Log in

Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives

Log in

Nina Abady Award

The Nina Abady Award is the most prestigious award given by the Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives (VAFRE). It is presented to a fundraising professional who has demonstrated utmost excellence in the field of development. The award signifies to individuals, organizations, and the greater community that the recipient has garnered the respect and admiration of colleagues throughout the Commonwealth for professional and ethical service.
The recipient is honored at a special reception attended by representatives from across the Commonwealth. This event provides a significant opportunity for those who have been influenced by the recipient-from colleagues to board members to other professionals in the field–to show their appreciation and gratitude.


Richmond icon Nina Abady was a university instructor turned development professional who was passionate about both the community and the arts. She put that passion to work as a founder and supporter of a number of Richmond community, historic and civic events before her death in 1993. Nina Abady founded “Downtown Presents,” “Friday Cheers,” “The Big Gig” and the “Second Street Festival,” all very successful endeavors that revitalized the downtown area by bringing thousands out to enjoy and celebrate artists, musicians, and other performers in Richmond. Nina Abady Festival Park between the Coliseum and 2nd street bore a bronze plaque with her likeness and her accomplishments.
Her favorite word was community. She was a founding member of VAFRE and recognized as a force of nature -  a remarkably good person, a fantastic motivator, and a champion for social justice with an uncommon devotion to humanity. In the glowing tributes following her death she was described as eloquent and idealistic, an individual of unlimited enthusiasm, and a bright light in the city. It is fitting that the prize for excellence in the field of advancement bears her name. She was an outstanding role model.
In 1991, the Annual Fundraiser of the Year Award was first given to Mr. Jerry Quigg who, along with Ms. Abady and a handful of young fundraisers, founded VAFRE in 1980. After Nina’s death in 1993, the award was renamed and given in her honor to a deserving fundraiser. The list of distinguished award winners who followed comprises a virtual who’s-who of Virginia’s fundraisers (see sidebar.)

Award winners are selected from a competitive field of finalists who were nominated by VAFRE members, area fundraisers, and board members. The selection committee, chaired each year by the previous year’s winner, convenes each year to review nominations and select the winner. 

Criterion for Nina Abady Award

  • Nominee must be a VAFRE member or AFP Central Virginia Chapter member. Membership may be verified in the on-line directory at or by e-mailing To verify AFP membership, e-mail

  • Nominee has shown outstanding professional and ethical service to the field of development.

  • Nominees who are consultants should have significant experience as a development officer.

  • Nominee has made a positive impact on his/her affiliated organization(s) and exhibits passion and commitment to the cause.

  • Nominee has shown innovation in planning and implementing a successful fund raising strategy or project (campaign).

  • Nominee has demonstrated leadership abilities among his/her constituents.

  • Nominee makes himself/herself available as a mentor in the field of development and has demonstrated support of and involvement with VAFRE and/or AFP (e.g. speaking engagements, in-kind support, mentoring of members, or other such activities.)


  • Listing of achievements should not be limited to only one organization. Cumulative accomplishments, both vocational and avocational, will be considered.

  • Any member of the development field, including board members or other volunteers involved with a nonprofit organization, may make nominations.

  • Nominators may make as many nominations as they wish.

  • Individuals may nominate themselves.

  • Nominees may not currently  serve on the VAFRE or AFP Board of Directors or the Awards Selection Committee.

Nomination Process

  • Nominations should be made using the nomination form

  • Nominations should speak to the above criteria as well as other career highlights and areas of outstanding service by the nominee.

  • Letters of support will be accepted by email or hard copy (no more than 3 letters of support will be accepted).  The letters of support must include one from the organization’s leadership and/or from a Board Member. 

  • 2023 nominations should be sent to the VAFRE offices by e-mail,, or mailed to P.O. Box 6605, Richmond, VA 23230, no later than Wednesday, January 31st.

Nina Abady
Award Recipients

Brian Thomas (2023)
Thomas C. Burke (2022)
Bobby Thalhimer (2021)
David Thomason (2020)
Gayle Haglund, CFRE (2019)
Lisa Tait (2018)
Samantha Wheeler Marrs (2017)
Elizabeth Littlefield, CFRE (2016)
Ruth Modlin Ellett, CFRE 
David Huffine, CFRE
Nancy Trego, CFRE (2013)    
Patricia Morris, MPA, CFRE 
Maureen Neal, CFRE
E. L. (Lisa) Freeman, CFRE
Barbara Wells
Delores Smith
Michelle Thomson
Lee Switz
Jane V. Helfrich, CFRE
Edward G. Kardos
Kathleen Burke Barrett, CFRE. CLU
Peter Wyeth
Judy Lankford, CFRE
Ned Moore
Michael Dowdy
Mary Ellen Stumpf
George M. Peters
Marlin E. Balsbaugh, Jr.
D. Chris Withers, CFRE
Alex Smith
Lucy Boswell Negus
Cheryl Gonzales Yancey
H. Gerald Quigg (1991)

© 2022 Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives (VAFRE).
All rights reserved.
VAFRE • P.O. Box 6605 • Richmond, VA 23230
Office/Fax (804) 368-3398

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software