Richmond’s latest accelerator program reminds us ideas can flourish with a dash of innovation. This fall, five local nonprofits will participate in Grow @1717 — a 12-week opportunity at Capital One’s 1717 Innovation Center in Shockoe Bottom.
“If we can tap into just a little bit of that experience and expertise to help out, that would be great,” Karen La Forge, executive director of The READ Center, said of her organization’s desire to apply. “When we got to the accelerator, we found out it was going to be much, much more.”
Nonprofits with limited capacity can struggle to achieve short- and long-term goals amid a lack of funding or expertise. Grow @1717 provides access to pro bono assistance through the Taproot Foundation, a national organization partnering with Capital One.
“They don’t have to do it themselves,” said Jennifer Diaz, a director within Taproot’s advisory services team. “They don’t have to tackle everything on their own.”
Through early needs assessments with Taproot, The READ Center and the four other nonprofits selected — Atlantic Outreach Group, Oakwood Arts, The Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton and Armstrong Leadership Program — already are setting expectations for Grow @1717. Where have they been? Where do they want to go? What barriers are they facing?
For La Forge and The READ Center — an organization helping adults in Richmond, Henrico County and Chesterfield County improve their reading, writing and math skills — it’s about messaging and marketing.
“Our student population is adults who have literacy issues,” La Forge said. “I can’t think of a bigger marketing challenge than reaching people who don’t read well.”
Diaz added the average value per hour for pro bono services is $150 — costs that can be prohibitive for nonprofit budgets. The first Grow @1717 cohort will learn where and when to integrate outside help for social impact, beyond the 12-week accelerator program.
This is a prudent approach. We hope these local collaborations shine a light on effort, efficiency and execution. That’s what makes Richmond an attractive place to start and scale creative ideas.
— Chris Gentilviso