Mentor Terence Quaries at St. Joseph’s Villa Jay Paul photo
Although these five locally based nonprofits have roots dating back more than 100 years, their longevity and the breadth of their missions often surprise many Richmond-area residents. Three of these visionary organizations nurture and empower children, while one safeguards the treasures of the past and another provides medical attention to the homebound. Their missions differ, but each of these homegrown nonprofits is innovating, adapting and collaborating with the goal to meet the needs of Virginians well into a new century.
1. FRIENDS Association for Children
The roots of the FRIENDS Association for Children stretch back to 1871, when a former slave, Lucy Goode Brooks, started an orphanage in historic Jackson Ward. Today, the agency touches the lives of 1,000 children, from 6 weeks to 17 years old, and their families with a plethora of services ranging from after-school programs and free private music lessons to parent education and summer camp.
To stay viable during an era of shrinking donations, "You have to be creative and you have to continually reach different segments of the marketplace," says J. David Young, executive director. "We are using more volunteers in nontraditional ways to help offset some program or operation costs that may have occurred in the past. Corporations are looking for those sorts of opportunities."
The organization has embraced social media with two fundraising and awareness campaigns led by Maya Smart and her husband, Shaka, VCU's head coach for men's basketball. Most recently, an online fundraising competition built awareness and brand identity. Shaka Smart selected the organization for the ESPN/Infiniti Coaches' Charity Challenge in 2013, and it finished as the runner-up. He has selected FRIENDS again this year. Unlike last time, where only one winner took home $100,000, this year's online competition will provide tiered prizes, something Young suggested in feedback last year. He says, "We will really work even harder, and we are excited to be a part of this again." friendsrva.org
2. The Instructive Visiting Nurse Association (IVNA)
IVNA's mission of providing high-quality, home-based health care started in 1900, when nurses visited the homes of those who were denied access to hospitals because of race or income. Association President Jim Beckner says that one challenge for longstanding organizations such as IVNA is that "we've been around forever" and aren't in the forefront of the community's mind. To position itself for the future, the association decided to focus solely on charity care, meaning serving people who are uninsured or underinsured and cannot get care otherwise. To do that, the association generated a new business model with a new permanent board of directors, and revamped its community fundraising model.
"All of that has positioned IVNA as solidly sustainable and poised for future growth," says Beckner. He notes that IVNA's charitable home health care had a 22-percent increase in patient visits in 2012, and he expects 2013 figures to show similar growth. When people discover the organization, he says, they are often surprised to learn that "home healthcare is as much of a need, if not more of a need, in 2013 as it was in 1900 when we first began." ivna.org
3. Preservation Virginia
Founded in 1889, Preservation Virginia is the nation's oldest statewide historic preservation group. Working to protect, preserve and promote the commonwealth's distinctive historic heritage — from structures to collections — the organization has been involved in saving more than 200 historic sites since its founding.
Originally called the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, the nonprofit often serves as a catalyst for preserving spaces and then building capacity at the local level to allow an individual or organization to continue the good work, says Elizabeth Kostelny, executive director.
To thrive during a still-struggling economy, it pays to promote your mission, she says. In 1997, 10 years before the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, leaders used Preservation Virginia's base at Historic Jamestowne, where the original 1607 James Fort was found, "as a way to raise awareness of that period in history."
Since then, the organization has looked at how preservation enhances the vitality of communities. For example, attracted by walkable communities with character, young people are moving into cities and towns. They may not consider themselves preservationists, but they come because of historic tax credits and other programs that make it attractive to rehabilitate buildings into residences and businesses. "We've looked at ways to promote that as part of the historic preservation toolbox because it seems that it is enhancing those neighborhoods," Kostelny says. preservationvirginia.org
4. St. Andrew's School
St. Andrew's School, established in 1894 by social reformer Grace Arents, exists to educate children of limited financial resources. Originally created for children of the working-class families in Oregon Hill, the tuition-free school now attracts children from around Richmond as well as the counties of Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield. Opening the school in the 1990s to students beyond the Oregon Hill neighborhood made sense as the number of families decreased and the population of VCU students grew.
The school is assisted by the St. Andrew's Association, which manages its endowment. St. Andrew's School has survived because it is "unique in the city of Richmond," says Head of School Cynthia Weldon-Lassiter. "I think people are drawn to the school and our programs and what we are able to provide, not just in terms of donor dollars, but also in donor time in terms of volunteers. We've seen that increase."
The school revamped its website several years ago and uses social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, she says. "It's an avenue electronically to reach out to our families and our donors."
5. St. Joseph's Villa
Since 1834, St. Joseph's Villa has worked to help children reach their potential, making it the longest continuously operating children's nonprofit in the nation. Founded by the Catholic Daughters of Charity originally as an orphanage and school in downtown Richmond, the organization moved to its current location at Brook and Parham roads in 1931 after receiving a bequest from railroad magnate James H. Dooley.
Today, its diverse services include meeting mental health needs, helping students with developmental disabilities acquire employment skills and providing award-winning assistance to homeless families. Last year, more than 2,100 individuals received various services.
Several times during St. Joseph's Villa's nearly 200-year history, donations have dropped dramatically. "In the first crisis the sisters encountered after the Civil War, they had no money because Confederate money wasn't good and so many of their male donors had been killed during the Civil War," says Chief Executive Officer Kathleen Burke Barrett. Donations also plummeted in 1977, when the organization transitioned from Catholic affiliation to nonsectarian, and also during the recent recession. "But we've always anticipated it and tried to find different sources of income to serve the children and family," she says. A $10 million capital campaign to fix infrastructure and create a new road system at the 82-acre campus, says Barrett, will help "preserve it for another 100 years." neverstopbelieving.org