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SVP Origin Story

Posted by SVP Dallas

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.

It wouldn’t be long before Paul’s success started spreading beyond Seattle. In Dallas, Social Venture Partners’ impact in the community originated with the visionary leadership of  The Dallas Foundation and its president, Mary Jalonick. After encountering the potential of the venture philanthropy model through the success of the first Social Venture Partners in Seattle, Mary and her team identified adventurous philanthropists like Bob Wright, Lekha Singh, Vin Prothro, Chad Coben and Bob Wood to form Dallas Social Venture Partners, one of the first venture philanthropies outside the West Coast, more than 13 year ago. Since its founding, DSVP has invested nearly $3 million in grants leveraged by the time and talent of DSVP Partners. For more than a decade, DSVP remained a fund of The Dallas Foundation and formed more than 250 philanthropist in its unique hands-on brand of community leadership. In 2013, DSVP “grew up and moved out of the house”, becoming its own stand-alone 501(c)3 and adopting the SVP Dallas name to align with the growing global network it helped advance.

Since then SVP Dallas has grown to include 120 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.