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Introduction and Background

Prior to the formation of Virginia Organizing, formerly known as the Virginia Organizing Project (VOP), no statewide organization existed in Virginia to encourage the active participation and empowerment of many different groups of people on a variety of issues. As government policy and control shifted dramatically from the federal to the state and local levels, it became clear to Virginia Organizing’s founders that statewide organizing work was needed.

Virginia Organizing, founded in August 1995, is a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Virginia Organizing especially encourages the participation of those who have traditionally had little or no voice in our society. By building relationships with diverse individuals and groups throughout Virginia, Virginia Organizing enhances their ability to work together at a statewide level, democratically and non-violently, for change.

The overall purpose of Virginia Organizing is to create a strong political force for long-term change which has a diverse grassroots base and includes people who have not been active before.

Virginia Organizing Milestones


The Virginia Organizing Project (VOP) forms in Southwest, VA. Its first efforts included partnering with other groups to protest Governor George Allen’s plan to reduce Virginia’s welfare spending by $80 million over the next five years.


The first VOP Chapter is formed in Lee County. The Lynchburg Chapter hosts the first three-day Dismantling Racism Workshop, kick-starting workshops all across the state. The board adopts by-laws and decides to focus on two programs: diversity and economics education.


More than 135 people attend the Virginia Organizing Project Founding Convention on June 21, 1997. Federal Reserve Bank President J. Alfred Broaddus, Jr., takes a VOP-arranged trip to Martinsville to meet with low-wage manufacturing plant workers, particularly injured workers.


VOP supports adding sexual orientation and gender to existing Virginia hate crime laws in the 1998 General Assembly. VOP sponsors workshops on understanding the economy and on community development finance. VOP is encouraged by living wage campaigns in Alexandria and initiates campaigns in Charlottesville and at the University of Virginia. The Lee County Chapter challenges the county jury selection process, successfully implementing a random selection process; for the first time, an African-American serves as jury commissioner. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond sets up a Community Development Advisory Council to deal with issues concerning low-income and working class people.


VOP organizes a tour of Louisa County for officials of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, hoping to talk to officials about community development projects. Citizens in Clifton Forge and Virginia Forest Watch encourage the Virginia legislature to further examine the detrimental impacts of satellite chip mills on the economy and environment and the Attorney General allows counties to regulate local logging. VOP works with Comite de Apoyo de Inquilinos y Trabajadores (Tenants’ and Workers’ Support Committee) in northern Virginia to develop new Latino/Latina-led community groups.


The Charlottesville and Alexandria City Councils and Albemarle County pass living wage ordinances. Dismantling Racism workshops are held throughout the state.


Ongoing statewide workshops reach 1,031 individuals over the course of 71 days, as 18 community groups develop specifically-tailored organizational, campaign and strategic plans with the assistance of VOP. Teachers and community members successfully add sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy in the Albemarle County schools. VOP co-sponsors a conference, “Community and Business Economic Development Symposium,” with the Wythe County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Affairs Office of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank.


VOP succeeds in getting the Virginia Housing Development Authority to open its public comment process. VOP and other groups push Governor Mark Warner to make major changes to the process of restoration of voting rights, reducing the application from thirteen pages to one for former non-violent felons. 107 straight weeks of protest outside the Courtyard By Marriott results in Charlottesville’s mayor’s effort to work with local hotel operators and Piedmont Virginia Community College to link job training with increased wages. Read more…


The Virginia Housing Development Authority Board of Commissioners vote to remove the “family rule” which requires those borrowing money to purchase a home to be related by blood, marriage or adoption; the rule previously barred documented immigrants and unrelated co-borrowers from applying for loans. Read more…


Petersburg VOP Chapter succeeds in a campaign to get the city to fund a fair housing officer/housing ombudsman position. Amherst County Chapter succeeds in work to name a new bridge over the James River in recognition of the Monacan Nation. VOP registers and mobilizes voters for the 2004 election, distributing 16-page voter guides for the Charlottesville City Council races. VOP publishes 90,000 copies of a statewide non-partisan voter guide — No Vote, No Voice. Read more…


VOP works to build support for House Bill 2735, calling for the collection of data giving the racial identity of people stopped on routine police traffic stops. VOP works to accelerate the elimination of the state sales tax on food, successfully reducing the tax effective July 1, 2005. VOP assists Living Wage campaigns on college campuses all across the state. VOP supports successful legislation allowing private employers to offer health benefits to domestic partners. Read more…


VOP joined with other groups in organizing the Virginia Fair Wage Alliance to support legislation that would raise Virginia’s minimum wage. VOP continued to provide strategy support to Living Wage campaigns underway in Richmond, Blacksburg, and at the University of Mary Washington, the University of Virginia, and Emory and Henry College. In April students, many VOP interns were arrested at the University of Virginia during a peaceful sit-in organized for workers’ rights to a living wage. VOP joined with many other groups to fight the so-called marriage amendment which would prohibit gay marriage. Read more…


VOP celebrated the passage of a tax reform bill that gave relief to approximately 150,000 low-wage workers and prevented almost 150,000 more from having to file tax returns to get their refund. VOP supported national legislation in favor of a minimum wage increase. VOP worked hard to bring payday lending industry practices into the spotlight and held anti-predatory events statewide. Read more…


VOP brought together 13 statewide organizations to form the Virginia c-3 Table (later called the Virginia Civic Engagement Table), a group focused on non-partisan civic engagement activities in the state. It was the first time that most of the largest peoples organizations in Virginia came together in a formal way for a common purpose. VOP hired 50 interns who knocked on more than 140,000 doors. VOP distributed 300,000 copies of our 32-page non-partisan voter guide. VOP worked with other groups and helped get a record 67 local governments to pass resolutions asking the state legislature to take action on the abuses of payday lenders. Read more…


VOP’s 40 paid interns canvassed 142,679 doors across the state. VOP was Health Care for America Now campaign’s lead organization in Virginia and organized health care forums, rallies and press conferences with a wide range of groups across the state. VOP had a wide range of non-partisan activities to get out the vote for the November statewide elections. VOP also worked towards the creation of a national Consumer Financial Protection Agency, generating 6,178 calls asking people to contact their member of Congress. VOP received the 2009 Community Change Champion Award from the Center for Community Change for making a deep and meaningful commitment to low-income communities. Read more…


The Virginia Organizing Project celebrates its 15th Anniversary and announces an organizational name change to “Virginia Organizing” with a new logo! After fighting for health reform for years, Virginia Organizing celebrated the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Virginia Organizing held “Bake Sales For the Budget” statewide to send the message that a cuts-only approach to the budget shortfall is irresponsible and will hurt public systems at a time when Virginians need them most. Virginia Organizing joined with 250 organizations from across the country to fight for financial reform legislation. After years of tireless organizing, the I-81 southwest corridor is now home to five drug courts which are proven to save local governments money and provide more effective and compassionate rehabilitation for those with substance abuse problems. Read more…


Virginia Organizing kicked off the Move Our Money USA campaign in Virginia to call on residents to divest from the big banks and invest in small banks and credit unions. Virginia Organizing made 96 presentations on protecting Social Security at senior centers and nursing homes and generated over 1,000 postcards to Senator Mark Warner. Virginia Organizing saw many local victories this year including: moving toxic rail cars parked in Fredericksburg, fighting gas drilling in Washington County and opposing predatory lending in South Hampton Roads. Virginia Organizing joined in fighting back a slew of anti-immigrant bills in the Virginia General Assembly. A Richmond-based Federal Court threw out Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s lawsuit against the new health care law and Virginia Organizing was there to speak out every step of the way. Read more…


Virginia Organizing began the year by organizing “Broken Hearts Day” at the Virginia General Assembly. We held a large rally on Valentine’s Day to express concerns about our legislators focusing on issues that are divisive instead of on what Virginians really care about–jobs, tax fairness, the economy, and our civil and human rights. Virginia Organizing sent leaders to Washington, D.C. during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court and we celebrated the benefits of the ACA in June when the law was upheld. We also worked on a variety of federal budget issues, including fighting against the sequester and protecting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other important programs for families. Read more…


In 2013, Virginia Organizing spent a lot of time on leadership development by working with local people in their communities to learn new skills and deepen existing ones. Because of our excellent organizing work in the Commonwealth, Virginia Organizing was chosen to lead immigration reform efforts in Virginia by the Alliance for Citizenship. In addition, we continued our work to raise directly affected voices in the fight for Medicaid expansion and affordable health care for all Virginians, worked on local campaigns at the Chapter level, and continued to fight for economic justice and tax reform policies that work for everyone. We diversified our staff and expanded our reach in South Hampton Roads and the Petersburg-Tri-Cities area. Read more…


In 2014, Virginia Organizing took part in an historic and bold action to support immigration reform — several Virginia Organizing State Governing Board members and Chapter leaders were arrested with immigrant youth standing for immigration reform. Virginia Organizing placed a strong emphasis on leadership development and building strategic power for change. We won two awards for inclusivity and social justice work.

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2015 marked the 20th anniversary for Virginia Organizing! We celebrated in local Chapters, received proclamations from local, state, and national officials honoring our work, and joined together for the statewide celebration at the 2015 Grassroots Gathering. In 2015, Virginia Organizing added women’s issues to our list of priorities, made gains in criminal justice and re-entry reform with successful “ban the box” campaigns in many localities and the state of Virginia, continued our focus on leadership development, took action on climate change and other environmental issues, and much more. We also published a book, Building Power, Changing Lives: The Story of Virginia Organizing which can be purchased by clicking here or contacting our Charlottesville office at 434-984-4655 ext. 222.

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In 2016, Virginia Organizing continued building power through local and statewide campaigns. Chapters won local campaigns to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline campaign, make hospitals more accessible to the deaf community and their families, and “ban the box” in new localities. Statewide, Virginia Organizing took action in support of the Affordable Care Act and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We also joined with other state and local groups to organize the March on the Mansion, the culmination of ongoing environmental justice work like our “Flood of Voices” campaign in South Hampton Roads and support of local and national environmental groups all across Virginia.

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Thanks to our generous supporters and brave, dedicated leaders, 2017 was a very successful year for Virginia Organizing. We rallied across the state to save the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicaid. We fought the return of abrupt and questionable deportations, and held educational sessions so that immigrants and their allies would know their rights. We coordinated constituent meetings with a host of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and police chiefs about immigration, and asked them to address citizen complaints about police mistreatment. Organizers and leaders also registered voters, helped returning citizens get their voting rights back, and trained new members about how to stand up for themselves and their values in our democracy.

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Virginia Organizing has always worked with real people for real change. Thanks to your
generosity and the effectiveness of deep, grassroots work, we succeed.
In 2018 the Virginia General Assembly finally expanded Medicaid. This victory was the culmination of eight years of work by the Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition, of which Virginia Organizing was a vital part. Our leaders demonstrated to their legislators how important this access to health care would be to their lives. Our rallies, TV news interviews, newspaper articles, and face-to-face meetings with legislators showed the urgency of the problem and of the common sense solution that was so readily available. After years of work, we won!
Your help was essential. The resources to bring organizers to directly affected people in our chapters came from you. You made this victory possible.

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Because you support Virginia Organizing, you know we have chapters all over Virginia, and chapter members decide what campaigns they take on. That means we have a big, diverse organization with leaders working on many different issues, some in local schools and some in the General Assembly and Congress.

What holds us together?

Our core values guide everything we do. We want justice, and we know that people who are directly affected by injustice are the ones who understand what they need. So it’s not enough for us to see political change or new policy. We seek change not only in our laws but also in who sits at the table and makes those decisions.

We recruit leaders who know first hand why it matters whether education funding goes to school resource officers or restorative justice training. We work at every chapter meeting to teach each other how to be effective, and that’s why we celebrate every new skill a member learns, every new one to one conversation, and every donation. It’s the only way to build the power we need to make it happen!

Thank you for being part of this transformative grassroots movement. Your contributions
inspire us to keep moving forward. –Del McWhorter, Chairperson

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Despite the crises we faced in 2020, thanks to you we organized and won significant change statewide and in local areas.

It wasn’t easy. We had to shift to car rallies and online meetings—when bringing people together in person is our greatest strength—but the urgency of the pandemic also forced us to get creative and try many new ways for real people to make real change.

You made the first part of our 25th Anniversary year a success by donating more grassroots funding than ever before!

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Directly affected leaders face extraordinary challenges with courage. For instance, Andrea Jackson, the masked speaker at the Waynesboro rally on our cover this year, told her story to demand expanded federal and state funding for mental health care. She talked about her service in the U.S. military and her challenges with PTSD. Andrea wants adequate funding of residential and community mental health care in the Valley for the many people who endure without proper care.

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We put a special emphasis on gender justice in 2022. Chapters held roundtable discussions and community outreach events about abortion and reproductive rights. Narissa Rahaman, the Executive Director of Equality Virginia, gave the keynote speech at our Grassroots Gathering. Members submitted hundreds of comments about Governor Youngkin’s anti-LGBTQ+ education policies, and the Fredericksburg Chapter worked to block their implementation in Spotsylvania County. Newport News/Hampton held rallies for affordable childcare and a living wage for childcare providers.

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In 2023, our General Assembly work helped to win funding for education and housing. Many chapters sent members to Richmond to meet with their senators and delegates and lobby for our legislative priorities. Members also visited Senator Mark Warner’s office and U.S. Representatives Gerry Connolly, Jen Kiggans, and Bobby Scott to talk about economic justice and issues such as medical debt and predatory lending. We held an online learning series on issues and skills, new member orientations, two regional Dismantling Racism workshops, a regional Grassroots Gathering in Portsmouth, and our first Dismantling Patriarchy workshop. Chapters also held their own forums and trainings, such as the Richmond Chapter’s housing law workshops and the candidate forum in Wythe County.

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