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SVP Origin Story

Posted by minnesota

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, the University of Minnesota graduate had other ideas than to take an early retirement. Drawing on a life-long passion for the environment, he toured the Pacific 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 do more than 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.

How did SVP start in Minnesota?

It was 2001, and Steve Bloom was looking for something new.

He was active in his church and served on nonprofit boards, but was growing frustrated. He was passionate about serving underprivileged youth, but felt that what could have been done in half an hour, dragged on for hours. Not only did he feel he was giving a lot of time, but he felt it wasn’t making the impact he wanted.

At the time, he was doing some work for Frasier Community Services. They had just received a grant from Yokomoto Moss to find the next generation of givers: what were they doing with their money and where were they giving their time and energy? During this process, the folks at Yokomoto Moss said, “You really should go talk to Tim Morin.”

Steve met with Tim Morin, Jeff Dekko, Eric Jackson and others to create a new model of giving. What they came up with was a model of engaged philanthropy -giving more than a check, by also investing their time, talent and connections in organizations. After that meeting, someone searched for what that model might look like, and were lucky to find that it already existed in the form of SVP Seattle. Seattle had the template, and all they had to do was replicate it in Minnesota.

With support from the Minneapolis Foundation, SVP Minnesota launched in 2002. Since then, SVP Minnesota has grown to include over 60 individual Partners and seven corporations.

There are SVP affiliates in 40+ cities, in 9 countries around the world and our international network is more than 3400 people strong.