James River Association

More than one-third of all Virginians rely on the James River and its tributaries for water, commerce and recreation. After generations of nurturing its people, the James River needs nurturing itself. More »

Sports Backers

The Sports Backers produce and support nationally recognized quality sporting events and programs that motivate locals and visitors alike to be more active. More »

Better Housing Coalition

AMAZING things happen when you revitalize a neighborhood. Crime and blight decrease, investment increases and community pride swells. The Better Housing Coalition, a non-profit community development corporation, transforms communities through high-quality, eco-friendly affordable housing. More »


The Risks of “At-Risk”

We recently heard a radio story about a man named Daniel Kish, also known as the Human Batman. Daniel lost his eyesight when he was an infant, which on it’s own does not make him unique. What makes Daniel special is that he taught himself to “see” with his ears. By creating clicking sounds with his tongue and listening for the echo, he can perceive the world around him much like dolphins and bats do. Daniel would have never developed this skill if his parents had not given him the chance to explore his world.  They maintained high expectations for Daniel in spite of his blindness, believing that he was capable of living an independent and active life just like his sighted friends.

Robins Foundation also believes if we have greater expectations of people, they perform better. Similarly, if our expectations of people are low, their performance tends to align with those expectations. Which brings us to “at-risk” children. The Dictionary on Education Reform describes the phrase “at-risk” as “often used to describe students…who are considered to have a higher probability of failing academically or dropping out of school.” The term has become a euphemism for poverty. When children are perceived as being at-risk, the charitable responses often try to mitigate the risk, not elevate potential. The implication, however unintended, is that they need to be saved, not nurtured.

In its winning grant application for the inaugural Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins, Sr. Community Innovation Grant, Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT) did not use the phrase “at-risk”. Instead our board of directors read about “young entrepreneurs” and learned about the potential to contribute to the home neighborhood. CHAT describes their program as providing “an opportunity for aspiring youth to build businesses and hone marketable skills for future employment”. CHAT also acknowledges skill building is not the only factor in youth success. “By investing in (their) mental and bodily health, we foster our youth’s identification of talents, pursuit of passions, job preparedness, and overall quality of life.” The application is not about keeping kids off the streets or preventing them getting pregnant; it is about nurturing their potential.

Last time we caught up with CHAT they had just received the first portion of the grant monies. They are in the midst of finalizing a lease for retail space, which will be used as a hub for a unique entrepreneurship program and a space where kids can learn skills at one of several work/intern opportunities. CHAT is also buying a bus to transport neighborhood teens to partner organizations for other internship and mentoring opportunities. We’ll keep you posted on their progress throughout the year.

Our board of directors was delighted with CHAT’s updated plans for teenagers in one of Richmond’s most historic neighborhoods. They also continue to support the efforts of many other wonderful organizations connecting people to the access and opportunities which will enrich our whole community.

CHAT is just one of a myriad of great non-profits serving Richmond’s East End. More people are starting to take notice of the potential of this neighborhood and its residents. Our hope is that together, we continue to focus on the potential, and not the risks, and then the successes we have seen will continue and multiply across the city and region.

P.S.: You can watch Daniel Kish’s TED talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRA-asTuP_Y

June 2015 Focus Area Grant Cycle – CLOSED

We are no longer accepting proposal applications for June 2015 Focus Area grants.  The deadline has passed.

The Robins Foundation has a strong interest in investing in programs that enrich the whole family (and whole neighborhoods) in order to alter intergenerational poverty in greater Richmond’s emerging neighborhoods.

Robins Foundation will support organizations and projects for children ages 0-18, and their parents/caregivers to ensure children are prepared for kindergarten, are engaged in school, thrive academically, and graduate on time with the necessary skills and opportunities for success.

To be eligible for consideration for our next Focus Area Grant cycle please be sure of the following:

1. Your proposal is in alignment with one of the Focus Areas: Thriving People or Dynamic Community; even if you are applying for Strong Nonprofits, you must demonstrate how building your capacity will impact another focus area.

2. You have met with a Program Officer to discuss your project PRIOR to submitting a grant application.

3. Your proposal will improve the life of residents  within the Greater Richmond area. This includes:  the city of Richmond, the Tri-Cities, and the surrounding counties: Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico,   New Kent, Powhatan and Prince George.

4.  Your organization is NOT already under review for a grant.


Our next  cycle, September 2015 Focus Area grants will open in May and close on June 1.


To discuss your request, please contact:

Chris Chin – Director, Community Partnerships

Robert Dortch – Director, Community Innovation


For an inquiry regarding the submission process and/or registration with SmartSimple, please contact us by email: info@robinsfdn.org

Guidelines can be found on the “What We Fund” page.  A link to the SmartSimple login page is available on our website under “How to Apply”.