From the Rancho Santa Fe Review
December 29, 2011
By Kathy Day
San Diego Social Venture Partners members say their organization is all about looking at philanthropy in a different way.
“We really roll up our sleeves with our partners and get to know them,” said Ellis, noting that it‘s all about leveraging their collective skills. “It’s a three-year relationship – we don’t just walk away.”
In addition to providing unrestricted cash grants, SDSVP provides skilled volunteer expertise to the targeted nonprofits, as well as other groups in need of a helping hand.
“We put the funds and human capital into an organization,” Ellis said. “A little of our expertise goes a long way.”The strongest attributes of the group, Ellis said, are its “collective impact” on local nonprofits and in how much partners learn from each other about how to be better philanthropists.
Their efforts recently gained them recognition from the Association of Fundraising Professionals as San Diego’s Outstanding Philanthropic Organization for 2011.
Each year Social Venture Partners picks a special focus and carefully selects at least two nonprofits, which they call “investees,” explained Ellis, principal of the investment firm Ellis & Associates, LLC, who previously was president of the Marketing Services Division of Protocol Communications, a marketing services firm. He serves on several other boards and has announced he will seek the City Council seat now held by Sherri Lightner.
In 2011, the focus was on the military, a particular passion for Forsyth, who in October completed a four-year “phase out” from his career as a sales executive. He spent the last 20 years with Lee Hect Harrison and became involved with Social Venture Partners four and a half years ago after his wife died.
“I went from working for pay to working for the community,” he said, noting that he was introduced to the group by a friend. “I was always a sucker for a $200 phone call but never knew what my money was doing. This enables me to have a say.”
His most recent “say” has been as lead partner with REBOOT, a local initiative of the National Veterans Transition Services, Inc., that assists veterans in moving back to civilian life and finding meaningful employment. The partners also teamed up in 2011 with the Armed Services YMCA at Camp Pendleton
For 2012, the partners have picked education as the target, although they will stay connected to their military investees and others.
Look at the list of groups they’ve supported and you’ll see that children and youth programs have always been interesting to the organization, Ellis said, making this year’s focus on education a natural choice.
“We don’t know the answers,” said David Lynn, who works in La Jolla specializing in investments, database management and business analytics. He is serving as board liaison on the project that will involve seeking solutions to improve local schools as well as raising more money to that end.
“We want to help build the capacity of a sector, in this case education,” she added.
The process of deciding which nonprofits to support begins with a Discovery Team, which polls partners on what groups they might want to help. Then they invite in experts in that sector who share their thoughts and challenges in that particular arena.
Ellis said that’s often “someone who falls in love with that nonprofit.” That person becomes a key point of contact and forms the team.The help comes in a variety of ways, from Resource Teams that step in to assist with fundraising efforts, management practices, developing their boards and leaders, as well as providing financial management, information technology or marketing and PR expertise.
Each year during the three-year relationship, the partners and investees develop an annual plan. But it’s not just about the nonprofit, Ellis said. “We measure us and them against program outcomes and the impact in the community.”
And, Paul noted, it’s not about raising money for them but also about helping them raise money and building a stronger organization.
To date, that impact has been great. In 2011, the partners gave $175,000 in direct cash contributions; add in-kind services, additional personal donations and 9,510 hours of volunteer time and the tally hits $1.7 million in value to the community, according to the annual report.
And, in case you were wondering, yes there is a “social” in Social Venture Partners. Members get together for social gatherings as well as having fun with their projects, Paul said, noting that again this year they helped the Community Resources Center put together 300 gift baskets.
Learn more at www.sdsvp.org.