Nonprofit Leadership Institute Pivots During COVID-19

The Community Foundation of the New River Valley (CFNRV) is proud to be a resource to the nonprofit community. Staff and volunteers at over 200 nonprofit organizations in the NRV commit their time, expertise, and money to making our community a better place, often with limited budgets and increasing demands. The Nonprofit Leadership Institute initiative builds on the CFNRV’s strong reputation for nonprofit management training to offer forums for education and information sharing that build the skills and capacity of nonprofit leaders. The CFNRV has made many changes to nonprofit trainings and grant-funding to continue to growth of these important organizations in our region.

The CFNRV typically holds in-person monthly networking and educational opportunities through our popular Third Thursday program. Topics include fundraising, grant-writing, event planning, and more. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the CFNRV pivoted to offer virtual listening sessions at least monthly. The nonprofit community has been overwhelmed with many changes due to the pandemic including loss of revenue from canceled fundraisers, increased clients due to job loss, and losing volunteer manpower to ensure safe social distancing.

Much like the venue, the session topics needed to shift to address those changing needs. Initially, the CFNRV was holding listening sessions every two weeks to get out as much content as quickly as possible before eventually transitioning back to a monthly session. Listening session topics have ranged have include the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan, how to reopen safely during the pandemic, how to recruit and retain volunteers during the pandemic, and ways to virtually raise funds and stay connected with donors. The CFNRV has used several surveys throughout the year to gauge what nonprofits need and how to best support them through these listening sessions.

In addition to the monthly meetings that the CFNRV typically holds, once a quarter a longer and more in-depth training is held. While that has not happened in 2020, plans are well underway for 2021! We are currently working on a virtual version of the popular Board 101 training. This virtual training will be held over several virtual sessions and will be offered to board members and staff of nonprofit organizations that are looking to learn more about board governance, board responsibilities vs. staff responsibilities, fundraising and more. This training series will be offered soon, so stay tuned!

In addition to virtual listening sessions, the CFNRV has invested time and energy in ensuring that nonprofits have tools to raise money during and after the pandemic. GiveLocalNRV is the annual online giving campaign that the CFNRV sponsors each year. This year, the CFNRV had made plans to push the event from a spring event to a summer event. This decision was made prior to the pandemic, but the timing could not have been better for many organizations. Spring is a very common time for nonprofits to hold annual fundraisers.

When everything shut down, these organizations had to cancel events and lost essential sources of revenue. The GiveLocalNRV platform ( allowed organizations to raise funds in a virtual setting to recoup some of that lost revenue. Organizations raised over $415,000 on the giving day, up 21% from 2019. The CFNRV also gave out an additional $10,000 in award money to participating nonprofits. Organizations have access to using this platform year-round. Many continue to utilize this fundraising platform for GivingTuesday, and other fundraising opportunities throughout the year.

As we all become accustomed to a more virtual world, the CFNRV wants to do more to showcase area nonprofits. Nonprofit Feature Friday was launched in the fall. Nonprofits who wish to be featured on the CFNRV’s social media channels can simple complete a Google form with information about their organization, any events that they have coming up, or any special stories that they want shared. Each Friday morning, the CFNRV posts these organizations on social media to help them get additional exposure, and to show the partnerships with the organizations that we have in the community. These will continue to be displayed as long as nonprofits are sending information to be shared.

Finally, each fall, the CFNRV gives out Responsive Grants. This year, the Board of Directors and donors decided to pull some of those funds early to give out COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants. These grants were given out as operational support up to $2,000 in April, May, and June. The total given out during the spring was over $76,000. Since pulling funding early to support nonprofits in the spring was critical, admittingly, the CFNRV was a bit concerned about the amount of grants that would be given out during the typical fall Responsive Grant cycle. However, the community and many donors were generous and the CFNRV was about to give out over $154,000 in grants bringing the total amount given to nonprofits in 2020 over $230,000.

We are honored and proud to support the NRV’s nonprofit community. COVID-19 has presented significant challenges, but it has also spurred incredible innovation from area organizations. We hope our grants and programs have provided essential support and demonstrated our confidence in the incredible work of these agencies. We look forward to continuing this work in 2021.

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