yourself permission to “take a break” and figure out, besides work, what you are passionate about and what energizes you.  Here are some examples of how local young nonprofit professionals incorporate “self-care” into their work day and life.


Upward Mobility and Advancement

Many nonprofit professionals cited, that (especially in small and medium-size organizations) they feel a lack of opportunity to build a career within the organization, by “moving up” to higher levels.  They felt that it was very difficult to identify a career trajectory, not only within one’s organization, but also in the sector in general.

Titles and status didn’t seem to be the most important factors in “advancing” one’s career, however.  Those in the room felt that the opportunity for professional development and to build new skills were just as important as advancement.  Some said support for grad school or continuing education is very desirable.  Here are some upcoming local nonprofit professional development classes, in case you were wondering.

The group also discussed that to get to the next level (financially) within the organization, again, learning to advocate for yourself and learning how to have difficult conversations like “asking for a raise” or “negotiating a salary” is key.  In terms of working to figure out a career trajectory, finding a professional mentor, besides one’s supervisor is really important.  Here are some tips for mentoring relationships.

Limited Points of Entry into the Sector

The group mentioned that there were limited points of entry into local organizations as they began their nonprofit careers.  Greater Richmond still has a “small town feel”, where everyone knows one another and to get into the sector, if you are on the outside, it seemed impossible.

The group reflected on what would have been helpful for them to get that first nonprofit job – and no surprise, networking was key whether they were switching sectors, coming from out of town, or from school.  However, there seemed to be a lack of formal opportunities to do so (read our Tips for Networking for some detailed advice).

Another big discussion revolved around volunteering while searching for your first nonprofit job.  Volunteering will not only build your network, it can give you a chance to explore the mission/culture of the organization, provide an opportunity to build skills, and give you something meaningful to add to your resume.  In a YNPN RVA blog post titled “Volunteering and the Real Reasons Behind Working for Free” this notion is supported by a pretty powerful statistic – 41 percent of hiring managers view volunteer work as equal to a paid job and more importantly, you have a 27 percent better chance of being hired than people who don’t volunteer.

Other challenges and discussion points centered around:

  • Young nonprofit professionals lacking confidence to go for management positions
  • Perceptions of millennials being incapable because of age and a difficulty of being taken seriously
  • Poor Human Resources policies/structure and a need for better onboarding
  • A lack of standard benefits
  • Meaningful strategic planning not happening in the organization
  • Overcoming the connotation of ambition in the sector
  • And finding the right organizational fit to make an impact

What are some challenges you face or faced as a young nonprofit?  Besides getting involved and becoming a Member of YNPN RVA, here are some great offerings to take advantage of to help overcome challenges:

Nonprofit Management Classes

3/2: Conflict Management

3/22 & 3/29: ED/CEO Bootcamp

4/5: Fostering Collaborative Partnerships

4/21: Managing Up and Leading When You’re Not In Charge

5/11: Nonprofit Organization Crash Course

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Wendy Austin, Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR)

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Wendy Austin and I have served as the Executive Director to Friends of the Lower Appomattox River (FOLAR) since January 2015.  Prior to working with FOLAR, I worked in the Hopewell/Petersburg region for two nonprofit programs, as Director of Southside Community Partners and prior to that as Director of ConnectSouthside – a precursor to ConnectVA.  Before that, I was a small business owner/operator of an independent retail bookstore in the Washington, D.C. area.

What is the focus of your work?

FOLAR works in partnership with communities to conserve and protect the Appomattox River for all to enjoy. Our vision is to make the lower Appomattox River corridor a regional destination for recreation and a catalyst for economic growth while protecting riparian ecology and education and inspiring a love of and respect for the natural environment.

ABOVE: The second annual Friends of the Lower Appomattox River RiverFest was held April 30, 2016 at Riverside Park in Dinwiddie County. The event featured trail rides along the historic canal, activities for kids of all ages, music and food trucks!

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

My work provides me with great hope for the future of our community and natural environment. A healthy river and surrounding natural environment can make our lives healthier, longer, and happier for generations to come.

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

Balancing the scale of need with the capacity of our organization is a challenge. Like so many nonprofit organizations, the community expects and needs much from us yet we have to operate under extremely low overhead maintained by minimal staff and volunteer labor. Working to engage and coordinate all parts to work in alignment while ensuring day-to-day working capital takes full engagement from all members of our board. We’ve been fortunate to have strong committed leadership and business support.

Wendy Austin pictured with Wayne Walton (Immediate Past Chair of FOLAR) working at “Canoemobile” with Wilderness Inquiry where 200+ Hopewell 4th and 5th graders got out on the river in canoes!

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

YES! Meet ART!  That’s the Appomattox River Trail and Signage Master Plan. We’ve just completed an eleven-month master planning project to guide construction and wayfaring signage development of a world-class shared-use trail along the Appomattox River.

Over the next several years FOLAR will develop and upgrade the 23 miles of trail along the Appomattox River. This includes adding interpretive signage, as well as the implementation of handicapped-accessible trails and boat ramps.  Photo via Richmond Magazine.

Thanks to the generous support of The Cameron Foundation we’ll be rolling the plan out to the community and working to gain support for building the 23-mile-long trail from Lake Chesdin straddling Chesterfield and Dinwiddie Counties through Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Prince George County to Hopewell where it can cross the James River and meet up with the wonderful Virginia Capital Trail.  You can read more about ART here.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Collaboration is part of the FOLAR mission, “working in partnership”!  We work in partnership with our six River municipalities and our local foundations, the Cameron Foundation and the John Randolph Foundation as well as many businesses, and of course volunteers! We are very excited to be in a new partner with the John Randolph Foundation to be able to offer the FOLAR Environmental Stewardship Scholarship for local high school students!

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

ConnectVA is a vital resource for exchange of information for FOLAR. We use it frequently to promote our organization and events as well as research other organizations and services.

FOLAR along with the James River Advisory Council, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and volunteers and staff members from six localities teamed this past year to conduct 25 cleanups along the lower Appomattox River, keeping 10,000 lbs. of trash out of the River. Photo via Richmond Times Dispatch.

Anything else you would like to share?

I invite everyone to come on down any time to enjoy the very accessible beauty of the Appomattox River.  We also have two exciting events coming up: The FOLAR Annual Spring River Clean Up on March 25th where volunteers are needed to restore healthy shorelines by removing litter, debris, and trash from local lands along the Appomattox River and the 2017 RiverFest on the Appomattox River on April 29th – a Day of Family Fun and Adventure, celebrating our River Heritage, Nature & Recreation!

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Field Notes: Drawing Wisdom from Models of Success

Susan Hallett, Vice President of Programs at The Community Foundation serving Richmond and Central Virginia shares insights from her recent visit with Smart from the Start in Southeast DC.  From this visit and through discussion with her local colleagues who joined her on the journey, she formed 3 key takeaways that we can utilize here in Greater Richmond.


On a chilly morning in January, I set off with my colleagues from Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond, United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg, Bon Secours, YWCA and Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority up I-95 to Woodland Terrace, a public housing community in Southeast DC. Built in the 1960’s, Woodland had a reputation for high crime rates and illegal activity, but when we arrived, the community was peaceful and the streets were empty. This lack of activity is a big change for Woodland and we quickly heard why from one of its residents – “there’s no one on the street because now everyone has someplace to go!”

The purpose of our trip to Woodland Terrace was to visit Smart from the Start, a family support, community engagement and school readiness program deeply embedded within the community. Cherie Craft, the founding Executive Director, grew up in public housing and understands firsthand the best approaches to engaging residents in these programs. She pointed out that too often we attempt to “parachute in” programs, which are usually ineffective because they do not include families and parents in the process. Smart from the Start, which began in Boston in 2008 and expanded to Washington D.C. in 2012, now offers 21 total programs ranging from early language and literacy activities to parent engagement and coaching.

ABOVE: Smart from the Start is a family support, community engagement and school readiness organization that has as its mission to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income families and communities. Smart empowers parents and caregivers in under-served communities with the tools, resources and support they need to break cycles of chronic school underachievement and generational poverty.

The Community Foundation and a wide variety of community partners share a common interest in the future of our youth and the opportunity to improve access to quality child care, especially in our most vulnerable neighborhoods. We also believe our best chance of making progress is to work together and learn from the best. Our hope is that by sharing our key takeaways, you can become part of this learning journey with us.

1.      If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting the same result.

The mission of Smart from the Start is to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income families and communities. To date, they have served over 2,000 children, ages 0-5, and their school readiness data is off the charts. So imagine our surprise when we learned that there was no daycare center for us to tour, no preschool classrooms, no early literacy programs. In Woodland, they chose to focus on friends and family care and worked to strengthen that network by infusing resources and quality. In Woodland, a housing unit has been converted into a Child and Family Development Center that provides prenatal programs, parenting classes and playgroups. A robust fatherhood initiative encompasses career development along with parenting support. In essence they are empowering families and caregivers with the tools and resources they need to break cycles of chronic school underachievement and generational poverty.

2.      The whole-family and place-based approach works.

Smart from the Start looks at early childhood development and school readiness as a process that happens at the family and neighborhood level. The model is holistic, addressing issues within the community and the family first, while promoting the healthy development of young children. And the services are provided in the public housing community where families and children live. As noted by Rebekah Holbrook of the United Way, “Just being in the neighborhood and involved with the families increases staff’s opportunity to build trust, get feedback from clients in real time, and build up the capacity of the community to support itself.”

3.      Trust comes from authentic community engagement.

At its core, Smart from the Start is about the power of relationships. Residents greeted us, eager to share about their experiences. Programs are customized to meet the needs of each community, as defined by the residents who live there. They are an integral part of program development and delivery from day one. With a commitment that staff reflect the diversity of the families they serve, some residents from Woodland are employed by Smart from the Start to facilitate and coordinate programming. There is also a large network of business partners that make donations, distribute books and information to families and offer play-to-learn stations.

As we work to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges in our community – concentrated poverty, the educational achievement gap, quality healthcare, access to employment – it is easy to lose sight of our most powerful resource – people and relationships.  How we show up as human beings and how we learn from others has a direct impact on our ability to affect change.  I was reminded during a recent discussion with Reverend Alvin Herring, Director of Racial Equity and Community Engagement for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, that philanthropy is only effective when it is a reciprocal relationship, a partnership, and a mutual learning.  I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from the members of the Woodland community and their partners at Smart from the Start.

You can read the original post here.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Tyren Frazier, Higher Achievement


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Tyren Frazier and I have had the privilege of serving as the Executive Director of Higher Achievement Richmond since August of 2013. I joined the Higher Achievement team in the summer of 2010, assisting to launch the organization in the Richmond community. Prior to Higher Achievement, I’ve had an extensive career with Boys & Girls Clubs across Virginia, most recently serving as the Executive Director in Kilmarnock, working in Richmond, and starting my career in Norfolk.

What is the focus of your work?

At Higher Achievement, we work to close the academic achievement gap for under-served middle school youth, and help them get on the college track by the time they enter the 9th grade. We know that our schools can’t carry the “education load” themselves, so we enlist the support from the families and communities to ensure the opportunity gap is equitable for our scholars.

Our scholars commit an additional 550 hours per year for four years during the summer and school year. After school and summer programming is important to keep all children engaged in learning beyond the school bell. During the summer months research shows that all children, especially children that come from under resourced communities, experience the summer learning loss. Our summer programs engage our scholars in academic enrichment, competitive learning opportunities, and field trips, including an overnight college trip.

 ABOVE: Higher Achievement explains the importance of learning opportunities for young people after the school day ends and during the summer.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I have always been intrigued by the commitment that our scholars make over multiple years. I had the opportunity to visit a Higher Achievement center during my initial interview in July 2010. I went into a social studies class, and the teacher was leading an activity around the Bill of Rights.

The scholars were reciting the Bill of Rights by using a video and rap song that was playing in the class room. I thought to myself that it’s amazing that middle school students are here and eager to learn. Now, almost seven years later in Richmond, nearly 300 middle school scholars are doing the same thing!


A Higher Achievement Literature Class at Binford Middle School


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

Funding and volunteer mentors are two things that I am always concerned about. Every nonprofit needs sustainable streams of funding to continue to providing programing in the community. For Higher Achievement, we also need people that are willing to engage with our scholars as mentors, speakers, or homework helpers. I rely heavily on our advisory and young professionals board of directors to help with the charge. Both groups ensure that our Richmond affiliate has resources it needs to carry out our mission and keep the promise to our community. They leverage their personal and professional contacts to close the resource gap!

ABOVE: A Higher Achievement video on the importance of Mentoring and the impact that it can have on a young person.

What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

Near our launch in Richmond, many perceived Higher Achievement to focus on the high performing students. Well that’s not the case. Fifty percent of our scholars perform average work or are B or C students. Another 25% of our scholars perform below average in school. In addition to academic performance, middle school is rough and our children’s minds are changing. We focus our work on middle schoolers to have the biggest impact on assisting them realize their own goals so they can have the confidence to succeed.

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

For the last few years, we have realized that we need to support our alumni who are in high school. We have always partnered with great organizations such as Partnership for the Future, GRASP, and RVA Future Centers for alumni support, and now we realize that we can offer a little more with additional capacity.

We are working with local colleges to establish a pipeline for Higher Achievement scholars in Richmond as they are preparing for the next phase after high school. We want our scholars to be able to make an informed decision on their next path without any barriers in place.


Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Yes, our biggest partners are our school districts, Richmond and Henrico County Public Schools. They ensure that we have access and are close collaborative partners in fulfilling our joint mission for our children.

Along with our many university partners across our region, we partner with NextUp and Communities in Schools to deliver high quality youth programs during the after school time. Can you imagine being a 7th grader expanding on your own interest of becoming a Sous Chef? Well, that’s happening in some of our centers!


Bricks 4 Kidz-Richmond brought Legos to the Higher Achievement centers and Scholars learned about centrifugal force, met Cherry Bekaert LLP volunteers, and had fun racing cars and making art.


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

We heavily leverage the power of ConnectVA and The Community Foundation to bring people and resources to our organization. Whether that’s job postings or sharing our mission with new individuals in the community, this platform allows us to share the word across the country.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Mike Burnette, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of VA (HOME)


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Mike Burnette, and I am the director of communications for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME). Fifteen years ago this month, I came to HOME from the advertising and printing worlds. I gained my nonprofit and housing experience while volunteering for eight years on the board and PR committee of Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity. When I saw the posting for this new position at HOME, I knew it was the perfect combination of my housing passion and my job experience. Fifteen years later, I am still very committed to the work we do.

What is the focus of your work?

The focus of my work is to communicate HOME’s mission of ensuring equal access to housing to all people. We do this in many ways. We help first-time home seekers in central Virginia buy their first home with down payment assistance; we counsel families across the state to help them avoid foreclosure; we work with Richmond metro landlords to help voucher holders move to neighborhoods of higher opportunity and lower poverty; and we address both glaring and systemic cases of housing discrimination across the state with investigations, research, and policy work at both the local and statewide levels. My job is to communicate all of what we do to varying audiences using the media, social media, email, web, and direct community interaction to educate and inform on many housing issues.


HOME Staff (Mike Burnette on far right) Because of one of HOME’s fair housing settlements regarding lack of disability access in an apartment complex in Richmond, HOME was able to partner with project:HOMES to build an accessible ramp for a homeowner. In addition, HOME was able to provide $25,000 to project:HOMES to complete 46 accessible projects.


What do you find most rewarding about your work?  
The most rewarding part of what I do is knowing that I have had a hand in changing lives. It sounds cliché, but where you live impacts nearly every facet of your life including where you work, where you shop for groceries, and where your children go to school. Simply being closer to your job, or having your children enrolled in a good school can make all the difference in your quality of life. My reward is simply knowing that we have created better lives by creating equal opportunities.


Jason and his daughter Malia (both pictured) along with her two brothers went from being homeless and sleeping in Richmond’s bus station in order to stay together, to using their Housing Voucher and the help of HOME to have a home of their own.

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

You cannot change mindsets of discrimination instantly and often times progress is very slow. It takes time and it takes money to change old laws, create new laws, uncover endless instances of housing discrimination, and use the courts and administrative complaint processes to make change.

HOME’s Morgan Barker presents at one of the training sessions at Housing Day in partnership with Virginia Housing Alliance and nonprofits across the state to advocate for sound housing policies at the General Assembly.

HOME’s Morgan Barker presents at one of the training sessions at Housing Day in partnership with Virginia Housing Alliance and nonprofits across the state to advocate for sound housing policies at the General Assembly.

What’s one misconception the public has about HOME?

A lot of people think of us as a governmental organization. We are a nonprofit and, therefore, we do not have enforcement power when it comes to violators of fair housing law. We use the state and federal complaint processes and other times we use the courts to enforce the law. In addition, we are just like any other nonprofit, who rely heavily on fundraising for support.


Linda had been a homeowner for decades but with an adjustable rate mortgage and decreased income she could no longer make ends meet. HOME helped Linda save her home from foreclosure by getting her into a loan product she could afford.

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

We are consistently working hard at the state level to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the eight other protected classes in Virginia Fair Housing Law.  We are also working to ensure those that have a non-violent criminal history past can secure housing just like any other person and not be blocked access to the basic human need of shelter.



Housing advocates head to the General Assembly to meet with their representatives.

Is HOME involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

This April, HOME partners with the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia to debut its latest exhibit featuring HOME’s famous case 20 years ago that changed the way homeowner’s insurance is bought and sold in this country. It will be on display April through June.


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

ConnectVA is always a resource for understanding the beat of the nonprofit community. Understanding other nonprofits and their needs and their missions help make HOME a better organization, a better referral source, and a better partner. In addition, ConnectVA has always been a consistent go-to source for our employment needs. Our ongoing partnership with The Community Foundation has helped create so many different avenues for success. In the foreclosure crisis, The Community Foundation was there side-by-side with us for many years to fund a very critical time in our nation’s housing struggle. As the recovery has turned, our partnership is now back to creating new homeowners especially in the Hispanic community and those with Limited-English proficiency. We also have relied on The Community Foundation to keep our employees well-trained and our organization running with a strong strategic direction.


Anything else you would like to share?

In the nonprofit communications world, I feel your heart should be there to help others shine. Whether it is our policy and research staff, our counselors, or our CEO, my job is to showcase them and their work in the community and not to be the face for these talented professionals.

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Katharine Hunt, Youth Life Foundation Richmond


We are excited to share our second Help Somebody Spotlight of 2017 – Katharine Hunt!

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.

Katharine is the Operations Director for the Youth Life Foundation of Richmond, but, as the person who nominated her (who asked to be anonymous) says, she truly goes above and beyond her role at the organization to personally live out the mission – making long-term investments in children from at-risk communities.

Read more about Katharine’s story and her impact in the community:

How does Katharine act selflessly to improve the life of someone else?

Katharine has worked for YLFR for around ten years. She has gotten to know the families very well through the years and has a heart for a particular family we will call the Browns. Ms. Brown is a single mom raising seven children ranging in age from infant to nineteen. Katharine did the most selfless thing last summer. When the mother was in the middle of a particularly trying season of life with a newborn and the death of her husband, Katharine offered to have four of Ms. Brown’s children stay with her for around six weeks. Katharine has two bedrooms in her house but she made it work. She set up bunk beds and those children grades 3, 6, 10 and 12 had a summer of peace, learned new things such as how to make a healthy dinner, and interacted with all of those friends and family in Katharine’s life which made their lives so rich!


The four kids that Katharine took in for the summer playing on a playground


What is the impact of her generosity?

Katharine was able to give Ms. Brown space to think, recover, and plan for the future. She worked on finding a job, caring for her newborn, and getting her life back together. Katharine reconnected with the oldest daughter who is 19 and never completed high school. This fall Katharine sponsored her through a program where she received classes to earn her GED and further her education. Katharine was able to guide the high school senior in his pursuit of college and make sure that either she or someone she knew got him to and from work daily so he could save up for college. The high school sophomore is one of our strongest leaders today in our high school program due to the constant mentoring of Katharine and was able to intern with YLFR this summer and grow in leadership and stewardship. The sixth grader who has anger due to very sad circumstances in his life was loved unconditionally and given an opportunity to attend a week long camp and have experiences he never would have had staying in Richmond all summer. The third grader visibly changed in attitude as I personally experienced when she spent some time having play dates with my girls. The toddler and infant had more of the attention from their mom and grew and thrived. All of these things happened because one young woman opened up her home and her heart!


Katharine with the Senior and Sophomore in high school

Katharine is quiet, unassuming and sometimes goes unnoticed, but she is the backbone of YLFR. She is the one who has been a constant these past ten years and has made sure everyone sticks to our vision and mission. She is the one who cares for our staff of ten making sure that space is given for recovery as working with the communities we serve is difficult. She puts in place training, staff retreats, incentives, and rewards to keep everyone motivated. She is the listening ear, the servant leader who helps with all the details so the rest of the staff can work with the children uninterrupted. Many people have lots of charisma but little character. I would rather have ten Katharines on my staff who build others up and keep themselves out of the spotlight because she is the real deal. What she believes, she lives every single day of her life!


Want to nominate an outstanding community member, board member, staff or volunteer for the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?  It’s easy!

Just answer 2-3 questions about the individual and the impact that they make in the community!  Not only will you be sharing this person’s story, but there will also be an opportunity for a nonprofit (of the nominees choice) to win an award of $1000 – made possible by an anonymous donor through The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia.

Read more here: http://bit.ly/HelpSomebodyRVA

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Collaboration at Work: Goodwill Suit Drive, JA Finance Park and YMCA After School Achievement Gap Program


The Capital Regional Collaborative (CRC) recently shared stories of regional collaboration where projects, programs and initiatives are happening across sectors in order to amplify impact in our community!

For those who aren’t familiar – the Capital Region Collaborative is a collaborative effort between government, business, and the community to identify and implement regional priorities (read our earlier post about the CRC Priority Areas) that will enhance the quality of life in the Richmond Region.  The CRC is a joint initiative between the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and Richmond Regional Planning District Commission.

Read on for great examples of regional collaboration from local nonprofits!

Goodwill and Men’s Warehouse Suit Drive 

When interviewing for a job, first impressions are key. But for a lot of folks, affording the right interview attire can be a huge barrier. That’s why in 2008 Goodwill and Men’s Warehouse teamed up nationally to provide men with the proper clothing to support them in their job search.

The Goodwill and Men’s Warehouse Annual National Suit Drive began when the concern arose that thousands of men across the country are unable to secure employment because they lack the initial, yet vital, step of looking presentable for a job interview. In an effort to address this issue, two unlikely partners (Goodwill, a nonprofit, and Men’s Warehouse, a corporation) teamed up to provide a very specific need to a sector of our population.


Locally, the Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia (GCCVA) and Men’s Warehouse have collected thousands of articles of professional attire. Working closely with the Department of Corrections, Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR), Richmond Justice Center, Morning Star Baptist, and Capital Area Partnership, the initiative has provided thousands of men participating in the Prisoner Re-Entry program with assistance in seeking a job.

The initiative receives over 5000 professional pieces annually, which consists of suits, ties, jackets, and pants. Through the Prisoner Re-Entry program, 1095 ex-offenders have been served and 252 have found employment as of August 2016.

The Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia believes that “work is the foundation for empowered individuals and Men’s Warehouse is a valued partner in providing sustainable solutions. Goodwill’s mission success depends on the collaboration of such key partners – it is a community driven effort and provides a strong community solution.”
If you’d like to help in their efforts, you can donate used professional attire to any Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia retail stores and donation centers in the area. GCCVA accepts donations year round, and also accepts professional clothing for women. In addition, the Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia relies on the philanthropic support of the community and welcomes any financial contributions for the support of programs such as the Prisoner Re-Entry program, or job seeker services through Community Employment Centers which are offered free to the public.

To learn more about the Goodwill and Men’s Warehouse Annual National Suit Drive, visit http://goodwillvirginia.org/mens-wearhouse-launches-8th-annual-national-suit-drive/.

Junior Achievement Finance Park

 Junior Achievement of Central Virginia is an organization that provides young people with programs to help prepare them for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth, manage it effectively, how to create jobs in their communities, and apply an entrepreneurial mindset to their workplace.

In 2006, the Junior Achievement of Central Virginia began running the JA mobile finance park, which would go to various schools and organizations in the area allowing students to participate in the program. In 2011, with the financial support of Capital One, the mobile finance park was permanently installed in a location on Broad Street. Due to the overall success of the program, a new location was necessary in order to accommodate more students, as well as provide students with a more realistic immersion into the adult world. 


The strong partnership between Junior Achievement of Central Virginia and Henrico County has allowed the JA finance park to expand to the third floor of the Libbie Mill Library. This new location will allow JA to accommodate more students, and provide them with realistic business settings, and improved technology. Partners for the new Libbie Mill Library location include Henrico County and title sponsors, Dominion Resources, Virginia529, SunTrust Foundation, and Bill and Alice Goodwin.

The collaboration between JA and Henrico County provides JA with the opportunity to gain more exposure within the community. As people learn more about the organization’s efforts, opportunities could arise that will help them further their efforts. National outcomes from the JA Finance Park program show that

  • Students increased their scores by 26% in financial behavior from the pre-program survey to the post-program survey.
  • Students increased their academic aspirations by 18% from the pre-program survey to the post program survey.
  • Students who participate in the program exhibited a greater understanding of finances.


  • Students increased their average score from pre-test to post-test by 9.46%
  • 95% of all students who attended the site would recommend the program to their peers.

YMCA After School Achievement Gap Program

The YMCA of Greater Richmond is working with the National YMCA program and other partners, like BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), to implement an initiative aimed at closing the achievement gap. The initiative supports academic enrichment programs for children who are at risk of falling behind in school- particularly those in Title I schools.


These after school programs provide kids and teens with a safe space and strong support systems. Through programs that promote academics, arts and culture, recreation, and nutrition, students are encouraged to discover who they are and what they are capable of becoming. Ultimately, the achievement gap programs hope to:

  • increase student achievement;
  • develop social and emotional skills through academic support;
  • reduce risk-taking behaviors by creating a supportive academic environment; and
  • provide health and enrichment programs for children living in low-income communities.

Two programs are being implemented in the Richmond Region: (1) Power Scholars Academy, a summer learning loss-prevention program; and (2) an after school Achievement Gap program. Both programs hope to boost academic capacity and reduce risk-taking behaviors. By partnering with local organizations like the CIS of Richmond (Communities is Schools), FeedMoreHenrico County Public SchoolsLiteracy Lab, and Sandston Rotary Club, the programs of the Greater Richmond YMCA promote the YMCA’s core traditions, while emphasizing academic success.


Want to learn more about the Capital Region Collaborative?  Save the date for their second annual “Community Update” meeting on March 10th at Reynolds Community College Workforce Development Center at 1651 E Parham Rd, Richmond, VA 23228.

Have a collaborative story to share?  Email CRC@richmondregional.org and they may feature your organization!

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Impacts and Implications of the Election on RVA Nonprofits


No matter how you’re feeling about the new president, one thing can be certain: changes in government – local, state and federal –  have a huge impact on the nonprofit field.  Whether those impacts are positive or negative, our sectors are intertwined and changes in legislation, leadership and government funding can and will have a trickle-down effect on nonprofit operations, philanthropy, volunteerism, services for vulnerable populations and so much more.

In January, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) to discuss anticipated impacts and implications of the federal election on their work as nonprofit leaders.

Led by Susan Wilkes (the ENLP Lead Faculty), the robust conversation covered topics from “leading through political uncertainty” to “what nonprofits are doing and could do as they prepare for government changes”.   Broken down by nonprofit issue area (ie Health and Wellness and Family/Housing), here’s what the nonprofit leaders in the room had to say about implications of the election on the nonprofit sector:


Probable implications of the election

  • Reduction in federal grant money for housing
  • De-funding of Planned Parenthood (it could be eliminated) means reduced access to programs and services
  • Elimination of social safety net programs that benefit the lowest income populations

Possible implications of the election

  • Families could buckle under stress and division
  • Cuts to Child Care and Development Block Grant Funding will affect childcare subsidies to families affecting parents’ abilities to work
  • There will be less homeownership and foreclosures will increase
  • There will be a higher demand for services from schools and families because of interrogations, questionings and harassment

Positive implications of the election

  • Families could come closer together and rebuild whole communities


Probable implications of the election

  • New policies (that the nonprofit sector has not anticipated) will create new and emerging needs for the populations we serve

Possible implications of the election

  • There may be a decrease in charitable deductions
  • There may be an uncertainty in funding and philanthropy, especially in individual giving
  • People may hoard their money ie put it under their mattress!

Positive implications of the election

  • There might be an increase in charitable gifts and individuals wanting to engage and support causes important to them
  • People may channel their reactions to the election into financial support (ie individuals giving to Planned Parenthood in honor of Mike Pence)
  • There may be an increased or renewed interest in organizations, people may volunteer more and give more money

Environment and Nature

Probable implications of the election

  • There will be a denial of climate change impacts and a loss of time will result in worsened effects to the environment

Possible implications of the election

  • We could end up with no clean air or water in 20 years

Health and Wellness

Probable implications of the election

  • Cuts to SNAP will mean a loss of access to food and increased food insecurity
  • Decrease in healthcare coverage benefits that impact a person’s ability to work and ability to maintain housing and affect their family
  • Repeal of the ACA without immediate placement programs or actions
  • Loss of funding that supports women’s reproductive health
  • Less money to serve uninsured individuals

Possible implications of the election

  • Health reform may impact insurance laws for autism service coverage
  • Funding loss for breast feeding support that is currently in place and has just found its footing
  • Reduction to Older American Act funding which will lead to cuts in Senior programming, including food programs
  • Reduced charitable funding from hospitals as they struggle to cover costs for uncompensated care

Positive implications of the election

  • More robust collaboration and cross-sector communication
  • There are more people getting involved in advocacy training and community programs (ie “Richmond Days”)

Education and Youth Development

Possible implications of the election

  • Cuts to subsidy and quality initiatives will force families to choose sub-par child care options, putting kids at risk or just not giving them the right developmental opportunities
  • Decreased education and public education funding will have a trickle-down effect making youth vulnerable
  • Cuts to education will impact special education

Arts and Culture

Probable implications of the election

  • There will be a reduction in arts funding
  • There will be a more vulnerable immigrant population

Possible implications of the election

  • There will be less support for the arts when people are concerned about basic human rights
  • Donations and funding will decrease for anything that’s not considered a safety net

Positive implications of the election

  • Repression = great art

General or Sector-Wide

Probable implications of the election

  • Litigation prospects change with differences in SCOTUS and Department of Justice appointments
  • Uncertainty is causing people/nonprofits to do nothing (ie tax codes, ACA, labor laws)
  • More anti-bills at state level (ie LGBTQ and reproductive rights)
  • Increased conflict between law enforcement and citizens, decreased public safety
  • Locally, people will want to start more nonprofits, causing more saturation, overlap and competition for resources among our sector; this will most likely lead to the start-up nonprofit failing

Possible implications of the election

  • Repeals of Fair Housing laws
  • Small nonprofit organizations will struggle to survive if they depend on government funding, don’t have relationships built with funders and/or individual donors
  • People may volunteer less because they are stressed, have to work more or feel defeated
  • Housing Funding (Section 8, Rapid Re-housing), Medicaid and local elections will have a huge impact on the whole sector
  • Supreme Court will initiate court reversals

Positive implications of the election

  • More people want to do something to help
  • Volunteers could help meet demand for services
  • Many local people are yearning to volunteer, advocate, mobilize/organize and give donations to nonprofits
  • May create an opportunity to work more with for-profit businesses
  • This will lead to more cross-organization collaboration and synergy
  • There will be increased awareness of diversity and inclusion issues, provoking more allies and advocates
  • There may be a resurgence in community building

A recent article by The Council of Nonprofits outlined the policy ecosystem, its effect on 501(c)(3)’s and two incredibly important facets that will play a big part in the charitable sector’s ability to advance their missions in the face of political uncertainty/change –1)  organized efforts in advocacy at all levels of government to ensure elected officials understand the implications of their decision-making on nonprofits and 2) the response of Foundations and Grant-Making entities to funding advocacy-related activities, particularly at the state-level.

We will be sharing more perspectives from the local nonprofit sector in the near future, so stay tuned!

Please feel free to sign in and comment on how you anticipate the election of the Trump Administration on the work you do as it relates to the nonprofit sector!

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ConnectVA Event: Nonprofit & Social Services Career Fair with VCU

Find the right talent to meet your diverse recruitment needs during our annual Nonprofit and Social Services Career Fair. This three hour event draws several hundred students each year from a broad range of disciplines, including arts, business, communications, and the sciences. We invite you to join us for what will be an engaging and informative afternoon for students and the nonprofit community (and yes, the event is open to all job seekers).

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Sandy Sisisky, Board Member, JFS and Weinstein JCC


We are excited to share our very first “Help Somebody Hall of Fame” Honoree – Sandy Sisisky!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, 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.

Sandy Sisisky was nominated by a staff member (who asked to be anonymous) at Jewish Family Services (JFS) and shared more about the amazing work Sandy does in the community, and how she is positively impacting the nonprofit, staff members and clients as a Board Member, volunteer, philanthropist and advocate.  Here’s more about Sandy:

How does Sandy demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame” – acting selflessly to improve the lives of others?

JFS is so lucky to have a board member like Sandy Sisisky. She always keeps our clients at the top of her mind but also genuinely cares for each staff member at the agency and takes the time to get to know each and every one of us. Last year during the holiday season we received fewer funds for a project than expected. Sandy immediately went to action and was out shopping the next day to ensure our clients had coats, gloves and scarves for the upcoming cold holiday season.

Sandy along with another board member heads up the JFS Outreach Committee. The committee focuses on helping to meet clients’ needs, beyond the services JFS already provides. If the Outreach Committee is able to take on small tasks inside the agency, the JFS staff can devote more time serving clients.


Stacy Struminger, Shelley Gouldin and Sandy Sisisky (far right) enjoying The 2016 BIG Schtick. They spent many volunteer hours prepping for event as committee members.

Sandy is also a board member at the Weinstein JCC. She is deeply involved in the JFS and the Weinstein JCC joint program EnRich for Life which serves older adults in the RVA community. She has taken on a leadership role and joined the EnRich for Life committee. She helps select programming, coordinate volunteers and assists at monthly meetings. Sandy is always willing to help and you can find her in the kitchen on the program day!

She also helps plan and run events like JFS staff appreciation and volunteer appreciation that make people feel good about the impact they have in the Richmond community, without asking for any appreciation for herself.


Sandy volunteering in the kitchen at EnRich (a joint program of JFS and Weinstein JCC). She is cooking lunch for the participants of the free monthly program.


What’s the impact Sandy’s generosity?

Just one example of her generosity happened early last year. Sometimes the smallest gesture can make the biggest difference. That is certainly the case with one of JFS’ Public Guardianship clients, Mr. D, who always wore a cowboy hat. His cowboy hat was stolen. A simple need like a cowboy hat isn’t something that might make one want to rush out to get one but Sandy did just that understanding the importance of such a small personal item in a client’s life. Sandy shared the story on Facebook and within hours got a donated cowboy hat.

Not only does she help out people in the community, but staff members too. Two years ago we were going through an audit, and she was there reviewing files as a volunteer. She is known for showing up and making herself available to staff, especially when it comes to client needs like the cowboy hat or the toiletries that she collects so that clients are able to stay clean.

Outside of JFS, Sandy is a vital member of the Richmond community as a leader and supporter. She’s also a co-chair for the BIG Schtick, a joint event with the Weinstein JCC, which supports the missions of both agencies to provide assistance to individuals and families in the community to access their vital programs and services.

Way to go, Sandy!  Our community thanks you for your incredible work, generosity and service-oriented spirit!


Want to nominate an outstanding community member, board member, staff or volunteer for the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?  It’s easy!

Just answer 2-3 questions about the individual and the impact that they make in the community!  Not only will you be sharing this person’s story, but there will also be an opportunity for a nonprofit (of the nominees choice) to win an award of $1000 – made possible by an anonymous donor through The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia.

Read more here: http://bit.ly/HelpSomebodyRVA

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