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An MBA in Boston’s Philanthropic Landscape

Posted by boston

“Someone told me, ‘SVP is like getting a MBA in the Boston-area philanthropic landscape.’ This statement could not be more accurate.”

Nancy Brooks, Recruitment and Investment Committees and Boston Debate League Volunteer Project Lead

Tell us a little of your back-story.

I left the financial services industry after twenty years in senior business development and relationship management roles spanning a variety of retail and institutional investment products and services. I decided to work with more mission-oriented organizations, which had been something I wanted to do for a long time, but was unable due to my work and travel schedule. I wanted to find a way to donate, not just money, but my time and skills while I explore my next career move that encompasses my leadership and relationship building skills, financial and business acumen with community involvement.

I was introduced to SVP Boston while partnered with Don Hawley (SVP Boston Partner and Board member) mentoring a Boston Public School aspiring principal. Don spoke highly about his work at SVP and about the projects being so fulfilling that every time we met I found myself asking him more about SVP.

What makes the SVP experience different from other volunteer or board roles you’ve had in the past?

Someone told me, “SVP is like getting a MBA in the Boston-area philanthropic landscape.” This statement could not be more accurate.

I enjoy serving on the boards of several educational institutions and start-up businesses. However, I see SVP as allowing you to drive change in a way that is more effective. Being an external influence to an organization that relishes counsel means you can often achieve more impact than you could if you were on the inside. Additionally, the rigorous due diligence performed during the investment selection process, Theory of Change work, and skilled volunteer projects produce a different outcome from other funders.

I have learned a tremendous amount in a short time-frame about social entrepreneurship from the projects that I have worked on, Partners that I have worked with, and through SVP’s educational forums. Attending the Theory of Change workshop and panels on Poverty and Early Education and Youth Workforce Development have been extremely valuable and professional. These forums allow me to view important issues that appeal to me, such as poverty, education and job creation, through a new lens.

You’ve been a Partner for less than a year. What have you done so far?

I jumped right in by serving on the Investment Committee, which was a great introduction to SVP and the sector. I learned how many nonprofits exist in Greater Boston, many which need SVP to help them with capacity-building. I also learned the importance of determining if an organization is adhering to its mission  statement and program effectiveness relative to financial impact and individuals served (e.g., helping programs figure out how to maximize their dollars and measure social impact and outcomes). SVP provided a number of tools and Partner support in these evaluations.

I created and delivered several training sessions arranged by David Ferreira (SVP Boston Partner and Board member) to Grantee executive leadership teams. Topics ranged from branding, creating a value proposition, crafting an elevator pitch and delivering the right message to conducting performance evaluations and managing staff meetings. The sessions were well-received, and it is fun to share best practices and experiences.

I currently serve on SVP’s Recruitment Committee, am the Lead for Boston Debate League’s (BDL) Volunteer Management Project, and work on BDL’s Strategic Planning Team. Each plays off my strengths that include identifying needs, building relationships with internal and external stakeholders to coordinate resources and understand the big picture, leading teams via a solutions-driven approach, and delivering presentations about benefits or results.

What surprised you most coming into SVP?

I was surprised and enlightened by how well SVP Boston is run! There are many ways to volunteer, and Partners give their time in meaningful, productive ways.  Each gives as much as their schedule permits and if that is one day or more every week or a few hours every year, SVP provides that flexibility.

I am amazed by the people, both SVP Partners and Grantees; authentic, committed, and talented. I found that my corporate experience and skills of leading, educating, and collaborating with people across all workplace departments, including human resources, legal, and technology, are easily transferable to this role and the venture philanthropy space.

What do you do for fun when you’re not changing the world?

I like to travel and recently accompanied my mother on a few cruises (the Baltics, Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal and Canary Islands).  My partner, John, and I enjoy weekend hiking, ski, or beach trips. Exercise, golf, and yoga are on the list too though they take a backseat to being a foodie; I enjoy eating out at new or unique restaurants (too much), taking cooking or nutrition classes, and entertaining.