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SVP International

Oscar Mayer

What is your profession? How do you spend your days?
Upon reaching the age of the required minimum distribution, I’ve finally decided to agree that I’m retired.  When I can, I spend my days on a river or lake in one of my boats.  My wife Mary and I travel for the pleasure of visiting both familiar and new places, and visiting grandchildren both in Portland and out of town – between us we have 12!

What has inspired you to be an engaged philanthropist?
Working out ways to find and confirm the best investments for our family foundation, helping our entire membership come to support those investments and the mission that it implies, and knowing the potential results of those investments – those have been the sources of my inspiration as a philanthropist.

What do you value about Social Venture Partners?
SVP embodies an approach to philanthropy that I believe will be more effective than the approach of conventional philanthropy.  It addresses complex social problems with a correspondingly complex array of responses, involving multiple stakeholders in, and multiple contributors to, the outcomes it seeks.  It is committed to measurement, analysis, and redirection as necessary to achieve its goals. SVP recognizes that the outcomes it pursues will need to change over time and that its dedication to those goals need to be sustained over time; that is, that there are no quick fixes, and no solo performances.

What criteria do you use in deciding where to focus your philanthropy?
Social return on investment. By investing in those activities that are claimed to yield the highest returns, we will in fact achieve those sorts of returns with our case by case investments.  For our family foundation, that means investing a majority of our annual distribution requirement in early childhood services, focusing on socio-economically at-risk children from conception to third grade.  Our goal is to support work that increases the rate at which those children arrive at kindergarten ready for school, and continue thereafter to succeed in their lives.

Describe the most meaningful charitable gift of time or money you have made and why you made the gift.
To me, developing our family foundation’s mission statement and outcome goals was the most meaningful gift of my time. It led to discoveries of truly inspiring opportunities to invest in ways that support that mission and those outcomes.

How do you know if your giving or volunteering has been successful with a nonprofit?
The reality is that the longitudinal data we and our grant recipients need to answer that question is not available without substantial additional funding to track and obtain them.  I hope our future investing will be at levels that will yield that data on an on-going basis so that we may direct or redirect our support as the data and our analyses suggest we should.