The Origin of Social Venture Partners , 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. A year later, he 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.
More than a hundred people showed up for that first meeting, and in 1997 Paul – along with other business leaders – founded Social Venture Partners. These efforts were the basis for growth across the country, and, eventually, throughout the world.
In 2010, SVP Charleston took root.
It started with a simple conversation between founding partner, Marc Chardon, then C.E.O. & President of Blackbaud, and George Stevens of Coastal Community Foundation. “Would this work in Charleston?” A good question, and one that proved easy to answer.
SVP Charleston started out as “Charleston Philanthropic Partners”, six founders with a vision, and a blank slate to start working. That small group grew to eleven, then to sixteen, where everyone was “rolling up their sleeves” and creating a solid foundation for the future. Some Partners worked alongside nonprofit investees on business plans, sustainability strategy, or “red teaming” ideas, while other Partners started building the group’s structure from the ground up.
Coastal Community Foundation supported the fledgling group, knowing that the talent and resources exist within the Charleston community to become a star among the social venture movement. In 2013, the group moved from “Charleston Philanthropic Partners” to “Social Venture Partners Charleston” in order to align with the growing movement and capitalize on best practices from similar groups elsewhere.
Since our humble beginnings, SVP Charleston has grown to include 38 Partners, and we are still growing. There are organizations like ours in 40 cities throughout North America, Australia, Japan, China, and India and our international network is more than 3000+ people strong.
There is no doubt that local folks – our Partners – will make a lasting impact on the nonprofit community, while learning and growing just as fully from close engagement with the nonprofit leadership.