What makes for a strong and compelling Letter of Interest (LOI) submission?
There’s no right or wrong LOI. The LOIs we receive are as different as the organizations that submit them. Our LOI template, however, has specific recommendations as to how and what to include. The best LOIs are ones that tell the organization’s story by including the information we request.
Are there certain factors that distinguish Social Venture Partners’ Grantees?
While Social Venture Partners’ portfolio of Grantees vary greatly in the services they provide, they all have specific elements in common that made them ideal for a Social Venture Partners investment:
- An Executive Director committed to capacity building and receiving counsel
- Capacity within the organization to build capacity (a solid leadership team and bench – at least 3-4 staff – that can absorb Social Venture Partners’ support)
- Demonstrable program results
Do most Social Venture Partners’ Grantees have a strategic plan in place when they are selected?
Not necessarily, though an organization does need to have a vision of where it is going. An organization with a strategic plan in place can likely articulate its needs clearly and the areas where Social Venture Partners could best provide support. Or an organization might envision Social Venture Partners’ help in refreshing an existing plan.
Does Social Venture Partners consider only Boston-based nonprofits for its grants?
Our Grantees focus on providing service in Boston and surrounding towns and cities (with sometimes a larger footprint or with the potential expansion into new communities). In order for Social Venture Partners’ pro bono consulting to be successful, however, our Grantees’ senior staff must be headquartered in Greater Boston.
What does Social Venture Partners mean that an organization needs to “demonstrate a commitment to capacity building”?
We are looking for organizations that have already “turned inward” through the hard work of organizational development. We look for evidence that an organization has spent money, time, and/or staff resources on capacity building. For example, has an organization hired a consultant to support marketing and communications, implemented a new system, hired staff to support program expansion, etc.?
How many years of program need to be in place for Social Venture Partners to consider an organization?
Rather than look at the number of years an organization has been in operation, Social Venture Partners instead considers if an organization has established clients (and knows how to find and engage them) and program metrics that demonstrate or are beginning to demonstrate impact.
How does Social Venture Partners support organizations throughout the investment process?
Each semifinalist is assigned a Liaison, a Social Venture Partners member of the Investment Committee who serves as the contact between the nonprofit Executive Director and Social Venture Partners.
How many investments will Social Venture Partners make in this investment cycle?
Typically we receive 20+ LOIs each investment cycle, which we will narrow down to 3-4 finalists. Finalists will submit full Proposals and have a site visit and a meeting with 1-2 Partners skilled in leadership assessment. From the finalist pool, we will select one Grantee.
Does Social Venture Partners provide feedback to finalists that are not chosen?
We commit to meeting with the Executive Director and Board Chair of any finalists not selected. We provide information from our Investment Committee on where Social Venture Partners sees an organization’s strengths and gaps as well as overall recommendations.
If my organization isn’t chosen, either as a finalist or as a Grantee, should I apply again?
Growth-oriented small to mid-sized nonprofits change so rapidly that an organization can look very different from one year to the next. Several of our current and former Grantees applied and were not selected during previous investment cycles. If your organization meets our criteria for a strong Grantee candidate, we would certainly encourage you to apply again.
What does Social Venture Partners’ pro bono consulting look like?
Our Partners volunteer an average of 450 hours annually to each of our Grantees. The engagement typically begins with a 6-month intensive organizational assessment followed by work planning, done in collaboration between Social Venture Partners and our Grantees. Each Grantee has a Lead Partner, the go-to-person at Social Venture Partners who project manages the engagement. During most years, Social Venture Partners will work with a Grantee on 2-3 large capacity building projects, with anywhere from 10-25 Partners volunteering to support those projects.
When does most of the work happen?
Social Venture Partners plans all of our capacity building work in concert with our Grantees; the majority of the work occurs during normal business hours.