Our nonprofit storytelling platform, The Phil, turns one

Pastel-colored balloons

When I was a new dad, a popular book among neophyte parents was Heidi Murkoff’s What to Expect Your First Year, a monthly guidepost that alternatively provided bouts of pride and anxiety, depending on how our babies fared against what was generally anticipated to be the norm. The truth was, there was really no preparing us for that scary, exhausting and magical year.

As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of The Phil, the same can be said of those of us who have been along for the ride from the beginning. We had no idea what this first year would bring, and sure enough, it was scary, exhausting and magical.

When we conceived the idea for The Phil years ago, we hoped it will fill two important roles. First, we wanted to shine a deserving spotlight on the often-unheralded nonprofits in our midst, to help tell the stories how these organizations – propelled by dedicated employees and volunteers and given agency by legions of generous donors – were improving the quality of life for so many people.

Yellow cupcake with frosting and sprinkles with a candle and a pinwheel.
It’s our “Phirst” birthday!

Our second goal was to provide a learning experience for our teams of interns on whom we would rely for a large measure of the publication’s content and management. The Phil gives them a chance to grow their writing talents, which always has been a critical part of a public relations practitioner’s skill set. They also get a chance to develop programs for promoting content in strategic ways, also important and practical experience.

The Phil is off to great start. Over the past year, we wrote and published a total of 108 original articles (half of which written by interns Meghan and Shayla, Holly and Helen, Katie and Isabel, Destini and Ronson, among others), profiling a wide range of organizations – from arts organizations like Artspace and the Richmond Philharmonic to nonprofits focusing on children like Greater Richmond SCAN and The READ Center to those like The REAL Life Program and Diversity Richmond who are raising our consciousness about important issues. In addition to pulling the curtain back on some little-known organizations, we also gave them voice to explain how they were meeting the extraordinary challenges brought on by the pandemic. 

During the year, we met some genuine heroes leading those organizations. Interviews with UMFS’s retiring president and the president/CEO of Virginia’s Home for Boys and Girls were among the most popular profiles in year one.

All told, The Phil was visited by close to 10,000 unique visitors over the past year, generating close to 20,000 page views.

On a personal note, I was touched by so many articles, including Shayla Bailey’s piece on Re-Establish Richmond, a local nonprofit helping settle refugees in Richmond. It was an article that prompted me to volunteer with the organization where I tutor Guewad, an immigrant from Mauritania, once a week. Truth be told, it’s one of the highlights of my week.

We hope that there is something in The Phil that may inspire you in the year ahead. In year two, we’re hoping to fill the void on the coverage of nonprofit events, to raise the profile on corporate and foundation giving and to provide a forum for your voice on issues related to nonprofits.

Meanwhile, we plan to celebrate our one-year birthday in partnership with a nonprofit in town that knows a thing or two about birthday parties – CelebrateRVA. Keep an eye on our social channels all week for more details and surprises.

Happy b’day, Phil. Here’s to many more. 

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Josh Dare

Josh’s career in communications spans more than four decades. In addition to providing strategic counsel and crisis communications direction to clients, he is the resident Writer-In-Chief, regularly writing op-eds and bylines on behalf of clients that have been published in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Huffington Post, among others.

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