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Capacity Building – Community Leadership

Community Investments

Building Capacity Through Leadership

The Community Foundation staff have providing leadership in a number of initiatives that support capacity building among nonprofit organizations.

Project Equity Initiative  

In 2020, the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt in the Lehigh Valley, as well as the social uprisings stemming from inequities that occurred before the pandemic but were more visibly seen and felt during this time and that were sparked by the murder of George Floyd. In response to the impact of the pandemic and social uprisings on the social sector in the Lehigh Valley, LVCF in partnership with United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and FACES International launched Project Equity, an initiative to bring together 35 social sector stakeholders to hold space to consider how might we create a more equitable, sustainable nonprofit sector together, across difference. This initiative had a deep impact in building key relationships and transformational progress in leaders understanding, awareness, and knowledge of racial equity. 

The Initiative is now in it’s second year and has transitioned to a new core planning team to drive forward the work. To learn more about year 1 of Project Equity and project participants, please visit 

The project was initiated through the Strategic Response Team, a collaborative that began to meet to align and coordinate initial response and recovery efforts in the Greater Lehigh Valley. Project Equity is supported by a grant from the United Philanthropy Forum’s Momentum Fund, as well as donor contributions supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.  

Current Vision:  Together, we will forge new paths to personal transformation so that we can be in authentic relationships with each other across the racial divide as we decenter whiteness and center equity in the nonprofit sector in Lehigh Valley. Through personal transformation, we will transform organizations that will transform a system to be racially equitable and sustainable.    

Our approach:  This is an iterative project. As we learn more, our approach progresses. The project began with a focus on developing a framework, and shifted to understanding that ultimately, the vision is about transforming ‘ways of being,’ not about assuming that there exists a framework, checklist, or strategies that could be institutionalized to address the inequities that we are facing in the Lehigh Valley.  

Below outlines a few of our core beliefs:  

  • We believe that transformational equity work is a full-body, full-heart commitment.  
  • We believe in pushing past inclusion to create true belonging.   
  • We believe in building relationships based on authenticity, and to build those relationships authentically, it will take vulnerability and humility.   
  • We believe that accountability must take place for transformational change.   
  • We believe that if this work is to succeed, the heart of the approach must center the needs, wisdom, and voices of communities of color, and de-center whiteness.   
  • We believe that the process of transformational equity is painful, and worthwhile. Growth is always painful, and always worthwhile.   

Values we aim to uphold:   

  • Being grounded in the participating consultants’ expertise  
  • Practicing transparency  
  • Centering on equity  
  • Focusing on learning, personal transformation, inclusivity, and belonging  

Project Equity – Core Planning Team 2021 

  • Judie Dickerson, Cops ‘N Kids of Easton 
  • Yamelisa Taveras, Unidos  
  • Jessica Ortiz, The Ortiz Ark Foundation 
  • Darian Colbert, Cohesion Network 
  • Marc Rittle, New Bethany Ministries 
  • Sarah Barrett, YWCA Allentown 
  • Megan Briggs, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation 
  • Erin Connelly, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley 

Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank Reinventing Our Communities Program 

About the Program: The Philadelphia Fed’s Reinventing Our Communities (ROC) Cohort Program targets nine communities across the U.S., including Allentown, bringing together experts and stakeholders for a 10-month training program to promote equitable small business recovery from the pandemic.  Cohorts, comprising cross-sector community partners, explore solutions to community-based needs for financing and access to credit for small business owners of color, promote small business ownership as a means of wealth building, and support small businesses to scale to become community employers, thus creating more equitable and sustainable regional economies.  Lehigh Valley Community Foundation serves as the Allentown’s cohort convener in this program.  

The program is delivered through a partnership between The Philadelphia Fed and Race Forward. Cohort participants are equipped with the tools to identify structural barriers faced by small business owners of color and create a plan to address these barriers tailored to Allentown.  Together, cohorts will examine pervasive barriers to equitable small business recovery in their own communities, develop solutions informed by best practices and tested methods, and collaborate on paths forward that directly support small business owners of color in their communities and strengthen the small business sector.   

Allentown Cohort: 

  • Dan Bosket, Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown  
  • Megan Briggs, Lehigh Valley Community Foundation 
  • Megan Colon, Allentown School Uniforms 
  • Chris Hudock, The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund 
  • Danielle Joseph, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce 
  • Shalanda Riddick, Visit Vans, LLC 
  • Jillian Seitz, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission 
  • Dana Yurgosky, City of Allentown, Community and Economic Development 
  • Todd Watkins, Ph.D., Martindale Center for the Study of Private Enterprise, and Professor of Economics, Lehigh University 

Leadership and Participation in Collaboratives

Strategic Response Team

The Strategic Response Team (SRT) launched in the wake of COVID19 to provide a rapid, informed, and coordinated approach to assessing community need and quickly allocating dollars to the areas of greatest need. The purpose of this team is to share information and continuously strategize and activate new and effective methods for addressing emerging needs due to the COVID -19 crisis and offer guidance on how to direct funds to address needs with individuals and community.  LVCF’s Director of Community Investments, Megan Briggs, continues to participate in this collaborative group.  

Technical Assistance Working Group of the Strategic Response Team

Soon afterwards, the SRT spun out a Technical Assistance Working Group to ensure area non-profit organizations have the specialized resources, information, and support they need to continue operations and respond to rapidly changing community needs. LVCF’s Director of Community Investments, Megan Briggs, co-chairs this working group with the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley’s CEO Karen Smith. The TA Working Group is a community collaboration consisting of representatives from funding organizations, local government, grassroots community organizations, health networks, community health and nonprofit organizations who bring their varied perspectives to the table to create the most effective impact. 

The Technical Assistance Working Group has initiated projects like the 2021 Lehigh Valley Nonprofit Unconference, distribution of COVID-19 nonprofit supply needs, state of the Lehigh Valley nonprofit survey, and many other workshops. To learn more and/or sign up for the monthly newsletter, please visit this site:…

Lehigh Valley Funders Group

As part of community leadership work, LVCF participates as an active member of the Lehigh Valley Funders Group. Erika Riddle Petrozelli, LVCF’s CEO & President, co-leads the monthly meeting agenda along with Melissa Flynn from the Baker Foundation and Jill Pereira from the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.