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Social Venture Partners: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

Social Venture Partners

A Community of Social Investors

In the mid- to late-90's, while rapid advances in technology and ecommerce were creating new wealth in the world economy, Paul Brainerd and a handful of his colleagues in Seattle were thinking of a way to bring their good fortunes -- along with their know-how, connections, and skills -- to the nonprofit sector in Seattle, while simultaneously providing opportunities for personal development and engagement as philanthropists. After exploring emerging innovations in philanthropy, Brainerd (founder and president of Aldus Corporation, creators of Pagemaker) and company launched Social Venture Partners (SVP). Seven years later, SVP Seattle has evolved into the flagship affiliate of a network of 23 SVPs across North America, which have collectively contributed over $14 million and tens of thousands of hours to build the capacity of local nonprofit organizations and of emerging, high-capacity philanthropists and civic leaders.

Dual Mission Adds Extra Power to Philanthropy

Social Venture Partners is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to addressing social issues in the community. Donors, called Partners, commit to contributing a minimum amount of $5,000 annually for at least two years. Additionally, a majority of partners choose to donate their time, expertise, and rolodexes to advance SVP's dual mission of educating individuals to be well-informed, effective, and engaged philanthropists while investing time, expertise, and money in innovative nonprofits to collaboratively strengthen their organizations.

It's this dual mission that sets SVP apart in the world of engaged philanthropy. "SVP's model of fusing its donor education and capacity building activities is truly unique and marks its greatest contribution to the field of philanthropy." (Blueprint Research & Design, San Francisco) Both missions fuel the other, creating an "SVP Community" dedicated to creating positive social outcomes.

Innovative Solutions to Social Issues

SVP conducts its work in small groups of Partners who research issues, make investment decisions, organize strategic volunteer efforts for nonprofit grantees (called investees) and deliver philanthropic education curriculum to reinforce the experiential, hands-on learning. Educational opportunities allow partners to interact with experts on a broad range of topics, from socially responsible investing to identifying personal philanthropic values to specific social issues like education, hunger or the environment. By informing and educating its partnership, SVP hopes to increase the "philanthropic pie," involving more people in philanthropy at higher levels.

Why SVP? Why Now?

Initial research indicates that the collaborative effects of SVP in a community are greater than the sum of its parts. As a result of their participation in SVP, Partners are giving more and -- more importantly -- they're giving in a more strategic fashion. Along with finances, nearly half of partners have increased the amount of time they're donating as well. Investees, in turn, have indicated that while cash grants are always welcome and appreciated, it's SVPs' contributions of time and expertise that have been invaluable.

The relevance of SVP's model and mission is underscored by the fact that 80% of all charitable contributions come from individuals rather than from large foundations. Governments at all levels are cutting back funding for the nonprofit sector, especially health and human services. With the predicted $41 trillion wealth transfer coming over the next 50 years as baby boomers pass on their fortunes to their families, SVP's impact on philanthropy becomes more vital than ever.

Social Venture Partners affiliates exist in the following communities:

  • Austin
  • Baja California, Mexico
  • Boston
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • New Mexico
  • Phoenix
  • Pittsburgh
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Wilmington, Delaware

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The above information was provided by the profiled organization.