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Mar 7th, 2022

Centering on Racial Equity in Charlottesville

A case study on responsive, equitable grantmaking.


Latesha Kelly

In the aftermath of the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, riots, and uprising, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation (Community Foundation) initiated a deliberate refocus on equity and pivoted to a model focusing on systems of power - who has it, who doesn’t, and how it shapes access to opportunities and resources. The Community Foundation believes they can achieve deeper impact if they and their partners are deploying resources in ways that consider the unique circumstances, power differentials, historical contexts, and systemic barriers that affect community members. In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, coinciding with the health pandemic, the Community Foundation continued their evolution of responsive, equitable philanthropy and moved to further refine their discretionary grantmaking and launched their partnership with us this past year. The Community Foundation recognized the need to offer more diverse tools to nonprofits to achieve long-term sustainability for their missions. As a result, our partners at the Community Foundation worked with us to create an unrestricted capacity-building program that provides non-monetary resources that enable community-based organizations to build and grow organizational capacity.

While some grantmakers only identify organizations whom they believe would uniquely benefit from Catchafire access, the Community Foundation, in line with their commitment to further equity and dismantle unproductive power structures, also uniquely decided to let nonprofit applicants “opt-in” to using Catchafire. This strategy leveled the playing field and allowed organizations that may normally not have been selected by the Community Foundation and/or those that lacked the capacity to meet the grant requirements to be included. In addition, the Community Foundation conceptualized and spearheaded their very own peer learning events, where organizations could share and learn how they could utilize Catchafire to help expand their capacity. Community Foundation staff became champions themselves by leveraging their platforms to publish relevant marketing and communications, and weaving Catchafire impact into their monthly, quarterly, and annual convenings.


"It is a part of our strategy to think about supporting the capacity building of our nonprofit community on a wider scale. As we evolve the function and purpose of our discretionary grant programming, in light of our work related to equity, the Community Foundation supports nonprofits at a significant scale through access to high-quality, skilled volunteers and the community sees a significant return on that investment. Catchafire is a linchpin in that strategy.”


Eboni Bugg
Community Foundation Director of Programs



Within their first year, our community foundation partners average about 2,787 volunteer hours donated, 157 projects matched, and save $561,661 on capacity building projects. On average, Catchafire foundations see an average of 345% return on investment; in 2021 alone, our partnerships saw a 455% return. In just one year, this particular partnership led to over 10,536 volunteer hours donated and 679 projects matched, and fourteen times return on investment for the Community Foundation.

“This was an experiment at a pilot for the foundation in that first year. We invested $150,000 and that money has saved nonprofits in our region over $2 million. So it’s really been impactful. We’re so thrilled to be able to launch it for a second year,” said Community Foundation President and CEO, Brennan Gould.

Community Foundation grantee and Catchafire trailblazer organization, Black Women Stitch, has been a stand out amongst grantees. The Virginia based nonprofit sewing group centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing, and to date, has been matched with 126 unique volunteers and completed over 170 projects and calls. Black Women Stitch has saved the equivalent of $533,497 (to date) in projects and calls. The professional services they accessed through Catchafire have allowed them to continue practicing the principles of Black liberation, radical self-love, and social justice.


Black Women Stitch Total Impact

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“The Catchafire program has been a boon to Black Women Stitch. The Stitch Please podcast is our largest programmatic offering so far. Catchafire volunteers have benefited the podcast in the following ways: improving the sound of the theme song, providing transcripts for past and current episodes, copywriting for episode summaries, audio editing for Zoom interviews to improve sound quality, video editing to add captions to Zoom videos. And these are just the benefits for the podcast. There have been more for helping to build the capacity of the organization itself, too,” says Lisa Woolfork, Black Women Stitch Founder and Convener.

As a result of our partnership, hundreds of nonprofits have already received tangible in-hand deliverables like new websites, strategic event plans, updated HR plans, and access to new technology. These sponsored organizations utilized Catchafire’s on-demand capacity building support to address their immediate needs with pro bono support from more than 10,000 volunteer hours donated in the past year.




If you’re a grantmaker and would like to learn more about equipping nonprofits in your community with responsive, high-quality operational support, let’s connect. Email us here.