Delving Into Venture Philanthropy

By: Orleana
Orleana is participating in Allowance for Good's autumn 2013 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy program.

Last Thursday at ELP, we discussed venture philanthropy. Venture philanthropy is defined as the utilization of techniques from venture capital finance and business of management, combining them to achieve philanthropic outcomes through business world means.  Essentially, venture philanthropy is the financial support of new, non-profit organizations/potentially risky social ventures with promise or a significant goal in mind that requires aid to be recognized. Venture philanthropy allows these young organizations to mature and ground themselves, hopefully achieving self-sustainability after a set amount of years. 

Venture philanthropy is focused around providing financial support for and promoting small, new or underfunded organizations. Venture philanthropy enables emerging nonprofits to flourish through the giving of grants over a period of time. Both old and new organizations apply to receive grants, which, after an inspection by the organization supplying the grants, are given yearly for a certain number of years.

This week we had a great guest speaker, Sejal, come to class to discuss her work with The Springboard Foundation, a volunteer run group that supplies grants to beginning nonprofit organizations, with a focus on after school programs.  While affiliated with a variety of organizations, (having worked in the nonprofit field for the last fourteen years) Sejal is currently the Managing Director of the Springboard Foundation, and during Thursday’s class explained the goals of the Foundation and described its interactions with other nonprofits.

What I thought was one of the more interesting points in our discussion about The Springboard Foundation was its careful maintenance of the organizations they supply grants to. They check in with the organizations to see that the money they give is being spent productively, and making a successful change in the program. The Springboard Foundation definitely puts a lot of time and effort into getting emerging nonprofits running steadily, and I think that making sure the grants that they give are being used to get the maximum results is really important.

Near the end of class, we carried out a group activity where the class split into groups to create our ‘own’ venture philanthropy based foundations. We discussed prospective foundation names, goals, statements, and fiscal requirements, and each group presented our finished results at the end of class. While our projects were pretty small scale, they really made me appreciate all of the planning and hard work that goes into venture philanthropy, (though that could be said about any philanthropy), and the people and volunteers who come together to make it run so that other nonprofits can flourish.
Orleana, bottom right, listens to an ELP guest speaker during the Thursday night class.