In 2018 the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia celebrates its 40th Anniversary. We recently sat down with Janet Miller to learn more about the history of the Community Foundation, and her involvement as a former president. Janet currently serves as the Executive Director of the William S. Abell Foundation in Maryland.

Janet, can you tell us about your involvement with the Community Foundation?

I served as the president of the Community Foundation from 1994 through 2005. The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia was founded and supported by key community and business leaders, and elected officials, including: Til Hazel, Earl Williams, Dan Banniser, Ed Bersoff, Vince Callahan, Barry Dewberry, Jack Herrity, George Johnson, J. Lambert, Knox Singleton, and Jim Wordsworth. The board was made up of a wide variety of stakeholders over the years, and at times had more than seventy members. 

What were some of the most memorable initiatives or programs you were involved in while you were here?

I believe in 1994 the assets were under $1M so the main focus was to build awareness and raise assets, preferably endowed. We established the professional advisors council and presented programs quarterly. This truly was the main focus and work of the Community Foundation while I was there.  We had to have money before we could give away money.  

What were some of the memorable programs or events during your years with the Foundation?

The annual children’s event at the ACCA Child Care Center was very memorable to me. Each child was “adopted” by a corporate partner and they planned parties and holiday events for the children each year. Also what was memorable was that we had several corporate and individual scholarship programs started by funders, and that was a main focus for some time. I recall that The Grandfather’s Group was started by Jim and Lavern Chatman to provide guidance and support to young boys (the younger the better Jim would say) with a mature male role model, and that was such a great addition to our history. Lastly, we did several events for the Transplant Awareness fund and brought donors and recipients together that were quite memorable.

Do you recall a significant time in history that the Community Foundation responded to critical need in the region while you were involved?   

I served as president of the Community Foundation during the 911 tragedy.  We did participate with other community foundations and organizations in a pool of funding to support the survivors of the attack on the Pentagon. For years the committee met, monthly I think, to hear of need from case managers and award grants as needed. 

How did you see the organization grow over the years?

From 1994 to 2001, we went through extraordinary development and growth. We were at the beginning of identifying and supporting diverse communities. At the same time that there was growing wealth, there was growing need, so assessing how best to marshal resources for the greatest good was a focus area. We also saw the ‘dot com’ bubble and the burst, and that affected nonprofits dramatically. We had a very small general grants program and so the emphasis was on how to help fund advisors understand and make impactful commitments in the community.

Click here to learn more about the Community Foundation's 40th Anniversary. If you have a story relating to the Community Foundation's history that you would like to share, please contact Tara Nadel at 703-879-7637, or tara.nadel@cfnova.org.