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THRIVE Participant Perspective--Greater Richmond Bar Foundation

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

Each week, we'll bring you the perspective of a nonprofit in our THRIVE accelerator program and share a little about their organization.

Greater Richmond Bar Foundation

This session, facilitated as always by our partners at The Spark Mill, covered Community Engagement and was presented by Mariah Williams of Housing Opportunities Made Equal. We asked the team from GRBF to tell us about their experience.

What are you hoping to get out of this program?

Ami Kim, Executive Director: I wanted to get much more clarity on mission, vision, and values--the things we covered in the first sessions. We’re still new to that area and could benefit from evolving our thinking and having consensus around those. Making space in our board meetings for those conversations has been helpful. The process has been very productive.

Michael Goldman, Board Chair: We've gone through so much transition in the last year and this is an immersive way to get dedicated time to build relationships amongst staff and leadership but also to think about what we want to make GRBF. I'm glad we can get the group the tools to have this discussion and take it to the larger board to get their input.

Tell us about your experience in the program.

Hannah Brechlin, Eviction Diversion Program Manager: Having the time together has been valuable--especially as just the three of us as staff, since we’re all part time and remote, to carve out this time every week to collaborate and see each other and talk about our goals.

Shane Harper, Administration Director: The networking has been nice for meeting other people in the nonprofit community. I’m new to nonprofits so I'm eager to learn all that I can. [The sessions]--it’s almost like i’m back in college--time carved out where you meet with a group, discuss, and learn.

Ami: Shane, your comment reminds me that in college we got to think big thoughts and have wide ranging conversations that are not just focused on the specific work tasks we have to do every day.

Shane: It's been good to hear from other nonprofits the challenges they face. It helps us better understand what we should be doing.

What did you learn, or feel spoke to you about today?

Michael: The tools to think about how to be successful in community engagement. Honestly, what sparked great conversation in our group was about thinking creatively about where we sit between the different communities we serve and how we can improve engagement with them.

Shane: We work with H.O.M.E. directly, so it was nice to hear from Mariah today. I enjoyed the different types of community engagement models, but specifically the community engagement triangle.

From Mariah's Presentation

Ami: We felt that the content was valuable enough that we’re bringing to it our board meeting so we can do a full discussion. I don’t think we’ve ever brought anyone from outside to our board meetings, so it'll be nice to have Bre [Armbrust from Neighborhood Resource Center], our mentor, to join us.

How do you see this applying to your organization?

Ami: Baby Steps! We’re not ready to do some of the things we want to yet but these are things to think about for future growth and development. Who’s community for us? We want to define things a bit more first, get the board to embrace these concepts.

Melanie Friend, Vice President of the Board: I have no background in nonprofits, so the community engagement was new to me, in particular the spectrum model. It became evident that we’re at the beginning of that spectrum--getting name recognition, building trust in the community. It’s been awhile since we’ve connected to volunteers and the end-user clients in a way that asks them for input on what we’re doing [like the model suggests]. Now is a good time to pause and reassess and involve those other voices to let us know how how our efforts might be better directed. THRIVE has been useful for me for building towards board presidency next year. I feel so much more informed and engaged.

From Mariah's presentation

Ami: I love what you just said, Melanie. I forget that we’re experts at legal advising and analysis but not necessarily nonprofit management.



The mission of the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation is to expand access to Justice through mobilizing, training, and connecting attorneys to pro bono clients. In Central Virginia, GRBF serves as the hub of pro bono service and outreach to the community. Through strategic planning, centralized communications, and support, we assess priority needs for pro bono services and then connect lawyers to these opportunities to serve.

The Pro Bono Clearinghouse is a referral service, linking experienced volunteer attorneys with nonprofits in need of legal counsel. Our virtual law firm assists nonprofits each year with a variety of transactional legal matters, like personnel issues, contract negotiations, bylaw review, mergers, & intellectual property issues, so our nonprofits can focus more of their resources on their charitable purpose.


The THRIVE accelerator program provides an opportunity to look beyond the current challenges and obstacles and plan out a direct and streamlined path forward. Organizations will spend concentrated time planning and executing real-time solutions with guided facilitation.

The second cohort focuses on helping organizations engage leading practices in program design, community engagement, board development, fundraising, storytelling, and HR/operations with a racial equity lens. This experience creates a set time for teams of boards and staff to come together to look at their organization holistically and then apply what they are learning to their specific context.

THRIVE was created through collaboration between The Collaboratory of Virginia and The Spark Mill, and is currently sponsored by Carmax, Robins Foundation, and Virginia Community Capital.

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