Richmond Volleyball Club in Richmond, Virginia primarily serves four counties and the capital city – City of Richmond, Henrico county, Chesterfield County, Hanover County, and Goochland County. Henrico and Chesterfield represent the club’s largest base. City of Richmond and parts of eastern Henrico County and southern Chesterfield county have larger demographic representation of lower socioeconomic families. Unfortunately, they are under-represented in RVC’s programs.

Here is how Richmond Volleyball Club has implemented a Grant Program to make club volleyball accessible to lower socioeconomic classes:

Generate funding

The Roger Robison fund was established in 2005 in memory of a past Board President. The intent was to ensure that any youth who wanted to play would be able to, regardless of ability to pay. The Board of Directors established a committee to oversee it and determined that 10% of proceeds from the club’s annual golf tournament would be designated to the fund. In subsequent years, 100% of net proceeds were given to the fund. Unfortunately, the golf tournament did not generate a lot of funding and the total fund by October, 2013 was only slightly more than $18,000 and very little had been disbursed.

Fortunately, the club was in a much stronger position financially and the Board of Directors at that time was very committed to making the Grant Program happen and saw it as a potential avenue for increasing diversity in Richmond Volleyball Club. The Board began designating a certain amount to be moved to the fund each month from the club’s general operating account. At first it was about $500/month and now is $3,500/month. In addition the club has used the Give Lively platform for donations.

In 2014, RVC began disbursing the fund and distributed $16,165 to 32 players including summer camps, travel and non-travel teams. To date, over 540 players have benefited from the program. This past year, we distributed $47,000 to 120 travel and developmental players for a grand total to date of $226,000.

Create awareness

Unbelievably, RVC’s biggest challenge lately has been getting more players to apply for the funds. RVC’s leadership team is working on a campaign to increase awareness about the fund. One avenue the club uses to increase awareness is to provide two $1,500 awards each year funded by the Robison Fund, one for a male player and one for a female.

We call it ‘Love of the Game’ and it’s given to players that have embodied true love of the game through hard work, team support, and sportsmanship,” states RVC Executive Director Darcy Carroll. “Has nothing to do with ability. We usually give it to a senior player aging out of the program so that they can use it for college expenses if they’d like. We find a sponsor to fund those awards and it’s an easy ‘sell’.”

In addition, RVC has a Diversity, Inclusivity, and Outreach committee that is helping to develop a plan for reaching more of the urban and lower socioeconomic students. The committee is helping the club reach out to the parks and recreation departments of those areas. The club has also been working with the Police Athletic Leagues and a program called NextUp that is affiliated with the local Community Foundation. NextUp supports after school programming at designated middle schools that have been chosen because they represent lower income communities. The club is currently working on messaging and promotion to those communities.

Accept and review applications

The application process is open year-round and for the last three years everyone who has applied received funding. The fund is available for all of the club’s youth programs – Jumpin’ Juniors, JumpUp, camps, Middle School League, Virginia Youth Volleyball League and our beach programs. The travel team grant is capped at $2,000. For all of the other programs, when someone applies they are asked what they can afford and then the Grant covers the rest of the cost.

“We do believe that it’s important for the parent to invest something even if it’s just $5 to ensure they are committed to their child’s attendance,” adds Carroll.

Jenay Aidoo, a 2014 Robison Fund recipient, kindly said, “I have been fortunate enough to have been granted a scholarship for both the summer and fall 2014 sessions…I have learned a great deal about volleyball and being a part of a team. It has made me feel good about myself, and now I love the sport! Thanks for the wonderful opportunity!”

Another Richmond Volleyball Player, Ayanna Swan received assistance through the Robison Fund in 2015. She has since earned numerous awards such as Under Armour Girls 1st Team All-American, American Volleyball Coaches Association 1st Team All-American, and 3-time All-Conference, All-State, All-Region and All-Metro. Ayanna has also committed to playing volleyball at Ohio State University.

Challenges and goals

RVC has some great ideas but honestly finding staff resources to focus on the Grant Program, which is needed, is difficult. It takes time to track and measure the success of  the program. One main goal at this time is to increase awareness of its availability. Another goal is to increase the amount of funding the fund can provide to those who use it to participate on travel teams. Right now, the amount is capped at $2,000. RVC would like to at least double that funding.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity to fund, at least partially, a program like this through sponsorship and fundraising, but the most important thing to do is to make sure you have complete leadership support and buy-in to the program. It’s easy to let it slide when there are so many competing priorities so the program really needs a champion,” shares Carroll.

Richmond Volleyball Club is a long time member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization that is 100% committed to improving the junior volleyball experience through program and resource development, education and events. Learn more here.

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