In 2006, June and I helped start the original Lazarus at the Gate (LATG) group. Since then, we’ve been looking for ways to be more involved in our giving, and preferably in a group or community context. Last year we came upon Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2). They are a “venture philanthropy” group where the partners pool their resources and make multi-year grants to startup nonprofits. There are a number of affinity groups within SV2 — currently International, Education, and Environment. We joined the International group. Over the course of 7 months, the group compiled a list of 20 candidate organizations, did research to narrow down to four, invited the founders to submit proposals and give presentations, and finally voted to select one grantee. I volunteered to interview two of the candidate organizations, and it was thrilling to talk to the founders doing groundbreaking nonprofit work. In the end, we voted to fund Living Goods, an organization which develops health-product distribution businesses in Uganda, using an Avon-lady model.
SV2 is a member of SVPI (Social Venture Partners International), which has 26 member organizations in the USA, Canada, and Japan. To compare SV2 with LATG, the main differences would be:
- Life stage: The members of LATG were largely post-college young adults and new families, while SV2 skews more towards older families. So many of the families have teenage children that they recently started an SV2 Teens program.
- Size: An LATG group is typically a dozen people. SV2 has about 100 families, and the International group meetings were about 20 people.
- Scope: Each LATG group has a volunteer leader, while SV2 has 2 full-time staff and rotating interns. Our LATG group met monthly, and while the SV2 International group also meets monthly, overall there are at least two SV2 events each week.
- Focus: While LATG is an explicitly Christian approach to both simple living and just giving, SV2 is non-faith-based, and focused only on giving. However, last year SV2 did invite Nathan Dungan of Share Save Spend to speak about spending as well as sharing (giving).
I’ve learned a lot about directed and impactful giving through SV2, and met a number of people with similar passions. I’m currently serving on the partner advisory board and hoping to help develop relationships with foundations and local charitable gift fund organizations. If you live in the California Bay Area, or one of the cities with an SVPI member organization, I’d encourage you to check them out. There are also non-SVPI organizations — here’s one list: Giving Circles Network.