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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.

Read more →

 

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.

Panelists:

Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

Read more →

 

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.

Panelists:

Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

Read more →

 

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.

Panelists:

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.

Panelists:

Facilitator: Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director, ACLU Virginia

Read more →