January 21, 2010

Investment Working Group Update - Jan 2010

In the summer, SDSVP Partners chose "Education" as the 2010 grant focus area. In the fall, the Investment Working Group received 42 Letters of Interest (LOI) from a variety of educational organizations. Small teams reviewed the LOI's and made recommendations as to which organizations should be invited to submit a proposal. Fifteen organizations were chosen to submit proposals. In January, the Investment Working Group heard the recommendations of the proposal review teams and as a group decided on 6 agencies to make presentations. Final decisions will be made in March.

January 5, 2010

Partner Ventures

Congrats to Partner Aaron Contorer and alumni Lori Steele on their recent engagement! Aaron and Lori met through mutual friends in SDSVP.

Partner Louarn Sorkin and her Creative Yarn Group including Donna Papera, Julie Pardee, Robin Parker and Diane Wintress created and donated 542 hats and scarves! This year they donated items to the homeless, seniors, young mothers and new born babies at the Salvation Army/Door of Hope, families at Community Resource Center, transitioning foster youth at Just In Time, and children going through chemotherapy at three pediatric oncology centers. If interested in joining their group, please contact mandy@sdsvp.org.

Investee Updates

ARTS student, Inocente’s first one-woman-art-show Inocente Whoo?!? was a huge success! They had over 250 guests and raised over $10,000 for her scholarship fund and to support ARTS!

Congrats to ElderHelp for winning the Salute to Excellence for Innovation from Nonprofit Management Solutions for Concierge Club, their social enterprise program that SDSVP helped to create!

Meet Partner, Karen Brailean!

By Lori Thiel

Karen Brailean is a unique combination of talents: an engineer with impressive communication skills; a creator of cutting edge technology with a mind for marketing; and a business professional with a tireless spirit of philanthropy. She earned bachelor’s and master's degrees in engineering and has worked for leading-edge companies such as Hughes Aircraft and Motorola. Along with her husband, she helped run PacketVideo and Alcatel as VP of marketing. She was president and CEO of Perseus Wireless and now consults for EnvironmentalLights.com in product development. Somehow in all this moving and shaking she has also found time to chair the Board of Directors of the La Jolla Music Society, participate in the San Diego Grantmakers Homelessness Working Group and other charitable organizations, and help found San Diego Social Venture Partners, serving on its board and as its chair.

"We actually were the fourth partners with SDSVP," she says, "and I was heavily involved in the first Investment Working Group."

Karen was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the Investment Working Group. She was concerned it would be a long, drawn out meeting of people with competing ideas on an open-ended agenda, she says, but instead the meeting lasted only two hours and was run professionally. "It was an amazing experience, and I enjoyed it very much because we got a lot done in a very democratic manner."

The experience was so rewarding, in fact, that Karen accepted the chairmanship the following year and held that position for two years.

Following her significant involvement with SDSVP she decided to focus her attention on the La Jolla Music Society where she oversaw a $3.2 million budget with a staff of 15 as well as 15 part-time music teachers. The Society has a history of bringing artists such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Kirov Orchestra, Alvin Ailey, Itzhak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma and Chick Corea to the community, and that tradition continued under Karen's watch, despite the downturn in the economy. In the end, these famous performers along with enhancements to marketing — which increased ticket sales and education programs — proved successful, she says, bringing in $120,000 more in ticket sales than budgeted and creating savings of $155,000 in 2008-2009, one of the worst economies in 30 years.

Fresh from that success, Karen turned her attention to the problem of homelessness, which brought her back to SDSVP by way of the San Diego Grantmakers’ Homelessness Working Group. In January of 2009, she was "welcomed onto the Homelessness Working Group with open arms due to SDSVP’s great reputation." she says. "I was thrilled to join."

In the short time she has served on the Homelessness Working Group, they collected a remarkable $13 million in homelessness funding from federal coffers. "It turns out the federal stimulus package had a lot of money for helping the homeless," she muses. But claiming that money required tireless effort, including proposal writing, petitioning and political advocacy. "It was a huge amount of work," she says, but the payout was well worth it. With the windfall the San Diego region has the means to address rising family homelessness.

The process of obtaining that $13 million gave Karen an appreciation for the value of political advocacy. "Wealthy people can certainly help," she says, "but in the end it'll be government funds that will get buildings built and provide long-term assistance." So when SDSVP started its Advocacy Working Group, she eagerly signed up. "It's exciting," she says of her involvement "and I'm proud of the fact that we're tackling homelessness."

Ultimately Karen credits her philanthropic success with her business background. "The work I've done has given me the strengths to be successful in the nonprofit world," she says. "Teaching nonprofits to focus on their customer and products...don't try to do too many things...keep it simple and excel at what you do. Those are all business concepts." And, as Karen has shown, they work exceedingly well in other areas of life, as well.

Picture: Karen & Jim with Stewart Copeland, the drummer from “The Police”