Social Venture Partners Arizona

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Leaders of this organization explain its venture capital approach to charitable giving.

Ted Simons: Eight nonprofit organizations competed for cash last night at an event sponsored by Social Venture Partners Arizona. It's a partnership of successful professionals that takes a venture capital approach to charitable giving. Here to tell us more is Terri Wogan, she's the partnership's executive director. And Park Howell of the partnership, he emceed yesterday's fast-pitch Expo where nonprofits had three minutes to make their best pitch for financial assistance. Good to see you both here, thanks for joining us. Terri let's start with you, give me a better definition, social venture partners, what are we talking about here?

Terri Wogan: Well we're basically talking about individual citizens who financially invest into nonprofits to help them succeed. But what makes us a little different is that we also give our time and talent, so it's a very hands-on engagement kind of philanthropy with the nonprofits we invest in.

Ted Simons: Talk to me about this idea of a venture capital approach to charitable giving. How does that work?

Park Howell: It's really incredible. We get involved where I'm a partner within the organization, we bring our funds, myself and about 100 others of us, and we work Terri and the gang to invest in nonprofits for kids and kids in education, and it's not just about giving cash and funding them, but then we get actively involved from marketing, from attorneys, CPAs and bring our professional services to those organizations to do what we call build capacity. And really all we're doing is helping them operate more like a for-profit entity to ensure their sustainability.

Ted Simons: Is that a relatively new idea for nonprofits to act more like for-profits?

Terri Wogan: Well a little bit I think it is. I think that's gaining a little more momentum because of the challenges that our nonprofits have had, and they've had to be more creative. But it is a little different. We're looking at operations, most funders look at funding programs. We know they're the program experts, they have the passion, where we can really help them is helping them build their business model and their infrastructure so that they can go and deliver the programs they do so well.

Ted Simons: Is it a kind of message that you're hearing that -- does it take them back a little bit, is there a reprogramming that needed to be done?

Terri Wogan: They feel so hopeful and they find it very refreshing there's a funder that will actually fund operations.

Ted Simons: OK. Talk about this contest now out at sky song. What went on, this fast-pitch Expo?

Park Howell: It was amazing, we started with 40 different nonprofits that wanted to participate. They did a short write up of what they had to tell, their story. We whittled that down to 20 and over the last three months we've been working with these 20 nonprofits using 40 different professionals around the valley that gave their time as mentors. And it was to help the executive directors get their story down to a three-minute pitch. They're all experts, and they all want to tell you the complete story about what they're about, but from a professional standpoint we got it down to three minute pitches, and then we had this two-hour event where we had eight finalist and they had three minutes to tell their story to the crowd.

Ted Simons: It really is a fast pitch. Before we get too much further, how did you whittle it down to eight finalists, what are the criterias there? And who were the judges?

Terri Wogan: To get it from our 40 down to our 20, we had social venture partners, we have an investment team so we looked at all the nomination and we looked at innovation, we looked at sustainability, and selected the 20 we thought would be good if it for our partners to get engaged in and involved in. The evening -- and then we also -- that team also selected the eight presenters for the evening. Now, at the evening event we had seven community judges who selected a $10,000 winner that evening. And then we also had our social venture partners investment team select our next investee and gave them $10,000 as well. We also had a people's choice award, for $2500, people texted right there on the spot their favorite pitch. And so they selected a winner. And then we had the mentors award, who had seen the individuals and the executive directors starting from the very beginning to the end, the one that grew the most.

Ted Simons: And what kind of reward was that one?

Terri Wogan: That was $2500 as well.

Ted Simons: That was $2500?

Terri Wogan: Yes.

Ted Simons: OK. Who was the big winner? Who came out on top?

Terri Wogan: Popsicle Center. They're an organization that provide resource and tools to families and professionals who work with children that have feeding difficulties. That instinct to swallow is only about three weeks in an infant, and after that it's a learned behavior. So it's a population that is very underserved, and she delivered her pitch very well.

Ted Simons: I was going add, for something like that, all you gotta do, you got me at infant. But for three minutes, what did this particular contestant do that work so well, do you think?

Park Howell: That's a great call. I think it came down to her passion ran through, and she didn't look over polished. She was really speaking from her heart. And she touched the crowd. The amazing thing about that event, it grew so organically that we had people in the crowd that made an anonymous donation to make sure that every single nonprofit left with at least a thousand dollars in their pocket even if they weren't selected by the judges. That's how powerful this event was. And it goes back to that power of storytelling. And making sure have you your story down.

Ted Simons: Indeed. And I guess that's kind of the answer to my next question, but let's talk more about this. The purpose of an event like this. Because it sounds fun, you get people up there for three minutes and -- they have to hone things down and the whole nine yards, but what do nonprofits learn from an exercise like this.

Terri Wogan: I think they are learning to be focused and effective, and they're going to have to go out and give that pitch to go get funding. And in these challenging times they need to be creative, and they need to be able to succinctly tell their message. So we think we gave them a very important skill that they can take and use to go back and really leverage that information to raise money for their organizations. But we also think it's about relationship building. Because they built relationships with their mentors over the past two or three months, they also were ability to pitch to 200 people live in an audience and community leaders who were on the judging panel. We've already heard that some have connected and donations have been made. They've also made connections with each other. We had Los Angeles Social Metro partners had a few people here, they've already connected some of our nonprofits with their nonprofits in Los Angeles to see how there's synergy. So it's all about creating connections for the nonprofit community and highlighting social entrepreneurs and social innovation.

Ted Simons: So a win-win all around.

Park Howell: Incredible. Really an amazing event.

Ted Simons: It's good to hear about it. And thank you both for joining us on "Horizon."

Terri Wogan: Thank you.

Terri Wogan:Social Venture Partners Arizona;Park Howell:Social Venture Partners Arizona;

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