Up until five years ago, Tanya Anderson’s definition of ‘philanthropy’ was straight forward: to give money. It might have been her career in finance that had something to do with it. The night she changed her mind, though, was the night she attended one of SVP Seattle’s new Partner receptions.
“I’ve always said, if you can get a finance person to give money to an organization, there’s something really moving about that organization,” Tanya says.
“I had my ideas about philanthropy before SVP, but then when they presented the model I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is that missing piece.’”
The SVP approach that won Tanya over was the opportunity to go beyond writing a check. At SVP she would be able to both volunteer her professional skills to those on the ground working with the community and connect with other professionals to create sound financial systems for nonprofits.
Tanya did exactly that two years later. With a growing family, she did not have the resources to contribute to SVP as an individual. So instead she approached her new employer Ash Consulting, which handles a variety of nonprofit clients, with the notion of joining SVP as a corporate partner.
Within the first six months representing Ash Consulting at SVP, Tanya was invited to join the Finance Community of Practice (read more here) that SVP had recently formed to help solve the multitude of financial obstacles nonprofits face.
“I was already doing this with my clients, but here was a group of people that was talking about the very same things I was struggling with,” Tanya explains. “We built some concrete tools to help nonprofits, and so now I was suddenly giving back.”
The group collaborated to create a three-phased finance health check for SVP Investees that breaks down the exceedingly complex nonprofit financial cycles into accessible reporting. In a pilot program, they tested the strategy on three organizations (read more in part 2 of our series). And with each one, it proved better and better, streamlining processes and bringing transparency to board and staff.
“Maybe this sounds like I’m making a bigger deal out of it than it was, but when you spend nine or 12 months working on something, you have no idea if it’s going to work, and it does,” Tanya explains. “That feels really good.”
Around the same time Tanya joined the Finance Community of Practice she also learned of SVP Investee Team Read, which joins struggling second and third grade readers with teen coaches. It was timely. They were in need of a board treasurer.
“I have a daughter who’s four, learning to read,” Tanya says. “What Team Read does is incredibly relevant to my life right now. I went out for a site visit at Leschi Elementary and got to see the kids working with the tutors. I totally fell in love with the model and how it works.”
But even with its powerful approach of students teaching students and the progress it was making on young readers, the organization was struggling to build an effective financial reserve. If anything were to happen — an economic downturn, a change in their partnerships with other organizations — they were at risk of not continuing. Tanya saw an opportunity to provide solutions.
In the first year she served as treasurer she helped Team Read build a financial reserve from $0 to $150,000.
“It’s not that the money wasn’t there all along,” Tanya points out. “It’s just no one could see it. Once we had good financial reporting, we were able to refocus our energy.”
Team Read went from being on the cusp of having cash flow issues to having reserves to planning for multi-year growth. And Tanya brought the work she was doing with the Finance Community of Practice and at Ash Consulting to a full circle.
So, yes, philanthropy really can be more than just giving money, reaffirms Tanya.
“I think I’ve been able to live the reality of the SVP model working,” she explains. “I knew the kind of person I was in terms of how I wanted to be a philanthropist and give back. I happened to meet an organization called SVP that matched those values. And now for three years I’ve lived it. I’ve helped numerous organizations doing the work I do through SVP and it works.”
Cecilia Garza is SVP’s communications manager. In her free time, she enjoys sailing the Puget Sound by way of her small yet comfortable Coronado 25’ and romping the beach with her 10-pound Italian Greyhound.
Learn more about Cecilia and read more of her work here.