2017 marks SVP Boston’s 15th anniversary. We’ll be celebrating this exciting milestone in different ways throughout the year, including kicking off a series of SVP Partner and Grantee profiles. We sat down with veteran Partner Judy Obermayer to discuss her SVP experience and look back at SVP’s first 15 years.
When and why did you join SVP Boston?
I joined SVP a few months after the Boston chapter started in 2002. One of the founding Partners connected me to the group, and I liked the concept. I was on SVP’s Board for a few of the early years, which was an interesting time. In those days, SVP was operating through the Boston Foundation. There were a couple crunch points when we had limited funds and had to regroup to figure out how to continue to grow the organization. We probably only had about 20 Partners at the time. SVP as an organization has really evolved over the years.
Why do you stay involved?
My involvement with SVP has fluctuated over the years. There have been periods that I have been very involved with a specific Grantee for a number of months or years, and at other times, I have been busy with other commitments and unable to play such an active role. SVP’s model allows for that flexibility.
Recently, I have enjoyed getting involved again with Bottom Line Massachusetts, one of our current Grantees. We have several different groups of Partners working with Bottom Line on various projects. I’m working with their HR team on its Talent Development Program, creating job descriptions and developing an in-house training program to help individuals on the team grow within the organization.
What has been the best part of your SVP experience?
One highlight was working with Raising A Reader Massachusetts (SVP Grantee in 2006-2009 and 2011-2014) soon after the organization started in Boston. I have always been interested in education, and RAR’s mission really captured me. The model achieves a high level of impact at a relatively low cost. A small group of us (SVP Partners) worked with the then Executive Director, Donna DiFillippo, to help the organization expand. I was very impressed with Donna: she valued our input and grew the organization fabulously. She was the right person at the right time for the organization.
I have also sat on a few Investment Committees over the years, which is the best way for new Partners to learn about philanthropy and nonprofits.
Our Partnership has grown significantly over the years – we have over 80 Partners now. In your experience, how has SVP changed over the last 15 years?
I remember when there were fewer than 20 Partners, so it is quite different now! Part of SVP’s evolution over the years relates to our understanding of what kind of organizations we can best help and where to focus our efforts to achieve the greatest impact for the organization. We have identified the areas that seem to be common to many organizations – fundraising, governance, staffing, and others – things that get left behind when you are passionate about your program and you’re trying to get it off the ground.
In recent years, we have been more thoughtful about the entire engagement process, from the Investment Committee’s selection process all the way through the three-year engagement. Codifying our own processes in the last few years has helped Partners better understand how to interact with the organizations we support and to help SVP deepen our results. As the engagement process has evolved and matured, we have become more successful at helping our Grantees grow and reach that next level of impact.
What are you excited about for SVP’s future and our next 15 years?
The timing for SVP’s strategic planning process this year is perfect. We, as Partners, should take this opportunity to stand back, look at our past areas of focus, and think about where we want to concentrate our efforts moving forward. Engaging a diverse group of Partners in this year’s strategic planning process will energize the partnership – especially our newer and younger Partners – to feel like they can really make a difference in a country and a world that is rapidly changing.
I’m also excited to see SVP Boston continue to explore and take advantage of the many resources and connections provided by the network of SVP affiliate chapters across the country and globe.
A little bit about Judy…
In addition to being one of SVP Boston’s longest-standing Partners, Judy has an extensive and varied history of community engagement, having been involved with investing in early-stage companies and organizations for more than 30 years. For many years, Judy was associated with Moleculon Research Corp., a chemical and pharmaceutical R&D company based in Cambridge. She is also a former consultant to small high-tech companies in the areas of strategic planning, financial management, and government relations.
Over the years, Judy has worked with and sat on the boards of a range of nonprofits including the Enterprise Forum of Cambridge, the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation, the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), the Society of Arts and Crafts, and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. Together with her late husband, Arthur Obermayer, Judy established the Obermayer Foundation, an operating foundation that develops its own specific programs and supports early-stage nonprofits.