A lifetime pursuit of social justice led SVP Partner Les to Social Venture Partners Boulder County. A therapist at heart and by profession, Les has always sought ways to better understand the struggles people face, and support them in finding a path forward. “From a very young age, I’ve felt I’m a small person in a big universe, and the way to make life meaningful was to help others,” reasons Les.
A politically active youth, Les found his way to the profession of therapy after testing out community organizing in the ‘60s. The nonprofit sector wasn’t a focus for most of his life, but as time went on and Les observed the ways shifting government support affected people’s lives, that changed. He saw involvement in nonprofits as a way to express his most fundamental values, noting that for him, “helping others lightened my feelings of the smallness of my existence.”
Les joined the board of Out Boulder in 2007, and found the experience to be a strong introduction to the complexities of how nonprofits function. In the meantime, his wife Ellen was on her own nonprofit journey, serving on the board of Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center alongside SVP Partner Randi Grassgreen. Following Randi’s introduction to SVP, Les and Ellen attended a Partner Meeting, and liked what they saw. “Our SVP engagement is very much about people I respect; their philanthropy and values focus, their intelligence and desire to affect the work they take on,” says Les.
Despite the initial impression that it was Ellen whose skills would best suit the organization, Les found himself more enthralled in the organization than he’d initially expected. “SVP has allowed me to help, affecting systems that go deeper than the individual. And improving the systems means deeply impacting people’s lives.” Plus, he notes, sharing SVP with Ellen has been “a really nice bonus.”
For Les, SVP has offered a space to learn more – whether through his involvement evaluating next year’s Investee class as part of SVP’s Portfolio Grants Committee, or more formal educational offerings like BOARDS WITH BRAINS and PARTNER BOOTCAMP sessions. Next, Les will participate in SVP’s pilot year of Execs Evolve, nonprofit executive coaching, as well as play co-Lead Partner for SVP’s investment of pro-bono consulting for new Investee Attention Homes.
“It’s been an intimidating but healthy way to push myself.” says Les. “I need challenges that don’t overwhelm me, but take me into different areas of functioning. Luckily, SVP has offered me just that.”