Category: Announcement

My First 100 Days

Dear CNE Community,

June is a time of graduation, anticipation, and planning here at CNE! We are thrilled to see our program participants complete their goals and eagerly watch as more of you continue your journeys.

My first 100 days were marked by the gracious welcome of the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, and the incredible CNE staff and board team. I spent time listening and gathering feedback and input on the ways CNE has served and how we can launch into the future. It is so exciting to hear about the impact we’ve had and the ways we can pivot to ensure we continue to provide excellence in nonprofit building and philanthropic partnership.

What I have learned is that you all love CNE – the work we do to contribute to the nonprofit ecosystem by serving as a partner that strengthens through education, one-on-one support, on-site consulting, thought leadership, development alongside peers, and up-to-date resources that support your practice.

CNE is about people first. All of our services and programs are powered by people, and the staff, board, and nonprofit experts we work with are key to our own capacity to serve.

To continue delivering high-quality services and programs, we are doubling down on our staff’s growth by promoting professional learning internally in intentional ways. And thanks to the National Council of Nonprofits Thrive Grant, we are engaging in staff wellness activities to help us lean in and indeed thrive! With new leadership comes new eyes, and it is important to clarify roles in alignment with our function: nonprofit building and philanthropic partnership.

During our summer of planning, we are looking forward to expanding our work in key areas and transitioning support in other programs that will help us serve our communities, such as:

  • Developing a robust series of programs in Charlottesville to serve our home community.
  • Amplifying member benefits to ensure that members take advantage of all we have to offer them.
  • Reenvisioning Philanthropy Day with a focus on education, collaboration, and partnership while lifting up our community of philanthropists.
  • Collaborating with partners to create communities of practice by mission area and philanthropic circles.
  • Continuing our powerful work in Virginia communities and regions throughout the commonwealth in collaboration with philanthropic partners who deeply believe in the power of nonprofits and capacity building.

As described by the United Nations, “Capacity-building is the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing world.” The nonprofit ecosystem is only as strong as its partners. And you are part of this work. We are grateful to be positioned as both nonprofit builders and partners to philanthropists who truly understand the value of capacity-building, sustainability, and transparency. Thank you for being part of this work with us and for the opportunity to serve each of you.

Looking forward to the next 100 days,

Mariane Asad Doyle

Dear CNE Community From Cristine Nardi

Dear CNE Community –

After 15 years in conversation, and of learning and growth together, this is my last executive director note to you. The last of anything gives it weight and gives one pause, but marks a beginning too. A beginning of new leadership at CNE, full of possibility. To our members, my colleagues, and the many partners and collaborators who joined with me to build this vibrant community of practice that is CNE, I can’t wait to see what you do next with it.

Because what we surely know now that we didn’t fully at the beginning of this journey is that as community builders, we are each other’s teachers, the wisdom is always right here in the room, and our collective voice is beautiful and powerful.

Nonprofits at their best reflect who we are as a society, what we care about, what we want to change, our aspirations for the future. They are foundational to our democracy, bringing us together to advocate for what’s right and to build communities where everyone can thrive. And this:

Equitable, thriving, and just communities powered by healthy nonprofits is a vision worth striving for.

If you know me you know that I welcome change. I will be staying on as a CNE strategic advisor in the short term, and staying open to what’s next. I always will be drawn to mission-driven work because as a colleague I admire, Martize Tolbert, says so well, “Community work is the best work.”

As a lover of words and an appreciator of the power in how we wield them, I leave you with the last lines of Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb, a poem that I return to over and over in this work:

For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

With so much gratitude –


Celebrating and Saying Farewell to Cristine Nardi

Dear CNE Friends,

On behalf of the CNE Board, I would like to express how grateful we are for the immeasurable impact that Cristine Nardi has had, not only on CNE, but on the broader social impact sector.  Cristine took the helm at CNE in 2008, and for over 15 years she has tirelessly invested in CNE’s capacity to support thriving, equitable, and just communities in Virginia.

Under Cristine’s leadership, CNE launched an array of initiatives, including the Board Academy, Leaders of Color Circles, and 7 Actionable Principles for a Strong Social Sector. She helped grow CNE’s memberships to include over 350 nonprofits and solidified long-term strategic partnerships throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cristine’s approach enabled CNE to balance a deep investment in Charlottesville-area nonprofits alongside a commitment to impacting the broader social impact sector through nationally known resources and tools.

Aside from these stellar accomplishments, Cristine has brought insightfulness, poise, and a compassionate spirit to the work of CNE. What I have always admired about Cristine is that she embodies a humble approach that centers the work of local communities rather than herself. This humility has shaped CNE in ways that push us and our partners to ground our work in addressing felt needs that have been voiced by community members, and to position ourselves not primarily as service providers, but as mutual learning partners alongside community members and nonprofits. This approach is a part of Cristine’s legacy. Her success over the past 15 years has demonstrated her authentic commitment, not simply to initiatives and programs, but to real people seeking the flourishing of families and communities.

To honor Cristine as a champion of the sector and CNE, we are pleased to announce the creation of the Cristine Nardi Fund at CNE. The Fund will enable CNE to both meet its mission and advance future priorities, particularly in areas that align closely with Cristine’s passion and leadership. Fund dollars will be invested in building a statewide advocacy network to educate and drive resources to the sector, and to equip nonprofits to advocate, thus strengthening the sector’s ability to be a catalyst for equitable, thriving, and just communities.

Cristine will step away from her official role as executive director at the end of the month. We will soon announce and welcome the next executive director of CNE, who will be starting on February 1. In the meantime, please join me in celebrating the impact that she has had by being an early contributor to this fund, knowing that the seeds she planted will bear fruit for years to come.

– Nathan Walton, Board Chair, CNE


Donate to the Cristine Nardi Fund here and leave memories for Cristine by clicking here.

Announcing a New Partnership with Community Foundation for a greater Richmond!

Announcing a nonprofit capacity building partnership with Community Foundation for a greater Richmond!

We’re excited to announce that the Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) and the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond have partnered to develop targeted, responsive, and high-quality services and offerings that enhance the ability of nonprofits to manage change and deepen impact.

These services and offerings are available to greater Richmond nonprofits (serving the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Hopewell and the counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, and Powhatan) at no cost, and range across a spectrum of topics relevant to nonprofit staff, board members, and volunteers. They include:

Technical Assistance – Do you have questions about board governance, organizational structure, fundraising, legal compliance or general nonprofit management? Ask CNE!

Nonprofit Education Sessions – 30-minutes of content, activities, and facilitated discussion during a regularly scheduled board meeting on a core governance topic such as the board’s roles and responsibilities, shared leadership between the board and ED/staff, and the board’s role in philanthropy.

Research, Data, and Learnings – Opportunities to connect and learn more about available community resources. Tutorials on how to use the Foundation Directory Online, a comprehensive online database to search for foundation and corporate giving. CNE’s 2023 Virginia Nonprofit Sector Report and 7 Actionable Principles for a Strong Social Sector. And more!

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.

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!