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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 →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: Beth Roach, James River Association

Tell us about yourself. My name is Beth Roach, and I’m the Grants Manager for the James River Association, the only nonprofit solely dedicated to protecting the James River watershed from the headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay. My conservation career began back in 2004 with Virginia State Parks; over the course of 7 years, I served as volunteer, seasonal interpreter, conservation intern, park ranger, chief ranger, and environmental programs manager. After my park work, I gained skills in exhibit design, volunteer management, and most recently, nonprofit accounting and administration. I am an enrolled member of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of VA and serve on the Tribal Council. As a Councilwoman, I’m a storyteller and I manage environmental programs. Recently, I was elected Vice Chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. I have a degree in History with a concentration in Public History from James Madison University.

Read more →

 

ConnectVA Spotlight: LaToya Blizzard, Director of Finance and Operations, disAbility Law Center of Virginia

Tell us about yourself. My name is LaToya Blizzard.  I am the Director of Finance and Operations for the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. dLCV provides legal aid and advocacy for people with disabilities.  Our organization is the state’s protection and advocacy system.  I’ve been with the agency for eight years.  I’m a native of Chesterfield County and attended Norfolk State University.  I started with the agency when it was a state agency known as Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy.  In 2013 we transitioned to become a nonprofit.

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Help Somebody Spotlight: Keri Treadway, Teacher, Richmond Public Schools

Keri is a first-grade teacher at Fox Elementary and has been with Richmond Public Schools for 14 years. Her dedication to her students and her city extends far beyond her day job, however.  She shows up, she organizes, she donates, she solicits support from local businesses, all in the name of the children she cares so deeply about.  Keri is a co-founder and organizer behind the “Support Richmond Public Schools” movement as well as “Building a Better RPS“.

Read more →

 

Creating An Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: Age

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.   Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of diversity and inclusion in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

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Creating a More Inclusive Environment at Your Nonprofit: An Introduction

In March, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) and current members of its 10th class at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. Jonathan Zur, President and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities led the group through a robust discussion and brainstorming session on ways local organizations and leaders can take action to create a culture of inclusion in their nonprofit organizations and across the sector.

Read more →

 

Impacts and Implications of the Election on RVA Nonprofits

No matter how you’re feeling about the new president, one thing can be certain: changes in government - local, state and federal - have a huge impact on the nonprofit field. Whether those impacts are positive or negative, our sectors are intertwined and changes in legislation, leadership and government funding can and will have a trickle-down effect on nonprofit operations, philanthropy, volunteerism, services for vulnerable populations and so much more. In January, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gathered alumni of its Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP) to discuss anticipated impacts and implications of the federal election on their work as nonprofit leaders. Led by Susan Wilkes (the ENLP Lead Faculty), the robust conversation covered topics from “leading through political uncertainty” to “what nonprofits are doing and could do as they prepare for government changes”. Broken down by nonprofit issue area (ie Health and Wellness and Family/Housing), here’s what the nonprofit leaders in the room had to say about implications of the election on the nonprofit sector:

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