Circles RVA equips and inspires individuals and families to permanently move out of poverty and thrive.  We create intentional relationships that expand support communities and engage the wider community to reduce or eliminate the systemic barriers that hinder people from rising out of poverty


Our vision is that everyone has enough money, meaning and friends to thrive

Circles Model

Circles® is a nationally-known, proven, and innovative way of connecting people across socioeconomic lines to move people & families out of poverty. The Circles® approach empowers motivated low-income participants to permanently move out of poverty while also providing an opportunity for community members to take collective action to resolve systemic barriers that interfere with low-income individuals attaining economic stability.

Circles USA data show a clear correlation between the amount of time a participant spends actively engaged in the Circles program and increased stability over time. On average, Circle’s USA reports that participants earn 75% more after 18 months in the Circles program. In addition to improved income levels, broader indicators of sustainable stability, such as transportation, home ownership and emotional support, also show improvement. The full Circles USA Impact Report is available here:

Circles USA Impact report

Our society has been successful at creating programs that manage poverty, but this approach is about the longer term, harder work of moving people out of poverty.


Why Richmond

Richmond’s adult poverty rate is above the national average (12.8%) at 19.8%. Worse, the poverty rate for Richmonders under age 18 is 33.7%, which is higher than it has been in the past few years. To give you an idea of how much (or little) that is, the official poverty line for a family of four is $30,000 per year or less. Some individual members of our community live on $13,590 per year or less!

Poverty levels are especially concentrated in specific Richmond neighborhoods. Regrettably, these percentages have not changed materially over time and generational poverty takes its toll. A comparison of average life expectancy in two Richmond neighborhoods – 63 years (low income neighborhood) vs. 83 years (high income neighborhood) – testifies to the disparity in health and quality of life.

Circles RVA is filling an unmet need in Richmond, VA by partnering with the families that these statistics represent – families on the fence between surviving and thriving economically. A consistent obstacle to navigating a path out of poverty is social isolation. When living in an area of concentrated poverty, the “circles” of people surrounding you are struggling with the same challenges that you face. Who do you go to for help if your “circles” don’t have the resources, knowledge or connections to assist you? How do you navigate the path forward if you don’t know the way?

Circles RVA effectively bridges this social gap, connecting people across socio-economic, racial and other lines that all too often divide. Through the process of intentional relationship-building, goal-setting, and support Circles RVA equips and inspires families to break the cycle of poverty and move towards economic stability.


Circles is a high impact, long term, multi-generational approach to breaking the cycle of poverty. As an organization, we will consider ourselves successful if we are able to engage the wider Richmond community to reduce or eliminate the systemic barriers and racial inequities that hinder people from rising out of poverty. Circles RVA’s impact extends to:

  • Participants, aka Circle Leaders, who will achieve economic stability, changing their family’s trajectory. In completing Circles’ process, they will move forward with life skills, financial literacy and increased social capital to continue establishing and achieving goals in all aspects of life. Long term outcomes include higher paying jobs, more stable housing, improved credit, more choices and reduced stress.
  • Children of Circle Leaders will experience a more stable home life and follow their parents’ example of setting and working towards goals.
  • Circle Leaders have a forum to voice their challenges and needs to community leaders. Allies and other volunteers also become more effective advocates by learning about the barriers facing those trying to emerge from poverty.
  • Leaders, Allies and volunteers will build and maintain enduring relationships across racial, cultural, and socio-economic lines. These relationships will bridge lines of segregation and separation that have historically been entrenched in RVA. Circle Leaders will develop leadership skills that benefit the entire Richmond community.

Join our Circles Community

Circles RVA would not function without the wonderful volunteers who support us week by week.  Want to learn more about how you can be involved?  Use the menu above to explore opportunities.