SVP Waterloo Region: A Four-Pillared Approach to Philanthropy

SVPI 01/17/2024
Affiliate Spotlight

Rose Greensides, SVP Waterloo Region

Led by Executive Director Rose Greensides, Social Venture Partners (SVP) Waterloo Region in Ontario, Canada, is redefining philanthropy for the future.

“We have a core group of Partners that are very invested. People always say there’s something in the water in Waterloo Region, and there is,” she said. 

With a membership retention rate of 95%, the 95 partners of SVP Waterloo Region work to amplify social impact, focusing on a four-pillared approach that includes the “Perfect Pitch” workshop series, community investment, the SVP Teens program, and expanding the partnership. 

SVP Waterloo’s staff, committees, and board take a thoughtful approach to their operations paradigm, ensuring that it captures and leverages the full spectrum of a philanthropic movement. 

We had the opportunity to speak with Rose to learn how SVP Waterloo is at the nexus of a partnership model that engages all stakeholders to affect sustainable change. 

Part of your mission is to “create lifelong givers.” How does SVP Waterloo achieve that? 

Creating lifelong givers begins with our youth philanthropic program, which teaches young people ages 12 to 18 about community issues and philanthropy. Ultimately, they fund or facilitate a grant-making process for organizations. Since 2013, SVP Teens has fundraised and granted over $40,000 to nine local charities. Currently, there are 50 teens involved within eight different schools in the Waterloo Region.

Non-profits often operate on limited resources. How do you empower them to build capacity? 

Perfect Pitch” is our free non-profit communication workshop series. It helps local charities learn to share their organization’s story and impact in powerful, clear 3-minute pitches. The series culminates with a public showcase where charities present their pitch to community members, business leaders, and funders. Partners get involved, too. About 80% of our Partners were involved in some way with the most recent Perfect Pitch event.

What about Direct Investment into the community? What is the process behind those decisions?

We approached direct investment in several ways in 2023. To start, we really tapped into grassroots organizations and did a lot of training with our Partners. We brought in diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants to help us explore the difference between working with organizations led by equity-deserving leaders versus the typical investee organizations we choose, which are often a little bit bigger. 

Through that process, we supported the capacity-building needs of 12 selected grassroots organizations. To build on that momentum, we will be facilitating peer-to-peer support among the executive directors of these organizations so that they can discuss common challenges – including how to achieve charitable status so they can apply for major grants. Supporting grassroots movements is different than supporting traditional organizations, and many local foundations are trying to figure out how to do this well. At this point in SVP’s lifestage, we believe that our model is unsuitable for supporting these organizations, so we’ve been finding other approaches, like peer-to-peer sessions with leaders and our Knowledge Bite series, to support their work. 

What is the key to expanding partnerships?

We thought about this a lot in 2023. Ultimately, we wanted to grow the number of Partners and Charities we support and ensure that the partnership was representative of the community we serve. This was a big challenge and an even bigger opportunity.

We understood that we needed to remove barriers for Partners to join. We had many community members who could donate their time and talent, but coming up with the $5000 minimum partnership donation can be difficult. Still, we need and value their skills and lived experience. Conversely, there were also Partners who had no time but could write a cheque for significantly more than $5000.

Our decision was to transition to a ‘personally significant gift’ model. It wasn’t an easy choice, and we anticipated potential challenges to our financial structure. In response, we dedicated time to crafting a compelling case for support. The objective was to encourage current SVP Partners to invest in our vision through unrestricted funding. 

We successfully secured $300,000 over three years, and to date, we have not expanded beyond our existing Partners. This funding will help us remove barriers for those who cannot contribute all the “T’s” and build out our other programming.

Guided by its four pillars, SVP Waterloo Region is proving that there is a much more holistic way to create lasting change and scale impact. 

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