Giving back to the community has always been a major component of our DNA. We believe merchants can and should contribute to the improvement of the community in which they operate. In fact, since 1990, the Retail Alliance has given almost four million dollars to local organizations.

Our charitable giving has included grants and event sponsorship to underwriting economic development efforts and seed money provision for small business growth.
In 2010, the Retail Alliance Board of Directors mandated preservation of these values through the establishment of the Retail Alliance Foundation, created to support the Retail Alliance’s charitable and educational activities.

In recent years, the Foundation has been largely overshadowed by the popularity of its educational programming.

For this reason, we are providing you – our faithful readers – with organizational information explaining where the Foundation falls in the myriad of products and services that comprise the Retail Alliance and the way forward for the Foundation.


With a mission to bridge the gap between a retailer’s dream and business success, the RA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is an equal among her sister pillars that support the Retail Alliance’s overall mission: to be a trusted resource for the success of local retailers.

The other pillars that assist in the accomplishment of this mission include Business Solutions, a for-profit division serving as a strategic partner for local businesses, the Virginia Retail Federation, a 501(c)(6) working on statewide legislative issues, and the Retail Alliance’s membership products and services that provide members unprecedented access to the tools they need to make their businesses more effective and profitable.

Retail Alliance Foundation organizational structure

The attached chart provides you with a closer look of the Retail Alliance Foundation’s organizational structure. As you can see, the Retail Alliance Board has substantial oversight of the Foundation. And that’s by design. The Foundation is stronger and better equipped to achieve our mission because of our connection to the Retail Alliance and its 115 years of working with local retailers.


The creation of the Center for Retail Excellence (CRE), the Foundation’s flagship program, illustrates the importance of our strategic connection to the Retail Alliance. Confronted with the high failure rate of our local “mom and pop” storefronts and reports indicating that retailers fail at a higher rate than almost any other business type, accounting for 11.2% of U.S. small business failure, second only to construction1 – we knew we needed to do something.

We watched as business incubators and economic development initiatives flourished in Hampton Roads but, according to the Hampton Roads Planning Development Committee, retail success rates continued to be especially dire in Hampton Roads, with retail sales increasing only by 24.9% as compared to 43.4% nationally since March 20092.

Well, turns out the specific business problem is that entrepreneurs embark on small business initiatives without adequate preparation or information3. Often individuals exiting the military, or entrepreneurs with a passion to open their own store have subject matter expertise on a specific product or service but lack an understanding of retail operations. In fact, according to Dun and Bradstreet statistics, 88.7% of small business failure is due to competency-related issues4.

In short, new business owners frequently lack relevant business and management expertise in areas such as finance, purchasing, selling, production, hiring and managing employees. Due to our unique affiliation with the Retail Alliance, the RA Foundation was well positioned and equipped to fill this competency gap.
Access to the Retail Alliance’s most successful members informed us that in addition to offering quality products and services, successful members focused on:

  • Startup
  • Retail accounting
  • Security/loss prevention
  • Merchandising
  • Sales/advertising/marketing
  • Management/HR
  • Business planning

We distilled these observations into the Seven Pillars of Retail Excellence, and the Certificate in Retail Operations (CROps) was born! By offering classes and mentoring around each pillar, we leveraged our position with RA’s members and in the community to truly assist retailers in starting, maintaining, and growing their businesses.

Tiffany McGee headshot


But the RA Foundation has a greater mission than “just” education. We know it takes a retailer at least three years to get their feet under them even after graduating from the CRE’s CROps program. We know there are more bumps along a new retailer’s road and gaps for the Foundation to fill. For instance, our constituents are currently reporting gaps in the following areas: microloans, ecommerce platforms and social enterprise support.

In response, the Foundation is working hard to secure funding from corporate, private and government funders alike to develop new programming. To help us diversify our revenue, we hired a Director of Development, Tiffany McGee, who has an extensive background in nonprofit administration and in working with the federal government. Tiffany was a grant writer for Best Buddies International and the Somalia and East Africa Development and Economic Coordination before being recruited into the federal government where she served in multiple capacities for agencies throughout DC and in embassies throughout Europe and Africa. Most recently, she helped coordinate the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Taskforce, providing financial and administrative oversight for a $1.5 million federal grant. In her free time, Tiffany occasionally serves as a federal government grant reviewer, writes grants for the Little Theatre of Norfolk, and provides nonprofit consultancy services for the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative.

With a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and a certificate in International Business from Ohio University and master’s degrees from the University of Cape Town in Gender and Transformation, and the American Military University in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Tiffany has performed extensive research on nonprofit management, evaluation techniques, and the process of grantsmanship. Tiffany lives in West Ghent with her husband, Patrick, and her two sons Jack and James, ages 2 and 3.

Tiffany can be contacted via email at tmcgee@retailalliance.com or call (757) 455 9339.

1 Dun and Bradstreet in http://smallbusiness.chron.com/businesses-high-failure-rates-61640.html
2 Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, Benchmarking 2017 – Retail in https://www.hrpdcva.gov/uploads/docs/06%20Benchmarking%202017-%20Retail.pdf
3 Turner, S., & Endres, A. (2017). Strategies for Enhancing Small-Business Owners’ Success Rates. International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, 16, 34-49
4 “Small Business: Preventing Failure – Promoting Success,” Lewis A Paul, Jr., the Wichita State University, Small Business Development Center in Titus, S. Key Reasons why Small Business Fail. Institute for Independent Business, p. 3