At this year’s Annual Partners Gathering, we celebrated the tremendous impact we have made through our investments of human, social, and financial capital. We also covered some serious business related to our own capacity-building needs. As follow-up, we offer several opportunities to learn more. If you’d like a review of key messages from the event, find them here. If you have questions for SVP’s leadership, please RSVP for an upcoming May gathering below. If you are eager to connect more with fellow Partners, join us at an upcoming SVP Portland social or learning event.
At our core, we are a community of individuals who believe in the impact and leverage achieved through our venture philanthropy model. Moving forward in 2019, we have three priorities, as outlined in the Board-approved Strategic Vision. Collectively, these drive progress toward the “Preschool for All” goal that all children in Multnomah County — regardless of ethnicity, wealth, religion, gender, or zip code — have access to high-quality, culturally-relevant, early learning experiences.
First, we will continue to build capacity of proven and promising organizations and collaborations that have direct impact in our community. Second, we will increase efforts to amplify systems change. Third, we will strengthen SVP Portland itself.
Building Community Partner Capacity
Most of you know that SVP’s unique value add is not what we invest, which is differentiated from traditional grantmakers, but how we do it. As Mr. Lee, Executive Director of IRCO, said at the Annual Partners Gathering, “[Financial] resources are helpful, but SVP is able to come up with the volunteers to help us…They help us think beyond our imagination.” We are the capacity-building partners who go all in and work collaboratively, sleeves rolled up, side-by-side with leaders of the Community Partners in which we invest. We currently have an exceptional portfolio of visionary leaders and organizations, which you can read about in our Annual Report or 2018 year in review. For brevity, here is a quick snapshot:
- Our portfolio of 14 Community Partners directly served more than 4,700 children.
- Our Partnership invested nearly 4,300 skilled hours, valued (conservatively!) at $430,000.
- SVP influenced the investment of more than $2M into our Community Partners.
- This means that for every $1 dollar SVP Portland invested, we used our human and social capital to achieve a 15:1 leverage ratio.
Where else in philanthropy can you find that level of return on investment?
Amplifying Systems Change
We know we cannot achieve sustained impact at scale by only focusing on programs and organizations. We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several years toward reaching our “Preschool for All” goal, much of it into the research and groundwork necessary for the policy and advocacy work that will ultimately address root causes. As Jessica Vega Pederson, Multnomah County Commissioner, said at the Annual Partners Gathering, “The investment in early childhood education isn’t cheap but it is cost effective.” And those investments are paying off, most prominently with Multnomah County’s Preschool for All Task Force, which Commissioner Vega Pederson Chairs.
“This Partnership shows SVP’s commitment to invest in culturally specific organizations… You have been listening to our needs and uplifting the voices of our community,” the Commissioner also shared. You can read more about our investments in system change and our recent showing at the state government level on our blog. We echo what Commissioner Pederson said: “I’m looking to SVP Partners to be strong leaders, ambassadors, and champions of this work.”
Strengthening SVP Portland
As many of you know, the past several years have been a period of rapid growth and expansion for SVP as we dove head-first into our audacious “Preschool for All” goal. After six years, it’s not surprising that we’ve reached a need to plateau and are now called upon to stabilize and strengthen our organization. This is a cycle that is familiar to many of us in the business community.
To be candid, our period of rapid growth has been at the expense of our organizational health. While we strengthened the breadth and depth of the capacity building in our community, we have not been as attentive to our own capacity and our internal infrastructure has not kept pace. We also haven’t been as focused as we need to be on maintaining a steady revenue stream and nurturing our partnership such that partners remain engaged and committed.
It’s ironic, I know. We’re in the business of helping organizations achieve operational excellence, but we haven’t always walked our talk. I’m sure some of you have felt this. It is our goal is to address this problem, because it’s not sustainable. Just think: If we’ve been able to accomplish all we have without operating at top efficiency, imagine what we’ll be capable of when are at peak performance?
It’s time for us to leverage our core competency of capacity building and apply it to our own organization to become a beacon in the nonprofit sector as an efficient, effective, sustainable organization. With your continued support, we’ll get there.
Here are a few actions we have taken and plans moving forward:
- We are focused on a culture of high performance, including a staff committed to follow through, communicating regularly, and being transparent around both our impact as well as challenges.
- We have restructured, streamlined, and focused staff roles, in order to right size our organization.
- We have Darren Davidson, as Deputy Director, to focus on development, internal operations, finance, and communications.
- We hired Matt Little, as Director of Investor Partners, to focus solely on recruiting and providing exceptional stewardship of our Partners.
- We eliminated the Business Partnership Manager position and redistributed the core functions across other staff.
- We have strengthened SVP’s Board of Directors.
- I am the new Chair.
- We formalized the Chair Emeritus (Terry St. Marie) and Vice Chair (Linda Hassan Anderson) roles to ensure leadership strength & continuity.
- We plan to add four more Board members in 2019, recruiting specifically for the skills, network, and experiences we need.
- We have activated a Board Development & Marketing Committee to support fundraising and grown our Finance Committee, which is actively strengthening our financial systems and reporting, as well as monitoring our financial position.
- Our 2019 budget, revised this April in light of financial constraints, includes a 14% reduction in expenditures, while maintaining the same $200k goal for Community Partner grant making.
So now, with humility and trust in our partnership, I am asking for your help. So far this year, we’ve made only the financial grants already committed and are delaying making new grants until we have more robust operating capital. (We continue to invest our time and influence, of course.) To move SVP toward a place of financial stability, we have set a summer fundraising goal of $150,000 in additional investments. To date, every Board member has pledged toward this goal, for a total of $50k, and we are challenging the Partnership to collectively triple that amount. In short, we ask each of you to invest in SVP’s health and growth, beyond your Annual Partnership Pledge. Thank you for your continued support! You can give online at our new secure portal.
For both those who were able to attend Annual Partners Gathering and those who couldn’t, I hope this review has been worthwhile. If you have specific questions, Lauren and I are hosting two informal events at my home on May 13th and May 16th at 5:30pm. We’re also happy to meet with you personally another day.