Message from the CEO

Kelly ChopusWhat a year 2017 was for the Greater Richmond region and Robins Foundation. Three of our community’s most venerated organizations turned 60 last year – in addition to Robins Foundation, our friends at Cabell Foundation and the Richmond Symphony also hit the big 6-0. What a profound legacy of working for the public good each has created!

We spent much of the year in review – of our strategy, our vision and our mission – of the very core of our ability to deliver for this community. Our Board of Directors met in retreat exactly a year ago and refined their vision for the family legacy and beyond. We are delighted with the results. We also reflected and assessed several of our key programs and strategic goals. 2018 promises even more transformational opportunities for the Foundation. We are excited to announce some exciting changes of our own.

After five years at the helm of our collaborative and innovative efforts across this community, Sheryl Robins ended her term as Chair of Robins Foundation Board of Directors. Under Sheryl’s guidance and vision, her family’s legacy grew to include an amplified community voice, solid new community partnerships and transformation for this community’s children and families. We honed our focus on an education continuum and pipeline as our best opportunity to break the cycle of poverty that paralyzes too many in our region. Her approach to leadership is catalytic and she continues to push us all to think bigger for the good of children and families. Sheryl’s grandfather, our founder, E. Claiborne Robins once explained his philosophy regarding societal and personal wellbeing and education.

“I’ve always believed that education is the greatest investment that any individual or corporation or foundation could possibly make. It is something that has an impact not only on the present generation, but many generations to come. I can’t think of any other type of giving with so significant and impact on society” (Shield, 199).

Sheryl is truly a standout in a generation of innovators and we thank her for her service to her family and community. She will remain on the board as Past Chair, a newly created role. Sheryl is succeeded as Chair by her cousin, Juliet Shield-Taylor. Juliet is the eldest grandchild of the Robins family and author of An Angel On My Shoulder, a biography about the life and success of her grandfather. She is the mother of two teenagers, a prolific community volunteer and businesswoman. We look forward to Juliet’s leadership and guidance; her insight and knowledge about the legacy of the family will move the Foundation towards achieving deeper impact in our community. Other officers include Reggie Jones as Vice Chair, Ed Ayers as Treasurer and Robin Shield as Secretary.

Internal Optimization

We are delighted to share the promotion of three staff team members who will continue our work of leading transformational change in the greater Richmond community by listening, learning and engaging through innovative philanthropy that inspires solutions to society’s greatest challenges.

Chris Chin has been promoted to the newly created role of VP of Operations and Organizational Development. Chris will have both internal and external facing responsibilities, where he will partner with the team to chart Robins Foundation’s future growth and strategic response to an ever-increasing demand for community building and collaboration.

Robert Dortch has been promoted to VP, Program and Community Innovation. Robert will lead the program staff of the Foundation and implement the catalytic grantmaking strategy envisioned by the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Robert will oversee the foundation’s work in innovation, policy/advocacy and education initiatives focusing on preK – 12. He will manage the Foundation’s key program areas including the Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins Community Innovation Grant, the strategic partner program with key regional school districts, as well as our grassroots community initiatives focusing on emerging leaders and communities.

Courtney Rice has been promoted to Director, Inclusion and Community Impact. Courtney will share her expertise in communications and grantmaking as she seeks to expand and implement Robins’ strategy to achieve equitable outcomes for children. Courtney joins the Program team after several roles of increasing responsibility at Robins Foundation where she most recently served as Director of Communications.

In addition, the Foundation will grow its staff in 2018. We plan to hire additional staff early in the year to enhance our community building and deep engagement with our partners, peers and neighbors.

We believe that these changes in the way we operate will increase our success in executing our mission and vision. By leveraging and aligning our program work with the larger impact of our philanthropic leadership as a whole we believe we can serve more children and families. By increasing our own board and staff capacity we believe we can do more for and with our community. This means taking the opportunity to align what we fund with why we fund and how we fund. We are so much more than the money we contribute! Also new in 2018 is an emerging impact investing strategy, as we recognize that there are other ways to expand, deepen and sustain our catalytic and collaborative work together.

Solving and Serving Simultaneously

Another way to deepen and sustain our impact is to continue, with our partners, support of policy and advocacy change. We’ve learned that the many entrenched challenges in our community cannot be addressed with programmatic support alone – we must work to update local and state policy for programs to achieve true results. We look forward to deepening our relationships with diverse groups of advocates like 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 fairness, education and mobility.

Our emphasis on children and families and the importance of early childhood education endures. After an exhaustive assessment of our flagship program-related investment, The Partnership for Families, the Foundation will use the lessons learned to strengthen other areas of our grantmaking and philanthropic leadership. Take a look at the landscape we completed of the Northside here: We have shared these results across the community as a means to stimulate additional dialogue and more targeted community investment.

Let’s Have a Conversation About Community, Together

We feel tremendous hope that 2018 can be a year of excellence and achievement for our community. Our resolution is to be tireless advocates for children and families and to use our resources to capture the family voice and amplify it. We invite the community to join us in this dialogue by providing thoughts and feedback via email at, Subject line: “Friendly Suggestion”.

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



P.S. We’ve been collecting 60th birthday memories and it is time to share some of our proudest moments over the years. Keep an eye on our social media for a glimpse into those.