Partner Q&A: Cindy Jones

August 5, 2013

Cindy JonesDuring Cindy’s professional career in real estate fund development, she developed and managed a $700 million real estate fund, was named by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of the top ten rising stars and one of the one hundred most influential people in real estate.  After retiring in 2000, she turned her talents to working with non-profits, helping them develop their best practices in development, communication and funding.  She has also advanced her education in the field of photography, cinematography, computer graphics and design and uses these skills in assisting non-profits with their promotional material.

Cindy’s previous careers include working as a respiratory therapist in the post-op open-heart unit, as well as modelling and acting in thousands of advertisements, catalogs, commercials, magazines and promotional pieces.  She was educated at Kansas University in Respiratory Therapy and Biology.  Cindy became a SVP Partner in 2011, and has served as a coach in the Social Innovation Fast Pitch program. 

Q:  How were you introduced to SVP?
Cindy:
  I was introduced to SVP by Partner Ken Deemer through Tech Coast Angels, a group of 250 private investors who fund early-stage technology companies in Southern California.

Q:  What inspires you to make a difference?
Cindy:
  Because I have the funds to do so and my parents taught me generosity.  There was no other way in our house.

Q:  What social issue are you most passionate about?
Cindy:
  Kids being kids.

Q:  Which nonprofit organization do you wish everyone knew about?
Cindy:
  I wish everyone knew about the Boys and Girls Club of Mar Vista.  My husband and I are the founders, and the Boys and Girls Club of Mar Vista is uniquely located to service hundreds of kids a day (300 and growing). We are now renovating the facility and our hope is to turn it into a flagship facility for the Boys & Girls Club with both indoor and outdoor recreational activities for the kids.  The facility includes outdoor baseball field, running track, basketball courts, adult and children’s play and exercise areas, picnic tables and the indoor facility has a gym, commercial kitchen, computer center, study room, teen center and art center.

Q:  What do you think is the biggest barrier to creating social change?
Cindy:
  To really think and not just act on all emotions.

Q:  What book are you reading right now?
Cindy:
I am currently reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.


Partner Q&A: Bettina O’Mara

July 5, 2013

Bettina O'MaraSVP Partner and member of the Social Innovation Fast Pitch Planning Committee, Bettina O’Mara started in the Publicity and Promotion department at Castle Rock Entertainment. She founded their Product Placement division and then became a consultant to them when she created her own company, Visualeyes Productions. She moved from Placement and Promotions into full time Producing of independent films. Bettina has been a Partner since 2011.

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?
Bettina: Through my brother, SVP Partner Lance Tendler.

Q: What project are you working on with SVP? Why did you choose to get involved this way?
Bettina: Helping with planning the Social Innovation Fast Pitch. Early in my career, I planned the large premieres for Castle Rock Entertainment and loved it. I am hoping those skills help SVP!

Q: What is the most memorable experience you’ve had with SVP so far?
Bettina: I love learning about the nonprofits that we work with as well as those that apply for our programs, but I have to say my first Fast Pitch event was my favorite. I enjoyed it immensely. While I really don’t have a favorite Fast Pitch organization, I have found quite a few organizations that I am so thrilled are out there helping those in need.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?
Bettina: I listen to comedy! It makes me laugh the whole ride.

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?
Bettina: There are a few causes I am deeply connected to: animal rescue, children in need, and medical research.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?
Bettina: Sleeping in! Although with a two-year-old golden, it’s not easy.

Q: What inspires you to make a difference?
Bettina: I feel that I have been very lucky in life and I think it’s important to give back and pay it forward whenever we can.


Partner Q & A: Stephen Groner

June 6, 2013

Stephen Groner, LASVP PartnerLASVP Partner and Board Vice Chairman Stephen Groner is the founder of S. Groner Associates, Inc. (SGA) a community relations and social marketing firm. Stephen has been an LASVP Partner since 2008.

Q: How were you introduced to SVP?
Stephen: I found LASVP by chance. I heard a lecture by the dean of the Claremont Graduate School regarding philanthropy. He talked about Peter Drucker and his work in the field of non-profit management and during the course of the lecture brought up the concept of venture philanthropy. I was so fascinated by the concept that I started researching organizations and ran across SVP. Well, one thing led to another, I got in touch with Executive Director Diane Helfrey, she invited me to the first ever Fast Pitch event at USC and I joined a few weeks later.

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?
Stephen:
I used to be a big NPR news fan, but after the last few election cycles, I’ve more or less sworn off the news media. I now tend to shift between listening to classical music or I like to listen to podcasts of university lectures on history or science.

Q: What book are you reading right now?
Stephen:
I love reading, but I’m not a fast reader and am always picking up new books before I finish the last one. Currently, I’m reading Einstein: His Life and Universe, Tribal Leadership, and The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, and just finished All the King’s Men.

Q: What is the most memorable experience you’ve had with SVP so far?
Stephen:
Coaching John Sullivan with BTS Communications in his unforgettable 3-minute Fast Pitch.  Watching an introverted reticent young man over the course of 8 weeks grow his confidence and find his voice was inspiring. But then when he went on to wow a packed audience with an emotional, inspiring and poetic 3-minute pitch, it sent chills through my body. It was certainly one of those efforts where I got so much more than I gave.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?
Stephen:
Running.  I especially love to take long runs early on weekend mornings. I live fairly close to the beach, so my meditation is just getting in a zone and watching the waves and the surfers go by as I plod along mile after mile.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.


Partner Q & A: Caroline Rook

May 3, 2013

SVP Partner, Caroline RookLASVP Partner Caroline Rook is a senior level professional with 30 years of international strategic financial and operational experience. Caroline has been an SVP Partner since 2011.

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?
Caroline:
By Bob Wright from SVP Dallas who wrote a book The Little Green Book of Venture Philanthropy with my old boss and SVP Dallas Partner, George Ellis.

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?
Caroline:
Coaching Fast Pitch and seeing the progression of the candidates through the whole process. What amazing changes we see. Being part of the process with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and watching them deliver their pitches before the audience was an honor.

Q: What inspires you to make a difference?
Caroline:
I am inspired by the continual effort and positive outlook of the folks at LASVP and am continuously learning from their points of view.

Q: What social issues are you most passionate about?
Caroline:
 The Environment and Children: LASVP’s continued efforts to support strong education programs is so important to the children of Los Angeles

Q: What do you listen to when you’re stuck in traffic?
Caroline:
NPR: KPCC. News, The Splendid Table, Story Corps, etc.

Q: What is your favorite place in LA?
Caroline:
Any good hole-in-the-wall restaurant with great ethnic food!

Q: Who was your favorite teacher in school?
Caroline:
Madame Juvet, my French teacher at my European school. I was in grade school when I moved from Singapore to Europe and had never even heard of French! She was so patient with me and kind.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.


Partner Q & A: Amanda Sabicer

April 8, 2013

Amanda Sabicer, LASVP PartnerAmanda Sabicer is a stay-at-home mother of three who was most recently with Amgen’s Commercial Leadership Program. With her roles as an LASVP board member and Co-Lead of the Recruiting Team, Amanda has kept herself busy since joining LASVP in 2010.

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?
Amanda: I discovered LASVP as a business school grad student at UCLA. I had to wait until I got a job after graduation before I could join.

Q: What project are you working on with LASVP? Why did you choose to get involved this way?
Amanda: As a board member, my focus switched last year from working on the strategic plan to building the membership of LASVP. I feel passionately that LASVP’s new strategic direction is the most innovative, daring and exciting in the SVP network. Then again, with such a talented group of Partners, many of whom are entrepreneurs, should we really expect anything other than a new “disruptive” approach to philanthropy? Since we are now working on executing our new vision, I am working with fellow board member, Marta Gazzera Ferro, to share the LASVP story with external audiences and recruit new Partners to join our tribe.

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?
Amanda: The people! As a busy mom of three kids (five years old and under), I make an effort to spend the little free time I have on activities and with people that energize me. LASVP never lets me down. In fact, even though I live in the Inland Empire now, I still drive out to the Westside for events and meetings. My husband jokes that I get an “LASVP high” after I hang out with members of LASVP. Where else in LA is there such an incredible, diverse, and intelligent group of results-oriented people who are committed to making Los Angeles a better place?

Q: What book are you reading right now?
Amanda: I just picked up Give Smart : Philanthropy that Gets Results by Thomas Tierney. I haven’t started it yet, but am looking forward to a new way of looking at philanthropy. I just finished David Brooks’ The Social Animal and found it fascinating. I thought Brooks’ section on emergent thinking (check out a quick summary) is especially relevant to LASVP’s foray into collective action.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?
Amanda: I look forward to marveling at how my girls fearlessly tumble around in gymnastics class, to watching my son toddle around our backyard until he finds another dangerous object to put into his mouth, to “bouldering” in Joshua Tree with my family, and to collapsing next to husband in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine on Sunday night.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.


Partner Q & A: Robin Salter

March 6, 2013

Robin Salter, LASVP PartnerRobin Salter is a senior consultant at Concentric Consulting Services. Robin joined LASVP in 2012 and we’re so excited to have her on our team! 

Q: How were you introduced to LASVP?
Robin: Diane Helfrey and I met through a mutual friend who had organized an “LA Salon” which was designed to draw like-minded people together into a fun, casual and intellectual discussion about a range of topics. That group no longer exists (or if it does, I am no longer involved!) but the beauty of it for me was that I got to meet Diane and be introduced to LASVP. I asked if I could be involved as a coach, since that is what I do for a living. “Time to give back!” I thought, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made, both personally and professionally.

Q: What is your favorite place in LA?
Robin: Palisades Park, between Alta and Palisades Avenues.

Q: What project are you working on with LASVP? Why did you choose to get involved this way?
Robin: Currently, I am on the Education Investment Committee and am organizing the Social Innovation Fast Pitch Alumni Program. This is a great opportunity for me to invest both time and effort in helping those who have been involved with our organization to remain involved, to learn about other ways in which LASVP can continue to help and support them, and also to create an ongoing forum in which these organizations, many of them fledgling, can learn from and support one another.

Q: What book are you reading right now?
Robin: I always have four or five books on the go at the same time. Currently, my list includes: Mantissa (John Fowles,) Finn (Jon Clinch,) You Are Here (Thich Nhat Hanh,) Rock Springs (Richard Ford,) Fortune’s Children (Arthur T. Vanderbilt II,) and The Cloister Walk (Kathleen Norris).

Q: What social issue are you most passionate about?
Robin: As a teacher, administrator and educational coach/consultant, I believe that Early Childhood experiences are key to the outcomes demonstrated in society as a whole. I know that children who are born into poverty, those whose families are affected by illness including drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness, children who grow up without loving and kind parents and role models, and others who endure adverse experiences in childhood are likely to face enormous emotional, intellectual, educational and even physical challenges later in life. Without the foundation of healthy early life, our community as a whole suffers damage. As Thomas Reid once said: we are only as strong as our weakest link. I believe that our energy and attention should be focused in great part on ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to start life in the best way possible.

Q: Who is your hero?
Robin: Victor Hugo. As a writer, I aspire to develop a fraction of the dedication he displayed to his work ethic. (After his exile to the Channel Islands off the coast of England, he used to stand at a podium to write, facing the window which overlooked the sea, and set a minimum of 4 hours at a stretch.) Hugo was a poet and writer of novels whose message of freedom from tyranny was clear and effective. I see him as one of the world’s iconic champions of social justice.

You can learn more about our Partners here on our website.


Partner Q & A: Marta Gazzera Ferro

February 6, 2013

LASVP Partner, Marta Gazzera FerroMarta Gazzera Ferro is President of Starfish Impact and has been an LASVP Partner since 2010. Not only does Marta serve on LASVP’s Board of Directors, she also co-leads the Recruiting Team.  

Q: What is your favorite part of being involved in LASVP?

Marta: The people—I have really enjoyed meeting other Partners over the years, and building friendships and collaborative working relationships with people who I may not have met otherwise.  The group is likeminded in valuing the philanthropic mission of LASVP, but also quite diverse which makes for very interesting, stimulating and engaged conversations.

Q: What inspires you to make a difference?

Marta: Many things inspire me to make a difference, but some early and lifelong inspirations are my parents and my early teachers. Here is an excerpt from a newsletter that I wrote over 3 years ago summarizing this inspiration:

My life and therefore my work have been largely inspired by both of my parents. My mother is a child development expert and lifelong educator who taught children, teachers and parents, led progressive schools, and founded a charter school. In her “retirement” she voraciously writes children’s books with a diversity theme woven throughout and works with parents and teachers through seminars and one-on-one counseling. My father worked with gangs for over ten years eventually leading the New York City Youth Board. He was the Northeast Regional Director of the Community Action Program in the Office of Economic Opportunity (War on Poverty), the Executive Director of the New York State Division of Human Rights, and then the Associate Chief of the Children’s Bureau, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. In all of these roles he made a sweeping impact on underserved youth and through his work at the Children’s Bureau he affected millions of children through the child welfare legislation and laws that he wrote and championed including ones focused on child abuse and neglect, foster care, and adoption.

I have also been greatly inspired by my first school – Green Acres in Rockville, Maryland – and the teachers who taught me there. I attended from first through eighth grade and went on to an excellent high school, college and graduate school, but it is my formative years at Green Acres that most impacted who I am today. My mother came to Green Acres as the lower school head when I was in second grade, so we share our roots in this special community.

I just went back for my 25th reunion and the school’s 75th Anniversary this past weekend and was able to connect with former classmates and teachers who also traveled to the DC area to celebrate together. In speaking to my 7th & 8th grade homeroom and social studies teacher, Hal Lederman, I remembered that I wrote about his hands-on entrepreneurial lessons we enthusiastically participated in for one of my business school essays. His “Popcorn Game” in which I was chosen, after interviewing for the job, as one of a few entrepreneurs who ran my own popcorn selling business for a week (hiring and managing a team of employees) and the “Stock Market Game” in which we competed as teams against high school students across the country to achieve the greatest return (doing quite well!), helped to inspire my business school decision. Another crucial reason behind why I have chosen my career path is the sense of community that was instilled at the school every day and the community service work and social justice philosophy that permeated the curriculum and culture at the school.

Q: What book are you reading right now?

Marta: I have read several books in the past month that I can highly recommend:

I just finished a book last night and I am about to start reading Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

Q: What do you look forward to on the weekends?

Marta: Spending time with my family—my son and husband—and friends, and other family members when they are close.

Q: Which nonprofit organization do you wish everyone knew about?

Marta: C5LA (www.c5la.org).  The program has been in LA for 13 years and 100% of the students graduate from high school and over 95% matriculate to college.  C5’s program is a 5-year, year-round, intentionally-designed, outcomes-oriented youth leadership development, college prep and community service and advocacy program for underserved youth in the LA community.  The average student comes from a family of 5 with $21,000 in annual income and the students thrive with the supports and opportunities provided by C5.  I have been involved for 8 years and would be happy to speak to anyone interested in hearing more about C5!