Message from the CEO

Kelly Chopus

2016 in Review and Looking Forward

As we celebrate the arrival of 2017, our 60th anniversary year, it feels right to look back on last year with admiration and affection for work well done, friendships forged and gratitude for the privilege to work with the dedicated and devoted people of this community.

Most people view the start of a new year as a time of reflection.  Many of us often make resolutions. (Mine is to earn a Culinary Certificate from the University of Richmond). At Robins Foundation, we have embraced this tradition as we prepare for what promises to be an amazing year for the Richmond community.

Some of our happy memories include a renewed focus on pre-K – 12 education; we identified small ways to enhance our grant making process, amplified our community voice, solidified new partnerships and as always, sought to catalyze transformation for this community’s children and families.

Our founder, E. Claiborne Robins, Sr. once explained his philosophy of a correlation between societal and personal wellbeing and education:

“Education is the salvation if there is any solution to the problems in our society. Education is the most important thing. If we could get more people who are uneducated educated, there would be less poverty, there would be less crime. I can’t think of anything that is more important for success and more important for a happy life than a good education” (Shield, 202).

Robins Foundation realizes the importance of funding projects aimed at youth and families; our tightened focus on local education will continue throughout the coming year. Since 2013, we have adopted a catalytic approach to grant making. We want to collaborate with groups and organizations to create innovative projects that target big challenges and opportunities in our region.

Because we believe our opportunity and obligation is more than just grant making, 2016 solidified the Robins Foundations’ shift to philanthropic leadership. Our board and staff members accepted leadership roles in local and national nonprofits as task force members, board members and volunteers. Our board and staff presented at local, regional and national conferences on philanthropy and community building. We have tried to share the Richmond story to as many of our peers across the country as we can.  We have strengthened our work with our funding peers and continue together to seek the support of the national funding sector for our region. We have convened conversations and learning opportunities, and we have shared our home office with the community so that we can truly be “a part of”.

With our partners, we tread carefully into the policy and advocacy space. One such highlight is the fabulous work of CodeVA, runner up in our first Community Innovation Grant (CIG) award in 2014. CodeVA worked with community members and General Assembly delegates to expand the Virginia Public Schools Standards of Learning curriculum to include computer science. House Bill 831 unanimously passed at the 2016 VA General Assembly. This initiative will provide every child in Virginia access to computer science courses from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation.  Virginia is the first state in the nation to take such an action – it is important because the next 5 years will post almost one million jobs requiring coding and computer science background. We could not be more proud!

Meanwhile, last year’s winner, ART 180 is currently working with community leaders and delegates to introduce and share data regarding the percentages of school discipline instances and the correlation to referrals to the juvenile justice system (school to prison pipeline) for many of our youth from low wealth neighborhoods.

Our emphasis and focus on kids and families and the importance of early childhood education will grow as we partner closely with both local and state governments. We will continue involvement with the City of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building as well as the Virginia Department of Education School Readiness Committee (whose goal is to establish policy to solidify a pathway to careers in early childhood education). We will continue to assert the importance of conversations addressing education, mobility and equity.

We feel tremendous hope that 2017 can be a year of long overdue recognition for our community and our partners. Our 2017 resolution is to be an even better community partner for the region. Have a thought on how we can do that? Maybe even some feedback? Feel free to share it.  Email us your thoughts at  Subject line: “Friendly Suggestion”.

In honor of the Robins Foundation’s 60th birthday, we will share some of our proudest moments over the years. Keep an eye on our social media for a glimpse into those.  We will keep taking risks for the good of our community, and we will hold ourselves accountable for the positive change we want to see here. We will share more when the time comes such as hosting dialogues on some of the city’s most pressing issues, an event to inspire Richmonders to come together and another big grant opportunity with our peer funding partners… busy busy busy!

We look forward to celebrating all of our shared milestones together in the New Year. Cheers!


Kelly Signature

Kelly Chopus,

Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Thanks to our fabulous intern Dan Halloran for working with me on this piece!



Shield, Juliet E. An Angel on My Shoulder: The Biography of E. Claiborne Robins. Aspen, CO: Opa    Publishing, 1995. Print.