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, early retirement might have looked attractive to some, but Paul had other ideas. Drawing on a life-long passion for the environment, he toured the 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 not 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.
In 2001, SVP Vancouver (formally BC Technology Foundation) was the third chapter to be established with the support of 17 founding partners. Since then SVP has grown to include 40+ affiliates, in 8 different countries throughout our international network, with more than 3,400 people strong.