Role Reversal: Venture Philanthropists Await Invitation to Lead

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September 6, 2011; Source: Portland Business Journal / Sustainable Business Oregon | In Oregon, the Portland Public Schools Foundation is launching a new “Cradle to Career” initiative, focused on successful career preparation that starts before kindergarten begins. The foundation is seeking a convener to organize and develop a community-wide action plan toward this end.

Social Venture Partners Portland (SVPP) is a network of “engaged philanthropists” that has recently narrowed its philanthropic focus from broad educational initiatives to pre-K education. Normally, SVPP is in the driver’s seat, selecting its nonprofit beneficiaries by taking a role similar to that of venture-capital firms in the private sector. SVPP invests cash grants, corporate business acumen, hands-on assistance, and connections to a handful of chosen nonprofits each year.

Now, SVPP is undoubtedly feeling what many of us in nonprofit organizations are all too familiar with: It’s made a proposal to a foundation, and is now awaiting the decision.

In seeking to increase its impact, SVPP has heeded advice often given to “regular” nonprofits: collaborate. SVPP formed a new public-private partnership with Multnomah County’s Early Childhood Council to create a more knowledgeable and skilled convening team. Now, the two groups will wait together. The Portland Public Schools Foundation is expected to announce its decision in January.—Kathi Jaworski