Nonprofits might depend on cash donations to survive, but other kinds of giving can really help them thrive. That’s the basic idea behind San Diego Social Venture Partners, a philanthropic group that harnesses the power of experienced private-sector professionals for worthy local causes.
“We give money and the pro bono services of our partners to work on the organization itself,” says executive director Lakshmi Paranthaman. “We want them to become more efficient, more effective, and more strategic so they can serve more people and change more lives.”
SVP, which is part of a larger network of affiliates called Social Venture International, has about 80 partners, each of whom donates a minimum $5,000 to join, money that is pooled for grant funding and administration expenses. SVP’s ranks include experts in law, finance, human resources, and other valuable (and costly) services.
“They’ve worked hard to develop these skills over their careers, so in-kind giving is really impactful,” says Paranthaman. “But high-skill professional volunteer opportunities aren’t that easy to find, especially ones that really make a difference and use their time in the best possible way.”
SVP works closely with selected organizations to assess their strengths and weaknesses. “We don’t go in and say this is how you solve homelessness or childhood obesity,” explains Paranthaman. “That’s not our area of expertise. We offer what we’ve learned in the business world. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes can help nonprofits rethink some of their processes.”
She emphasizes that the giving isn’t a one-way street. “The education really happens on both sides. Through hands-on work, our partners learn about the challenges and complex problems these nonprofits are trying to solve.”
SVP partner David Cornsweet, a psychologist who became the trustee of the William Gumpert Foundation by bequest, joined SVP to learn about strategic giving. His foundation grants approximately $2.5 million each year.
“SVP has served as a training ground in becoming a more engaged investor in the philanthropic world,” he says. “The mentoring I’ve received from senior members has been incredibly useful.”
Richard Bockoff and his wife Sharon have always been active in volunteering. The Del Mar residents, empty nesters with two dogs, longed for the opportunity to grow personally and professionally along with giving generously. They first joined SVP a decade ago — couples can hold a single partnership — and devoted themselves to causes that they care about deeply, including animal welfare organizations and the Del Mar Foundation.
“Social Venture Partners helped me find my philanthropic passion,” says Richard, a retired attorney who served as the board chair for PAWS and helped orchestrate its merger with the San Diego Humane Society. “In the process I made some wonderful friends and learned how to help not-for-profits become effective and self-sustaining.”
By participating on SVP committees and resource teams, the Bockoffs have gained insight and experience dealing with the issues facing donors and the causes they want to support, explains Richard. “Now, my contributions of my time, talent, and resources are more fulfilling.” (858.412.5331, www.socialventurepartners.org/san-diego) ANNAMARIA STEPHENS