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The Community Foundation Blog

Donors Find Passion for Focused Philanthropy
By The Community Foundation / September 2, 2021
Donors Find Passion for Focused Philanthropy

Bill Harney and Charlotte Parrish were both brought up with the “pay it forward” mentality, and for a while, the couple mostly gave to causes where they had personal ties — supporting a family friend whose son was diagnosed with diabetes, for example, or a friend who was undergoing IVF treatment. “We gave to a lot of personal issues, but I don’t think we were very guided or focused in our giving,” Charlotte recalled, “because we didn’t know what we were passionate about supporting.”

Then came the racial reckoning that began last summer, and Bill and Charlotte’s entire perspective shifted. They realized they wanted to get more strategic with their contributions and find a way they could make a difference in Richmond’s ongoing journey towards racial equity. “It clicked for us that there’s a major problem here, and we wanted to be part of the solution,” Charlotte said.

Charlotte and Bill with their son, Graham

The pair have always been strong believers in the idea that, with hard work, you can control your destiny. Unfortunately, the reality for many people is more complicated; scholars have found that the environment where you grow up has a significant impact on your economic mobility as an adult. Inequities in school systems that serve marginalized students are one piece of that puzzle, and that’s where Bill and Charlotte decided to start.

“We began to think, what would happen if every school was as good as the most premiere schools out there? What opportunities would be created? How would communities change?” Bill said. “And how can we learn more about what’s going on locally so we can channel our efforts and actually make a difference?”

These inquiries led them to the Community Foundation, where Philanthropic Services staff were able to connect them with leaders of local organizations whose missions aligned with Bill and Charlotte’s passions. This is how the couple learned about Peter Paul, a Black-led community-based agency with centers throughout Richmond’s East End that provides out-of-school time programming for students, plus intentional family and community engagement.
Peter Paul Healing Day

Held in July, Peter Paul’s Community Healing Day event at the Coleman Promise Center focused on community wellness.

“What I love about Peter Paul is that they’re looking at the whole environment that affects a student’s future,” Charlotte said. “For kids, what happens at home can have as much of an impact as their teachers or the resources at their school, and Peter Paul works to make sure students have support from all angles.”

Bill and Charlotte have used their donor advised fund to make grants to Peter Paul, and they’re looking to take their efforts even further by getting their workplace involved. Bill serves as President and CEO of Keeping Current Matters (a real estate consulting agency with about 35 employees) and Charlotte is the organization’s Strategic Advisor. They invited Damon Jiggetts, Executive Director of Peter Paul, to talk about his work at one of the company’s staff meetings, and they’re assessing how to incorporate volunteer work into their company culture. “Our team is a young group of people who think they can change the world, and I love that,” Bill continued. “It’s just about figuring out how we can align their efforts with their passions and give them the space to exercise those passions.”

Peter Paul Summer Promise Academy
Peter Paul’s Summer Promise Academy provides students with seven weeks of educational, enrichment, and cultural activities during the summer.

The couple agrees that partnering with the Community Foundation has helped them take their giving to the next level.  

“The Community Foundation made it so easy to discover the organizations that are out there doing great work,” Charlotte said. “As individuals, we don’t have the connections or relationships to know where to start. With this partnership, all we had to do was talk about the things we were interested in, and then the Community Foundation set up four or five different meetings with hand-picked organizations that matched our interests. It made the process so easy.”

“We both have full-time jobs that require all of our time, so it is invaluable to us that the Community Foundation can manage the whole financial process and that they can connect us with the right nonprofits, so we don’t have to spend our time reinventing the wheel,” Bill added. “We would never have been able to make the same connections or grasp the same insights if we were trying to figure this out on our own.”

If you’re interested in learning more about aligning your giving or making it more strategic, please reach out to your Philanthropic Advisor or click below to learn about the ways we can work with you to support your giving goals.  
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