Author: Tim McDaniels

Reshaping Southern Philanthropy

The Next Step: Shaping a New Narrative
Robert Dortch Jr.
Excerpted from Leading with Courage: Reshaping Southern Philanthropy for a New Era

PSE LWC 2022 Report Shaping-a-New-Narrative RLDortch Jr.


Thank you to our Philanthropy Day Summit Sponsors!

We are so appreciative of the generous support and commitment of all who invest in our social impact sector through Philanthropy Day. This enables CNE to continue our work building equitable, thriving, and just communities powered by healthy nonprofits. A special thanks to our Pillar of Excellence Sponsors: The Caplin Foundation, The Rimora Foundation, and Wells Fargo. To see all of our wonderful sponsors, please visit our Philanthropy Day webpage.

Thoughts on Philanthropy and Democracy

There’s enough for all of us: More thoughts on philanthropy and democracy
Kristen Cambell

It was an honor and a privilege to keynote the 2023 Philanthropy Day Summit alongside my new friend Robert L. Dorch, Jr. from the Jordan/Snydor innovation group. Our discussion touched on a number of themes, but one moment I particularly appreciated was when we shared a chuckle on this point: “Philanthropists aren’t in the work of strengthening democracy because they love grantmaking.” If the impressive number of questions posed during the Q&A portion tells me anything, it is that philanthropists are truly dedicated to the work of “forming a more perfect union” and kindling a “love of humankind” as much as they are supporting that vision with grant dollars.

One topic I am still pondering from our discussion is the role of disruptors in powering innovative new approaches to strengthening our democracy and achieving equity in our society. Robert is correct that we cannot expect innovation without disruption of the status quo. I suggested a slightly more nuanced vision for challenging societal norms  – responsible disruption – which invites communities to imagine and envision things they might not currently believe are possible (which is disruptive in and of itself) rather than simply breaking things to break them (which is often how disruption is thought about). I have been thinking a lot about a provocation from my friend Eboo Patel in his book “We Need to Build” which suggests that we don’t get the world we want by burning down what we don’t like, but by building and creating what we love.

The opportunity to dive into this exciting and evolving field of philanthropy and democracy together with Robert was such a joy, and I look forward to future opportunities. There are a few questions from audience members that we weren’t able to get to due on Philanthropy Day, and I would like to offer my thoughts here.

Kristen Cambell, sitting on stage, right stage in a black dress with pink jacket, smiling, with Robert L. Dortch Jr. also sitting on stage in a plaid blue suit, turned toward Kristen, listening. A crowd of people watching them in conversation.

How might somebody who is new to the American society and system have a good impact on it?

I love this question, as I have personally done some thinking on this as a dual-citizen of America and New Zealand. I like to think about our citizenship in “small-c terms”… meaning whether or not we were born here, those of us who choose to live here have a responsibility to contribute to society. I love this line from Citizen University’s “Sworn-Again America” oath:

I pledge to serve
and to push my country:
when right, to be kept right;
when wrong, to be set right.
Wherever my ancestors and I were born,
I claim America
and I pledge to live like a citizen.

The second thing that comes to mind for me is the importance of anchoring myself in hope in order to avoid the temptation of becoming apathetic or angry as so many are today. Currently, there are significant incentives out there to become binary and zero sum in our thinking about politics, or to imagine our democracy as a teeter-totter where if one group goes up, the other must go down.

With this backdrop, it’s not difficult to imagine why many are becoming adversarial to defend their position or apathetic by stepping out of the ring altogether. I personally try to imagine democracy as an evolving system by design– one that, if stewarded well, can afford benefits to all (small-c) citizens if we’re willing to put the time and energy into imagining how we can work together to achieve that. In other words, there’s enough America for us all – let’s move forward on that premise, because I think it provides the kind of hope we need to make progress.

It feels as though our nation has taken a step back from becoming a more perfect union. What is the role of philanthropy to get us back on track without being polarizing?

I think the responsibility that philanthropy has in integrating philanthropy and democracy is to ensure that human connection is at the heart of how society functions. Yet, so many Americans do not feel a sense of belonging in their communities, schools, workplaces, and in our nation at-large. Imagining a more perfect union when union is lacking may be putting the cart before the horse. Philanthropy could make a transformative impact on our society if we are willing to promote incentive structures that promote community, collaboration, and partnership, as well as facilitate much bigger spaces where funders and grantees of all identities, beliefs, and persuasions can come together to imagine the best ways to address common problems.

At PACE, we have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about how philanthropy can combat toxic polarization. One of the hard things we’ve heard on this journey is that philanthropy can actually unintentionally make polarization worse. I believe that means we have to be thoughtful not just about what we fund, but how we fund it. I’d suggest funders can engage a social-cohesion mindset in its approach to problem-solving in philanthropy. This approach is about bringing diverse perspectives together to focus on collaborative problem solving and making sure we’re attacking the problem and not people.

A group of diverse people looking intently into the distance (at the stage during the keynote conversation).

Like you mentioned in your talk, apathy is a huge barrier to civic engagement. How do we help people overcome that apathy and show them the impact they can have?

 It is easy to become apathetic when you feel like your thoughts and ideas don’t matter, or you don’t see things changing as a result of your engagement. A lot of times, I don’t know that people are apathetic as much as they might be disillusioned or disempowered – or maybe just overwhelmed by all the challenges and not knowing what to do or how to best contribute. There’s a lot going on, y’all! 🙂

We’ve also learned through our work exploring “civic language” that many people just don’t resonate with the words and phrases that those of us who advocate for civic engagement often use. We can easily be talking past them and failing to meet them where they are– they might be engaged, but expressing it in different ways (whether words or actions) that we might not recognize (this can be especially true with young people). Sometimes a lack of engagement might be about people’s apathy, sometimes it might be about our inability to recognize what’s important to them, and sometimes it might be both.

Finally– and we talked about this a little bit on Philanthropy Day–  but I really think there is power in leading with questions in ways that help us interrogate our assumptions and generate understanding about what we might be missing from others’ perspectives and experiences.

Some might say that complex questions without ready answers are more likely to produce apathy than anything else. At PACE, we’re seeing the opposite. Questions offer breathing room to patiently develop ideas that will have an impact on the long-game, which is the health of our civil society and social fabric.

From left to right: Terrel White (African American man, smiling, wearing pink pants, white button up shirt, floral tie, and green and white cardigan), Robert L. Dortch Jr. (African American male, smiling, wearing a blue plaid suit and grey turtleneck sweater), Cristine Nardi (Caucasian female, smiling, wearing an all black dress), and Kristen Cambell (Caucasian female, smiling, wearing a black dress with a long pink and black formal jacket).

Kristen Cambell is CEO of PACE, a philanthropic laboratory for funders seeking to maximize their impact on democracy and civic life in America.


Thank you to our Philanthropy Day Summit Sponsors!

We are so appreciative of the generous support and commitment of all who invest in our social impact sector through Philanthropy Day. This enables CNE to continue our work building equitable, thriving, and just communities powered by healthy nonprofits. A special thanks to our Pillar of Excellence Sponsors: The Caplin Foundation, The Rimora Foundation, and Wells Fargo. To see all of our wonderful sponsors, please visit our Philanthropy Day webpage.

Announcing CNE’s 2023 Philanthropy Champions


Terrel White
Director | Advancement | 434-951-9047



March 29 event to honor impactful and creative forms of community building in our region

Philanthropy Champions from Charlottesville and surrounding areas will be recognized and celebrated for their impactful giving and diverse forms of community building as part of The Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) Philanthropy Day Summit on March 29, 2023, beginning at 9 am at the Wool Factory

The Philanthropy Champions program aims to celebrate, spotlight, and advance diverse forms of philanthropy. This recognition is part of CNE’s ongoing efforts to promote a more expansive and inclusive understanding of philanthropy that recognizes the profound generosity within our communities, not least the giving of underrepresented groups who are seldom recognized in mainstream philanthropy.

This is the first time that CNE is hosting a Philanthropy Champions celebration to honor and spotlight the wide range of philanthropic practices in our community. In doing so we recognize the diverse ways in which people contribute by giving of their time, treasure, talent, ties, and testimony.  CNE initiated this project through a nomination process with guidance from individuals in the community to expand definitions and understandings of philanthropy.

“We are honored to celebrate and promote these champions whose philanthropic giving is so crucial in building and supporting their communities,” said Amel Gorani, CNE Deputy Director – Strategy, Equity, & Impact.  “It is particularly timely for us to host the Philanthropy Champions recognition this year as the theme for the Spring 2023 Philanthropy Day Summit is Reimagining Philanthropy for a Healthier Democracy. At a time when much attention is paid to divisiveness, these individuals are working every day to make connections and strengthen our social fabric.”

The Philanthropy Champions listed below will be recognized at the Spring 2023 Philanthropy Day Summit and will be featured throughout the coming year in more detail.  In addition to a $500 award, each champion will be offered free one-year access to CNE special services and benefits and ongoing customized support to connect the champions to potential resources to support their work. The recognition of the Champions is being made possible by generous financial support from the United Way of Greater Charlottesville and an anonymous donor from the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

Rosa Hudson For her role and contributions as a community organizer with the Monticello Area Community Action Agency and as the first Housing Counselor at Piedmont Housing Alliance.
Dolly Joseph, Pat Seay & Kerney Eubanks For their work in providing fresh produce, material support, and community space for the Ridge St neighborhood and beyond.
Rosa Key For fighting food insecurity as a member of Cultivate Charlottesville’s advocate team.
Lois Castle For helping run the clothing closet at her local Catholic church in Stuarts Draft.
Charles Lewis For his work on In My Humble Opinion, a radio program that builds community and has been created with dedication to empowerment.
Omwira Nkere For his support for refugee communities including through volunteer-interpretation and extensive efforts to support refugees in need.
Jaronda Miller-Bryant For her exceptional support of college students, her commitment to health and wellness in the Black community, her contributions to the Black Empowerment Coalition, and for being a general mentor to young Black women.


Charlottesville High School Black Student Union For their advocacy for healthier and financially accessible school lunches, and a community of unity and equity for all identities
Bass Wolf For his allyship and contributions to combating sexual violence, and his role in promoting liberation and social justice.
Rocio Zamora and Jose Luis Hernandez- Sin Barreras’ Driver Privilege Card Team, For their years-long advocacy to extend driving privileges to immigrants that may not have yet qualified for a standard license.
Dr. Max Luna – UVA Latino Health Initiative For founding the Latino Health Initiative at the University of Virginia that has contributed significantly to improve health outcomes within the Latino community.
Zafar Khan For his instrumental role in supporting resettlement and food security for Afghan refugees in Charlottesville.
Beverly Adams For her community service and advocacy for diverse groups throughout the community, through the Black Empowerment Coalition, the Women’s Initiative, the Links, and the Deltas, among other organizations.
Zeba Rizvi For her leading role within the Islamic Center of Central Virginia, her extensive inclusion efforts, and formation of many new programs, including afterschool Islamic education program.
Gloria Beard For her efforts to provide holiday gift bags for senior citizens in Charlottesville, for her community engagement with the City Council and local media, offering her ideas as a long-time resident of the city.

Philanthropy Day Postponed


Dear Friends and Colleagues –

At CNE, we strive through our work to build community.

This week our community partner, the University of Virginia, experienced a tragedy which ricocheted across the university and into the community. Ultimately, three university students, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry, were killed, two are in the hospital, and one is in custody. This tragedy, combined with the multiple gun violence deaths in the Charlottesville region recently, has unknown and wide-ranging effects on us all.

For some, the accumulation of gun violence deaths that disproportionately impact Black and brown communities triggers trauma. For others, who experienced yet another violence-related school closure, it requires hard conversations with kids about their safety. For many, it evokes a sense of hopelessness, frustration, or even anger. For our University colleagues, and for many community members, there is deep grief, and a need to heal.

We could not be more excited about the Reimagining Philanthropy for a Healthier Democracy program we have put together, the sold-out crowd, and the opportunity to gather to celebrate the power of our collective philanthropy to build communities where everyone can thrive. We are particularly inspired by the Philanthropy Champions we were set to honor and recognize this week, and cannot wait to introduce them to you. The Philanthropy Champions program aims to celebrate, spotlight, and advance diverse forms of philanthropy, including grassroots leaders building community resilience and strength.

But this is not the week. This week, we stand with our neighbors, friends, and community partners who are grappling with tragedy and grief, and with the people and organizations who help us heal.

We are grateful to our sponsors, our main stage speakers, The Wool Factory, and vendors who are partnering with us to create a reimagined Philanthropy Day Summit experience, and are committed to bringing this community celebration of giving to fruition in early 2023. We will be back in touch before the end of the year with an update.

In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions. You can reach Cristine Nardi, Executive Director, at or 434-531-7494, or Terrel White, Director of Advancement, at or 313-409-3262.

We are stronger together, and look forward, always, to building community with you.

Cristine Nardi,
Executive Director

Terrel White,
Director of Advancement

Visit our Philanthropy Day page for the latest.

Short Board Education Sessions

Facilitated Board Discussions

CNE offers member organizations a free weekday half-hour Board Education Session. CNE staff will facilitate a discussion during a regularly scheduled board meeting on one of five core areas of governance:

  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Board/ED Shared Leadership
  • Culture of Philanthropy
  • Financial Leadership
  • Building Your Board Pipeline.

The session is not customized to a specific organization, but rather meant to jump-start a conversation on the set topic with a mix of content, discussion, and follow-up resources.

Space is limited. If you are interested in requesting a session for your organization, please submit a request through Ask CNE. Thank you for being a part of our Community of Practice!

Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC)


“Bryan Stevenson, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, said: ‘The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.’ And LAJC believes that in their core. These are some passionate people.”

– Angela Ciolfi, LAJC’s Executive Director


LAJC believes in using every method of advocacy available in tandem with a community layering model to build deep local relationships and work alongside the clients and communities they serve. LAJC has organizers who proactively go out into the community to be close to what’s happening and what the issues are, and attorneys are expected to be out in the community as well. At the same time, LAJC is working on a national level, challenging national policies with their immigrant advocacy and immigrant rights’ programs. And they’re creating models for what advocates can do in other states, such as their challenge to drivers’ license suspension for unpaid court cost fines. They’ve seen multiple lawsuits in other states modeled after theirs, and serve on the steering committee of a national campaign taking on the issue.



Involvement with CNE



About LAJC

In 1967, a group of Charlottesville attorneys and law students founded the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Aid Society – which would become LAJC – in response to the need for civil legal assistance to those who could not pay for services. In 2017, LAJC celebrated its 50th anniversary of providing legal services in Central Virginia and battling poverty and injustice by solving critical legal problems for individuals and communities. They then use what they learn from these efforts to identify, investigate, and attack broader systemic injustices. LAJC provides a full range of services to their clients, including services federal and state governments choose not to fund, by utilizing a mix of individual representation, group and class litigation, community organizing, policy advocacy, and media relations. LAJC has over 50 staff members who work from offices in Charlottesville, Richmond, Petersburg, and Falls Church.

For historical background, Congress created the federal Legal Services Corporation in 1974 to provide funding for free legal assistance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it on matters falling outside the criminal justice system, such as unlawful evictions, foreclosures, domestic or elder abuse, or wrongful denial of government assistance. Unlike the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in criminal proceedings, courts have not recognized a right to a lawyer in the vast majority of civil cases, and legal aid programs across the country help fill that gap. In 1996, Congress drastically reduced federal funding for legal services and imposed restrictions on the use of that funding. For example, if a legal aid program received any federal dollars, they couldn’t use federal or private dollars to file class actions, conduct any organizing or lobbying, represent undocumented immigrants or prisoners, or help register people to vote. All over the country, legal service programs then split into two – either federally funded programs for straightforward civil defense, or programs that used state funds and private dollars to provide broader advocacy as well as the full range of legal services. This explains why there are two legal aid programs serving our area. The Central Virginia Legal Aid Society is the federally funded program primarily serving Richmond, and LAJC is the non-federally funded program without restrictions on what they can do with their private dollars. Together, the two organizations provide the full range of legal services to low-income communities in Central Virginia.

What Makes LAJC Unique?

“What makes LAJC unique is that we really thrive at the center of this tension [between civil defense and advocacy] because we will both defend you in court from being evicted and we will support the Public Housing Association of Residents and campaign for policy changes with the housing authority to reduce evictions, because the best way of defending an eviction is not getting evicted in the first place. And we see this cycle of providing access to courts enforcing existing laws, which informs us about what needs to change. We communicate and work with communities to change those structures, and then we go back around and start enforcing the new laws, because we see the value in doing both of those things.”

– Angela Ciolfi

LAJC believes in using every method of advocacy available in tandem with a community layering model to build deep local relationships and work alongside the clients and communities they serve.  LAJC has organizers who proactively go out into the community to be close to what’s happening and what the issues are, and attorneys are expected to be out in the community as well.  At the same time, LAJC is working on a national level, challenging national policies with their immigrant advocacy and immigrant rights’ programs. And they’re creating models for what advocates can do in other states, such as their challenge to drivers’ license suspension for unpaid court cost fines. They’ve seen multiple lawsuits in other states modeled after theirs, and serve on the steering committee of a national campaign taking on the issue.

CNE Membership is Valuable

LAJC joined CNE as a member in October 2006, making them one of the first nonprofits in the area to sign up. Now members for over 13 years, they have found value in membership. CNE is a membership based organization, with over 300 members representing a wide range of mission and service areas, sizes, and lifecycle stages.

“For the price of membership we get a lot of help, so for us it was a bargain. I think for me, CNE has always been: “They’re there.” CNE is like a bank – you don’t need them every day, but you’ll go through spells where you’ll really need them and they’re there.  It’s, who do you go to when you are trying to figure out how to do this? When organizations ask where to go when they’re starting out and when they need assistance, I say you need to go to CNE.”

– Cynthia Neff, former LAJC interim Executive Director and current LAJC Board President

CNE is There Through Change

Since the 1990s, LAJC and the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society (CVLAS) have shared one board due to Congressional restrictions put in place at that time, which controlled board composition by requiring outside organizations and Bar Associations to appoint board members. In 2018, LAJC started thinking about splitting the shared board of 30 members (26 of whom were shared) into a board for CVLAS and a board for LAJC, so that LAJC could appoint its own board members and have its board better represent the community it serves. One of the first things LAJC did was contact CNE for assistance through the process. CNE provides customized consulting and technical assistance to help nonprofits strengthen their organizations and manage change.

“CNE played a big role, from providing feedback on governance documents and bylaws, to helping us figure out a process for even having the conversation, and once it looked like we were going to split the boards, how to figure that out. We asked questions like: ‘How many board members should we have? How do you sort 26 people between the two organizations? Who decides? What is the right number of board meetings? Is it every month? Is it every other month? And how do you figure out how to have a fair and transparent process that is respectful of all of those interested?’ There’s a lot of emotion and loyalty and politics bound up in it, so we went to CNE to work together on what we were trying to accomplish. We asked CNE, ‘Can you look at this? Can you tell us if we’re on the right track? Does it make sense? What are we missing?’ CNE has provided one-on-one technical assistance and consultation in person, by phone, and email and it’s been amazing, because we really needed it.”

– Angela Ciolfi

“You think you know board work and you think you know organizational work, until it’s a big change like this. It’s, how do we, the new Executive Director and the old interim Executive Director, how do we orchestrate it? It was a great opportunity to be able to start from scratch, but then we had to not only figure out what we wanted to do, but how to do it. And we could not have done this without CNE.”

– Cynthia Neff

After working with CNE on recommendations for the board and a plan forward, LAJC invited Cristine Nardi, CNE’s Executive Director, to talk to its strategic planning committee, a team of 45 people, and the full board about leading practices, good governance, board roles and responsibilities, and some of the big questions around the board restructuring.

“We thought the presentation was a hit and people really responded. People keep asking for the presentation and were fascinated by the conversation.”

– Cynthia Neff

In September 2019, LAJC’s board approved the splitting of the board, as well as a new strategic plan.

CNE is a Center for Learning

During a recent leadership transition, one of the first things LAJC did was send its leadership team to a CNE workshop on finance as part of Finance Academy. Finance Academy is a partnership between CNE and the CFA Institute to strengthen the financial health and management of nonprofits in the region.  It offers a suite of programs and resources – from a Financial Health Review, to webinars, financial assessment tools, and in-depth training series.

“A number of the members of the leadership team attended a “Finance for Non-Finance Professionals” workshop on how to read budgets and financial statements to build skills that we might not have otherwise. It’s amazing that you can find CNE resources to do something like that.”

– Cynthia Neff

CNE is a Center for Leading

Angela Ciolfi has been with LAJC since 2004 and served as Director of the JustChildren program and Director of Litigation and Advocacy. In late 2018, LAJC selected Angela as its new Executive Director, and she stepped into the role during the middle of a strategic planning process and the beginning of the conversation surrounding board restructuring. Shortly thereafter, Angela joined a CNE Executive Leadership Circle, a program designed to support nonprofit leaders and help prevent burnout. Leadership Circles are facilitated small member groups of Executive Directors who meet on a monthly basis.

“Suddenly I went from being a full-time advocate to an Executive Director. I had only been to a board meeting to present on a campaign and so the board was an alien creature. I realized that I had a huge learning curve ahead of me. I go to the Executive Leadership Circle once a month and that has been incredibly valuable. I’ve made good friends and learned about other organizations that are represented at different stages in their development. I can see what transitions we might have to go through and how another organization has managed it. And there’s the psychological benefit of knowing that you are not alone.”

– Angela Ciolfi

“Angela is brilliant, but you know what, she wasn’t born being an Executive Director. Even though she’s been a lawyer, advocate, and legal director for a long time, she hasn’t been a manager for an organization like this. Now she belongs to an Executive Leadership Circle. She loves it, and she’s not the first Executive Director I’ve known to participate. They’re building relationships that last a really long time.”

– Cynthia Neff

CNE is There for Next Steps

In late 2019, LAJC hired its first Director of Communications and consulted CNE’s 2017 Regional Nonprofit Compensation & Benefits Report for salary benchmarking for the new position. In 2018, CNE partnered with the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond to create the first nonprofit compensation and benefits report for our region, incorporating responses from nearly 240 organizations. The report asked about staff demographics, such as race and gender, to gain insight into any disparities in compensation.

LAJC is also looking at its compensation structure more broadly—moving from a seniority-based pay scale to a model that includes respect for seniority but also incorporates skills and accomplishments, with a focus on transparency and equity in leadership opportunities, professional development, and competitive pay so that one doesn’t have to be a person of privilege to afford to work at LAJC. As part of this process, LAJC contacted CNE for HR consultant recommendations, one of whom is now working on LAJC’s internal salary survey. Through CNE’s ConsultCorps service, CNE helps evaluate the scope of the project, identify how best to work with a consultant, and connect organizations to consulting support.

 “As we are rethinking our compensation structure, once we start getting some meat on the bones, we are going to go back to CNE and say: ‘What are we not thinking about? What are some other models?’”

–Angela Ciolfi

LAJC’s newly approved strategic plan is oriented around four pillars – supporting staff, leadership, governance, and defining who LAJC is – with racial justice and equity as the through line. While LAJC has done racial justice work throughout its history, this is the first time that its board has explicitly embraced racial justice and equity as an animating feature of LAJC’s work. Going forward, LAJC plans to contact CNE for racial equity assessment models and consultant recommendations. In the fall of 2017, CNE began to develop a Justice & Equity Initiative to partner with members and nonprofits in this important work.

And for the governance pillar of the plan, LAJC is looking forward to having its board – its new, restructured board – more engaged. They’re going to reinvigorate board meetings through action-oriented agendas and meeting now every other month to give the board time to do its work, creating committees, and involving the board in philanthropy and donor stewardship—something the board has not had much direct responsibility for up to this point. As LAJC engages current board members and recruits new ones, they plan to take advantage of CNE’s Board Orientation workshop and Board Academy, especially to support those who have never served on a board before. As part of CNE’s Governance Matters, CNE provides a wide-range of training topics, formats, and schedules to boards and board members to meet them where they are – from early morning short governance trainings, to half-day board orientation workshops, to Board Academy, a deep dive into the most critical aspects of good governance.

Through years of CNE membership, lifecycle stages, inevitable change, and growth, LAJC has seen CNE as being there for them, and for the community.

CNE is a Center for Advocacy and an Important Community Resource

“Why do we have so many nonprofits and yet the community of nonprofits is tighter than in many other places? People work together, know each other, and I think that is because of CNE. There’s a natural kind of cohesion because people meet and hear what’s going on. I think CNE has had a huge impact in the community in terms of really being the voice of nonprofits. It’s amazing, when you think about how many nonprofits we have and all of the people who benefit from them, to have somebody like CNE as a resource.”

–Cynthia Neff

Blue Ridge Medical Center (BRMC)

Collaboration and outreach are two areas that make BRMC unique. They have partnered with Region 10 and with Horizon Behavioral Health to better integrate care for those with serious mental illness. Over the years, BRMC has played a key role in creating an inter-agency collaboration among local schools, other health care providers, human service agencies, JABA, MACAA, the Health Department, and the Department of Social Services to identify and prioritize community health needs. As a result, BRMC has gradually moved to a model of integrated care, adding dental, behavioral health, and pharmaceutical care to their suite of services. Overall, BRMC has become better at identifying the specific needs of patients, shaping their services around those needs, and working to equalize disparities in their patients’ access to quality healthcare.


Involvement with CNE


Founded in 1983, the Blue Ridge Medical Center (BRMC) opened its doors in 1985. Its mission is to provide patient-centered quality health care to all people in Nelson County and neighboring areas and to improve their community’s health and well-being through prevention, education, and treatment.

Founding CNE Member

When then CEO Peggy Whitehead first heard about the CNE in 2008, she signed her organization up right away, making BRMC a founding member. Since she first discovered the CNE, Peggy has valued our eNewsletter, appreciating that a useful listing of grants, news about the nonprofit community, and other nonprofit resources are just a click away.

“I read those newsletter every week so I know what CNE is doing. I never delete them because they’re chock full of what I need to know. I read everything in them.”

Peggy Whitehead

Leadership Transition Services

It was through the weekly eNewsletter that Peggy Whitehead found out about the CNE’s Leadership Transition Services. When she became the CEO in 2004, BRMC did not have a succession plan in place, so she was encouraged to find resources at the CNE to begin this important process, especially since she would be transitioning from the CEO position.

“Succession planning has been very impactful for us. Cristine Nardi did an excellent session with our board in 2016 that really drove everything that has happened since. We ended up right on time with the schedule that we laid out on that day. Cristine helped us plan how to do the recruitment process, how to involve the staff, how to transition the board to its new responsibilities, and how to handle the fact that there were both internal and external candidates. All of those questions were addressed. We hired the new CEO, and everything was settled. Then we worked with CNE on the on-boarding process to make that successful. I’m very grateful for the information we received.”

Peggy Whitehead

“The recruitment and on-boarding processes were outstanding in every respect. The way things were handled allowed me to come up-to-speed quickly.”

Randy Pirtle, BRMC CEO

The Value of CNE’s Resources

One of BRMC’s staff members, Brittani Gowen, got a lot from a CNE marketing workshop. As a result, BRMC made changes to their marketing message, conveying more effectively than ever that they are “wide open for new patients.” Advertisements look better and branding is consistent. They even made a TV commercial for the first time.

Peggy attended a Donor Roundtable, an event co-hosted by the CNE and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation to explore how nonprofits can best work with philanthropists. Peggy found the experience so helpful that she sent one of her board members to a similar event. The result?

“That was an awesome opportunity because I learned a tremendous amount about what donors expect. Not all donors want and expect the same thing, and that came out during the meeting.”

Peggy Whitehead

“It changed our realization of what we should be doing. We’ve made changes and we need to make more. After transitioning to a grant writing position, I’m working more closely with the donor development piece of what BRMC does, so I’m communicating more with the donors who have so generously supported BRMC over the years. I learned a lot about how donors like to be communicated with, and I learned that donors are different. We need to find their preferred means of communication and keep them up-to-date.”

Peggy Whitehead

Another resource that has proved invaluable to Peggy and her team is CNE’s Foundation Center, a database of over 11,000,000 grants made available on-site at CNE. In 2008, BRMC was located in an 8,000 square foot building. Leadership realized that they needed to launch a capital campaign to enlarge their space and increase their capacity. BRMC’s Board Chair spent a lot of time using CNE’s Foundation Center for research into possible grants during that campaign in 2009 and 2010. As a result of diligently using the Foundation Center database, BRMC funded a successful campaign to expand to a 26,800 square foot space. This accomplishment was a key milestone in the organization’s evolution.

Leadership Development

BRMC has always provided its services from its building in Nelson County. Now they are moving in a new direction, hoping to expand their geographic footprint. They are reaching out into Amherst County through the Amherst Wellness Center, and are looking for more co-location opportunities. Overall, they are aiming for a larger regional presence.

Internally, BRMC is working to improve their communication with and among staff. They are engaged in a learning module on that topic, and employee satisfaction surveys. They have developed enough as an organization that they can now focus on operational refinements, such as internal communication tools. Peggy is confident that BRMC will get just what they require from CNE for continued success: “CNE has met and exceeded our expectations. I can’t remember a time that our needs have not been met in the way we expected when we called CNE for help.”

“The CNE has made me a better leader through the years. Everything I’ve ever attended has been extremely valuable, well put together, well organized.  You use the information and you become a little bit more mature every time you attend. You take the notes, you participate in the discussions, and you meet new people. And all of it makes a difference.”

Peggy Whitehead


Charlottesville Ballet


Charlottesville Ballet includes Charlottesville’s only full-time professional dance company, a center for dance education, and an after-school dance education outreach program. The Ballet was founded in 2007, gained nonprofit status in 2010 and ran completely on a volunteer basis until 2012, when the board hired their first paid staff positions.



Involvement with CNE



CNE’s Board Academy also provided the necessary training when we first implemented our board of directors, and has had a significant impact on the efficacy of our board governance.

Sara Jansen Clayborne, Co-Founder
CNE’s Board Academy has also helped strengthen our board governance and encourage board members to be active and engaged with their roles both within the organization, and in regards to the organization’s involvement within the broader community.

Emily Mott Hartka, Co-Founder

CNE has provided our organization with training, resources, and tools that have fostered incredible growth over the last eight years. Programs and classes have helped staff develop strategies to achieve long-term development goals and implement processes to ensure organization sustainability. We look forward to our continued growth as an organization and as active and engaged community members through CNE’s training and classes.

Sara Jansen Clayborne, Co-Founder


CNE supports strategic planning

Charlottesville Ballet grew rapidly between 2011 and 2013, increasing their Academy students by 500%! This experience prompted the organization’s leaders to seek a healthy plan for future growth. They turned to CNE for guidance in this process. Participating in CNE workshops encouraged Charlottesville Ballet to initiate a strategic planning process. Through their planning sessions the Ballet’s leadership identified fundraising and board development as priorities.

Various lectures and seminars have provided the necessary education for our leadership, staff, and board to implement new strategies and systems to ensure the progress and continued development of our organization. One such lecture by Sam Davis on organization sustainability spurred us into our first strategic planning meeting that enabled us to focus on long-term growth and goals.

Emily Mott Hartka, Co-Founder


CNE increases fundraising capacity

Through their strategic planning process, the Charlottesville Ballet identified the need to acquire additional space—more studios to serve more dancers and dance students. But buildings cost money. So with the help of CNE, the Ballet’s leadership organized their first capital campaign—and their first direct mailing campaign. CNE’s Annual Fund Series, led by Laurie Rogers, had a huge impact on the Ballet’s plans. Laurie helped them think creatively about how to collect data and structure a fundraising campaign. In the end, the Ballet raised a total of $50,000, which allowed them to add 2,500 square feet of studio space.

CNE’s Annual Fund Series, fundraising workshops, and donor search tools in particular provided the knowledge and education to help us produce our first annual direct-mailing campaign. Shortly after, we were able to implement a successful capital campaign which culminated in a total of $50K raised in 6 short months.

Emily Mott Hartka, Co-Founder

Charlottesville Ballet also recently won a $10,000 grant from the Charlottesville Albemarle Community Fund. They credit their win, in part, to the support they received from CNE in developing and honing their pitch. Despite their successes, they also recognize the need to gather more data, take a more structured approach, and to hire a Director of Development to spearhead future fundraising efforts.

CNE builds community connections

CNE programs also offer a great opportunity for networking and peer learning. It’s always helpful to be in a room of practitioners who share your concerns and can offer a unique perspective to your challenges. Emily mentioned that she learned a lot from listening to participants from other nonprofits. CNE also helps nonprofits reach out to the broader community.

We consider CNE to be an invaluable resource to connecting nonprofits with the greater community and providing education to help further leadership within organizations.

Sara Jansen Clayborne, Co-Founder


CNE strengthens organizations and leader

Great leadership requires a broad perspective. CNE programs offer the chance to take a step back from the day-to-day and gain some perspective. Thinking about long-term goal—and how to achieve them—in a professional, supportive environment can be very valuable.

CNE is the broad mentor you can call, to ask how to do something. The broadening moment, for when you’re so in your thing all day long, and then we’ll go to an Annual Fund workshop and totally revamp and see the big picture. It’s a mentor you can call for a practical tip and ask, “Am I doing this right?” “How do other people do this?” which is so helpful. Looking into the future, thinking about how things will affect our organization. The big picture of the scope of our organization, and how we can guide it to be the best. I don’t think you get that from reading a book. CNE is guiding.

Emily Mott Hartka, Co-Founder

Sexual Assault Resource Agency

SARA’s mission is to eliminate sexual violence and its impact by providing education, advocacy and support to men, women and children.



Involvement with CNE



Board Reforms

Prior to participating in CNE’s Board Academy, The Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) had important strategic decisions to make that would impact the organization’s sustainability in many different ways. Through the Academy, SARA’s Board Chair took part in relevant, timely, and in-depth case study exercises that enabled her to lead the board in making these critical decisions. Largely due to their involvement with this signature CNE program, SARA 1. navigated a property sale and move to accommodate future growth, 2. began to diversify–and grow–their funding, and 3. started building healthy operating reserves to ensure financial sustainability.

“There have been some exciting things happening at SARA, which make a really good follow-up to the case stories we used in the Board Academy…

“The board voted recently to approve the sale of the SARA property and pay off the mortgage.  This will enable SARA to move to a slightly larger location which can accommodate the current planned growth for the agency as well as leaving some room for future growth.

“This past fiscal year, we increased private donations and grants from private donors/foundations to over 35% of our annual revenue.  In the prior fiscal year that number was closer to 25% and the year prior to that 18%.  We are still working to get the number closer to 40 or 50% but it was a really welcome change this year to be a little less dependent on state and local funding.

“We are also building a cash reserve for the agency.  Between the proceeds of the sale and net income this past fiscal year we will have a substantial amount in reserves to hold aside for the future stability of the organization.  Our reserve plan challenges us to continue to increase that amount each year with a long-term goal of holding about 9 months of expenses in reserve which is a pretty aggressive goal but we’re giving ourselves some time to get there.

“Our board, while struggling through some situations throughout this year, is really energized and we are so excited to be making some positive changes for the long-term strength of the agency.  There is still a lot of work to be done but I wanted to pass along that we took the case study, and our board responsibilities, to heart.”

Jennifer King, Board President



Leadership Development

Without strong networks, executive directors can often feel overwhelmed and lacking support, with pressures coming from both the board level, and from staff. Through participating in the Executive Circle, SARA’s director built strong, trusting relationships with new peers, and received access to valuable resources that she didn’t have beforehand. With these influential networks, participants are better able to ward off burn-out, invest in their personal growth and experience greater satisfaction in their roles.

The CNE Executive Circle has helped me to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. I have made friends and developed colleagues. The executive director role is one that can be very isolating as the ED struggles to maintain that balance between board and staff. Having other colleagues to talk to can be very beneficial. It does take a while to build trust, but once it’s there, the support and shared knowledge are tremendous.

Becky Weybright, Executive Director


Legal Health Clinic

Often through taking advantage of educational opportunities, participants realize that they were in need of resources that they weren’t aware of previously. Without fully realizing their need for a Legal Health Check-Up, SARA enrolled in the program. What they learned along the way was that the expert services they received were timely, relevant, and incredibly valuable. They left the experience with strengthened core policies and organizational documents for their board and leadership.

When we were first contacted about this clinic, I did not think we really needed it, but I was willing to participate. What I found out is that we really did need to do this significant review of some of our documents. Our Articles of Incorporation and By-laws are better now as a result of this review. The law student we were working with had insightful input that was very useful. He also was able to answer other questions that my board had. Participation in this Law Clinic should be useful for any nonprofit organization.

Becky Weybright, Executive Director