“For many years we gave to whoever asked, and that’s not a particularly good strategy if you’re trying to make an impact on a broader community. Parceling out smaller amounts to lots of different organizations didn’t seem to be moving the ball down the court at all, and so that’s why we showed up at the Community Foundation, hoping that someone could help us determine what we really cared about and what we really wanted to give to.”
Jean and Rob Estes are long-time Richmonders who have always prioritized giving back to their community. They came to the Community Foundation looking for resources and advice on ways to effectively make change in the region through philanthropy. In 2017, they started the Estes Family Fund – a donor advised fund (DAF) that allows them to regularly support causes they care about with flexibility and ease.
Jean and Rob are very committed to public education in Richmond and, over the past few years, they have supported after school programs and summer achievement gap programs for Richmond Public Schools students. In 2019, Jean participated in a donor learning cohort focused on Out-of-School Time programming. Not only was she able to take a deep dive into RPS afterschool programming by meeting with local nonprofits and leaders, but she was also able to meet other passionate like-minded donors looking for ways to make strategic community impact.
“I do think there could be a lot of synergy among the people that have funds here [at the Foundation]. When the pandemic hit, one of the people I met in one of those discussions called and said, ‘I have an education opportunity. I’m going to help stand up remote learning for some of the Richmond public school kids. I need money to make it happen.’ And I asked what he was putting in and he told me. So, I decided to match him. He did all the leg work, so we were able to stand up three remote learning sites.”
In 2022, Jean and Rob wanted to learn more about affordable housing, so they met with Scott Blackwell, Chief Engagement Officer, to discuss the issue from the 30,000-foot level, down to what organizations were doing exceptional work in this space. They were introduced to new organizations and went on site visits, where they met leadership staff and learned about the interconnectedness of issues affecting the quality of life for individuals and families in the region. They ended up funding organizations that are creating impact in affordable housing, early childhood development and education, and workforce development.
“I’m not sure that in my lifetime I will see that anything we have done has made any mark at all, but I hope that we’re going to lay foundations that may move forward into another generation.”
If you are interested in developing your giving strategy with the Community Foundation, please contact Molly Dean Bittner, Chief Philanthropy Officer, at (804) 409-5605 or firstname.lastname@example.org