NGO Action Lab

    Teaching about poverty, policy

    and nonprofits through

    grant making and

    fund raising.

    We produce reports
    on housing, hunger, and health
    for the community!

  • Fall 2019: Health/Mental Health Care, NGOs, and the Policy Arena

    (elective open to all students at UVA)

    In partnership with the Adiuvans Relief Fund, this class will re-examine the complexities of health care and mental health delivery to low income populations in the Greater Charlottesville area in the wake of Medicaid Expansion. (Last taught in 2016, the class gave away $105,000 to NGOs in Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Orange County, Nelson County, and Augusta County).

    Co-taught by Paul Martin and Sarah McLean.

  • Fall 2018: Food Insecurity/Justice, NGOs, and the Policy Arena

    (elective open to all students at UVA)

    Click here for our policy reports and grant recommendations

    In partnership with the Adiuvans Relief Fund, this class explored issues related to food insecurity, food justice, and food policy. After spending the first seven weeks learning about the policy ecosystem around these issues, we evaluated the work of local nonprofit organizations in this space (learning more from them as we went). We awarded $80,000 in grants to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, City Schoolyard Garden, Fluvanna Meals on Wheels, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, Louisa County Resource Council, and New Roots (IRC). These grants will be renewed in 2019 and 2020.

    Co-taught by Paul Martin and Sarah McLean.

  • Fall 2017: Affordable Housing, NGOs, and the Policy Arena

    (elective open to all students at UVA)

    In partnership with the Adiuvans Relief Fund and the Philanthropy Lab, this class explored the complexities of affordable housing in the Greater Charlottesville area. We awarded $103,000 in grants to: Habitat for Humanity, The Haven, Legal Aid Justice Center, Piedmont Housing Alliance, The Salvation Army, Virginia Supportive Housing (The Crossings), and PHAR.

    Co-taught by Paul Martin and Grey McLean.

  • Spring 2019: Practical Fundraising

    (elective open to all students at UVA)

    See syllabus here

    This new class is designed to teach students how to raise money for nonprofits, campaigns, and universities. Led by a trio of seasoned fundraising professionals, the class will work to actively raise money to be used for further community-bases grants from the NGO Action Lab in the spaces of food insecurity, affordable housing, and health & mental health.

    Co-taught by Erin Hall, Katie Shevlin, and Tara Telfair

  • Capstone Sector Reports

    Beginning in 2015, student teams work to understand the policy ecosystems in the Greater Charlottesville region in PPOL 4991 (Batten Major Capstone)

    Authors: Virginia Gordon, Stephanie Hough, Rhody Mastin, and Paige McDermott, Batten Class of 2015

    Violence against women is a systematic issue globally, but has received increased attention at the national level through President Obama and Vice President Biden’s awareness campaigns, “Its on Us,” “Not Alone,” and “1 is 2 many.” Within this policy space, there are organizations both nationally and locally that are working to combat violence against women, and our team summarized best practices in the space according to national experts.

    Helping People Home: Analyzing Homelessness in the Charlottesville Community (PDF available here).

    Authors: Daria Winsky, Michael Russell, Chandler Rosenberg, and Kevin Harmon, Batten Class of 2016

    Charlottesville has the highest rate of homelessness per capita, even when compared to major metropolitan areas like Richmond. Encouragingly, our research also revealed a clear, evidenced-based approach to solving this problem. From our interviews and research, we believe that the Housing First philosophy is the best way to address homelessness due the model’s overwhelming track record of success - both nationally and locally. Led by the Thomas Jefferson Coalition for the Homeless (TJACH), the Charlottesville Continuum of Care is making strides to solve the homelessness issue, but gaps in services still persist. The issues in our community include mismatch of resources, lack of Permanent Supportive Housing, incomplete data collection, and philosophical differences, all of which hinder creating the best possible care for homeless individuals.

    Refugee and Immigrant Services in Charlottesville (PDF available)

    Authors: Alexandra Georgiadis, Jenny Shin, Saba Chinian, and Tara Shafiei, Batten Class of 2016

    The local Charlottesville-Albemarle community has an open, welcoming, and philanthropic approach towards foreign newcomers. The number of foreign-born persons is significantly large, relative to other parts of Virginia. The presence of a local chapter of the IRC marks Charlottesville as a resettlement location for refugees, and the existing Hispanic communities coupled with higher levels of entry-level positions attracts immigrants. These populations, refugees, documented immigrants and undocumented persons, are legally defined and treated differently. Our team spoke with 17 key local organizations and stakeholders that interact with and serve local refugees, documented immigrants, and undocumented immigrants, including both public and private organizations.


    Women Exiting Jail: Analyzing the issues women exiting jail face in the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

    Authors: Grace Charlton, Meg Heyse, Hayley Greene, and Lorial Yeadon, Batten Class of 2017

    Our research and interviews have led us to several conclusions. At the national level, an overwhelming 86 percent of women in jail have experienced sexual violence, with the majority also having experienced partner and caregiver violence. While we do not have analogous statistics for the local level, multiple experts have expressed their belief that nearly all of the women they see have experienced some form of intimate abuse. Thus, we believe trauma-informed care should be a central component of any intervention for women exiting jail.

    Moving Toward a Caring Community: A look at youth trauma

    Authors: Nathan Colberg, Emma Dillon, Jeremy Jones, and Samantha Westrum, Batten Class of 2017

    Charlottesville and Albemarle are making great strides to apply trauma-informed practices across their care systems. With these changes, there is good reason to be hopeful for the future of care at the local level. By reducing the impact ACEs have on a child’s life, communities of care will be able to break the cycle of trauma and prevent future abusive, neglectful, or otherwise unsafe conditions for children. To achieve this future, it is crucial all actors have a better understanding of the problems around trauma and corresponding solutions. This report aims to explore the landscape of trauma, tracing the history of our understanding; federal, state, and local policies, as well as current efforts being made on a local level to change the nature of how we address trauma.

  • Background and Grant Making Classes

    Founded in 2012 with initial grants from the Philanthropy Lab, the NGO Action Lab @ Batten has given away $745,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations, mostly in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and the surrounding communities.


    The class (NGOs and the Policy Arena) currently works in partnership with the Adiuvans Relief Fund. We rotate through the space of food, housing, and health, focusing on one topic per year. Students in a given year advise the foundation on grants, which are renewed for two additional years until the class revisits the space.


    We prioritize understanding the policy space, how nonprofits work within that policy space, and how nonprofits work within an ecosystem.


    Paul Martin

    Program Director

    Paul has directed the NGO Action Lab at the Frank Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy since 2012.


    Paul previously served on the Community Development Block Grant Taskforce for the City of Charlottesville, the Agency Budget Review Team for the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, advising the city and county on grants to housing and social services nonprofits.


    He also served on the Board of Directors for Madison House (including Chair) and for the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless.


    Email: pmartin@virginia.edu 

    Web: Paul's faculty page

    The students 

    Grant reviewers. Problem identifiers.

    Students from across the University of Virginia have jumped into this hands-on, grant making experience to learn more about the practical issues of strategic grant-making and the critical ground-level work that nonprofit organizations provide.


    In addition to giving out grants, three teams of students have won national competitions for an additional $100,000 in grants coming to the local Charlottesville community, including a $50,000 grant to SARA (2015), a $25,000 grant to help RegionTen found the Women's Treatment Center at Moore's Creek (2017), and a $25,000 grant to PHAR (2018).

    Erin Hall

    Co-instructor: Practical Nonprofit Fundraising

    Erin Hall is the Director of Advancement for UVA’s Contemplative Sciences Center. Previously, Erin worked for eleven years for UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in its development office.

    Erin serves as a member of the board of directors for Live Arts, Charlottesville’s community theater, and chairs its fundraising committee. She also volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for eight years and is a past member of the Alumni Association Board of St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. Erin received her B.A. in Drama and History from the University of Virginia in 2005.


    Katie Shevlin

    Co-instructor: Practical Nonprofit Fundraising

    Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, University of Virginia

    Tara Telfair

    Co-instructor: Practical Nonprofit Fundraising

    Tara Telfair is the Chief Learning Officer for the University of Virginia Advancement Community. Previously, Tara was Senior Consultant at the University of Virginia’s Leadership Development Center where she provided management consulting and leadership development services to higher education institutions and non-profits. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Tara’s academic training is in international relations, rhetoric and speech communications, and public policy. Tara enjoys volunteering in her community, something she has done all her life, and currently serves on the board of the National Alliance of Mental Illness - Blue Ridge Charlottesville.

    Directed by Sarah McLean and Grey McLean

    Co-Instructors and Grant-making Partners

    Since 2012, the Adiuvans Relief Fund, a donor-advised fund, has been providing support to human services not-for-profit organizations serving the needs of those most challenged in our community. The fund focuses specifically on the provision of food, shelter, and health care.

    Place is important. Operating grant support is limited to 501(c)(3) organizations operating within Central Virginia, namely Albemarle, Greene, Orange, Louisa, Fluvanna, Buckingham, Nelson, Rockingham, and Augusta counties.

    Sarah and Grey are experienced grant-makers and foundation directors. They bring a practitioner's eye to our class, and work alongside the students as we collectively learn more about problems, policies, and the work of nonprofit organizations.


    (grants since 2015)

    Students learn from the experience of community partners about the role of NGOs in the policy arena

    2017 grant: $13,500

    2015 grant: $2,500

    Everyone should be safe at home. This is why, year-round, AHIP helps families in need make critical home repairs. Together with our supporters, volunteers and partners, AHIP changes lives, saves livelihoods, and makes neighborhoods and our community a better place for everyone.


    2017 grant: $14,000 to support The Crossings at Fourth and Preston

    Virginia Supportive Housing’s (VSH) mission is to end homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing and supportive services. Founded in 1988, VSH was the first non-profit organization in Virginia to develop and provide permanent supportive housing for homeless single adults. Since then, VSH continues its tradition of Making Homelessness History.


    2017 Grant: $18,000 to support the housing advocacy program

    The Legal Aid Justice Center provides legal representation for low-income individuals in Virginia. Our mission is to serve those in our communities who have the least access to legal resources. The Legal Aid Justice Center is committed to providing a full range of services to our clients, including services our federal and state governments choose not to fund.


    2017 grants: $36,500 (multiple classes)

    2016 grants: $10,000

    The Haven is a multi-resource day shelter for people facing homelessness in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia.


    2017 grants: $16,000; $25,000 (student-led)

    Established in 1969, Region Ten Community Services Board is part of a statewide network of 40 Community Service Boards working to provide mental health, intellectual disability and substance use services where they are needed – in the local community.

    2017 grants: $16,000

    Charlottesville area organizations recognize that trauma impacts the lives and wellbeing of our community members. Across the country, trauma-informed care is being recognized as a necessary component to healing and recovery for children, families, and larger systems. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA)*, emerging research has documented the relationships among exposure to traumatic events, impaired neurodevelopmental and immune systems responses, and subsequent health risk behaviors resulting in chronic physical or behavioral health disorders. Research has also indicated that with appropriate supports and intervention, people can overcome traumatic experiences.

    2017 grants: $12,000

    2015 grants: $10,000

    We bring people together to build and rebuild homes and communities while catalyzing new pathways to safe, decent, affordable housing.

    2017 grants: $18,000

    The mission of Piedmont Housing Alliance is to create housing opportunities and build community through education, lending and development.

    2017 grants: $7,000

    Guests entering The Salvation Army Emergency Shelter are provided one-to-one advocacy to answer questions about options in the surrounding community. We sit down with every guest in the shelter to set goals taking their preferences and personal interests into account to better their situation and prepare for their departure from the shelter.

    As those in need transition to long-term stability in food security, housing, community involvement, and personal growth, families and individuals benefit from a daily soup kitchen and weekly community-based programs.

    2017 grants: $5,000; 2018: $25,000 (student-led)

    Our mission is to educate and empower low income residents to protect and improve our own communities through collective action.

    Blue Ridge Medical Center

    2016 grants: $40,000 (multiple grants)

    Located in the Colleen area of Nelson County, Virginia, Blue Ridge Medical Center offers primary care, pediatrics, dentistry, x-ray, lab, physical therapy, and behavioral health. BRMC is a 501(c)3 non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center and Level III Patient-Centered Medical Home. The center is accredited by the Joint Commission.

    Orange County Free Clinic

    2016 grants: $18,000

    Our mission is to provide primary medical care and prescription assistance to the uninsured residents of Orange County, Virginia who do not have the resources to obtain these basic health care needs. The free clinic provides primary medical care, counseling services and prescription assistance to the uninsured residents of Orange County, Virginia.

    Charlottesville Free Clinic

    2016 grants: $15,000 and $11,500 (multiple classes)

    2015 grants: $12,000

    Our Mission
    • To provide a volunteer community health-support system that offers high-quality health care to the working underserved population, which would otherwise have no access to care.
    • To provide practical experience for current and future health care professionals.
    • To hasten, through education and advocacy, the creation of a comprehensive policy for access to health care.

    On Our Own

    2016 grants: $15,000

    To provide mutual support, self-help, advocacy, education, information and referral services for individuals who acknowledge having significant problems in their lives due to mental illness and who are seeking to take responsibility for their own growth and recovery while supporting each other. We actively advocate for positive change within the traditional mental health system.

    The Women's Initiative

    2016 grants: $34,500 (multiple grants)

    The mission of The Women’s Initiative is to provide women with effective counseling, social support and education so they can transform life challenges into positive change and growth.

    Augusta Regional Clinic

    2016 grants: $6,000

    The mission of The Augusta Regional Clinic is to provide high‐quality medical, dental, pharmacy and health education services to those individuals who do not have the resources to obtain these basic healthcare services.

    Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

    2016 grants: $8,000

    2015 grants: $5,000

    Our mission is to provide nourishing food to our neighbors in need through vibrant community partnerships and passionate public support.

    Piedmont Area CASA

    2015 grants: $5,000

    Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Inc. provides trained volunteers and professional staff to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children and youth, promoting and supporting safe, permanent and nurturing homes for these victims in the child welfare system, the community, and before the courts of the 16th Judicial District of Virginia. Piedmont CASA promotes awareness about child abuse and neglect through community education and outreach.


    2015 grants: $8,000

    We are a grassroots organization that works with 80 local congregations and community groups and 3,000 volunteers to provide Wintertime shelter and related services to the homeless. Our name is the latin word for “peace” and also an acronym for “People And Congregations Engaged in Ministry.”


    2015 grants: $20,000 (multiple classes)

    Opening doors to bright futures for kids.

    Great Expectations Program (PVCC)

    2016 grants: $9,000

    Great Expectations at PVCC is part of a statewide initiative that serves current and former foster care youth. We provide resources, tools, information and guidance to empower our participants in reaching their educational and career goals. We also assist participants overcome day to day life stressors so they are able to transition into a healthy and successful adulthood.
    Creciendo Juntos

    Creciendo Juntos

    2015 grants: $2,500

    Creciendo Juntos means “growing together" and began in 2005 as a community effort to support Latino families living in Charlottesville and Albemarle. We are a leading Latino advocate and provide year round workshops, forums, and resources for Latinos and Latino-serving organizations. We are directed by a volunteer board and partner broadly to help strengthen Latino families' connections within our community.
    Creciendo Juntos

    Sexual Assault Resource Center

    2015 grants: $15,000; $50,000 (student led)

    The mission of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) is to eliminate sexual violence and its impact by providing education, advocacy and support to men, women and children. Our vision is a community free from sexual violence.
    Creciendo Juntos

    Big Brothers Big Sisters

    2015 grants: $2,500

    Mission: To provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

    Creciendo Juntos

    Families in Crisis

    2015 grants: $2,500

    Albemarle County Public Schools' Families in Crisis Program is a federally-funded grant authorized by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act​ through Project Hope. The program is meant to ensure the enrollment, attendance, and the success of homeless children and youth in school. In addition, emergency services, referrals for health services, transportation, school supplies, and costs related to obtaining school records may be provided.
  • Support our Work!

    We've given away $745,000 to local nonprofits working on critical issues of poverty. Let us be the Bill Gates to your Warren Buffett: you trust us with your philanthropic dollars and we do the hard work of identifying problems, evaluating nonprofits, and making grants in the community surrounding Charlottesville.

    All grant dollars raised have gone straight back to the community. We've received $745,000 in gifts and we've given away $745,000 in grants. Gifts to this program are gifts to the University of Virginia, gifts to the students taking this class, and gifts to the larger community. Gifts made in 2018 will be added to our grants on food insecurity and food justice; gifts made in 2019 will be added to our grants on health care and mental health.