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Nonprofit Advocacy Spotlight: Jon Lugbill, Sports Backers

Here at the Community Foundation, we believe that funders, philanthropists, nonprofits and government agencies do their best work when they do it together.  This is why we’re proud to offer a year of convening and learning about advocacy to further support the great work already being done in RVA.

This week, we’re hosting a kick-off panel session around the basics of advocacy – what advocacy is, whether you should consider engaging in advocacy, and how you might get started.  The first subsequent deep dive will be led by Sports Backers’ Jon Lugbill around the topic “How to Grow Your Impact Through Grassroots Advocacy” where he will walk through the steps of creating and running an effective advocacy program that leads to greater social impact and policy change at the local level.

In addition to several courses throughout the year, we’re also featuring individuals in various “Nonprofit Advocacy Spotlights” on the blog.  Here’s one.


Sports Backers and Advocacy

For the past 26 years, Jon Lugbill has served as the Executive Director of Sports Backers.  Sports Backers develops programs and events designed to inspire people from all corners of our community to live actively.  They achieve this by focusing on a network of collaborative partnerships with other organizations, businesses, local governments and faith-based institutions. Their programs include:

Bike Walk RVA – Supporting bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure projects and empowering residents with the tools they need to advocate for safe and comfortable places to bike and walk throughout Richmond.

Fitness Warriors – Offering free fitness classes throughout our community every week so that individuals, no matter where they live, can benefit from an active lifestyle.

Kids Run RVA – Providing kids the chance to have fun while being physically active on a regular basis by supporting school-based run clubs.

Active RVA – A regional collaborative movement that works with businesses, schools and early childhood organizations to get every corner of our community moving.

Scholar-Athlete Awards – Celebrating the leadership and drive of scholar-athletes with a formal dinner and awards scholarships to 20 outstanding student athletes, 4 outstanding teams and a comeback athlete of the year.

Events and Training Teams – Celebrating Richmond’s active culture by hosting events that showcase the region’s greatest attributes. Sports Backers now owns and produces 13 events each year that include some of the largest and most successful of their kind in the country, including large-scale events like the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, Dominion Energy Riverrock and the VCU Health Richmond Marathon.

We spoke with Jon about what role he and Sports Backers play in local advocacy, and how and why other local nonprofits should consider engaging in it.  Here’s what he had to say.

How do you and your organization engage in advocacy?

Through advocacy, Sports Backers works to drive change in how our community provides safe and accessible active transportation options.  As Executive Director, my role is hiring the right staff to work on advocacy and then working to have funding to support the program.

I’m personally involved in legislative advocacy where I talk directly with elected officials to solicit their support for policies and funding for walking and biking infrastructure.  Our Bike Walk RVA program staff leads the grassroots advocacy work directly.  They work to organize the 40,000 people who have agreed to help support biking and walking infrastructure in our region.

I’m involved in providing support and encouragement for our program staff and volunteers’ main activities.  I show up for meetings, receptions, gatherings and biking/walking events to show our support for advocacy.

I also work closely with our Board of Directors to keep them informed of our advocacy efforts and help them stay engaged.  This way, when we run into opposition for our advocacy work, we have the Board of Directors behind us and not causing us to buckle under political pressure.


Why should other nonprofits be interested in getting involved in advocacy?

High-performing nonprofits keep the impact of their activities at the forefront of their work. Check out this article by the Stanford Social Innovation Review that shows how real social change happens when organizations go outside of their own walls and find creative ways to enlist the help of others, one main way being advocacy work.

It’s amazing how much impact you can make if you don’t care who gets the credit.  The amount of philanthropic giving in our community is limited, but changing government policies or procedures might do more to impact people in our community than programs or services.

As nonprofits, should we just keep trying to provide solutions to outdated government policies or procedures?  Through advocacy we can go to the source and change the laws that are causing the unfortunate community outcomes.  And, as subject matter experts in the field, we can provide knowledge and insight that government staff might not have.

Nonprofits can directly drive support for their mission and turn people out to support policy change, whereas government tends to follow the lead of their constituents.


What are the rewards of doing advocacy work?

The overall impact of Sports Backers has grown dramatically by leveraging our impact through advocacy work with local governments.  When we first started doing advocacy work around biking and walking infrastructure in 2011, the local governments were only spending $1-2 million per year, including state and federal grants.  Five years later, that number has jumped to $15 million and is climbing quickly.  This was accomplished with an annual Bike Walk RVA program budget of only $350,000 per year.  The return on investment by the community is incredibly leveraged compared to Sports Backers trying to raise the funds to build bike and pedestrian infrastructure with philanthropic funds. Ultimately, the reward is changing the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people that use this infrastructure on a regular basis and live healthier and more productive lives.

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Nonprofit Advocacy Spotlight: Claire Gastanaga, ACLU of Virginia

Claire Gastanaga joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia as its Executive Director in June 2012, bringing with her decades of experience as an attorney, lobbyist, nonprofit leader, and fundraiser. Among many honors and awards, in 2010 she was named as one of the 50 Women of Influence in Virginia.

Claire worked for the decade before joining the ACLU as a lobbyist for Equality Virginia, the Virginia Coalition for Latino Organizations and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has been a key player in state government, serving as Chief of Staff and Special Counsel to the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates and as the first woman Chief Deputy Attorney General of Virginia.

The ACLU of Virginia is a private, non-profit organization that promotes civil liberties and civil rights for everyone in the Commonwealth through public education, litigation and advocacy with the goal of securing freedom and equality for all. The ACLU is non-partisan and doesn’t engage in electioneering on behalf of any candidate or candidates at the local, state, or national level.   In addition to the litigation for which the ACLU has been best known, they also educate the public, inform the media, lobby legislators, organize grassroots activists, and disseminate information about constitutional freedoms through membership and volunteers.

As the Executive Director, Claire focuses on empowering and mentoring the next generation of advocates with the ACLU of Virginia.  She encourages other nonprofits to consider their role in advocacy because, advocacy not only advances one’s organizational mission, it can lead to organizational sustainability and survival when, “the issues go to the heart of what we do and how we do it – tax laws, reporting and licensing, etc.” Claire says that, “you will be rewarded with greater visibility for your organization, impact enhancement and donor/supporter engagement.”

Read more about Nonprofit Advocates, Emily Griffey with Voices for Virginia’s Children, Ross Catrow with RVA Rapid Transit and Justin Doyle with the James River Association.

Want to learn more about Justin’s work and how local nonprofits can get involved in advocacy?  Join us the Community Foundation at our “Kickoff Panel Session”, where Justin will be one of several panelists that will share more about this important topic:

What is Advocacy? Learning Session and Panel

February 28, 2019

9:00 am to 11:00 am

The Community Foundation

3409 Moore St.

Richmond, VA 23230

Free – Registration Required

What is nonprofit advocacy? Whether you know the answer, think you know, or have no idea – this free panel session is for you! From educating the public to lobbying on Capitol Hill, advocacy plays a vital role in the nonprofit sector.

Come learn more about this topic and related legal, social, and practical guidelines and impact as we “kick off” our advocacy convening and learning for the year.


Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

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Nonprofit Advocacy Spotlight: Justin Doyle, James River Association

The James River Association’s (JRA) mission is to be the guardian of the James River, providing a voice for the river and taking action to promote conservation and responsible stewardship for its natural resources. JRA monitors the river, responds to problems, seeks policy changes, and implements on-the-ground projects to restore the river’s health. They protect the River through Watershed Restoration, James Riverkeeper, and River Advocacy programs.  They also help communities benefit from the river by increasing river access, supporting river-related events, and implementing volunteer projects.

As the James River Association’s Community Conservation Manager, Justin Doyle promotes conservation and responsible stewardship of the James River and its natural resources across the watershed through a variety of programs and projects.  Justin champions the expansion of recreational access to the James River and its tributaries. His advocacy work typically occurs at the local government level, working with other organizations and local governments to provide a voice for the River on important policy issues.  He also manages the James River Association ‘s Community Conservation Program.

Justin believes that other local nonprofit organizations should get involved in advocacy to build public awareness of an issue and influence decision-making.  He says that, “the rewards of advocacy work are building awareness of and support for a specific issue or cause. Successful advocacy efforts yield desired policy changes.”


Read more about Nonprofit Advocates, Emily Griffey with Voices for Virginia’s Children and Ross Catrow with RVA Rapid Transit.

Want to learn more about Justin’s work and how local nonprofits can get involved in advocacy?  Join us the Community Foundation at our “Kickoff Panel Session”, where Justin will be one of several panelists that will share more about this important topic:

What is Advocacy? Learning Session and Panel

February 28, 2019

9:00 am to 11:00 am

The Community Foundation

3409 Moore St.

Richmond, VA 23230

Free – Registration Required

What is nonprofit advocacy? Whether you know the answer, think you know, or have no idea – this free panel session is for you! From educating the public to lobbying on Capitol Hill, advocacy plays a vital role in the nonprofit sector.

Come learn more about this topic and related legal, social, and practical guidelines and impact as we “kick off” our advocacy convening and learning for the year.


Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

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Nonprofit Advocacy Spotlight: Ross Catrow, RVA Rapid Transit

Ross Catrow is the (newly promoted) Executive Director of RVA Rapid Transit.  You may also know Ross from his popular daily email newsletter and podcast Good Morning RVA, where he summarizes and calls out important news from around the region.

Formed in 2016, RVA Rapid Transit is a grassroots nonprofit that advocates for frequent and far-reaching transit in the Richmond region through education, organizing and advocacy.   They promote that transit is key to creating a thriving and inter-connected region where citizens can access greater opportunities, such as employment, workforce development, commerce, higher education, nutritious food, routine health care, and much more.  Furthermore, a high-quality regional transit system is not only crucial to increasing human capital; it’s key to attracting economic development and investment opportunities, a talented workforce, and is associated with increased property values.

Ross sets the advocacy agenda for the organization, which includes advocating for specific, community-supported public transportation improvements as well as regional transportation-related policies, like the ones set out in the Greater RVA Transit Vision Plan.

When asked why a nonprofit should get involved in advocacy, Ross says, “advocating for better policy makes the work we all do easier, more efficient, and have a larger impact. If nothing else, learning about the policy and issues related to your area of work can make your organization more effective.”  He also goes on to say that advocacy gives you, “a chance to build power in your constituency and build relationships between your constituency and decision makers around that important policy”.


Read more about local nonprofit advocate Emily Griffey with Voices for Virginia’s Children.

Want to learn more about Ross’ work and how local nonprofits can get involved in advocacy?  Join us the Community Foundation at our “Kickoff Panel Session”, where he will be one of several panelists that will share more about this important topic:


What is Advocacy? Learning Session and Panel

February 28, 2019

9:00 am to 11:00 am

The Community Foundation

3409 Moore St.

Richmond, VA 23230

Free – Registration Required

What is nonprofit advocacy? Whether you know the answer, think you know, or have no idea – this free panel session is for you! From educating the public to lobbying on Capitol Hill, advocacy plays a vital role in the nonprofit sector.

Come learn more about this topic and related legal, social, and practical guidelines and impact as we “kick off” our advocacy convening and learning for the year.


Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

Read more →


Nonprofit Advocacy Spotlight: Emily Griffey, Voices for Virginia’s Children

Emily Griffey is the Policy Director at Voices for Virginia’s Children. Founded in 1994, Voices for Virginia’s Children is the commonwealth’s only independent, multi-issue child policy and advocacy organization.

They are home to the KIDS COUNT data center for Virginia, which includes more than 200 state- and locality-level indicators on child well-being over time.  Using this data and independent policy research, they determine unmet needs and threats to child well-being, recommend sound policy solutions, provide objective input to policymakers, and educate and mobilize leaders and concerned citizens to support policy initiatives.

Emily leads the policy team to develop a nonpartisan and cross-cutting state-level policy agenda for children’s issues. She advocates with the Virginia General Assembly for the most vulnerable children— those experiencing economic hardship, children in foster care, children with mental health challenges and babies and preschool-aged children.

Emily says that she, “loves getting program staff involved in shaping their policy agenda and advocating for the implementation,” because, “hearing from the professionals applying policy changes helps create better policy solutions. Often these professionals can share the stories of the children they have served to help put a face on the impact of policy.”

Nonprofit advocacy work can be very rewarding, according to Emily.  “Children can’t vote and often don’t even get asked to weigh in on policy changes– that’s why they need others to speak up on their behalf. Knowing that you have advocated to help marginalized children have more opportunities feels great at the end of the day.”


Read more about local nonprofit advocate Ross Catrow, Executive Director of RVA Rapid Transit.

Want to learn more about Emily’s work and how local nonprofits can get involved in advocacy?  Join us the Community Foundation at our “Kickoff Panel Session”, where Emily will be one of several panelists that will share more about this important topic:


What is Advocacy? Learning Session and Panel
February 28, 2019
9:00 am to 11:00 am
The Community Foundation
3409 Moore St.
Richmond, VA 23230
Free – Registration Required

What is nonprofit advocacy? Whether you know the answer, think you know, or have no idea – this free panel session is for you! From educating the public to lobbying on Capitol Hill, advocacy plays a vital role in the nonprofit sector.

Come learn more about this topic and related legal, social, and practical guidelines and impact as we “kick off” our advocacy convening and learning for the year.


Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

Read more →


Help Somebody Hall of Fame Spotlight: Lisa Hardy, Postpartum Support Virginia

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in RVA.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members who are making a positive difference locally.  This month, we are recognizing Lisa Hardy, RN, who is a volunteer with Postpartum Support Virginia – a nonprofit whose mission is to help new mothers and their families overcome postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Adrienne Griffen, the Founder & Executive Director of Postpartum Support Virginia shared that, “Lisa is the most thoughtful, energetic, enthusiastic, and selfless of volunteers. She gives freely of her off-duty time to be sure that moms she knows are struggling get connected with resources. She provides hope and help for new mothers and families, ensuring that moms and babies get off to a good start in life.”

Lisa leads a support group for women experiencing postpartum depression and related perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). PMADs are the number one complication of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting at least 1 in 5 new mothers. Lisa knows firsthand about PMADs as she survived postpartum depression and anxiety when her son was born 18 years ago. Lisa’s experience led her to a career in nursing (she is a nurse at Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, delivering babies and helping women become new mothers) and eventually to find Postpartum Support Virginia to learn more about PMADs.

Lisa single-handedly has changed the way St. Francis addresses PMADs. In the last two years, Lisa has started a twice-monthly support group for women experiencing PMADs, taught other nurses how to discuss these illnesses with new mothers and how to screen for them, and provided training sessions to obstetricians and pediatricians so they can also screen new mothers.  The St. Francis support group has met every two weeks without fail for 18 months, providing direct support to 25 new mothers.

The photo was taken at AWOHNN in June of 2018. AWOHNN is the national conference for women’s health where Lisa did a presentation for what St Francis Medical Center is doing with support groups for moms with perinatal mood disorders.

Medical professionals who once were fearful of discussing mental health issues with their maternity patients now have the education, skills, and resources to address these important issues head-on. Doctors who told Lisa that this couldn’t be done now fully support these important initiatives.

Lisa gives freely and generously of her time, following up with new mothers who are struggling with anxiety or depression, supporting them in person as well as via phone, text, and email. Lisa has taken her personal experience with postpartum depression and anxiety to create a system of support for new moms and families.

Lisa’s generosity of time and talent has resulted in tangible impact, locally and across Virginia.  Now, all women who deliver babies at Bon Secours St Francis Medical Center (approximately 1,800 each year) are screened for postpartum depression and related illnesses prior to discharge from the hospital.  Treating postpartum depression saves money. The cost of not treating these issues is $22,000 per mother/infant pair, so screening and treating these illnesses saves Lisa’s hospital almost $9 million a year.  Other hospitals in the Bon Secours Health System are following Lisa’s lead by implementing support groups and screening women, including St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News.

About the Help Somebody Hall of Fame

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

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Robins Foundation Community Innovation Grant Top 10 Finalists

In late January, the Robins Foundation announced the top 10 nonprofit organizations for their 2019 Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins, Sr. Community Innovation Grant (CIG). The CIG, named for Robins Foundation’s founders, seeds one $500,000 proposal that celebrates the imaginative, cooperative spirit of Greater Richmond.  The award is designed to launch projects that offer better solutions to complex issues in emerging neighborhoods, and show innovation in programs, process, partnership and/or policy.

Below are more details about the projects that are being considered for the CIG.

Building Successful Outcomes for Maternal and Child Health

Urban Baby Beginnings seeks to expand the services offered by Bon Secours’ Care-A-Van to include high-quality maternal health services, which will provide access to physicians, midwives, social workers, nurses, and community agents who specialize in maternal and postpartum health. Perinatal health workers, lactation consultants, education classes, support groups, and home visiting programs will address the barriers that cause isolation among expectant and postpartum families. This work includes establishing a community garden to focus on prenatal and postpartum health and nutritional awareness. Additionally, the community will have access to a workforce innovation program; training mothers who have graduated in the program as Perinatal Health Workers, Certified Lactation Consultants, and Community Health Promoters. Additionally, this initiative will facilitate a workforce innovation program which will train mothers as Perinatal Health Workers, Certified Lactation Consultants, and Community Health Promoters.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.


Youth Housing Stability Project

Commonwealth Catholic Charities, in partnership with Advocates for Richmond Youth and VCU School of Social Work, plans to create the Youth Housing Stability Coalition Hub. This physical and virtual hub will meet the immediate needs of youth experiencing housing instability; support the implementation of a coordinated, community-wide housing plan; and conduct research, training, and technical assistance. Through this effort, these partners are working to reduce the amount of time that young people experience housing instability. Additionally, the project will support an increase in community knowledge about the needs and experiences of youth facing this issue, along with consistent evaluation strategies among stakeholders serving this population. In the long term, this strategy will result in the development of best practices for serving youth experiencing housing instability and additional policy change.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.


GFAC TECH/Entrepreneurship Immersion Lab

The Girls For A Change TECH/Entrepreneurship Immersion Lab focuses on the economic and educational empowerment of Black girls and other girls of color in the Richmond area. Their goal is to establish a dedicated space for girls that offers tech training and industry-recognized certifications, positioning these students to engage with a variety of work opportunities including those in co-working spaces, home employment and virtual employment. This project will directly serve 40 girls via the Immersion Lab and the expansion of the 9th/10th grade tiers of the Girl Ambassador program. After the Immersion Lab operations settle into routine, the girls plan to offer tutoring and special events at the Lab, impacting at least another 200 young people.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.


Center for Building and Construction Trades

Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia will renovate a 6,200-square-foot building, adjacent to their Richmond Support Center on Midlothian Turnpike, into a state-of-the-art Center for Building and Construction Trades. The goal of the Trades Center/C3 initiative is to strengthen, expand and sustain C3’s program partnerships to improve education-to-employment outcomes for students from emerging populations enrolled in a range of high-quality credentialing programs in industries with career advancement opportunities. This will help ensure that job seekers enter career pathways that lead to economic stability while addressing the skills gap in the local construction industry.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.


Eviction Diversion Program

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society (CVLAS) have a long history and multi-faceted consumer advocacy approach to serving low-income and minority populations. Currently, there are no eviction diversion programs in the state of Virginia and only three known programs across the United States. This proposed program is geared toward families and individuals who can afford their rent but fell behind after an unexpected financial emergency, such as a car crash or medical problem. By establishing a settlement with the landlord through this program, tenants are spared a negative judgment on their court records which could make it more difficult to find apartments in the future. Both organizations offer educational services to low-income citizens on landlord-tenant conflicts, housing discrimination, public housing, subsidized housing, and affordable housing.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.

Equity in Health Leadership Institute

Partnerships between the Institute for Public Health Innovation and local city and county governments have led to the Equity and Health in All Policies Leadership Institute (EHiAP) project, which seeks to harness the influence that local governments have in shaping social determinants of health. Research has identified seven strategies for implementing health in all policies: developing and structuring cross-sector relationships; incorporating health (and equity) into the decision-making process; enhancing workforce capacity; integrating research, evaluation, and data systems; synchronizing communications and messages; implementing accountability structures; and coordinating funding and investments. Funding will be used to create a yearlong training institute for local government staff. This institute will support localities in the Richmond region as they utilize these seven strategies to create cross-sector policies, programs, and services that address local priorities and promote equity, health, and quality of life among children, families, and communities.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.

Leading Men in Richmond

The Literacy Lab has launched a Leading Men Fellowship in Richmond. Through this program, the organization recruits promising young men of color who have recently graduated from Richmond Public high schools but are not yet on the path to college. These men will serve as pre-K literacy tutors in high-need early childhood classrooms for a full school year. Fellows receive a living wage and transportation benefits and are eligible for a Higher Education Award upon completion of the program. To ensure that Fellows have the continuum of supports they need to become successful college students and teachers, the organization aims to partner with nonprofits and post-secondary institutions to create additional services that will prepare and connect Fellows to college and career opportunities.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.


Reimagining Richmond’s Mobile Home Parks

project:HOMES and the Manufactured Home Community Coalition of Virginia (MHCCV) propose the Reimagining Richmond’s Mobile Home Parks Project. Their goal is to produce small, thoughtfully designed homes to replace dilapidated or vacant mobile homes, destigmatizing one of the most affordable forms of housing. The high-quality, energy-efficient replacement home design will be extremely affordable for underserved families making 50% or less of the Area Median Income. Historically, manufactured homes do not appreciate as well as site-built homes. This program hopes to turn a depreciating asset into an appreciating asset through use of high-quality energy-saving materials and potentially incorporating solar panels. Funding will pilot this project, including land acquisition, construction plans, architectural consulting, energy-saving measures, and materials. The project will act as a catalyst for future development in Virginia by creating an environmentally friendly, extremely affordable mobile home model.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.

Civil Leadership in Juvenile through Participatory Budgeting

The RVA YouthPB project is dismantling youth prisons and the school-to-prison pipeline  by promoting the creation of community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. The partnership between RISE for Youth, the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and PauseLab works to address systems of injustice and has developed a program that trains youth advocates with a participatory budgeting approach. Their work aims to break down the barriers that separate youth from government officials and activities. These efforts will position youth as change agents in their communities and in our Commonwealth by giving them deep, meaningful experience in community engagement and defining them as community leaders.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.


2020 Vision for East End Communities and Families

Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and their partners — Peter Paul Development CenterGreater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now)Family Lifeline, and the Office of Mayor Levar Stoney — envision a program that will expand the Richmond Area Service Alliance, support a Community Liaison to link families’ experiences with human service systems for problem-solving, and actively identify barriers facing families engaged in the human service sector. With a trauma-informed lens, this program seeks to educate local and state leaders on how to collaboratively problem-solve potential solutions to common barriers to a families’ ability to thrive.

Photo courtesy of Robins Foundation.

The CIG will be awarded to one of these finalists on March 5, 2019.

Robins Foundation released the CIG Illuminating Perspectives report, which shows the impact of the innovation grant since it launched in 2014. In addition, a partnership framework was created, and the 2019 CIG cycle was extended. The expanded process allowed applicants more time to strengthen their proposals, prepare for the different stages of the CIG process, confirm partnership commitments and roles, and assess ways that advancing through the process might complement or amplify their existing work.

Robins Foundation was established in 1957 and serves to advance the greater Richmond community through strategic partnerships, collaborations and education, all of which will serve as a model for creating an environment of fairness and opportunity for everyone to thrive. To achieve this vision, Robins continues to conduct and support initiatives that encourage policy shifts, align with peers and nonprofits around community issues, and make investments that cultivate and support innovative solutions.

For more information about the Robins Foundation, the Robins family, or grant deadlines and giving focus go here.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Hal Waller, Head of School, Riverside School

Tell us about yourself.

I am Hal Waller, the Head of School at Riverside School. I was previously the Head of the Lower School at Veritas, and prior to that, the Chair of the English Department and Executive Director of the Foundation at Maggie Walker Governor’s School.

What is the focus of your work?

Riverside is a private, K-8 school for dyslexic students. We provide a specialized curriculum featuring one-on-one instruction that unlocks the potential of our students and allows them to return to mainstream education.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

This may sound corny but seeing the smiles on the faces of our students each day is a tremendous reward. Many of our students come to us in crisis mode, having fallen behind their peers simply because they learn in a different way, and school is the last place they want to be. The turnaround that we, and their parents, see upon the student’s arrival at Riverside, is evident and often immediate.

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

In the world of dyslexic education, Riverside is well-known and admired, but in the general Richmond community, I have found that not many people know of us. I don’t want Riverside to be a “hidden gem” anymore, so outreach and educating the public about our great program are definitely goals I am working toward.


What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?

Most private schools aim to retain their students, but our goal is to get them back to mainstream education as quickly as possible. The average time a student spends at Riverside is three years. We draw students from public and private schools in over 10 jurisdictions in Central Virginia.

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

Winter is a busy season for prospective families, and we have an Admissions Open House coming up on February 14 from 9 – 11 a.m. If anyone reading this knows a student who is struggling to read and that you think may have a language-based learning difference, join us to learn more about Riverside School and our programs. Get info here.

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

Riverside’s teacher training program has served many educators in Central Virginia, equipping them with the systematic and proven approach we use to teach reading. We just completed our first training session for educators at a local juvenile correctional facility. The correlation between students with reading difficulties and those who get into trouble is unsurprisingly high. I would love to see this partnership continue and expand so that more kids who need this specialized education receive it.

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

First of all, thank you very much for this opportunity to share some information about our school. We are very appreciative of the Community Foundation’s past support of Riverside’s programs through grants, and we certainly hope to continue that partnership. We have also found ConnectVA to be an excellent source of qualified applicants when we are hiring.

Anything else you would like to share? 

Yes! Thanks to a partnership with our next-door neighbor St. Michael’s Church, we are leasing a building from the former campus of St. Michael’s School. We are so thankful and enthusiastic about this expansion into Ticer Hall, as it has allowed us to increase our enrollment to 80 students, the highest number in our 45-year history! It is truly an exciting time to be here at Riverside School, and I am grateful for every day with our amazing faculty and students.

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Call for Employers: VCU Nonprofit & Social Services Career & Internship Fair

Find the right talent to meet your diverse recruitment needs during the annual Nonprofit and Social Services Career Fair at Virginia Commonwealth University.

VCU students are committed to serving their community and contribute more than 1.3 million hours of community service annually so they can develop skills to be successful in their careers. Whether you are seeking volunteers, interns, part or full-time employees, we are excited to connect you to our talented students.

More than 300 students are anticipated to attend and are interested in pursuing careers and internships in the nonprofit and social services sectors.


Event Details

Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Time: 2pm to 5pm

Location: Virginia Commonwealth University, University Student Commons, 2nd floor 907 Floyd Ave. Richmond, VA 23284

Employers Register Here:  http://bit.ly/2MCBfru

There is no fee to attend this event as an employer, but registration is required and includes one table, two chairs, complimentary parking for one vehicle, employer lounge with refreshments and publicity.

Confirmed Employers Attending

  • Blue Sky Fund
  • Bon Secours Health Systems – Hospice Care
  • Children’s Museum of Richmond
  • ChildSavers
  • Compass Counseling Services of NOVA
  • Counseling Alliance of Virginia
  • Daily Planet Health Services
  • Diversity Training & Support Center
  • Dominion Youth Services
  • Edu-Futuro
  • Elk Hill Farm, Inc.
  • Engage, The Foundation
  • Humana
  • Impact – Impact
  • Integrated Health Services
  • Intercept
  • Lead Virginia
  • Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton
  • New Virginia Majority
  • OAR of Richmond
  • Peace Corps – Volunteer Recruitment and Selection
  • Recognizing Children’s Gifts Behavioral Health Network
  • Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity
  • Richmond SPCA
  • Richmond Urban Ministry Institute
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond
  • ServiceSource, Inc.
  • Simple Intervention
  • Soles4Souls
  • Sunodía Prayer Counseling
  • Teach For America
  • The Aspen Institute
  • The Choice Program at UMBC
  • The Valentine
  • Therapeutic Alliance, LLC
  • UMFS non-profit for children (VA)
  • University of Richmond, School of Professional & Continuing Studies
  • VCU Division of Community Engagement
  • Virginia Commonwealth University Global Education Office
  • Weinstein JCC Youth and Family
  • Westview on the James
  • World Pediatric Project
  • YMCA of Greater Richmond

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Words of Wisdom from a Retiring Leader: An Interview with Candice Streett

“Nonprofit work is never boring, never single-focused and never done! The most enduring and successful efforts are the result of teamwork.”

Candice Streett has faithfully served as the Executive Director of the Virginia Local Initiatives Support Corporation (Virginia LISC) for the past nine years.  Virginia LISC works with residents and partners to forge resilient and inclusive communities.  They do this by investing strategically in housing, retail, childcare centers and other neighborhood assets; increasing family income and wealth; stimulating economic development; improving access to quality education; and supporting healthy neighborhood environments and lifestyles.

Over the course of her 30-year career, Candice has managed housing and community development activities for state and local governments and nonprofit organizations in Virginia.  She was the Deputy Director of Virginia Supportive Housing for almost 10 years, and she also served as the Executive Director of the Virginia Housing Coalition (now the Virginia Housing Alliance) and Associate Director of Housing for the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development.

In addition to her leadership in local organizations, Candice serves on the boards of Leadership Metro Richmond and the Partnership for Housing Affordability.  Her past services include appointments to the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission, Richmond’s Affordable Housing Task Force Advisory Board and the Community Building Committee of the United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg.

This week, Candice will retire.  Before departing, she was kind enough to share and reflect on her career journey and offer advice to other nonprofit leaders.   Here are some “words of wisdom” from Candice as she begins her next journey into retirement.

Thinking back on your career journey, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud to have played a small role in helping community leaders and residents realize their dreams and visions for their communities. Some of the projects that really come to the forefront of my mind are: working with the City of Petersburg and the Petersburg Library Foundation to find a way to finance a much-needed new library; designing a small business program (SEED) that has worked for eight years to inspire entrepreneurial activity in Church Hill; providing support for a grocery store in Church Hill; and building the capacity of a new nonprofit, RVA League for Safer Streets, that works to make our public housing communities safe.

Like any project, all those projects presented challenges.  But what really stands out about these projects for me is that they all required us to take a risk.  We had to have a willingness to do something innovative – to “jump out of the plane,” so to speak. I am really happy that my team and I “jumped.”

Candice presents the Innovative Safety Strategies award to Robert Morris and Paul Taylor of RVA League for Safer Streets for their transformative work with young men in Richmond’s public housing communities

In your eyes, how has Richmond changed over the course of your career?

“Neighborhoods are where jobs go to spend the night.” I put that on my email signature because I believe the biggest change in Richmond is the recognition that vibrant neighborhoods will drive Richmond’s economic future. 

For the past, decade millennials have been flocking to Richmond neighborhoods.  They want walk-ability, social connectivity, vibrant small businesses and affordable housing. For more than 25 years, Richmond nonprofits, the city, and philanthropic partners have targeted their investments and work efforts to improve the quality of life in many Richmond neighborhoods. But we can do more. I firmly believe that sustained investments in Richmond neighborhoods will yield a lasting return.

Together, with Virginia LISC and the NFL Foundation’s Grassroots program, Candice spearheaded efforts to have six football fields developed in Richmond and Petersburg during her tenure. The Grassroots program provides the resources to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local football fields.

What do you consider your biggest career-defining moment?

Years ago, as a supportive housing developer, I was working with three cities in Hampton Roads to create residences in each city for homeless single adults. Not yet accustomed to the type of permanent supportive housing we were proposing, we were struggling to secure enough support to do one residence in each city.  One day, driving back on Interstate 64, I got a crazy idea – could we combine the efforts and finances of three cities to build one initial regional project? With great local partners, we did indeed secure support from three mayors, three city councils and HUD (who had never done a project with three separate city HUD allocations).  This was a defining moment for me. This was not something that COULD NOT be done, rather it was simply something that HAD not been done! The resulting project, Gosnold Apartments, was the nation’s first regional supportive housing residence for homeless adults and has served as a model that Virginia Supportive Housing has replicated in several communities in Virginia and elsewhere.

We need to be willing to think of new and creative ways to work with partners. No one had thought about trying to partner with three different localities on one supportive housing project, but with the right open-minded people in the room, forging partnerships like that can result in life-changing projects like Gosnold.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned leading VA LISC?

I’ve learned that we need to always listen first to those who have the most at stake – neighborhood residents. And we need to be willing to broaden the circle of partners to ensure that there are a range of perspectives to come up with the best, most creative solutions for community challenges.

Virginia LISC, under Candice’s leadership, has recognized Richmond community leaders for their exemplary work to support under served neighborhoods and residents. The Celebrating Community Leaders event has been a signature annual event of LISC’s that Candice spearheaded to shed light on the people and programs doing this incredible work.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting a career in the nonprofit sector, today?

Nonprofit work is never boring, never single-focused and never done! The most enduring and successful efforts are the result of teamwork. Find ways to participate on teams and show a willingness to develop and exercise your “partnership muscle.”


What one piece of advice would you give to another Executive Director in the nonprofit sector.

“Share the stage.”  Individuals who are successful in the long term are those who appreciate and elevate the talents of their team, of their community partners and of other nonprofit leaders.  Know that there is a time to stand front and center and a time to stand back and applaud loudly the work of your colleagues.

Candice Streett stops to snap a photo with friend and LISC supporter, Jim Ukrop, at Virginia LISC’s 25th Anniversary Celebration


What do you hope for VA LISC in the future?

I am looking forward to seeing all the new and innovative programming that my successor will direct.  I plan to be one of his or her biggest cheerleaders.


What do you hope for the local nonprofit sector in the future?

The nonprofit community serves as our community safety net – catching those who “fall” and providing them with needed services and assistance.  However, many nonprofit leaders – staff and board – are getting “long in the tooth,” which is a nice way of saying that many of us are approaching retirement age. That portends opportunities for new organizational and board leaders.

With this in mind, LISC has worked to encourage and develop new community development leaders with scholarships to Leadership Metro Richmond and the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program. LISC also developed a LISC board committee for young leaders seven years ago.

My hope is that our industry will find we have cultivated a wealth of passionate, committed leaders to take our places and ensure we continue to have a vibrant community safety net.

The staff of Virginia LISC.

What’s next for you?

I have described my phase as “downshifting.”  I plan to do a bit of consulting, traveling overseas, and creative writing.  With the recent gift of a fishing license, you can expect to see me sitting on the bank of the river with my fishing pole in the water, sipping wine and making notes for a murder mystery.

I will always be deeply grateful to have worked in this industry with talented and committed neighborhood leaders, nonprofit partners, and corporate and foundation visionaries.

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