Fw: VPPNews: November 2010

my buzz & my blog

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” George Washington Carver

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Statement of Faith
You can find other “Market with Meaning” but you definitely want to see “Profit with Purpose”.
I personally “Believe in Kingdom Transformation” because I know there is only ONE “Life for Significant”.

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2010年11月12日 星期五,Venture Philanthropy Partners <vvrana@vppartners.org> 寫道﹕

寄件人: Venture Philanthropy Partners <vvrana@vppartners.org>
主題: VPPNews: November 2010
收件人: incubator.hou@gmail.com
日期: 2010年11月12日,星期五,下午10:40

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President's Perspective

The New Normal: Thoughts for Funders Supporting Scale

Much has been said of late regarding partnerships between the federal government and private philanthropy.  VPP Board Member, Institutional Investor, and Annie E. Casey Executive Vice President Ralph Smith led an informative dialogue at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers in September on what new federal innovation programs mean for local funders. The discussion explored the many potential benefits of the Social Innovation Fund and other new federal partnership programs like Investing in Innovation, Race to the Top, and Promise Neighborhoods for the philanthropic sector. Smith said that by bringing funders to the table early on, the federal government is elevating philanthropic institutions to the level of true partner. Smith pointed out that we have the potential to create a mutually beneficial relationship and have our voice and needs heard, and more importantly, the needs of those whom we support, at the highest levels of the government. The more stable funding source the government provides gives us a unique opportunity to scale up high performing nonprofits at unprecedented levels and provides more opportunity for sustainability.

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From VPP

VPP Hosts Conference on the Suburbanization of Poverty

As a part of the Grantmakers for Children Youth and Families Conference, VPP hosted a special offsite session on the suburbanization of poverty. The half-day event started in downtown DC with a bus tour of the area that went through the U Street Corridor up to Columbia Heights and then finished in the Langley Park suburb at the intersection of Price George’s and Montgomery Counties.

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President's Perspective

The New Normal: Thoughts for Funders Supporting Scale

Mario Morino

Much has been said of late regarding partnerships between the federal government and private philanthropy.  VPP Board Member, Institutional Investor, and Annie E. Casey Executive Vice President Ralph Smith led an informative dialogue at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers in September on what new federal innovation programs mean for local funders. The discussion explored the many potential benefits of the Social Innovation Fund and other new federal partnership programs like Investing in Innovation, Race to the Top, and Promise Neighborhoods for the philanthropic sector. Smith said that by bringing funders to the table early on, the federal government is elevating philanthropic institutions to the level of true partner. Smith pointed out that we have the potential to create a mutually beneficial relationship and have our voice and needs heard, and more importantly, the needs of those whom we support, at the highest levels of the government. The more stable funding source the government provides gives us a unique opportunity to scale up high performing nonprofits at unprecedented levels and provides more opportunity for sustainability.

Smith also spoke about how critical local partnerships and collaborations are to attracting federal funding and noted that the multitude of federal innovation awards in the greater DC area were a “tribute to the donors and funders across this region.” He said that without local collaboration, the National Capital Region would not have been as strong of a contender.

Smith’s remarks reminded me of another kind of partnership that has been a critical component to the success of many past VPP investments: local public private partnerships.
We are deeply enthusiastic about working with the federal government through our Social Innovation Fund initiative, youthCONNECT, but we know that for this collaborative effort to be fully realized and change the lives of 20,000 young people in our region, coordination with local public officials and agencies will be essential, just as it was in many of our previous investments. 

Local public private partnerships take time and effort to establish, but they create the environment that enables and sustains scaling effective programs. This is true not only for the National Capital Region, but for every metropolitan area where nonprofits are attempting to scale regionally. As the federal government continues to partner with local funders to expand programs, we must pay special attention to developments in local communities.

VPP learned the value of partnering with local government as it helped nonprofits in its first portfolio grow to reach new areas of need in the National Capital Region. Five of the 12 investment partners from our first fund took on the monumental task of expanding into Maryland from the District of Columbia. Last month, VPP organized a discussion on the suburbanization of poverty as a part of the Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families National Conference, and nonprofit participants shared how navigating expansion in Maryland suburbs is not the same as expanding within the District.  These organizations would not have succeeded and taken root in this new jurisdiction without forging multiple relationships and deep connections with the public agencies and officials in their new home. (To learn more about the efforts of expanding in Maryland, read the case studies on our investment partnerships with College Summit, Mary’s Center, CentroNía, and AALEAD. Also see our reports on our results from this expansion, released in partnership with Brookings: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts; Part I and Part II.)

We at VPP still have much to learn about partnering with the public sector at all levels, but from our first decade of experience, I have a number of recommendations for anyone contemplating or engaged in this work:

  1. Forge New Ground

    Innovation is key to all successful partnerships, and local initiatives are no exception. Public private partnerships need to arise from some sort of shared goal or mutually beneficial agreement to effectively help the communities in need. Keep an eye out for creative solutions and do not be afraid to approach the appropriate government officials or agencies with your ideas.

    One VPP investment partner, the See Forever Foundation (SFF), was able to forge a breakthrough partnership with  DC Public Schools that eventually saved them more than $9 million in capital expenses. Brokered by former VPP Partner Steve Seleznow, who had extensive experience in the public school system, SFF was able to obtain unused school buildings for their charter school system, significantly decreasing their start-up costs. This innovative partnership has paved the way for similar initiatives, like the Building Hope Charter School Incubator Initiative.

  2. Find the Champions and Connectors

    Finding the people within the system who understand your goals and the public environment in which you are working or plan to enter can make all the difference in your expansion strategy. Having someone from within the local government system on your side is essential as you navigate new terrain. Change agents and innovators exist in all sectors and developing relationships with those inside the public sector will help you avoid major pitfalls and save you endless amounts of time and effort. It is important that your connector understand not only your objectives and mission, but also your model in the context of the community you hope to serve.

    VPP was fortunate to be assisted by many people along our journey.  For example, one of our champions and connectors during the Maryland expansion of many first portfolio investment partners was Chuck Short, Special Assistant to the Montgomery County Executive. Chuck knew what VPP and its nonprofit partners wanted to do and he wanted us to succeed—a champion—he also had strong relationships with most people in the new areas we were moving into—a connector. His contributions to our efforts were invaluable.

  3. Know Your Ecosystem

    As the saying goes: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Make sure that you understand not only the populations you are serving, but also the policy and regulation changes and shifts that could affect your areas of work.

    To keep track of the changing demographics and needs in the region, VPP has worked with the Brookings Institute over the years to analyze the most current data on children and youth of low-income families in the National Capital Region.  We most recently commissioned a report in 2009 to help us track the shifts and trends in our communities.

    On the policy side of our ecosystem, we made a concerted effort to get out and listen to policy makers and public servants in the jurisdictions in which we work. Last month, I met with the Maryland Children’s Cabinet, an innovative body made up of all the department heads of agencies that deal with children’s issues in the state, to have a dialogue about our approach to helping nonprofits serve children and youth and explore how we could coordinate our efforts in the future. VPP Partner Shirley Marcus Allen has also convened roundtable discussions of representatives from key health and human services agencies from around the entire region in order to help break down silos and get a broader, regional perspective on the challenges facing our target population. In Northern Virginia, former Deputy County Executive for Health and Human Services in Fairfax County, Verdia Haywood, was instrumental in helping us understand the community and its needs.  He even organized an incredible field trip for our team to one of the more impoverished areas of Northern Virginia.

    You must also build relationships with community and civic leaders. Ultimately, public officials represent the public and their first priority is to respond to the needs and issues presented by their local constituencies. Building partnerships with local government is contingent upon understanding the pressures they are under from their communities and aligning your solutions to help them respond to those needs. Close ties with community leaders will allow you to understand the perspectives they will be bringing to their elected and appointed officials.

    Most importantly, you must never forget you are working in an ecosystem, which means all parts of the whole are connected and that things are always changing. You need to be in touch with those closest to the “pulse points” so you can see trends and major changes coming and be nimble enough to get ahead of them.

  4. Build Capacity of Partners

    As VPP has reached out to local government, we have also helped our investment partners discover new opportunities in public funding. When we first began our work, we were surprised to find many of our nonprofit partners had only one or two steady sources of public funding. An early analysis showed there were other streams of public funding they could pursue. VPP connected its IPs with Patton Boggs, a public policy law firm, to help identify new sources of funding. After Patton Boggs’ assessed the opportunities in the region, collectively our investment partners obtained $600,000 of new funding and had greatly deepened their own ability to identify such funding streams in the future.

  5. Pave the Way for New Growth

    We also learned how important it is to think ahead when developing relationships at the local level when you support scale.  You need to reach out to the public officials and agencies in the locations where your partners will be, well before they get there.

    This is a continual process and VPP is always introducing itself to new stakeholders. When going out to Maryland, we met with all of the county council representatives and other community leaders. It is important not to overlook anyone: meet with neighborhood and county officials, school boards, PTAs, anyone you think has a voice that needs to be heard and information to share. Of course, never forget the other nonprofit leaders and advocates in the area, as they could be your biggest allies or opponents in the expansion. As new administrations take hold in our region, we are reminded again of the need to get to know our newest public leaders. We look forward to building partnerships with the new executive level elected and appointed public officials and legislators at all governmental levels.

  6. Build the Talent on Your Team

    This whole expansion process cannot happen without the right people on your staff to see it through. We have found it invaluable to bring on team members with deep knowledge of the local public sector, strong, diverse networks in the region across all sectors, and a high level of cultural competence. Their experience with how to get things done, in a system that can sometimes feel inexplicable or overwhelming, has made all the difference in the successful scaling of our investment partners.

While VPP has learned much about public private partnerships while working with its first portfolio, I have had similar experiences throughout my career in government, business, and the nonprofit sector.  I first began to see the complexity of the interchange between policy, government services, and the community when I shifted from work in the federal government to local government many years ago. I learned early on that as much as one knows about a subject or issue, and the policies related to it, to be successful at a local level, you need to understand how a policy or program will work at the point of delivery. In order to understand that, you must reach out to and learn from those who are directly affected by the issue.  A critical component of this learning is to listen and hear from a diverse group of stakeholders, particularly the population to be served.  They know more about the issue than you will probably ever know.

Another major lesson from my career was in the mid-eighties when we talked a lot about public private partnerships and tried to create them.  Unfortunately, many did not succeed because it was harder work than any of us believed.  While both sides had good intentions and shared big picture goals, usually our language was not the same and we did not understand the cultural differences between government and business.  Therefore, either the results were slower than anyone wanted, or the effort was aborted before we could reach the goals.

My experience in the philanthropic sector with VPP has only confirmed what the public and private sector taught me:

  • It is all about relationships;
  • It always takes longer to build trusted relationships than anticipated;
  • Without a trusted relationship you will never achieve real partnership;
  • You must be sure expectations of all parties are aligned; and
  • A real partnership will not stay static; it will require adjustments along the way.

Despite the difficulties and challenges in working across sectors, I am more convinced than ever that it is the only way we can truly move the needle on our most urgent societal issues.  In a time of constrained resources, leveraging and aligning efforts is the only way we can hope to have any real impact.  It is clearly one piece of the “new normal”, despite the fact that public private partnerships are not a new idea.  Perhaps the “new” will be partnerships between government, philanthropy, and nonprofits that flourish and function to achieve lasting, measurable change for the communities we are trying to serve.

– Carol Thompson Cole

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Investor Update

Eighth Annual We Are Family Foundation Gala Honors VPP Investors


Russ and Norma Ramsey

Last month, the We Are Family Foundation honored VPP investors Norma and Russ Ramsey with its “Visionary Award” at its annual gala. The foundation, started by legendary songwriter and producer Nile Rogers, recognized the Ramseys for their philanthropic work in education, healthcare, and the arts. The W. Russell and Norma Ramsey Foundation supports programs for at-risk families, including four-year scholarships through the D.C. Capital Area’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

The Ramseys are founding and current investors of VPP, and their work with VPP was featured prominently throughout the night. VPP co-founder Senator Mark Warner introduced the couple. The Ramseys join a long-list of notable honorees from past We Are Family galas, including Maya Angelou and Quincy Jones. The night was celebrated with live performances from Jackson Browne and Rogers himself.

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From VPP

VPP Hosts Conference on the Suburbanization of Poverty

As a part of the Grantmakers for Children Youth and Families Conference, VPP hosted a special offsite session on the suburbanization of poverty. The half-day event started in downtown DC with a bus tour of the area that went through the U Street Corridor up to Columbia Heights and then finished in the Langley Park suburb at the intersection of Price George’s and Montgomery Counties.


Conference speakers, from left, Shirley Marcus Allen, Maria Gomez, Martha Ross, Lori Kaplan, and BB Otero

Executive Director of VPP investment partner CentroNía BB Otero described the ethnic and socioeconomic changes the District neighborhoods had gone through since the city’s founding. The Langley Park leg of the tour was narrated by CASA de Maryland Executive Director Gustavo Torres, who gave an overview of the recent rapid demographic changes of the area as immigrants and other low-income families are moving out to the suburbs in the search for affordable housing. Along the way, the tour attendees were joined by Maria Gomez of VPP investment partner Mary’s Center and Luisa Montero of VPP investment partner Latin American Youth Center, who discussed their challenges expanding into suburban Maryland.

The tour ended at CASA’s new headquarters in Langley Park. Otero and Gomez were joined by LAYC Executive Director Lori Kaplan and Martha Ross of Brookings for a discussion on the demographic shifts of the area and the challenges of expanding nonprofit work into different regional jurisdictions. Ross gave an overview of her work at the Greater Washington Research division of Brookings on the demographic trends in the area. Otero discussed the need to adjust services for their clients as communities grow and shift. Gomez talked about the importance of relationships with key community stakeholders during growth. Kaplan focused on the need for effective data capture and planning to deliver appropriate services to clients in need.

“VPP’s overarching goal in organizing the off-site session was to enable foundation leaders from across the country to gain an understanding of the drivers associated with successful scaling of community based organizations, especially across jurisdictional lines,” said Marcus Allen. “I think we achieved that goal.

“Moreover, I think the attendees left the session with the knowledge that creating an effective ecosystem in response to the changing demographics is not the work of one organization or one local government, but of multiple stakeholders working together in new and different ways to coordinate support.”

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KIPP DC Investor Forum

Over 35 guests gathered at the home of VPP investors Katherine and David Bradley, on October 27 for the first annual VPP Investor Forum. The event introduced VPP investors, and donors, board, and advisors to KIPP DC, VPP’s newest investment partner. KIPP DC leaders Allison Fansler and Susan Schaeffler spoke at the event about KIPP DC’s partnership with VPP and their plans for growth and expansion. Carol Thompson Cole, President, and other VPP team members also spoke about VPP’s progress in its second fund and the continued developments of the youthCONNECT initiative.

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Youth Advocate Marc Schindler Joins VPP Team as Partner

Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) announced this month that youth advocate Marc Schindler has joined VPP as its newest Partner.  Schindler will serve as one of the key staff members of the youthCONNECT initiative, an effort funded in part through the federal Social Innovation Fund that aims to increase educational and job training opportunities for 20,000 low-income youth in the National Capital Region over the next five years. Schindler’s career spans public interest and government, including as a nationally known juvenile justice advocate and reformer.  His experience with local government, most recently as a key leader over the last five years in a major reform effort at the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), and his deep expertise with successful interventions for young people, will add greatly to the strength of VPP’s team.

“Marc brings exceptional skills and experience to VPP, but his ability to create, nurture, and support networks and collaborations in particular is precisely the talent we need to ensure the success of our newest initiative, youthCONNECT.  His exceptional and tireless dedication to keeping the most disconnected youth in the National Capital Region and beyond from falling through the cracks is evident in all of his former roles.  We are so pleased that VPP and its partners will benefit from that passion and commitment,” said Carol Thompson Cole, President and CEO of VPP.

Schindler’s career as a youth advocate and champion for youth in the juvenile justice system began in New York City. His work over the next 23 years brought him to Baltimore and finally Washington, DC, where he was a staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, a national public interest and civil rights law firm working on juvenile justice and child welfare issues. After leaving the Youth Law Center, he joined DYRS as one of a team of reformers who worked to transform that agency into a nationally recognized and innovative department based on the principles of Positive Youth Development. DYRS’ reforms were recognized by Harvard’s Kennedy School, naming the department one of the “Top 50” government programs in 2008 in its prestigious Innovations in American Government Awards competition. While at DYRS he served as General Counsel, Chief of Staff and eventually Interim Director.

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youthCONNECT Update: Stage I of Open Competition Process Ends

The first round of the youthCONNECT open competition process ended last month. Over 35 applications were submitted to the Request for Preiljminary Proposals. The independent review team diligently evaluated each application and identified select organizations to receive a full Request for Proposals. The full RFPs are due later this month, with the final awardees being announced late January 2011.

youthCONNECT, funded in part through the aaaa

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