Member Spotlight: Clark Casteel, Danville Regional Foundation

Danville Regional Foundation

Location: Danville, Virginia


This month’s “Member Spotlight” features Clark Casteel, President & CEO of the Danville Regional Foundation (DRF) and a member of VFN’s Executive Committee and also serves as VFN’s Secretary/Treasurer. Here’s our spotlight opportunity to learn more about Clark and his work in philanthropy:   

Pictured: Clark Casteel

Describe your philanthropic philosophy and how your philosophy shapes your work.

Charity and philanthropy are both necessary in communities, but very different.  All of our work is on the philanthropic end of the continuum. Our grant-making decisions are based on what grants will have the greatest impact on the region we serve over the long term. Community transformation takes time and since we’re not raising money or running for reelection one of the risks we can take is related to time. Time to fail, learn, and try again. Time to plant seeds of patient capital.

In a few words, tell us about your organization’s mission. 

DRF’s mission is to be a catalyst for long-term transformation in the City of Danville, Pittsylvania County in Virginia, and Caswell County NC. We work with many partners to create a strong social fabric of collective knowledge, action, and community life, where all residents believe in the transformation of this region and embrace their role in that transformation.

What are you currently reading?

Rich Harwood’s report – Civic Virus: Why Polarization Is a Misdiagnosis

What “influencers” are you following?

James FallowsRobert Putnam, Cal NewportSeth GodinArthur BrooksDavid BrooksDan PinkJohnathan HaidtMajora CarterAdam Grant, and many others. 

What are your organization’s top three areas of focus for 2022? 

  • Economic Development
  • Community Development, including Education, Workforce Development, Health and Wellness, Quality of Place and Quality of Life
  • Civic Capacity and Collaboration

What partnerships and/or collaborative efforts have been meaningful to you in the last year?

In 2021 we had our second cohort participate in our ‘Collab Lab’ where nonprofits in our region spend 10 months together learning the basics of collaboration.  “Collaboration is more about bringing together people who will co-create – and equally benefit from – authentic visions for addressing the shared concerns of the community,” a Collaboration Lab participant shares. We are all learning through this process- how to make collaboration work in our region.

How has VFN been relevant to the work you’re doing?

The networking, the affinity groups in shared areas of interest, and the shared learning, all are very useful!

What else would you like your fellow funders to know?

We try very hard to not be ultracrepidarians (“the habit or act of giving opinions on matters outside the scope of one’s knowledge.”) But, three things we’re working on:

  1. One of the sayings we’ve adopted from somewhere is – “When good leaders are done they build statues in their honor, when great leaders are done the people say, ‘we did it all on our own’.”  We believe it’s imperative for us as funders to be great leaders.
  2. There are no silver bullets to fix things, no superheroes that will fly in and save us.  Local people have to come together and do it themselves.
  3. The evidence from Robert Putnam and others is very clear: communities, regions, states, and nations that come together to solve critical issues will thrive. Places that are divided will fall. As a funder, we ask ourselves, “Is what we are doing bringing people together or further dividing them?”