Home / Blog

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.

Read more →


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.

Read more →


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!

Read more →


6 Tips for Building Relationships with RVA Media

Media coverage of your nonprofit organization can help increase community awareness, promote upcoming events and engage new donors.

It’s important to decide which of your initiatives and programs are newsworthy to limit the number of times you pitch story ideas to a media outlet. If you bombard the media or keep sending irrelevant press releases, then your big announcements won’t make any impact.

Select four of your major happenings (events, announcements, campaigns) during the year to pitch for media coverage. For each happening, find the best angle for your pitch:  a milestone, a new element or an inspiring human-interest testimonial from a client, volunteer or board member. Find the best angle that will help “sell” your pitch. Reporters are looking for story ideas that are timely, urgent, relevant, new or compelling.

News6 Anchor Reba Hollingsworth was speaker in a previous media relations class and shared advice on building relationships with the media.

In the upcoming “Courting the Media” class on March 20th, attendees will learn how to identify a newsworthy story idea, develop a pitch and work with a reporter. A local anchor/reporter from one of the TV affiliates in Richmond will join us to share tips on landing coverage for your organization.

Creating and fostering relationships with members of the media –­­ journalists, editors, and producers – is a crucial part of your communications work.

8News Anchor/Reporter Amy Lacey frequently covers nonprofit organizations.

Here are 6 tips on how you can establish and nurture relationships with the media in Richmond:

  1. Introduce yourself.

TV and radio personalities are continually at local events, such as the Richmond Flying Squirrels games, the State Fair of Virginia and the Dominion Christmas Parade. Radio hosts also frequent new store openings and broadcast live.  Attend these events and introduce yourself. Follow-up with an email and include the date of your next major event or a time-frame of when you’ll be pitching a story about your nonprofit organization.

NBC12 Anchor Karla Redditte highlights United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg and their upcoming appreciation event.


  1. Tune in to the local news.

It’s important to become familiar with the reporters in town so you’re aware of their beat, which could be health, education, crime or politics. You should know what media outlet they work for, as well as what shows or days of the week they work. Watch the local newscasts, read the newspapers and listen to the news segments on the radio stations. Start a list of the reporters who cover nonprofits or report on topics related to your cause, such as housing, health or early childhood education.

Mix 98.1FM Radio host Kat Simons helps promote regional kindergarten registration for Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond during her weekly community affairs show.

  1. Follow them on social media.

On social media, follow the media outlets and personalities that could cover a story on your nonprofit organization. You’ll learn more about the type of stories they cover, their interests, their schedule and if they are looking for story ideas. Plus, they usually announce if they are attending an upcoming community event (go and introduce yourself!). Use the information you learn via social media to help with your email, phone and in-person conversations with the media. Ask the editor how her child’s soccer game went, or if he had a wonderful time on vacation last week. These interactions move us away from the Junk Mail folder and into the Follow Up folder.

News6 Anchor/Reporter Greg McQuade features a project:HOMES volunteer during one of his weekly “Heroes Among Us” segments.


  1. Enter awards.

Many of the media outlets in the Richmond region coordinate or sponsor awards programs, such as Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 and Boomer Magazine’s Boomers & Shakers Awards.  Enter them every year!  If you or one of your colleagues is a winner, you’ll have a chance to meet and engage with the media outlet. Plus, the promotion of the winner will provide your nonprofit agency with lots of free exposure.

Style Weekly Arts & Culture Editor Brent Baldwin interviews the art teacher at Virginia Home for Boys and Girls


  1. Ask a media personality to M.C. or host your event.

Many TV anchors and radio hosts will M.C. awards events, fundraising luncheons, anniversary galas or scholarship programs, as well as closing programs at golf tournaments and 5K races, benefiting nonprofit organizations.  It never hurts to ask!

Star 100.9FM Radio host Bill Bevins helps promote the importance of school attendance for Bridging Richmond during his weekly community affairs show.


  1. Thank a reporter.

Compliment the media when they do a story or positive editorial about a priority issue or event of yours. If a reporter has quoted you or a member of your Board of Directors, send a note of appreciation.

Richmond Magazine Associate Publisher / Editorial Director: Susan Winiecki shared tips with a class

And, remember, the most important element of establishing a relationship with the media, is to pitch good story ideas.  Join us at the upcoming “Courting the Media” class on 3/20/17 to learn more about building media relationships and landing coverage for your nonprofit organization!


Dena Reynolds, M.S., Principal and Owner of RVA Communications, is a Public Relations Consultant for nonprofits to help them increase their awareness in the community.  She works to land media coverage for clients, deliver creative communication strategies and train teams in effective public relations tactics.  In 2010, she was awarded “Best in Show” at the Virginia Public Relations Awards.

Reynolds teaches communications classes for The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia, as well as Tidewater Community College’s Academy for Nonprofit Excellence in Suffolk, Va.  She was named VCU’s Nonprofit Learning Point  “Instructor of the Year” in 2012.

Prior to consulting, Reynolds worked in nonprofit public relations and broadcasting. She was LifeNet Health’s Media Relations Manager in Richmond, Va., for ten years and won numerous awards in media relations, event planning and marketing. She served as the spokeswoman for LifeNet, and encouraged Virginia and national media outlets, including The History Channel, National Geographic Channel, and CNN, to produce stories on organ donation.

Prior to LifeNet Health, Reynolds worked at WRIC TV8, the ABC affiliate in Richmond, Va., as Promotion Manager. During her time at TV8, she won a National Gold PROMAX (National Association of Media Promotion and Marketing Professionals) award for producing and was nominated for three regional Emmy awards for writing and producing. She started her broadcasting career at WHSV TV3 in Harrisonburg, Va., and NBC29 in Charlottesville, Va.

Reynolds holds a Master of Science in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications from James Madison University.  She earned various certificates in event planning, nonprofit management and fundraising and development.

Reynolds is a 2010 graduate of the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders program and the past President of the alumni committee for the program.

Read more →


Help Somebody Hall of Fame: Albert Negrin

ConnectVA and The Community Foundation are excited to share another shining example of a great person doing great work in our community, through the Help Somebody Hall of Fame – meet, Albert Negrin!

Samantha Mier, Community Engagement Manager with the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation, reached out to us to share  what a valuable person Albert is to their organization, as well as many other organizations supporting children.  She told us, “Albert is a caring, hardworking volunteer.  He puts his heart and soul into every organization he works to improve and benefit.”  Here’s more about Albert and his impact:

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

Albert Negrin began volunteering with the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation in 2015. As the volunteer coordinator for the organization, I knew Albert would always be available and sign up for everything. I could count on him to wear a wig and stand in the heat marshaling runners at our SpeakUp5k or represent us at any event where I needed him. But Albert quickly became more than an amazing volunteer. He would go out of his way to connect us to the business community, getting food donated for our events and setting up a fundraising relationship with a new restaurant, Metro Diner. Albert began assisting the CKG Foundation after reading an account of Cameron’s life in the newspaper. He knew immediately that he wanted to SpeakUp, and help teens struggling with mental illness.

Albert at the recent SpeakUp LightUp party on February 11th where he helped get many supplies and volunteered


What’s the impact of Albert’s generosity?

Albert doesn’t just volunteer with the CKG Foundation – he has always been an avid volunteer. He works to make a difference in our society, and to give back to the community. Everything he volunteers for centers around supporting children: the CKG Foundation, the Tee Jay Vikings Fund, and St. Baldricks Foundation are all organizations that he supports.

In 2012, he co-founded the Tee Jay Vikings Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to raise needed funds for Thomas Jefferson High School in the city of Richmond. Since then, he helped raise a little over $200,000 from alumni and community donations. With those funds, they have replaced old lockers, put in a new weight room, washer and dryer, fencing, uniforms, a new football and baseball scoreboard, a new marquee, and refurbished the mural in the library. They also started a scholarship fund, and this past fall they started installing new whiteboards. Their board consists of alumni and members of the community. This year, Albert used his connection at Thomas Jefferson High School to introduce our Program Director, Jodi Beland, and our executive Director, Grace Gallagher, to the TJHS principal, Darin Thompson, and thus bring CKG programming to that school.

Albert at the most recent SpeakUp5k in Richmond on September 10th where he worked as a race course marshal.

How could someone join Albert in giving back?

In 2013, Albert started shaving his head to raise money and awareness of children battling cancer. Kids with cancer often lose their hair during treatment. As a “shavee,” Albert shaves his head to show his support — and in the process, inspire friends and family to donate to childhood cancer research.

Albert is raising money and shaving his head during an upcoming fundraiser for the St. Baldricks Foundation on March 18th at Innsbrook Pavillion – you can learn more and donate here.

Join Albert as he shaves his head, once again, for the St. Baldricks Foundation on March 18th at Innsbrook Pavillion to raise money for childhood cancer research!

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

Read more →


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

Read more →


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!

Read more →


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.

Read more →


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.

Read more →


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.

Read more →