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SVP International

HOW DOES SVP APPROACH EQUITY?

Our vision. Our mission.

If you aren’t familiar with SVP, we’re a diverse group of about 90 people we call Partners, who pool our personal resources (dollars, talents, and time) to “invest” in nonprofits in Northeast Ohio. We annually select a nonprofit (our Investee) and grant them $15k a year for up to three years. We also create advisory teams to work with them on specific issues that are jointly identified by our Investee and us. Our other focus is to educate ourselves and the community on topics like nonprofit operations, board governance, equity, giving, etc. We often say SVP is our favorite way to connect with others to impact the community in a hands-on way, learn, and make a better world.

What’re our goals for joining SVP? Not surprisingly, with 90 people involved, there are many different visions and ways of carrying out those visions. However, we all share a driving passion to help build a just society where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.

Since 2016, our partnership, board, and staff have ramped up our efforts to educate ourselves about equity and apply it to our model of philanthropy.

Our vision: An engaged community creating a more equitable place for all.

Our mission: Learning together as we strengthen nonprofits and impact our community.

Our vision and mission come alive through our cycle of growth.

The cycle of growth—equity in action

As we move through this cycle of growth

  • our understanding of nonprofits and the communities they serve grows
  • our ability to tailor our strategic services to the unique needs of the nonprofits we work with grows
  • and the nonprofits, with the help of these strategies and our support, grow stronger, boosting their positive impact on the community.

It’s a constant process of listening to and supporting our Investees and community and measuring our collective impact to make the world more just.

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SVP Partners have abundant knowledge about nonprofit and business management gathered through years of experience in many different business and nonprofit sectors. Areas we’ve worked with nonprofits on in the past include:

  • Organizational Design & Development
  • Fundraising Strategy
  • Human Resources
  • Board & Governance
  • Marketing & Communications
  • and many more

The knowledge and support we offer in these areas help our Investees and other nonprofits grow. However, we are also always working on our growth. As engaged philanthropists, we are continually expanding our skills, insights, and perspectives through educational opportunities and life experiences.

Moving forward with an equity lens: Over the years, we’ve moved forward, but we know “forward” is not “far enough.” To do this, we are continuing to help (and challenge) each other to better understand what equity means and to become more mindful of the various ways we have power and privilege. More and more of us are sharing in conversations and participating in learning opportunities offered by SVP, the Cleveland nonprofit community, and the broader community. However, our goal is to move beyond being awake to the problems and actually going to work on them. Applying this to SVP’s partnership, we are committed to

  • continuously becoming more alert to our power and privilege and what having them means
  • honestly evaluating the barriers to diversifying our partnership and overcoming them
  • being intentionally inclusive of different perspectives and sharing power
  • maintaining a diverse board
  • and more

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Our nonprofit Investees’ and other nonprofits’ executive directors, boards, staff, and the people they serve are experts. They’re the experts about the unique ways their organizations are serving their communities and the specific hurdles those communities face in our society. Communities we’ve worked with include:

  • individuals reentering the workforce after incarceration, recovering from addiction, and/or having formerly been sex trafficked
  • families unable to provide their children with books, access to the arts, or leadership-skill training
  • people with all types of disabilities
  • people with mental illness
  • the Broadway-Slavic Village neighborhood
  • and more

When these groups and our Investees discuss what issues, opportunities, and programs are important to them, we listen carefully to and can better respond to the real needs at hand.

This listening approach is part of why our Investees have chosen to work with us. They know we believe in creating solutions together rather than telling them what to do. We draw from our nonprofit-management knowledge, pinpointing and helping to apply strategies that will strengthen and grow Investees.

Moving forward with an equity lens: We pride ourselves on our collaborative approach to/in working with our Investees, but we’re not blind to the reality that the grantor/grantee relationship has a power imbalance built into it. Part of being an SVP Partner is recognizing our own limitations and the need to gain a deeper, cultural awareness of communities with whom our Investees work. So what are our goals moving forward? We aim to

  • make sure our Lead Partners (who work the most closely with our Investees’ executive directors) and our advisory teams are oriented with a cultural awareness to the community whose needs are being addressed by the Investee
  • continue to find new ways and opportunities to listen to and learn from the voices of the people in the communities our Investees serve
  • comb through our investment cycle from start to finish to ensure the process is equitable
  • first establish and then help our Investees meet new expectations and requirements for each to maintain its own equitable practices
  • and more

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Community perspectives help raise our awareness of the nonprofits’ and communities’ strengths and challenges. They also help make us more sensitive to our own biases and systems that give some advantages over others. We also work with hundreds of nonprofits outside of SVP and carry our growing awareness into that work and all parts of our lives.

Moving forward with an equity lens: SVP engages with the community in many ways—from partnerships to education to individual involvement in hundreds of nonprofits and initiatives. But how can we intersect with community with greater intentionality with an equity lens? We are working to:

  • expand the existing opportunities to learn about nonprofits and nonprofit management we offer to the community, as well as ourselves, to include educational programming around equity
  • build upon and establish new collaborative partnerships with organizations that work with nonprofits focused on serving disadvantaged communities and the nonprofits themselves
  • continue to emphasize and share equity-focused events in the community so that we can be active participants in these discussions
  • visibly support initiatives that raise awareness about issues that affect disadvantaged communities
  • and more

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