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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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Building Evaluation Culture in Nonprofit Organizations


We caught up with Trina Willard – principal and founder of the Knowledge Advisory Group (KAG) about an often confusing, but incredibly important topic – how to build a culture of evaluation in a nonprofit in order to thrive.  Here’s what she’s seeing in the field and the advice she gave:

While assisting nonprofit organizations with data and measurement responsibilities, we are often asked about the struggles they experience trying to get their staff “on board” with program evaluation efforts. The conversation usually goes a bit like this:

Nonprofit:  “Program evaluation? Ugh.  Our staff doesn’t have time for all that data stuff.  On top of everything else they already have to do?  No, it’s just seems too hard. Besides that, who really uses that information anyway?”

KAG:  “Hmmm…perhaps we should dig into those perceptions a bit.  What steps are you taking to build an evaluation culture, side-by-side with your service culture?”

Nonprofit:  “Evaluation culture?  What’s that?”

And therein lies the challenge.  As program evaluation has become more important within the landscape of nonprofit program and resource development, its integration into the culture of nonprofit organizations often lags behind.

So what exactly do I mean by evaluation culture? In a nutshell, it is the foundation for systematic and successful evaluation efforts and entails three primary elements:

  1. How your staff thinks and feels about evaluation

What is the climate like in your nonprofit when staff discusses evaluation? Do they express anxiety or feel apprehensive about the evaluation process?  Or are they energized by the opportunity to demonstrate progress and continuous improvement?  An effective evaluation culture places an emphasis on the latter.

  1. Your board & leadership’s philosophy about evaluation

 What is your organization’s overarching philosophy on the role of evaluation in driving your program model?  What is its role in resource development? How are these messages communicated by leadership?  If leadership is engaged, this prepares the organization for active engagement, as an evaluation plan won’t implement itself.  Organizational leaders can help identify and set priorities for an internal evaluation champion who will drive the process, provide oversight and monitor implementation.

  1. How your organization integrates evaluation into key functions and processes

 Nonprofit best practices address program evaluation as an ongoing, systematic approach that is designed to continually develop programs, maximize effectiveness, and address community needs as they change.  As such, evaluation infrastructure and principles should weave throughout the organization, thereby becoming an integral part of strategic planning processes, human resource structures, programmatic data collection procedures, and ongoing organizational reviews.

Cultivation of an improvement-oriented evaluation culture is a critical factor in developing sound nonprofit practices. If you’re interested in learning more, evaluation culture is one of the topics we’ll discuss in our upcoming class Evaluate Your Nonprofit’s Success: Defining & Measuring Outcomes on January 20, 2017 with The Community Foundation serving Richmond and Central Virginia.



Trina Willard is the Principal Consultant at Knowledge Advisory Group. Before founding the Knowledge Advisory Group in 2010, she served for seven years as the Vice President of Transformation Systems Inc. (TSI), a small, award-winning management consulting firm. Her prior experience includes almost a decade as Chief of the Evaluation Unit of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Criminal Justice Research Center.

She provides organizations with measurement, research and evaluation services that inform planning and future organizational development. Trina’s methods examine the implementation and effectiveness of initiatives, programs, policies, and procedures, thereby helping clients guide decisions with the power of meaningful information.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Veronica Fleming, Partnership For Families


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Veronica Fleming and I’ve been the Executive Director with Partnership For Families since 2015.  I always reflect on my own childhood when I think about the families and children we serve at PFF.  I grew up poor in a middle class community, raised by a single father who taught me to be respectful, self-sufficient and compassionate.  We spent our summers with family in Gilpin Court and I only remember feeling safe among a close knit family and community.

I began my career as a community organizer in Durham North Carolina and, as a result, I have a deep commitment to engaging the voice of the community and families we serve.  I worked with families in Gilpin Court for 10 years providing literacy programs for children and training programs for parents.  After working the next 10 years with Youth Matters and the Christian Children’s Fund (now ChildFund International) I learned lessons about the gap between great plans, good intentions and the real, “on the ground” needs of children and families.  PFF allows me to bring those hard lessons-learned together with the expertise and commitment of my Board, staff and partners and work intentionally toward making meaningful impact on families in Northside.


PFF primarily works with low-income parents of children ages 0-5 in the 27 neighborhoods within Richmond, Virginia’s Northside focusing on early literacy by addressing core needs – transportation, affordable housing, childcare, and healthcare. They are located at 800 W. Graham Rd.


What is the focus of your work?

PFF was established by the Robins Foundation in 2004 with a mission to empower vulnerable families to develop healthy, stable, nurturing environments for young children beginning at birth, sustained by a network of partners committed to social change.   At the core of this work is literacy.  We want to ensure that children have sufficient pre-literacy skills to enter school ready to read and learn.  Literacy/education, in my view, is the “coin of the realm”.  It is our obligation to equip families with the skills/resources/information they need to create nurturing environments for their children.  To that end, PFF supports the work of 12 partner agencies whose services include putting books in the hands of children, providing quality childcare, parenting classes, intensive home visiting, adult literacy, financial literacy, job training and emergency services.


Reading time at the VCU childcare center at PFF.


What do you find most rewarding about your work? 

I can look out of my office window and see the backdoor of the home in Northside where my father lived in for many years.  And right below my window, I watch the children in our VCU Childcare Center, run, play, fall, laugh, cry…and I am inspired and sometimes moved to tears.

I love the work of bringing people and organizations together to explore new ways of supporting families and children.  Ideally, we help our 12 partners effectively and efficiently wrap services around families and children in need…ultimately leading to a seamless path toward self-sufficiency and fulfilling their dreams.  That’s what I mean when I talk about “collective impact.”


PFF’s partner Excell runs a summer kindergarten transition program “Ocean Adventures” that prepares kids for entry into kindergarten. PFF co-founded and provides partial funding for the program.

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

A major challenge/opportunity is to build upon the investment made by our funders, partners and families over the past 12 years to ensure that children are getting what they need.

My approach has been to listen and find ways to further engage our families in determining how we move forward.  We’ve begun by formalizing our “Street Team” as paid staff, opposed to volunteers. This involves parents who are responsible for reaching out, door-to-door, and engaging the voice and perspective of their neighbors.  This is evolving but it is critically important to work alongside the community and build community voice and leadership to create more and more effective ways to build the literacy skills of vulnerable children and contribute to building solvent futures for our children and families.


A dad helping his daughter design a Christmas ornament at this year’s annual “Breakfast with Santa” event at PFF – 102 families attended.


What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

It’s incredibly exciting to work with amazing committed partners, staff and community volunteers.   The collective impact of our work together can yield remarkable outcomes for our families.  We’re working with a network of organizations, also committed to collective impact, who are striving to enhance   community engagement strategies and interrupt the impact that poverty has on the ability of our children and families to grow and thrive.


PFF provides wrap-around services through its many partners, including Capital Area Health Network, CARITAS, ChildSavers, City of Richmond (Office of Community Wealthbuilding, Public Library, Department of Social Services), Commonwealth Parenting/ Children’s Museum of Richmond, Family Lifeline/CHIP of Greater Richmond, Goodwill of Central Virginia, IT4 Causes, Reach Out and Read, READ Center, Richmond Public Schools/Virginia Pre-School Initiative, SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), Smart Beginnings, VCU-Health Systems Childcare, Virginia Literacy Foundation/ExCELL and Ways to Work.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?  

We regularly use ConnectVA to post our job openings and to inquire about grant opportunities


Anything else you would like to share? 

I am honored to be nominated among a group of really outstanding leaders; committed professionals dedicated to making Richmond a wonderful place to live, work and play.

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Tips for Getting Started in Fundraising in RVA


Laurie Rogers shares her “Top Tips” for getting started in fundraising – don’t forget to register for the Fundraising Crash Course coming up to get more insights on fundraising fundamentals and how to best go about your role as a development professional in RVA!

  1. Get to know the donors to your agency. Fundraising is relational and donors are not ATMs. Find out why people give (I will provide a list of opening questions to get that kind of conversation started in my class). To do that, you have to talk less and listen more……
  1. How does your agency tell its story? Is it all about your agency and what you do and how you do it? If that’s the case, time to change it up to appeal to the donor. WHY should a donor invest with you?
  1. For RVA in particular, that “seven degrees of separation” thing does not work here! It will soon appear to you that everyone in this town is related to everyone else. Be careful when discussing anyone or any situation, especially in public.
  1. Remember that the first word in fundraising is “FUN” so enjoy your new position, be curious and take every opportunity to learn via workshops, classes, webinars, etc. and welcome to the BEST vocation you could ever imagine.

Join the Fundraising Crash Course on 1/10/17!

Fundraising Crash Course provides a working map of the terrain for people new to fundraising, whether you’re an employee at a small nonprofit newly tasked with raising funds or a board member who wants a better big-picture understanding of what’s going on. We review the basics of fundraising, including

  • sources of funding;
  • the essential elements of a fundraising plan and how to go about creating one that works for your situation;
  • why donors give and why it’s important that you communicate with them in a variety of ways so that they’ll give again;
  • the role of boards in development, and how to engage your board in the fundraising process;
  • tapping into the powers of your existing networks and constituencies;
  • viewing fundraising from the perspective of a funder
  • other tips to help small Development offices maximize the impact of their work.

You’ll leave this session with a better understanding of fundraising and the ability to continue developing your own fundraising plans.

TIP: Check out the Fundraising Resource page for local grant-making information, databases and more!

Laurie Rogers has been a development professional for 25 years in Richmond. She has served as a Director of the Annual Fund, Director of Development and Director of a $30 million Capital Campaign. For the past 21 years, she has served as an independent grant writer for an array of nonprofit agencies in the metro area. She has taught fundraising classes in Richmond and Charlottesville for most of that time and continually participates in webinars and workshops to ensure her own skills are current and honed. She has a BA in Political Science from Sewanee and a Master’s of Public Policy from Duke University.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Denise Kranich, LINC (Legal Information Network for Cancer)


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Denise Kranich, and I’m the Executive Director of LINC, (Legal Information Network for Cancer).  I previously worked at the Innsbrook Foundation as the Executive Director for 18 years.  My other work has included HRH Insurance, (Marketing and Sales), and the IIAV, Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia, (marketing). I also worked at WRIC-TV as the PM Magazine co-host with Matt Lauer.


What is the focus of your work?

We help cancer patients with legal and financial issues. LINC has over 200 pro bono attorneys and financial consultants who help our clients with simple wills, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, insurance and Social Security denials, bankruptcy, medical debt, employment discrimination, foreclosures, and many other challenging issues. It is so difficult for cancer patients to get well if they are battling all of these other issues while undergoing treatment. Our goal is to help them with these challenges, so they can concentrate on getting well.

 ABOVE: A story of working with a cancer patient.  LINC is the only organization of its type, not only in Virginia, but in the country, that helps cancer patients and their families with legal and financial information.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I am a cancer warrior myself, having been diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago.  The first thoughts you have are, “Am I going to die?  What happens to my family if I am not here?” I was fortunate enough to have the resources to hire an attorney to prepare my will, and I also was fortunate to have good insurance and a good employer. Many of our cancer patients do not have the resources and may have never talked to an attorney before. They may have challenges at their job with taking time off while they are going through treatments.  When we solve one client’s problem and help in his or her journey, that is what makes me happy.  It is one cancer patient at a time with one issue at a time.


Keith was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. He chose to have an above knee amputation to fight the cancer and increase his chances of survival. Keith came to LINC when his insurance company denied him coverage for his prosthetic leg. Due to his active job and lifestyle, this was a necessary procedure, and LINC stepped in and made sure he got the coverage he needed, saving him $30,000.


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

The biggest challenge in my life was being diagnosed with breast cancer. My treatment included chemotherapy, radiation, and a lumpectomy.  My daughter was 15 at the time, and it was a very scary time.  I learned the best thing to do was to change my attitude into a positive one and fight the cancer. I also knew that one day I would help other people who were fighting cancer, and here I am at LINC.

Being Executive Director is the best job I have ever had, and it is also the hardest.  My role also includes being the development director, and raising money for a small non-profit in the Greater RVA area is very challenging because there are so many other worthy non-profits.  What LINC does is very different than other cancer non-profits. We are helping people who already have cancer try to handle some challenging legal or financial problems.



HERE’S LAUGHING AT YOU, CANCER A Live Comedy Show Benefiting LINC—November 15, 2016 at The Funny Bone (Short Pump Town Center) From Right, LINC Executive Director Denise Kranich, Emcee Patrick Gantz; (middle) cancer survivor and speaker Keisha Harris (http://www.massey.vcu.edu/news/blog/2016/a-relentless-battle-against-the-odds/) and members of The Coalition Theatre’s Comedy Improv Troupe.

What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

LINC has 2 upcoming special events, “It’s in the Bag” which is our annual silent and live handbag auction on February 2nd at the Westin Hotel, and we have our Awards Spring Luncheon on May 12th at the Virginia Historical Society in which we honor LINC volunteers and philanthropists.  “It’s in the Bag” is our biggest fundraiser of the year. There are many designer handbags, handmade bags, and we have special table which include a “Man Table” (golf bags, athletic bags, tickets and so forth); a “Staycation Table,” (local RVA activities and fun things to do in the RVA area paired with a handbag); and a “Book and Author Table” (signed books and handbags).  Great food, great company, great handbags, and all for a great cause.


LINC volunteers face painting at the annual Celtic Festival



How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

We use ConnectVA for all of our job postings, and we get a great response to the advertisements. Also my staff and board take many of the fantastic classes that are offered locally.  The classes are a great resource and learning experience for all.


Anything else you would like to share?

LINC is always looking for volunteers to help with our various events.  We use volunteers at the Irish Festival, the Celtic Festival, and the National Beer Expo.  We also have volunteer opportunities in our offices, on our LINC Board, and our Junior Board.  We love volunteers.  We can also use more volunteer attorneys and financial consultants.  Come visit our office and meet our staff.  We would love to meet you.

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Call for Nominations: The Help Somebody Hall of Fame


Nominate outstanding people for the “Help Somebody” recognition!

Have you witnessed someone selflessly going out of their way to improve the life of another?  Do you seek a simple way to recognize and commend them for their benevolence?  The Help Somebody Hall of Fame is a platform to express your gratitude for this person and share stories that may inspire others to act with generosityA nonprofit organization could also receive $1000 in honor of the person you nominate (see below).



The inspiration behind the Help Somebody Hall of Fame is Thomas Cannon, a retired postal worker who gave away more than $150,000 over three decades, mostly in thousand-dollar checks, showing that small gestures can make a big impact. He gave to people who demonstrated remarkable courage or generosity, or who experienced a challenging time, often reading about them in the Richmond Times Dispatch.  According to a 2005 Richmond Times Dispatch article published shortly after his death, Thomas Cannon did not want to attach his name to any efforts to carry on his philanthropy.  “What he wanted in his honor and memory, he told the Times-Dispatch, was simple: ‘Help Somebody.’”



Nominations can recognize a nonprofit staff member, client, volunteer, neighbor.…anyone residing in Greater Richmond who you want to commend for making a positive difference.  We’ll add a new name to the Hall of Fame two times each month, and feature their story on ConnectVA.org and through social media.

Take a few minutes to share their name and story by completing a simple nomination form and answering three questions:

1)  How does this person demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame” – acting selflessly to improve the life of someone else?

2) What is the impact of their generosity?

3) Is there anything else you want to share about your nominee that makes them unique and/or a model for making a positive difference (optional)?



The Nomination form can be found here: http://bit.ly/HelpSomebodyForm



Each quarter, a random drawing will be held and two $1,000 awards will be made to a nonprofit organization, in honor of a nominated outstanding community member (chosen by the nominee).  The award is made possible by an anonymous donor through The Community Foundation serving Richmond and Central Virginia.



Email us at admin@connectva.org

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Tips to Supercharge Your Nonprofit Resume

Whether you're trying to get your foot in the door with an entry-level position, or seeking your first Director job, we've put together a list of tips and resources to help your resume land in the "yes" pile: Administrative Assistant Check out these Administrative Assistant resume templates and resume builder from Live Career. Though your role will vary based on the organization and department you support, here are some general nonprofit keywords to consider using in your resume: Research, Communications/writing, Passion for the (specific) mission, and more. Hot Jobs from the ConnectVA Job Finder: Administrative Coordinator with Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, Administrative Support Specialist with World Pediatric Project, and Administrative Assistant(s) with The Community Foundation

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The Growth of Tricycle Gardens: From Community Gardening to Urban Farming

The Early Years Tricycle Gardens began over a decade ago, when a group of neighbors in Church Hill, looking to address urban blight within their neighborhood, broke ground on Richmond's first community garden- Jefferson Avenue Community Garden. Urban myth has it that the name was born in that garden when volunteers unearthed old tricycle parts while installing the first raised beds. They went on to create and support four more community gardens in the city and worked with the city's administration to establish what is now the Richmond Grows Garden program. The purpose of the program is to support community members who come together to grow food and community across the city.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Dawniece Trumbo, The READ Center

Tell us about yourself. My name is Dawniece Trumbo, and I’m the new Education Program Manager for The READ Center. The READ Center’s mission is to help adults with low-level literacy develop basic reading and communication skills so they can fulfill their roles as citizens, workers, and family members. Through small classroom instruction and one-to-one tutoring, our tutors and teachers help our students build a better future. Prior to starting with READ, I was in the corporate world. I spent a large part of my career on project and program management and analytics in the health care and employee benefits industries. I am also an artist, so I spend my free time creating custom paintings for clients and events.

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YNPN RVA Spotlight: Great Nonprofit Bosses Part 2

It’s the time of year for giving thanks – and we want to say a big “thank you” to all of the fantastic leaders in our local nonprofit sector! This week’s “Spotlight” is from the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network RVA (YNPN RVA). Over the past several weeks, YNPN RVA sent out a call to young nonprofit professionals all over Greater Richmond to nominate their boss to be recognized as a part of the “Great Nonprofit Bosses” Initiative. In total, 37 bosses were nominated by 57 different young nonprofit professionals; from that group, a YNPN RVA panel selected the top 9 outstanding and compelling nominations.

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