So You Want to Start a NonProfit?


For the Community, by the Community...

In 2018, four local Charlottesville, VA businessman got together and formed Cville Ice, a nonprofit to support the development of a new ice park after the only one in town was razed to make way for an office building. This ice rink will support a growing community of ice hockey players, figure skaters, curlers, and casual skaters, in the area, while promoting sportsmanship, healthy living and camaraderie on the ice.

In the last 5 years, ice sports in the Southeast have grown 21% with women's ice hockey growing by 40% and figure skating by 11%. In 1996, Charlottesville, had 4 adult hockey teams and no kids teams. Today, there are 20 adult teams, 5 kids teams, 1 curling club and 2 figure skating clubs!

With a goal to raise $4M in the next year, GV was engaged to lead the fundraising effort. This project has moved quickly, mostly due to the the board members bringing their professional expertise to the table and putting skin in the game.

Some best practices that are helping this initiative hit the ice quickly:

  • Stay in Your Lane: This group has defined everyone's role (i.e., construction lead, the money guy, spokesperson and community outreach lead) and holds each other accountable during a weekly meeting. Defined roles save time which is allowing for more time to raise money and build support for this project!

  • Mini-Fundraising Campaigns Add Up: with so many communities benefiting from this project it made sense to develop a series of smaller, customized fundraising campaigns led by different advocates from the University of Virginia, Ice Hockey and Figure Skating. These advocates have the relationships and knowledge to be more effective at raising money than a cold call. We have to give a shoutout to our favorite men's ice hockey team, The Geezers, who have set a super goal to raise $100,000!

  • Make it Personal: Developing a standard list donor benefits from the outset of a fundraising campaign can be a good guide to showing your supporters love. However, we have found that donors eschew the standard page long donor benefits and instead want one donor benefit customized for them (i.e., free ice time) in return for a gift.

  • Let Your Programs Evolve Organically: Grant money is imperative in any big fundraising campaign however going after money before you have established programs can be a time suck. A new nonprofit needs a year or two to let their programs grow organically before putting pen to paper for a grant.

At the end of the day, this is a community effort and should reflect the personality and qualities of the area.

The Lion is Still Roaring...
Last year we profiled the work of our client Richard Wilson and his organization, Why Forests Matter. Anyone that knows Richard knows how persistent he is and that persistency has paid off with a compelling feature by Mark Arax in the California Sunday Magazine on the mis-management of California's forests after the Paradise fires.

Even better, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle shared the story. If you have a second, click here to make your own opinion if "Fire came to Paradise or did Paradise go to the Fire".


An Instagram Feed Not to Miss
@cvilleicepark for no other reason than to catch the cool drone videos our intern, Oliver VanWinCoop, is creating each month on the construction progress!

Gillian Grant