Evolution of an Investee: Reflection on Investee GrowingGreat

August 6, 2013

Get Healthy with GrowingGreat!An SVP Investee since late 2009, GrowingGreat’s mission is to inspire children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through innovative classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens and community events.  Here’s what Lead Partner Lance Tendler had to say about working with GrowingGreat.

Q: What attracted you to volunteering with GrowingGreat?
Lance:
I was a coach for the 2009 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and GrowingGreat was one of the organizations participating. Co-founder Peggy Curry was representing GG. Her energy is very infectious and I was quickly won over by her presence, and her passion for the cause of nutrition education and inspiring healthy eating habits. LASVP Partner Steve Raymond was guiding GrowingGreat through the process of applying to be an Investee of LASVP, and was looking for a co-lead Partner, and I quickly agreed. GrowingGreat’s work is universal – it’s a cause that is relevant to all of us regardless of economic status, race, or creed.

Rita with lettuce_smallQ: Where do you think LASVP Partners have added the most value to GrowingGreat?
Lance:
The Board of GrowingGreat is small but competent, and the organization had a history of relative success prior to allying with LASVP. Early on Steve led a technology initiative relative to rebuilding the GG website, and the migration to a web delivery model for GrowingGreat’s classroom content and teaching plan. But generally, I would say that the greatest value came at a high level such as strategic planning, governance and board development, which is helping them evolve from a very volunteer-based organization to one with experienced professional staff. LASVP helped facilitate an intensive strategic planning initiative, and LASVP sponsored GrowingGreat’s participation in the Annenberg Alchemy program which focuses on Board Governance and best practices.

ggbuild2Q: What’s next for GrowingGreat?
Lance:
The organization is making an important transition in terms of service delivery. Initially a lot of the food handling, documentation delivery, teaching and instruction was organized and provided directly by GrowingGreat volunteers and staff. The classroom lessons and content are loaded onto the site now, which creates an opportunity to deliver GrowingGreat value to a significantly larger footprint. By emphasizing the content, and phasing out the physical delivery, GrowingGreat really becomes a national force.


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.


Breaking Out of Silos: LASVP’s Next Investments in Education Focus on “Collective Impact”

June 6, 2013

LASVP Hones in on Collective Impact

LASVPLASVP’s newly revised investment approach alternates between a permanent social issue (education) and a rotating social issue based on Partner interest.  Having worked with great educational nonprofit in the past, it will come as no surprise that the permanent issue chosen by Partners was education.

Taking education as the framework, the Investment Team met in late 2012 to narrow in on a more specific focus area for 2013.  The team broke up into subgroups based on Partner interest.  Different teams looked at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, early childhood development, advocacy, and collective impact.  Each of the subgroups researched their topics then presented their findings to each other.

One approach stood out.  Collective impact was a component of many subgroup recommendations, and rose to the top as a strategic approach that appealed to the majority of the group.

Defining Collective Impact

So, what is collective impact?  Collective impact happens when diverse organizations come together to address a complex social issue.  John Kania and Mark Kramer’s article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review defines collective impact as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.”

Collective Impact Puzzle PiecesThe idea of collective impact was born out of the idea that complex social issues require a coordinated, structured, and collaborative approach.  Collective impact is defined by a variety of organizations coming together across sectors (i.e. nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, foundations, etc.) and who are all committed to a common agenda.

Want to learn more?

Why Collective Impact Makes Sense for LASVP

Alex SoschinAlex Soschin, Partner and spearhead for collective impact (pictured to the right), recalls that during the Investment Team’s discussions, collective impact seemed like a natural fit.  It provides a framework that is being utilized by nonprofits in all the areas the Investment Team explored.

By finding the organizations and initiatives that are collaborating in this way, you find players who are taking a holistic approach to tackle the issue.  Alex says that collective impact appeals to him because, “There is a focus on data, a focus on breaking out of silos. Collective impact looks at the big picture, not the individual battles.” When organizations decide to work collaboratively, they begin to share data, funding and experience, and they begin to eliminate unneeded competition.

“When you write a check to support a collective impact initiative that includes 20 or 30 other organizations, they all win from your investment,” says Alex. “Even a small strategic investment can leverage huge results.”

LASVP’s 2013 Collective Impact Investment Cycle

With this strategy in mind, the Investment team conducted research and reached out to other funders to learn who had initiatives underway that would improve long-term educational outcomes for children in Los Angeles County.  Potential applicants were invited to apply after attending a workshop on May 14th.  Applications are due June 10th.

PARTNERS:  If you would like to get involved with the application review and selection process for this Education Investment Cycle, please contact SVP staff.


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.


Passionate Leadership: Candy Deemer and Synergy Academies

April 8, 2013

Candy Deemer, LASVP PartnerSynergy Academies is a charter school system that reaches 1,200 K-12 students in South LA. Inspired by their amazing work, LASVP Partners have put their time and talent behind the organization, giving almost 500 hours of strategic assistance since our initial investment in 2010.

Energy, passion, and love of education. Founding LASVP Partner Candy Deemer brings all of this to her role as Co-Lead Partner with Synergy Academies. As a writer and executive coach with years of marketing and management experience, Candy can add fun, creativity, and keen insight to any conversation. Together with her Co-Lead Partner, Richard Landers, Candy has led the way for SVP to help Synergy Academies make the most of their communications.

Candy learned about Synergy by participating in meetings for LASVP’s grant rounds where she was impressed with the level of success Synergy had and their high standards of excellence. Using the knowledge she gained through volunteering with our former Investee Bright Star Schools, Candy was prepared to jump in and take the lead. As Co-Lead Partner, Candy acts as a liaison between SVP Partners and the Synergy leadership team.

She has developed tremendous respect for Synergy Co-Founders Meg and Randy Palisoc, and can attest that “they are wonderful people who work very, very hard for their students. They aren’t afraid to tackle any problem.” With LASVP’s passion for improving education in Los Angeles and Synergy’s entrepreneurial spirit, our investments of money, time, and talent have paid off. “It’s a really strong two-way working relationship,” Candy says. “Synergy is interested to have LASVP’s help and our partners have the skills to assist them with their goals.”

Throughout our time supporting Synergy Academies, SVP Partners have provided strategic assistance with board development, financial planning, organizational strategy, marketing and branding, IT infrastructure, and executive coaching. Candy has coordinated and managed the various projects and matched fellow Partners who have the skills needed to accomplish a project’s goals. Through Candy’s leadership, SVP Partners assisted Synergy as they have grown and expanded from grade school classes in a local church to having elementary, middle, and high schools, all of which are co-located with traditional LAUSD schools.

So what’s been Candy’s most rewarding experience with Synergy? “Seeing how they have come along in the way they present themselves.”  From branding and identity, to executive coaching, to building presentations, Candy has loved the “fun and creative” aspects of assisting Synergy. “They weren’t getting the full bang for their buck [with their communications] when we first started with them,” she says. But now, the way they present themselves through their Trade Secrets Tours and presentations “does a great job of showing how Synergy achieves such extraordinary academic results. People get it now and they get excited about it.” Synergy’s effort to share their success with other educators is gaining traction and teachers are traveling from other states to take the tour and meet their teachers.

Overall, Candy believes that SVP Partners added the greatest value by helping Synergy “think through their strategy as an organization–how to lead a growing organization, how they present themselves to the world, and thinking about what’s next in terms of ‘sharing out’ their best practices with other schools.”

To learn more about Synergy Academies, you can visit their website at www.wearesynergy.org and RSVP for their next Trade Secrets Tour coming up on May 22.

To find out more about becoming an SVP Partner, click here.