Our guest blogger is Raven Bates, Communications and Office Manager at the Virginia Community Development Corporation (VCDC).
The Mission Elevation program is an extension of VCDC’s commitment to ensure communities are vibrant for all residents. To date, 27 organizations have participated in the program leading to remarkable and durable financial, programmatic and strategic impacts. Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance joined the Class of 2019, which helped the nonprofit make the leap from good to great.
Walk through the streets of downtown Harrisonburg, VA today and you will be greeted by restaurants, arcades, the smell of fresh roasted coffee, art collectives and neighbors out running or walking their dog. It is a far cry from the empty storefronts and desolate Main Street area of a decade ago that lacked businesses to attract residents and visitors. This change was sparked in 2003 with the launch of the nonprofit organization Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR).
Ever since, HDR has set out to reverse the many years of economic decline, revitalize the downtown area and sustain Harrisonburg’s Main Street as a destination. Aligning themselves with Main Street America and the Virginia Main Street state coordinating program, they have garnered much success. They have worked with the city and area developers to bring housing to downtown, increasing available homes in the district by 290% since 2003 and have been successful in solidifying downtown as a desired destination with flourishing businesses.
In 2018, HDR Executive Director Andrea Dono recalls that they “felt like we had reached a level of maturity as an organization – both in terms of years as well as capacity for taking our work to the next level. However, we weren’t quite sure how to get to that ‘next level’.” That is when they found the Mission Elevation Program and joined the Class of 2019. The 14-month program offered them a chance to work alongside a cohort of nonprofit peers, directly with personal coaches and focus on how to best sustained impact in their community and bottom-line.
“I have more tools now to apply towards my work and decision making. And personally, I feel like I am calmer in how I approach big issues or fires that need to be put out.” says Andrea. “Our peers in the program helped us see where we fit in among other community-based nonprofits that provide housing and other critical human services. It helped us improve our messaging and how we communicate who we are, what we do, and why that is important.”
VCDC is now accepting applications, due before December 18, for the next round of the program taking place in 2021-2022. For more information visit >>