How did you first become involved with SVP?
One of the original SVP members Thania Panopoulos was also a founding board member of One Million Degrees and she brought it to our attention that OMD would be a great fit as a community partner with SVP. She recused herself from the selection process, but encouraged us to apply and we were selected as SVP’s very first community partner.
Can you tell me more about your relationship with SVP partners after OMD was accepted as an investee?
When we were accepted, our main liaison was Alex Buck and she and I would meet frequently and were in good communication. I’m still on her Christmas card list! There was a team of SVP partners that worked on various things for OMD including Shani and Eric Harmon. Shani in particular was helpful as she worked with us on strategic planning that was an outgrowth of our relationship with SVP, which was very formative.
SVP partners are a group of curious people who ask difficult questions, but create a collaborative environment. They are here to learn and grow just as much as the nonprofits they work with and they showed humility and eagerness to adapt throughout the investment process.
Did you find OMD’s collaboration with SVP to be helpful?
Absolutely. When we were chosen as the first community partner, we were promised $25,000 a year for three years, which was significant due to the size of our organization at that time. But really that was sort of the icing on the cake — the real value was the coaching and the relationship building.
At the time that we began our partnership with SVP, we were at the perfect stage of our development — were ready to put a stake in the ground, we wanted to scale larger. So to have the opportunity to work with this really diverse group of professionals with expertise in lots of different areas, who we could be and I could be really candid with who wanted nothing but to be helpful was wonderful. I didn’t have to sell them because they were already sold on our mission, so I could just tell them what I was struggling with and then they could offer help and advice.
For example, Bob Adducci not only volunteered with OMD, but he also helped with coaching. Garrett Sheridan, who is the president at Axiom Consulting Partners, did some work for us on competencies and the development of our HR infrastructure. We continue to get access to really smart people who can be incredibly helpful that we otherwise would have had to pay a whole lot but we are able to access for free because of the relationship with SVP. It was an incredibly valuable experience and I would highly highly highly recommend it.
How has OMD grown and changed since your partnership with SVP?
Yes it has. At the time when we first partnered with SVP there were fewer than 10 employees, I was the seventh and our budget was $1.2 million. Today, OMD has over 40 employees and we have a $5 million budget. Most importantly, we were serving between 75 and 100 students and now we work with almost 1,000. After working with SVP partners, we changed our model and have been able to scale dramatically in Chicago. OMD went from a little program that had a smattering of students from a bunch of colleges to being present on 10 college campuses with 60 to 120 plus students on each campus.
Any final words?
SVP is very much part of OMD’s story and I think the model of engaging in a collective nature with nonprofits and bringing talent from the private sector into the nonprofit sector is really exciting.