Keri Silvyn, SVP Tucson
Meet Keri Silvyn, an SVP Tucson Partner who specializes in zoning and land use law in Southern Arizona. Recently named one of BizTucson’s 2023 Women Leading the Region, Silvyn was appointed to represent her region on the Arizona State Land Board of Appeals by then-governor Doug Ducey in 2014. Her dedication to her community is apparent through her work with SVP, but it doesn’t stop there. She acts as the chair of the Tucson Airport Authority and sits on the boards of United Way Tucson Capital Corporation and Sun Corridor, as well as several others.
How do you work with communities in Tucson? And how does this work inform what you do for SVP?
I engage with communities in a few key ways in my work. As a specialist in zoning and land use law, I regularly meet with neighbors and neighborhoods near proposed development projects. My job is to understand their concerns and find common ground between them and the developers I represent. I aim to address concerns within regulations to move projects forward positively. Although sometimes that isn’t possible, my work continually focuses on how communities can move forward together rather than being at odds with each other.
I’ve also learned a lot from serving on nonprofit boards about good governance and collaboration. A few years ago, when our local Social Venture Partners chapter was starting up, I was working on a separate project about sustainable growth for Tucson. There, I really saw how nonprofits were duplicating efforts and competing rather than working together to truly make change.
SVP’s desire to bring nonprofits together, improve governance, and reduce duplication while increasing collaboration really aligns with my passion. My husband and I, drawing on his mediation training, have facilitated governance workshops for struggling nonprofits within the SVP structure. Our full-time jobs limit the time we can spend with SVP right now, but we’re looking forward to contributing more of our energy in retirement to helping nonprofits work together in our community.
Why is collective action and pooled giving important to you as a philanthropist?
My husband grew up in Tucson, I moved here over 30 years ago, and we’ve chosen to raise our three kids here. We love this community and want it to be the best it can be. There is a lot of opportunity for continued improvement. My husband and I are metrics people. We want to see success over time. We understand that some of this work will show success over time, so we are not looking for immediate gratification. I want to look back in 10 or 15 years and see that our 2Gen work, for example, has reduced rates of homelessness, reduced rates of domestic violence, improved literacy rates, and more.
I think we need to be purposeful in how we contribute to making these changes. As a philanthropist, I want to move the needle, not just spread money around, and I know I’m not alone in that. I think that connecting philanthropists together through pooled giving and collective action allows us to be strategic and achieve meaningful goals for our community in the most economical and effective ways.
How do you approach global giving, and how does that impact your approach at SVP Tucson?
Philanthropists want to give money, time, and energy towards improving something, wherever or whatever that may be. As an organization sharing ideas globally, SVP can see what works in different places. That’s always my first question when people in Tucson have a great new idea. Has anyone tried this before, and did it work? Rather than stumbling over ourselves, if another city or state has tried something and learned lessons, we should reach out and get a step ahead. We’re all going to stumble some. So, I think it’s great for SVP to be that global network, sharing so we can all keep moving forward rather than repeating the same mistakes.