At SVP’s AGM on October 6th, 2016, Carol Byler (SVP Lead Partner) and Denise Blair (Founder & ED of Calgary Youth Justice) held a Fireside Chat with SVP Executive Director, Lindsay Read. The purpose of the conversation was for SVP Partners, new and old, to hear about how a successful partnership is formed between SVP and an Investee organization. Calgary Youth Justice Society was an Investee from 2007 to 2011 and received $155,000 in funding from SVP. Below is a summary of the conversation.
When Denise Blair approached SVP Calgary about potentially becoming an investee in 2006, she was mainly looking for funding for her organization. As the Founder & Executive Director for Calgary Youth Justice Society (CYJS), she knew they had reached a critical stage in development and the client need had outpaced their capacity. She was attracted to the idea of multiyear funding and being able to direct funds where they were most needed, while having room to focus on the work that needed to be done. What Denise under-estimated from a partnership with SVP was the non-financial support she received and the lifelong relationship formed with SVP Lead Partner, Carol Byler.
“Our experience with Carol and SVP strengthened our organization’s internal capacity through her involvement in all of the categories from fund development to strategic planning, board leadership and more. While this support was indeed beneficial to our organization, the most influential differences that our Lead Partner made cannot be categorized into a box,” Denise says.
Carol was new to SVP and, wanting to get involved, signed up to be Lead Partner with CYJS. While she didn’t necessarily feel she like she had a specific skill set to lend to CYJS, she was willing to learn and knew the good work they were doing. She started this journey unsure, but motivated, and began by attending every board meeting. Something Denise had no problem with.
“We believe the more heads around the table, the better,” says Denise. She saw it as an opportunity to have an outside perspective on the work they were doing.
Beyond attending board meetings, Carol got busy helping out where she was needed, eventually assisting with planning and organizing a gala for the CYJS 10 year anniversary. When fundraising goals weren’t met and it looked like the gala would have to be cancelled, Carol came up with some very creative ideas to ensure the event would happen. This idea gave the Board renewed energy to find donations and the gala was a success in recognizing years of volunteer support as well as raising awareness of CYJS.
This is a prime example of Carol’s connection to the organization, and how invaluable her support was to everyone involved.
In Denise’s own words, “What we have learned from our program is that community involvement in the youth justice system is about more than providing an alternative to court. What matters most to youth is the fact that people from their community care enough about them to volunteer their time to make a difference.
Well, the same holds true for our relationship with Carol and SVP. Financial support and the sharing of knowledge, skills and abilities through our SVP partnership was important, but what truly made a significant contribution to our organization was the feeling that someone believes in us and cares enough about what we do, to personally share in our passion.
The value of this kind of investment can’t be measured. It goes beyond increasing our capacity; the relationship with Carol elevated our confidence to a new level. From that new vantage point our vision felt more within reach, and we knew that we had what it takes to make a bigger difference in our community.”
And it really doesn’t get any simpler than that.
When asked if they have words of advice to offer current and future SVP partners and Investees, they have this to say.
“Be humble, respect what the organization is doing, start off by listening and gaining understanding,” says Carol. “It might seem obvious, but simply by being there and getting to know people, it can be so helpful.”
“It’s an opportunity to work outside the boundaries, instead of always looking internally,” says Denise. “Webster defines “believe” as having a ‘firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something’. This is how Carol most strengthened CYJS. She believed in our abilities as individuals and our unlimited potential as an organization; and with that, we can do anything.”
Today, the Youth Justice Committee has grown to serve every community in Calgary. More than 12,000 youth have been diverted away from the youth court system.