It was 1994, and Paul Brainerd was out of a job.
He had just sold his software company, Aldus Corporation, to Adobe. PageMaker, the desktop publishing program his company created, had revolutionized printing and publishing – and left him an unexpected millionaire.
At 47, early retirement might have looked attractive to some, but Paul had other ideas. Drawing on a life-long passion for the environment, he toured the northwest, interviewing dozens of leaders in the field to figure out where he could have the greatest impact. A year later, Paul founded the Brainerd Foundation, as well as an environmental nonprofit.
Not long after that, Paul began to realize that he was not the only person in his particular situation. The dot-com boom was in full swing, and Seattle was brimming with young, retired professionals who wanted to give back, but didn’t quite know how to go about it.
The wheels started turning. Paul invited colleagues, friends, and community members to discuss another idea – this one borne of the desire to get thousands more people highly engaged in philanthropy. These people would not just write checks. They would work shoulder-to-shoulder with nonprofits – using their professional skills to tackle Seattle’s most pressing problems.
“It’s not about charity,” Paul told Susan Byrnes of The Seattle Times. “This is a more engaged giving style. If it’s done right, both sides end up with more in the end.”
More than a hundred people showed up for that first meeting, and in 1997 Paul – along with other business leaders – founded Social Venture Partners.
Through business, Brad and Tanya Zumwalt met Paul Brainerd, founder of the Social Venture Partners concept. The unique model of supporting the community appealed to them, and in fall 2000, the Zumwalt’s launched Social Venture Partners Calgary, the first SVP in Canada. Since it’s inception, SVP Calgary has raised $1.8 million for direct investment with our investees and provided thousands of hours of volunteer time and expertise to those nonprofit organizations.
Since then SVP Calgary has grown to include 60 Partners. There are organizations like ours in 30 cities throughout North America, Japan, and India and our international network is more than 2700 people strong.