Tell us about yourself.
My name is Stacie Birchett and I?m the Communications Manager for the Better Housing Coalition (BHC), a non-profit community development corporation. BHC is dedicated to increasing and preserving the stock of high-quality, affordable housing across the Greater-Richmond region. We also empower our residents by providing support services that help families attain stability; children achieve self-reliance and seniors age in place.
My background is a mashup of diverse interests. For the past 10 years I?ve worked in fundraising and communications for non-profit organizations, from the arts to health care and now housing and human services. Before that, I freelanced for a few years in public relations and marketing after a long career in international banking. I love to learn new things, and enjoy doing almost anything that allows me to work with good people for a cause I believe in.
What is the focus of your work and the need you are addressing?
My job is to support BHC?s mission by raising awareness of our work and its life-changing impact on the people we serve. There are many electronic and print distribution methods in my story-telling toolkit, and it?s fun to develop content that resonates with its intended audience at the right time, on the right platform. BHC strengthens communities by acquiring blocks of blighted property and either building or renovating multi-family rental communities and single-family homes using sustainable, high-quality, energy efficient materials. We also work hard to maintain our existing properties so they stay appealing. As crime and blight decrease, community pride swells and private investment increases (consider what’s happening in Church Hill, for example, an area in which BHC has invested more than $60 million over the past 19 years). We also partner with a number of other local non-profit organizations to accomplish our mission and help them accomplish theirs. It really does take a village!
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I love telling stories that erase stereotypes about “affordable housing” and the kinds of people who need it. Most of our (non-senior) residents hold one or more jobs and, like everybody else, simply want to raise a family in a nice home in a neighborhood of their choosing and not have to worry over the rent payment month to month. I imagine that many people reading this have walked or driven by some of our communities and never knew they were Better Housing Coalition properties. As one example, I’m standing in front of Columns on Grove in the Fan District, one of our eight apartment communities for lower-income seniors. It’s near VCU and it’s beautiful. This grand historic building had been vacant and in disrepair for years when we bought it. We encountered some resistance from area residents at first, but they became believers after its restoration. It’s really a jewel in the community.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in this position.
I?m part of a three-person team responsible for BHC?s fundraising and communications efforts. Though my job title says ?Communications Manager,? I wear many different hats to contribute to BHC?s successes. Each time we complete a challenge grant, pull off a successful fundraiser or cut the ribbon on a new community, I can take pride in being part of the team that helped make it happen.
I think it is typical of many non-profit organizations that being good stewards of our donors? contributions often means we accomplish a lot with a lean team. There are many balls in the air on any given day and we can?t afford to let one drop. For instance, I might be planning an event, editing a grant application, researching an affordable technology app to help make us more effective, or creating graphic art to go on a flyer ? all while on a newsletter deadline. Flexibility, being a team player and always having a ?Plan B? in the back pocket are keys to success!
What?s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
I’m really excited about TransformRVA, a big event we’re working on to celebrate our 25th anniversary. It’s a full day of celebration, education and transformation on May 21st at the Omni Hotel. The Honorable Henry Cisneros, former Mayor of San Antonio and former HUD Secretary has agreed to give a keynote speech at the kick-off luncheon. Our annual Golden Hammer Awards for excellence in neighborhood revitalization projects follows; and concurrent workshops on what we can do to help make the Greater-Richmond community the best place to live and work for all of its residents follow those. In the evening, we let loose with a big cocktail party with good food and jazz music. We expect 300+ resident leaders, university students, corporate and non-profit partners, architects, developers and people in the education and faith communities to attend. Thanks to a generous sponsor, we have a number of scholarships we will be able to offer for some who want to come, but can’t afford it. There?s a takeaway for everyone.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
Gosh, I was an early adapter of ConnectVA. ConnectVA houses a wealth of resources that are so beneficial to its users: the message board, the ability to post events, job openings, and wish lists. We post all of our events and workshops on it, and check the ConnectVA calendar before booking major events to make sure we aren’t in conflict with someone else. We’ve hired excellent teammates who connected with us via a ConnectVA job posting. My colleagues and I have attended many workshops sponsored by ConnectVA, which have helped us get better at what we do. I’ve also learned much about other local non-profits and the work that they do in my daily ConnectVA e-mails.
Anything else you would like to share?
Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little about what I do with other ConnectVA users. I hope a few readers may be interested in learning more about BHC. The most concrete way to see what we do is to take one of our free community bus tours. We are planning two lunch-time tours in June, complete with a boxed lunch. I encourage everyone to visit www.betterhousingcoalition.org to inquire about a bus tour, or learn more about our big May 21st event, TransformRVA.