With all the weighty items on Ravi Respeto’s plate – creating solutions for regional poverty reduction, expanding the availability of early childhood education and supporting access to capital for marginalized groups within the small business community – the president of the United Way of Greater Charlottesville has put what some might consider an even bigger challenge in front of her: reinventing the identity of an organization that has served the community for more than 80 years.

That’s not an easy undertaking, to say the least. So, to help reimagine how to go about recreating the United Way brand, to coalesce around an identity that not only reflects the organization’s modern-day approach toward enriching people’s lives but also would resonate with the community as a whole, Ravi created the Envision Initiative as a foundational structure to help the team move forward. And she assembled some smart people to help her navigate this process of reinvention.

Not long ago, one of those smart people had an idea. She had heard about the availability of two new fellowships exclusively for nonprofit leaders that the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business was offering for its advanced management and leadership program – aka The Executive Program (TEP). Perhaps, she suggested, if Ravi applied for one of the fellowships and was accepted, she could use that experience toward helping with the rebranding. After all, Ravi would not only be learning at the feet of some of the best business school experts in the world, but the colleagues in her class would no doubt be helpful in providing the kind of guidance and expertise she was looking for.

I have several personal goals as well as goals for United Way. The real biggie is just getting some support on how do we take an older, well-known brand, across this country, and really help people understand how we're working to modernize that brand?

- Ravi Respeto, President, United Way of Greater Charlottesville

You can guess the next part of the story. Ravi did apply, and she was accepted, and she is poised to join a diverse global cohort when the 2023-2024 program begins on the Darden Grounds this October.

“I have several personal goals as well as goals for United Way,” Ravi says. “I want to be more adept at thinking about business planning and financial planning and learning more about financial investment instruments. And I want to look into corporate structures – like social enterprise. But the biggie, the real biggie, is just getting some support on how do we take an older, well-known brand, across this country, and really help people understand how we’re working to modernize that brand?”

Ravi is actually no stranger to Darden. In 2016, she took a weeklong marketing certificate course at the school, and she relished the collaborative, team structure of the program. She had always hoped that she would someday be able to take that experience to another level, possibly even a full-blown MBA.  Then came COVID and the demands of work, and the best-laid plans were put on hold yet again.

“I’m looking forward to the thought leadership aspect of the program and the opportunity to meet other leaders, whether they be in the for-profit or nonprofit sector, who are solving complicated issues that face our society and culture today,” Ravi says. “There’s been a changing landscape for the nonprofit, and even the for-profit, sectors in the way that organizations think about their social footprint. So, I’m looking forward to meeting other individuals who are working in this space and impacted by all this. We’re all trying to figure out how do we build our companies, organizations, nonprofits in this post-COVID world, and so it’s a really great time for me to have that sort of camaraderie and fellowship with other individuals.”

Interested in Darden’s TEP?  You can find more information and an application here.