|Rose Greensides works with a network of some of the “coolest people” she’s ever met. Greensides is Executive Director of SVP Waterloo Region, a local philanthropic partnership that is “striving to make a significant impact” on Waterloo Region’s charitable sector.
Greensides started at SVP, which stands for Social Venture Partnership, approximately three years ago. And since then she’s been very busy.
The SVP concept was founded in Seattle in the 1990s by Paul Brainerd. The creator of PageMaker, Brainerd “woke up one morning a millionaire, after he sold his company, Aldus Corporation, to Adobe.” Wealthy beyond his needs, he launched the Brainerd Foundation, an organization to bring technology solutions to environmental nonprofits.
Brainerd began to realize that he was not the only person in his particular, wealthy situation. Back then, 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,” so he invited colleagues, friends, and community members to discuss an idea “born of the desire to get thousands more people highly engaged in philanthropy.”
“These people would not just write cheques,” he said; this group would “work shoulder-to-shoulder with nonprofits – using their professional skills to tackle Seattle’s most pressing problems.”
The majority of Greensides’ energies over the last year has been focused on a pitching competition called “Perfect Pitch”.
“It’s not about charity,” Brainerd 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.”
Fast forward to 2010: two tech titans, Tim Jackson, and Jacquie Murphy, along with Rosemary Smith, then Executive Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation, went to visit some Social Venture Partnerships in the United States. Greensides credits Smith with bringing SVP into the community of Waterloo Region.
Greensides says that when partners join the Waterloo Region SVP, “they want to do more than just write a cheque. They want to be more impactful with their giving, they want to see what they’re giving, how that translates to the community, and they want to make a leveraged gift.”
Currently, SVP has 85 partners in Waterloo Region. Partners contribute $5000 annually; if you’re under 25, it’s $3500. Greensides adds that partners get way more than their annual contribution. She estimates that 20% of their partners, “write a cheque because, they want more of a return on their investment,” which is their philanthropic giving.
Since 2010, SVP Waterloo Region has given out $475,000. This amount, Greensides says, has translated into $2.97 million, when considering partner expertise, and also additional donations that come as a result of the partner learning more about a charity and seeing the benefit and change that can occur as a result of a considerably larger, leveraged gift.
Her number one stakeholders are the partners that employ her – community minded entrepreneurs who see value in impact investing and care about the results it has on community. “Waterloo Region is really good at working with tech companies and startups; now we’re doing that for the charities and the social sector. We give them unrestricted funds, we’re not tying it to a program, but we are going to spend a lot of time with you to ensure your organizational capacity is rising.”
Growth comes from getting more partners engaged, whether that means adding “more partners or more partners donating more money.” Often, Greensides says, partners will “double or triple their contribution”. The extra money permits partners to join that might not otherwise be able to contribute financially, “but really have the skills and expertise we need to use for the charity sector. And it has some reciprocal value, because they want to get engaged, become part of the network.”
There are 25 coaches/partners who are assigned 2-3 per charity
The majority of Greensides’ energies over the last year has been focused on a competition called “Perfect Pitch”. Prior to the development of the program, Greensides did some market research to see what other SVPs around the world were doing for community engagement and growth. Fifteen organizations were running a program called “Fast Pitch”, a pitching contest that Greensides said is “very similar to what the tech community is doing in Waterloo Region.” So she brought a group of partners together and said, “I want to do this, but I’m not going to do this unless I have support, because I can’t be the coach for 10 organizations.” Immediately she had “huge buy in”, as twenty partners helped launch the actual pilot committee. Perfect Pitch was underway.
She gets irritated when she hears the phrase “we’ve tried it, and we’ve done this before
The 10 organizations are divided into two groups; six are pitching and four are auditing the program; Extend a Family Waterloo Region, Kitchener Waterloo Human Society, Sadies Place for Innovative Inclusion, Waterloo Regional Family Network, House of Friendship and Reep Green Solutions. The four auditing are Carizon Counselling, Canadian Mental Health Association, Shore Centre and the Child Witness Centre.
There are 25 coaches/partners who are assigned 2-3 per charity. There are three boot camps led by two experts. The purpose of the boot camp is to have the charity learn the fine art of the pitching craft, starting with why is it important to have money for this venture, what does that “why” look like, and the what makes you unique? The final evening focuses on how to own the crowd, so emphasis is placed on creating the perfect “pitch deck”.
It all comes together on November 13, 2018. That evening, the six pitching charities will showcase their offering. There are cash prizes, with over $10,000 given to the charities. Tickets cost $25, and come with the unique twist where each ticket holder will select which charity should receive their $25. In the end 100% of the money goes to the six charities, “which is pretty cool”. All cost are covered by the SVP.
SVP operates with an extreme focus on community charities. During her tenure, Greensides has created a list of values which are available on the SVP Waterloo Region website. Values are very important to Greensides. These values came about from a meeting where Greensides noticed a power struggle between two board members. She left that meeting thinking, “Never again do I want that power struggle at a board meeting.” She spent a lot of time talking with partners. The outcome was a list of values that she holds dearly. “So now anything that the SVP does new, it gets put through a review of their mission, and their values.”
Working with charities can be somewhat demanding. But that’s OK – Greensides is a determined executive director. She gets irritated when she hears the phrase “we’ve tried it, and we’ve done this before … so we can’t do it again.” Her focus is clear and direct, she’s moving forward and taking SVP to a higher level. She wants to bring in different voices, “so that we can be more innovative and deal with the crisis that is happening,” she says. “It’s OK to have conversations that are uncomfortable.”
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