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Turning passion into skillful action

Reprinted with permission of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation

Bobby Hill loves to tell everyone he has the best job in the world because “I get to save lives every day.” He’s done that since 2009 when he became the Virginia Beach Rescue Squad Foundation’s first recruitment coordinator.

At the time, Hill was a long-time rescue squad volunteer emergency medical technician who had just retired as Virginia Beach’s chief magistrate. While he had passion and enthusiasm for his new job, he lacked the marketing and communications skills needed to recruit for the city’s 10 all-volunteer rescue squad units.

Hill found the training he needed at the Academy for Nonprofit Excellence at Tidewater Community College. In addition to courses in marketing and social media, his 19 classes included board management and grant writing. He earned his Certificate in Nonprofit Management in 2010 and has since returned for five additional classes, which are held at TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions in Suffolk.

Since 2009, Hill has helped the rescue squads nearly double their number of volunteers who respond to the city’s health emergency calls. Virginia Beach has the largest all-volunteer emergency medical system in the United States. Hill credits the marketing and communications techniques he learned at the academy with his organization’s recruiting success.

The Hampton Roads Community Foundation started the nonprofit academy in 2005 to help area nonprofits do their best work. Joshua P. Darden Jr., its board chair at the time, had visited a similar program in Richmond, recalled Leigh Evans Davis, the community foundation’s director of programs and donor services.

“Nonprofit leaders are usually born from their passion for the cause, but often these same dedicated leaders lack the tools they need to efficiently and effectively manage their organizations,” she explained. “Josh wanted our local nonprofit leaders to be able to get affordable, quality education to put their passion into action.”

To make that happen, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation partnered with TCC to run an ongoing certificate program tailored to nonprofit staff and board members. The goal is to provide one- and two-day classes for an affordable cost. Since 2005, the community foundation has awarded more than $1 million in grants from various donor funds to TCC to support the academy.

In the past decade 1,140 people involved with nearly 450 different organizations have studied everything from nonprofit accounting and personnel management to team building and fundraising. More than 80 people like Hill have taken enough classes to earn their certificates in nonprofit management.

“The people teaching us weren’t just local professionals. They brought in movers and shakers from all over who came and shared their secrets,” Hill said. Armed with new skills, other nonprofit staff members are ready to challenge Hill’s claim to having the best job in the world.