The Trinity River Mission (TRM) purpose is impressive. It is a volunteer-based, community learning center that promotes literacy, encourages academic success, and develops effective life skills among disadvantaged youth in West Dallas. TRM is a safe haven that provides homework help, tutoring, mentoring, and a support network of parents, teachers, volunteers, and TRM staff. This program reduces the risk of delinquent behavior and increases the likelihood that the students will stay and thrive in school. The numbers speak for themselves as 95% of the students pass to the next grade, 98% of students graduate, and an average of 80% of the students enroll in college directly out of high school.
Social Venture Partners (SVP) provided the expertise and leverage that they needed to grow. The first step was to help TRM tell their story more proficiently. Multiple SVP partners helped TRM’s Executive Director, Dolores Sosa Green, fine tune her presentation to the full SVP committee for selection. The presentation paid off big time! Not only was TRM selected as an investee by SVP, but Dolores used the same presentation for the Crystal Charity Ball, United Way, and Attorneys Serving the Community and received a combined total of close to 1.2 million in donations (which includes SVP’s financial investment as well). TRM was able to seize new opportunities, thanks to the collaboration with SVP.
Christina Hanger, another SVP partner, came on board as a lead partner as she liked the impact of TRM, not just with children, but with the community. As an SVP partner, she views her role as a guide throughout the process. She says she has met really interesting people through SVP, particularly people who get things done. She says, “I aspire to be like the other SVP partners. They care about what I care about – making the community a better place.”
SVP’s collaboration with TRM is a perfect example of what makes engaged philanthropy so successful. As with TRM, it’s exciting to see these partnerships work and make the organizations more effective. It involves so much more than just writing a check – the expertise that the partners bring to the table is invaluable.
Dolores says, “TRM has grown and matured quickly since the SVP engagement began in 2010. Donors have doubled, and we are currently on target serving 475 students and have a waiting list to get in.” She emphasizes that TRM couldn’t have gotten to this point without SVP’s help. She says SVP gave them access to people who were proficient in specific areas – expertise that they couldn’t afford, and that gave them a lot of leverage. Dolores adds, “All that Jim and Christina did made it easier to see where we were headed.”
The partners realized early on that TRM had some governance and board issues, so SVP brought in another SVP partner, Carol Maier, to do board training and consulting with the board on committee roles. She worked extensively with the governance committee to revise the bylaws. Once again, SVP provided the expertise to improve the organization of TRM.
Jim liked the fact that TRM was very focused on what they do and wanted a long-term, structured path. He says, “SVP looked at where the agency was going and gave them a jumpstart to the next step. We developed a strategic plan, which set and achieved 10 to 12 goals in one year.” Jim emphasizes, “I’ve been on boards for a lot of nonprofits, but this is more about serving than just philanthropy. This has given me the opportunity to be a consultant for a great cause.”
Christina’s background in finance and operations for high tech companies was very helpful in getting things done quickly. This was her first engagement, and she plans to stay involved with TRM as a “hands on – go to” person.
The partnership with SVP has revitalized TRM. SVP helped TRM think strategically and take advantage of new opportunities. The partners’ investment of their time, expertise, and resources paid off with a strong return. SVP’s concept of engaged philanthropy gave TRM the exposure and experience to reach a larger audience and become a true SVP success story.