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SVP International

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the “Social Venture Partners” model?

The Social Venture Partners model is a new type of philanthropy, “venture philanthropy”, which means we invest both time and expertise as well as money in multi-year partnerships. SVP looks into the community to identify needs and promising solutions in the same way that a venture capitalist would try to find good ideas and entrepreneurship in emerging companies. SVP also assesses the community organization’s overall needs and infuses that organization with the knowledge, skills and contacts of SVP Partners. Their time and expertise are as important as money in helping an organization grow. We take a long-term approach, providing volunteer professional expertise and working together towards objectives and measurable outcomes.

How does the Social Venture Partner (SVP) model differ from other funders?

Collective efforts.

Unlike most private foundations that are funded by a single person or family, SVP is comprised of individuals who hope to achieve a greater impact together than they could individually. Partners participate in grant decisions and create in-depth multi-year partnerships with non-profit organizations in Toronto, called “investees”.

We collaborate with our investees.

We bring our collective expertise to promising nonprofit organizations, collaborating with them to positively impact our community. Once selected, SVP works in concert with the organization to improve upon their ability to deliver effective programs.

We aim to strengthen the organization as a whole.

Building upon the programmatic expertise of the investee, SVP uses capacity assessment tools to help the investee evaluate, plan and prioritize how to build capacity within their organization. With access to SVP partners’ skills and expertise, investees can improve the following:

  • Financial Management
  • Fund Development
  • Information Technology
  • Marketing, PR and Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Strategic Planning
  • Legal
  • Board Development and Governance
  • Program Evaluation
  • Leadership development

A full partnership.

SVP seeks to develop true partnerships with nonprofits. SVP’s approach is unique, and most non-profits are not accustomed to a funder being involved with the internal operations of their organization. Once selected, a Lead Partner is assigned to work with each Investee. The Lead Partner acts as a Project Manager to assist the Investee in prioritizing their organizational capacity-building goals, developing their annual work plan and coordinating a team of SVP Partner volunteers. Investees participate in an annual review process to measure progress on goals, assess volunteer projects and use of SVP resources.

We are rarely program-focused; we are investing in an organization.

Unlike many funders, we typically don’t want to support a single program or project within an agency, but rather look at the organization overall. This different focus is also reflected in our reporting requirements and even in the way we define outcomes.

In addition to working with nonprofits, SVP provides seminars, workshops and resources to its Partners to help them further develop their personal giving and community engagement objectives. This “curriculum” of Partner Education provides in-depth information about philanthropic planning, community involvement and the social and environmental challenges facing Toronto.

How does SVP interact with local foundations and non-profit organizations?

In its grantmaking process, SVP talks with and learns from many experts in the non-profit community about the issues that SVP funding is focused on. SVP also looks to best practices of other funders to learn about evaluating grants, making effective site visits and being an effective volunteer.

How is SVP funded?

SVP Partners join SVP by making an annual contribution of $5,000 or more. The funds are pooled and used to provide grants to investees (grant recipients) and support the associated programs and operations.

Are there SVPs in other cities?

Yes, there are SVP affiliates in many cities. We share the same name, mission and organizational model along with a set of ten core principles. Other aspects of the organization and implementation of the model are locally determined. See www.svpi.org for links to SVP affiliates in over 25 locations throughout North America and Japan.

What is capacity building? Why is capacity building important to SVP Toronto?

We define Organizational Capacity Building as the development of core skills, management practices, strategies and systems to enhance an organization’s effectiveness, sustainability and ability to fulfill its mission.

SVP Toronto believes that stronger management, systems and infrastructure result in stronger organizations that can more effectively achieve their programs and fulfill their mission. To achieve this, SVP Toronto works in partnership with nonprofits. SVP Toronto is not only a grantmaking organization, but also provides skilled volunteers, professional consultants, leadership development and management training opportunities. SVP seeks out investees with needs that align with our Partners’ expertise. By working together, our Partners and Investees develop a unique mutually beneficial relationship.

Does SVP Toronto commit funds for the full 3 years?

SVP Toronto gives initial 12-month grants, renewable for two additional years, to new Investees with a long-term approach in mind. After the first year, SVP Toronto will make individual refunding grant decisions based on a review of annual objectives. Although the refunding decisions are made annually, SVPT expects relationships with many of its Investees will span the full three years.

How large are the individual grants given by SVP Toronto?

Annual grants from SVP Toronto are in the range of $15,000 to $20,000 to use on a defined basis to support capacity building. SVP makes initial annual grants with the intent of establishing longer-term partnerships with its Investees (typically three years).

Why do you call your grant making “investing”?

We consider our grant making as investments in our community. Our success will be measured by ultimate impact in the community. When we select a non-profit for investment and engagement we expect to make a multi-year commitment. We will work throughout our relationship to track the social return on our investment.


Does SVP Toronto only support Toronto non-profits?

Yes, at this time we are seeking only organizations operating and delivering services within the downtown area of the city of Toronto.

Does SVP support operational expenses of those agencies?

Yes, operational costs may be supported through the funding as we believe in the importance of strengthening leadership and infrastructure to improve the capacity for a mission to be effective and successful. Funds are granted with specific objectives defined only after the investee has been chosen and a capacity assessment is completed to determine where the funds can make the most difference.

How do you make your investment decisions?

SVP Toronto has a team of Partners who serve on our Investment Committee to research and make investment recommendations to the full partnership. The Investment Committee reviews Letters of Intent, coaches shortlisted candidates in preparation for their application, conducts site visits and presents their findings to the full partnership. Then, all Partners vote to make a decision on what organization we will support with funding contributions and consulting services in the coming year.

What are you looking for in your investments?

In addition to mission alignment between our focus area of poverty reduction and the mission/programs of the non-profit, we are interested in compatibility and receptiveness of an agency to the SVP model. We look for those agencies who have a clear vision of how they will utilize the human and financial capital we have to offer. Our Partners want to have a strategic impact with both dollars and business skills.

What are the key characteristics you are looking for in an investee?

We seek organizations that are committed to an infusion of SVP volunteer support to build and strengthen their organization’s capacity to deliver programs, and they are committed to program evaluation and measuring outcomes.

SVP Toronto will look at its potential social investments the same way venture capitalists do, focusing on strong leadership, bold ideas that have achieved small scale success, people with vision to have a broader, growing impact on the community, and measures of performance.

What are the qualities you look for in the leader of an Investee?

SVP’s Investees are led by passionate leaders with vision and ideas about effecting change and solving problems in the community. They often use traditional business skills to achieve their goals and make creative use of limited resources to doggedly pursue their social mission. They embrace collaboration, are willing to share and build leadership within their organization and are enthusiastic about working with high-level volunteers.

Can Partners nominate nonprofits?

Yes, they can. Some Partners have worked in the community and know of good candidates for SVP Toronto investment. SVP Toronto encourages Partners to bring those organizations to light but these organizations are subject to the same application procedure as any other organization. SVP Toronto has anonymous voting process to prevent any preference given to a prospective non-profit based on a prior relationship with a Partner.