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Chairman's Corner

Chairman’s Corner: July 2002

July 04, 2002

The Value of Leverage

by Mario Morino, Co-founder of VPP

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in my business career was the importance of using the position, connections, and insights of others to benefit our business and people.  Nowhere was this lesson clearer than in the relationship I formed with our private equity investor, General Atlantic Partners (GA).  The real value of GA to our company was the strategic assistance their partners provided—whether it was in the form of connecting us to the right person at IBM or Microsoft for a partnership opportunity, introducing us to the CEO of a potential client, or helping us recruit the best senior managers.

I believe that VPP’s nonprofit partners should benefit in a similar fashion.  And that is the goal of our strategic, engaged, and highly leveraged investment partnerships.   From the outset of our partnerships with nonprofit organizations, we encourage our partners to use the leverage of the VPP team, its board, investors, and their collective networks of contacts.  We believe that this leverage, coupled and coordinated with our multi-year funding, can help our investment partners gain strategic advantage, gain new power to act effectively, and capitalize on opportunities that may have been closed to them in the past.

Our first three investment partners have already taken advantage of VPP’s broad reach.  For example, Heads Up and the Center for Multicultural Human Services have benefited significantly from the strategic insights of McKinsey & Company, one of the country’s premier management consulting firms.  Thanks to the close working relationship VPP enjoys with McKinsey, the firm provides services to VPP and our nonprofit partners at greatly reduced rates.  We have also been able to help Child and Family Network Centers and Heads Up identify and retain good recruitment firms that have brought new, talented staff members to these organizations.  And when Heads Up needed new office space and equipment, VPP board and team members enlisted the services of a top real estate broker to identify available commercial spaces and then reached out to contacts who helped Heads Up acquire quality donated furnishings and computers.

VPP is fortunate to have several board members and advisors who are always willing to offer advice to the leaders of the organizations we fund.  Over time, I believe this kind of leveraged, non-financial support will equal or surpass the value of the financial investments we make.  We believe this assistance will be instrumental in helping our investment partners grow, strengthen their internal systems and capacity, and move toward the financial sustainability that will allow them to reach the goals they have set for themselves and the children they serve.

I encourage all donors to consider how they can leverage their own relationships on behalf of their grantees and those of the foundations with which they work.  Can your company or foundation provide particular services that your grantees need?  Can you tap your suppliers to help out?  Can you bring together like-minded organizations to address a common problem or goal?  Do you have board members who are engaged in activities that could benefit the nonprofits you support?

The bottom line is this: Don’t be afraid to use your influence and access on behalf of your grantees if they welcome this leveraged form of support.  In many cases, it may constitute the most lasting contribution you can make to the success of that organization and the people it serves.