Tidewater Community College: Academy for Nonprofit Excellence a Local Gem

Member Spotlight

Every time she attends a class at Tidewater Community College's Academy for Nonprofit Excellence, Melia Trost has another "aha" moment.

Whether it's a marketing recommendation, website help, or advice on event planning, Trost takes back practical recommendations she can implement at Samantha Makes It a Little Easier, Inc., a nonprofit she started in 2012 that provides needy children with medical equipment.

"I love the classes; they're wonderful," Trost said. "I knew enough about being a volunteer, but not the nitty-gritty. It's a business."

Trost completed her Certificate in Nonprofit Management at the Academy, founded 10 years ago by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation in collaboration with Tidewater Community College. Students range from executives in the field to entire nonprofit staffs to others seeking to refresh their resumes. They can take one class or several or work toward the certificate, which requires successful completion of 10 continuing education units (CEUs). Five CEUs must be earned from each of the Academy's five core areas: Board Development, Human Resources, Fund Development and Communication, Financial Management, and Organizational Planning, Management and Evaluation.

In some areas, the CEUs can be applied to professional certification. For example, the American Society of Fundraising Professionals will recognize an upcoming fundraising class for that purpose.

"I've got my certificate, but I'm not done," Trost said. "There's always a reason to go back."


Trost lauds the networking opportunities, particularly for small nonprofits like hers, and the expertise of the instructors, whom Academy Coordinator Lisa Peterson touts as "stellar practitioners in their chosen fields." The list includes Keith Curtis, founder of The Curtis Group, who has spent more than 30 years working with philanthropic organizations; Amy Coates Madsen, Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute; and published author Ron Barrett, Vice President of Nonprofit Services at National Corporation Research, LTD.

The Academy earned a 2013 Exemplary Program Award from the National Council on Workforce Education in October 2013 with Lillian Bailey, founding Director of the Academy, in attendance to receive it at a Milwaukee reception. In September, the Academy will receive the National Council for Continuing Education & Training (NCCET) 2014 National Exemplary Program Award for Continuing Professional Education.

Ninety-four people have earned certificates, including 23 in the last year. Since 2005, more than 1,200 nonprofit professionals affiliated with over 500 nonprofits have taken Academy classes.

Skip Wallace, pastor at King's Grant Church, and his staff appreciate the training specific to volunteerism. "We ended up really enjoying the classes and taking some of the principles and implementing them at the church," he said.

This fall's offerings range from Can You Really Prove That You're Making a Difference? to Employment Law: An Introduction to a five-part series on building great organizations.

One-day classes are $65, and two-day classes are $85. All classes are held at the Tidewater Community College Center for Workforce Solutions alongside the James River in northern Suffolk.

"It's a retreat-like atmosphere," Peterson said.

Peterson foresees a future that will keep the Academy current with the evolving times and technological changes affecting nonprofits. She has also started a lending library to benefit professionals and encourages others to share books on relevant topics.

"I want us to be the first choice for relevant nonprofit professional development for the nonprofit sector," she said.

Rosalind Cutchins, Executive Director of the Children's Center in Franklin, believes the Academy has already achieved that. "A lot of times this is training you'd find at a national conference," she said. "This is a local gem."

Interested in taking a class or working toward a certificate? Contact Lisa Peterson at 757.822.1170.