Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.


May 2008

Thu, 2008-05-08

Chairman's Corner

Reaching Out About VPP

In the space of one week, I had occasion to talk with several different audiences about Venture Philanthropy Partners, our work and the challenges of high engagement philanthropy, and the issues confronting the National Capital Region. What these conversations pointed out to me was how big the challenges are that face us but also how committed people are to trying to solve them. It also reminded me that there isn’t a single approach—rather we have to find ways to encourage collaboration within the philanthropic community, with government and business leaders and the nonprofit sector. More »

From VPP

Reaching Out About VPP

Carol Thompson ColeIn the space of one week, I had occasion to talk with several different audiences about Venture Philanthropy Partners, our work and the challenges of high engagement philanthropy, and the issues confronting the National Capital Region. What these conversations pointed out to me was how big the challenges are that face us but also how committed people are to trying to solve them. It also reminded me that there isn’t a single approach—rather we have to find ways to encourage collaboration within the philanthropic community, with government and business leaders and the nonprofit sector.

My week began with a panel during the Council on Foundations 2008 Philanthropy Summit. The topic was Charity vs. Change: What are the best approaches to helping marginalized communities? As I prepared my remarks, I found myself struggling with the framework because it pitted meeting urgent needs of individuals in poverty against longer-term systems change. In my view, it isn’t one or the other—we need to do both.

We all know the Chinese proverb: Give me a fish and I eat for a day; teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime. In the past, philanthropy has been most successful at the former—addressing urgent and critical needs in communities, one family at a time. There are thousands of wonderful organizations that feed the hungry, house the homeless, and help people get the education they need to reach for a better life. Despite all of these wonderful programs and the millions of public and private dollars supporting them, the fact is that 40 years after declaring a war on poverty, we are still very far from declaring victory. We have treated the symptoms but haven’t done enough to change the systemic issues the keep people in poverty—lack of education and lack of economic opportunity. We must work for systems change but in the meantime, we can’t let people starve or freeze on the streets. Both approaches to philanthropy are critical.

At VPP, we are focused on long-term change, supporting nonprofit leaders who are making profound gains in their communities to sustain and grow their organizations and programs so that they can increase their impact and reach. As VPP co-founder, Mario Morino once noted, “We ask nonprofits to do the impossible and then we don’t give them the negligible to achieve it.” We are trying to strengthen the ecosystem in which these and other nonprofit organizations operate so that change can happen for the long term. Through our work with the leaders of our portfolio organizations, we help them navigate through great change to achieve THEIR vision to do even more for their communities and influence others. In the process, we learn, they learn, and we share our knowledge with the field.

In today’s global knowledge economy, those living in low-income communities face an even greater risk of being left behind than ever before in our history. In the past, a high school dropout could get a job in a factory. Today, that factory and its economic opportunities are no longer there, most likely moved to a country where labor is cheaper. Poverty is not going away and may worsen before it gets better. In our region, nonprofits serving youth and families are seeing more and more demand for their services, especially now as our economy has slowed. What we are also seeing is that the location of poverty in our region is changing. The inner-city neighborhoods of the District are no longer the epicenter—some of the highest concentrations of people living in low-income communities are in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Prince William and Loudoun counties.

Nearly half of VPP’s investment partners have opened offices or facilities in suburban Maryland in the last few years. All of these organizations began their work in the District because that is where the need was greatest. But in the last five to 10 years, these organizations have seen large numbers of their clients move out of the City in search of more affordable housing, better educational opportunities for their children, and employment.

On May 8, I had the great privilege of attending the opening of Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care’s new facility in Long Branch (East Silver Spring), MD (see story below). Partnering with Washington Adventist Hospital, the new center will offer a full range of health and social services to multicultural families in Montgomery County. Four years in the making, this center is the first Federally Qualified Health Center in the county. What was particularly compelling was the strong showing of local, state, and federal government officials at the ceremony. They all spoke about how challenging it was to bring Mary’s Center to the county, how difficult it was for what is perceived to be a wealthy county like Montgomery to get a Federally Qualified Health Center, and how important this center is for the county and its residents. The sense of hope and optimism about what this center will do and the change it signals was palpable.

For me personally, it was a proud moment because VPP worked side by side with Maria Gomez, her senior management team, and her Board to help them achieve this significant milestone. This demonstrated the value that VPP and its team can bring to organizations in terms of leveraging resources and partnerships to help nonprofits negotiate the path of growth and expansion.

In the 20 years of its existence, Mary’s Center has evolved from addressing the demand for bilingual services to pregnant women and their infants in predominantly Latino areas of Ward One in the District to serving entire families from multicultural populations throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area. It has evolved from providing access to primary health care services to offering educational opportunities and job training to help people improve their opportunities in life. It provides the fish while teaching people to fish. The philanthropic community has been there both to support specific program needs as well as the organization in its journey to change and grow.

Later that evening, VPP Founding Investor Katherine Bradley graciously hosted about 40 VPP investors and friends at her home for a private dialogue with Chancellor Michelle Rhee. This gathering was a follow-up to an earlier Speaker Series event we hosted with Chancellor Rhee last September. It was a terrific opportunity to hear the Chancellor's reflections on her first year at the helm of DC Public Schools.

So many of VPP’s investors are vested in some way in the success of public education in the District—for example, through Katherine Bradley’s leadership, the CityBridge Foundation is working to expand educational capacity and improve quality for lower-income children in the District. Another example is Joe Robert, who founded and chairs Fight for Children, which has raised more than $80 million and leveraged its ties to leaders in business, philanthropy, and government to ensure that all children in the District of Columbia have the tools they need to grow, learn, and succeed. And, of course, VPP has made substantial investments in the educational ecosystem in DC with its support of See Forever Foundation/Maya Angelou Public Charter School, The Seed School, Friendship Public Charter School, and College Summit.

As always, Chancellor Rhee gave an impressive presentation, sprinkled with compelling stories that highlighted her passion for the students of DCPS and her determination to ensure that each and every one of the nearly 50,000 students in the system has access to the best education possible. I think everyone there was energized by her reform plans, and it's clear to see how she has won the confidence and support of such a wide range of stakeholders in the District.

VPP investor Jack Davies captured the feeling in the room best: "We are all impressed by Chancellor's Rhee's bold plans to turn around DC Public Schools. Like VPP, she recognizes that the way to achieve her vision is to recruit and reward talent, to have the best people on board. She has already assembled a strong leadership team and her plans to bring dynamic principals and teachers in to the system will provide what it takes to ensure that DC students get the quality education they deserve."

At the end of the week, I had the opportunity to speak about VPP and our work to the American Bar Association’s Section on Taxation annual meeting that includes attorneys from around the country. The invitation came from attorney Suzy McDowell who serves as pro bono counsel to VPP investment partner Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington and knows our work first hand. While these attorneys had heard about venture philanthropy, McDowell told me that they were curious to know and understand more about how it works. Many thought it was only a phenomenon of the West Coast. I shared with this group the basics of our approach and showed them how it worked through the story of See Forever—two attorneys who started out in their quest to help youth by running a pizza delivery/afterschool tutoring program that later became a school serving 85 children. When VPP met them, they were trying to open another school and grow.

The response was enthusiastic and the questions they asked were interesting. Not surprisingly, the first question from the audience was whether VPP is a nonprofit and what kind of return we seek. That’s a question we often get and speaks to the lack of understanding among many about what venture philanthropy is. But the next few questions had to do with how VPP plans for its own growth, especially as we raise the next fund. Our own future is something I think about constantly. We strive to make sure that we are talking the talk, walking the walk, and strategically planning our future. It is a process that doesn’t stop because the environment in which we operate is constantly changing. We, as an organization, face the same struggles as the nonprofits in which we invest. And, as I told the attorneys, the lessons we have learned from our work with our investment partners apply to us as an organization. This work is hard and it takes a long time to see results.

Reflecting on each of these events, it is clear to me that the work of VPP is taking hold in the region, and our results are real. Mary’s Center’s Maryland clinic is a reality. As I told the ABA lawyers, the See Forever Foundation has evolved from a pizza delivery/afterschool program serving a few dozen youth to a thriving network of three campuses serving several hundred children. In each of these cases and with other organizations, VPP has played a critical role in helping these leaders achieve their vision, realize their dreams, and increase their impact.

At VPP, our work is about change across a wide spectrum—from expanding a nonprofit leader’s view of what is possible to putting in place new strategies to engaging new people in philanthropy to letting go of familiar and comfortable ways of doing things to thinking about different ways of measuring success and impact. By working so closely with the nonprofits in which we invest, cultivating an engaged investor community, and sharing our knowledge with the field, we hope to spur the kind of change that allows people to move out of poverty and to attain their personal and family aspirations.

- Carol Thompson Cole

From VPP

Creating Spaces for the Exchange of Ideas: The Women’s Global Roundtable

On April 29, US women gathered in homes and offices across the country for the Women's Global Roundtable (WGR), opening the second series of live weekly telephone conversations with ordinary extraordinary women around the world. The 2008 series is a partnership between Peace X Peace and the US office of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM USA). The program engages US women in global issues through personal contact with women from other countries who are change agents in their communities and whose lives have been touched by the work of UNIFEM.

Every Tuesday at 8PM (EST), a Peace X Peace staff member interviews a woman who has benefited from a UNIFEM Trust Fund grant that supports her local, national, and regional efforts to end gender-based violence. Participants listen to her personal narratives, learn about her challenges and triumphs, join in dialogue, and connect across cultures.

Eliana Elias from Peru, the first featured guest in the new WGR series, told about her 10 years as creator and host of Bienvenida Salud (Welcome Health), a radio program that reaches 90,000 women and men in the Amazon regions of Peru. “Creating spaces for the exchange of ideas is an excellent way of helping women make better lives,” she told participants, “especially in the remote areas of the world.”

Patricia Smith Melton, Peace X Peace founder and Board Chair, says: “Perhaps the single most important thing we can do to bring positive change to our world is to find the key leaders, empower them, and support their networking. This is what both Peace X Peace and VPP do, so that knowledge and tools can extend from the individual to the community to the world.” [Patricia and her husband William Melton are VPP Founding Investors]

To learn more about the Women’s Global Roundtable, contact Alda Kauffeld at 703-391-8932 or email

Case Co-Chairs Partnership

Jean Case is co-chair of the US-Palestinian Partnership (UPP), an effort launched by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [in support of the peace process] to promote economic development and opportunities for youth in the West Bank. Case joined Secretary Rice and a small group of US private sector leaders to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the strategic importance of US private sector investment in the West Bank. UPP chair and Aspen Institute president, Walter Isaacson, who will be leading a US government delegation to the Palestine Investment Conference next week, discussed the importance of investing in the West Bank in a Wall Street Journal article.

From VPP

Tim Wierzbicki Joins Team

Venture Philanthropy Partners announced that Tim S. Wierzbicki will join its senior management team as Vice President of Development and Investor Relations, effective July 1. Wierzbicki, a seasoned executive, brings nearly 20 years of development talent and expertise to VPP. In his new role, he will drive the resource development and investor relations initiatives for VPP, with an immediate goal of completing the capital raise for VPP’s next stage of work and the continued development of an engaged community of investors.

“Tim comes to VPP with deep experience raising significant funds for a number of national organizations. He’s a creative and driven senior talent who is willing to take the best of traditional fundraising and blend it with VPP’s approach. His network is extensive, and he has just the right skills and touch for working with the many different types of investors who make up our diverse support community. But even more importantly, he has dedicated his career to working on issues of social justice, civil rights, poverty elimination, and helping those most in need. He has a passionate and heartfelt connection to the social issues and causes that drive VPP’s mission,” said Carol Thompson Cole, President and CEO of VPP.

For the last seven years, Wierzbicki has served as the Chief Development Officer at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. While there, he implemented creative strategies that more than doubled total contributions from $2.7 million in 2000 to over $6.2 million last year in the face of external challenges like the impact on charitable giving in the wake of 9/11 and the limitations presented by the current economic downturn. Most notably, he was successful in garnering coveted unrestricted annual support. During his tenure, annual gifts from the A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Dinner nearly tripled from $713,000 to $2.1 million and contributions from Board members quadrupled from $155,000 to $630,000. Additionally, he crafted innovative fundraising campaigns, which attracted six-figure gifts from lawyers and non-lawyers alike, including actor/activist Paul Newman.

Jack Davies, Chair, VPP Development Committee, said, “VPP is fortunate to have someone with Tim's passion for our mission and wealth of development experience joining us. I look forward to working with him as we successfully complete the Campaign for VPP’s Future."

Wierzbicki has served as Director of Major and Planned Gifts for Habitat for Humanity International, Manager of Major Gifts for the American National Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, Director of Development for the US Soccer Foundation, and Executive Director of the Minnesota ACLU.

His pro bono activities include the creation of a workshop entitled, What They Don’t Teach at the Harvard School of Fundraising, which he frequently facilitates for nonprofit boards. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, the Foundation Board of Directors of Minnesota State University - Mankato, and he is a Charter Member of the Lawyers' Committee’s Legacy Society.

Wierzbicki holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from Minnesota State University.

Investment Partner Updates

Editor's Note: This month's news from Investment Partners centers around awards, recognitions, and celebrations. Congratulations to all!

AALEAD Celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Thanks to Rick Chen, Development Associate, for this update.

While cherry blossoms and sunny skies have raised awareness of spring, AALEAD has been busy raising awareness as well. May is officially recognized by Congress as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM). To help raise awareness of the needs of Asian Americans, AALEAD, with 60 other Asian American organizations, co-sponsored the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Reception and Celebration that took place on May 6, 2008 on Capitol Hill. Several key speakers, including Senator Barbara Mikulski, Congressman Mike Honda, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen, addressed the importance of Asian Americans in the United States and how their contributions have helped make this country the leader it is today. The reception was followed by a roundtable discussion with Senator Mikulski, and AALEAD shared the needs of low-income Asian American immigrants around issues such as the upcoming census, education, mental health, leadership development, and youth violence.

On May 7, AALEAD hosted a visit from Winston Bao Lord, Jr., son of China ambassador Winston Bao Lord and author and activist Bette Bao Lord. Bao Lord, Jr. shared his childhood memories growing up as an Asian American and talked about his father’s service as Ambassador to China. He also read selections from his mother’s book, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.

AALEAD announced that Hong Quian Zhu, a member of its Secondary School Program, was recently named as a Finalist for NBC4’s Asian Pacific Heritage Month Essay Contest.The theme of this year's contact was “Why is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Important?” As one of 10 finalists, Zhu has the chance to win up to $1,500.

CFNC's Mason Honored
Thanks to Eric Boven, Development Manager, for this update.

The Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC) Executive Director Barbara Fox Mason was recently selected to receive two awards.

The Alexandria Volunteer Bureau named Mason its 2008 Nonprofit Leader of the Year. According to the Bureau, the award was given in recognition of her work “as an advocate for programs for at-risk children and as a community leader.” The award was presented on April 25 at the 10th anniversary Business Philanthropy Summit , hosted by the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau, the Alexandria Community Trust, and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce to honor businesses for their contributions to the community.

Mason was also selected by the Washington Mystics to receive a Mystics/Chevy Chase Hometown Hero award, which is given at each home game to someone who has demonstrated exceptional work in the community. She was selected for her “commitment to the community and children of Alexandria...” and the team declared that her “…dedication to underprivileged youth in Alexandria and [her] undying spirit inspired us all.” The award will be presented at halftime of the Mystics home game on May 31.

College Summit Celebrates Peer Leaders
Thanks to Vanessa Lillie, PR & Communications Manager, for this update.

On April 29, College Summit-National Capital Region Team celebrated the accomplishments of its students, educators, high schools, and community partners at the 2008 Peer Leadership Awards Luncheon at Howard University.

The annual awards ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate the more than 300 area high school students who attended one of eight College Summit workshops held at local college campuses last summer. At the workshops, students jumpstarted their college application process and were trained to be peer leaders and return for their senior year to build a college-going culture within their own high schools.

Andrea Black, College Summit Alumnae and National Board Member, gave the keynote address at the luncheon. Deloitte was the event co-host and Howard University the site host. WAMU covered the Awards ceremony.

About the winners:
• Outstanding Peer Leader Winner: Aqua Hicks developed a freshman mentoring program to get students on track and excited about college. As one of her nominators wrote, “She sees the need, develops a plan, and implements it to the fullest.”

Outstanding College Summit Educator Award Winner: Tyauna Bruce was described as “bringing life to all discouraged, depressed, and seemingly lost students.” She has created replicable initiatives that have helped many students along in the application process.

Deloitte Award for College Enrollment Achievement and Innovation Winners: Booker T. Washington High School and DuVal High School received $5,000 total for their ability to demonstrate their success through data as well as show a shift in increasing their school’s college-going culture.

NOW, the national weekly news magazine show on PBS, featured College Summit’s work as a part of their continuing segment on social entrepreneurs and their life-sustaining innovations called “Enterprising Ideas.” The episode follows several Peer Leaders throughout their senior year to see how College Summit works with students and schools. The segment also includes interviews with J.B. Schramm, College Summit Founder and CEO. The program aired nationally on Friday, April 25, and is available for viewing online.


Washington Post Company and Heads Up Partner in Service Thanks to Sarah Brandspigl, Development Manager, for this update.

On April 8, more than 40 members of the Washington Post Company staff took a bus to Garfield Elementary in Southeast DC for an afternoon of community service. Heads Up and the Washington Post worked together to plan a day that would benefit the school and give the volunteers a chance to help.

Heads Up Participants
Heads Up participants proudly display their "Kids Post" t-shirts -- a gift from the Washington Post Company team of volunteers.

The team was led by Donald Graham, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of The Washington Post Company. In the early afternoon, volunteers split into teams to clean the school grounds, organize a storage room, and beautify the parent resource center. Another small group led an assembly for fifth and sixth graders, focused on careers and the importance of education.

After the regular school day ended, the volunteers joined the Heads Up after-school program for snack, recess, and classroom time. The children welcomed visitors and showed off their reading skills, while their college students tutors guided everyone through the after-school activities. The volunteers also brought snacks, cupcakes, and KidsPost t-shirts for the children.


LAYCMaryland Multicultural Youth Centers Recognized
Thanks to Cheryl Aguilar, Communications Specialist, for this update.

Since the Latin American Youth Center first launched the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (MMYC) in 2005 to replicate its proven youth development model in Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, hundreds of youth have benefited from programs and services available through MMYC’s Langley Park, Silver Spring and Riverdale sites.

MMYC’s work has resulted in recognition from Maryland’s highest ranking elected official, the continuation of annual events to promote youth employment, and the implementation of new educational programs that promote higher education.

In early April, MMYC received a letter of recognition for its Leaders Like Me gang prevention program from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. In his letter Governor O’Malley said, “Programs like Leaders Like Me are inherently valuable to neighborhoods and the state as we struggle to fight gang violence and teach children that there are many ways to be strong, valued members of the community.”

In conjunction with the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Council, MMYC is gearing up for the third annual youth job fair Let’s Get it Started to take place in late May. Each year, the job fair provides hundreds of youth between 16- and 21-years-old from Montgomery County and surrounding areas with one-stop exposure to employment opportunities, internship and apprenticeship information, and community youth partner resources.

After receiving a grant from the Department of Education to launch the first Upward Bound program in Montgomery County, which will provide support to low-income students in their preparation for college entrance, MMYC’s staff is working diligently to nail down the last planning stages including hiring of teachers and tutors and recruitment of students. MMYC’s has partnered with Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus and will work with students from Einstein and Wheaton High Schools. Upward Bound will begin in June with 50 students.

Just like its parent organization, the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers’ mission is to support low-income youth and their families in their determination to live, work, and study with dignity, hope, and joy.


Washington Adventist Hospital and Mary’s Center Celebrate Opening of Primary Care Center
Thanks to Yesenia Sarabia-Peiker and Lyda Vanegas, Advocacy & Communications Department, for this update.

Washington Adventist Hospital and Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care, a federally qualified, comprehensive health center based in Washington, DC, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, May 8, to mark the opening of a primary care center in the Long Branch area of Montgomery County. The primary care center, the first Mary’s Center location in Maryland, will offer a full range of vital health-care services to residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, regardless of ability to pay.

“We believe our partnership with Mary’s Center and the opening of the primary care center in Long Branch will further expand access to health-care services for the communities we serve – a key element in our Vision for Expanded Access initiative,” said Jere Stocks, President of Washington Adventist Hospital. “Together we are strengthening the region’s health-care safety net.”

Mary's Center
Mary's Center stakeholders open the new primary care center in Silver Spring.

The 3,600-square-foot primary care center located at 8709 Flower Avenue in the Long Branch section of Silver Spring, will provide the full range of services to include: prenatal care, pediatric/adolescent health services, adult health services and women's services, including obstetrical and gynecological care, as well as social services programs. These services will be provided by a multidisciplinary healthcare team. With a grant from Washington Adventist Hospital, Mary’s Center will be able to expand healthcare access in the region.

“We at Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Care are constantly striving to serve the needs of our communities,” said Maria Gomez, president and CEO of Mary's Center. “We are happy to extend these services to those who live in Maryland. Our partnership with Washington Adventist Hospital will allow Maryland families to receive quality and culturally appropriate services, thereby bridging the gap and promoting healthier communities."

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and other government and elected officials attended the event. Leggett praised the "partnership between Mary’s Center and Washington Adventist Hospital," saying Montgomery County cannot do it alone when it comes to providing health care for those in need.


From the Field

New Report Provides Data on Foundation Diversity

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors has released the first of three publications that examine the state of diversity in philanthropy. Published with the goal of encouraging open dialogue in the field, highlighting accomplishments and promising programs, and recommending strategies to address institutional and field changes, the series will include quantitative data, analysis of model diversity programs, and commentary by leaders in philanthropy and related fields.

The first report, Philanthropy in a Changing Society: Achieving Effectiveness through Diversity, is an examination of the major approaches to foundation diversity over the past 25 years. The Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors team analyzed grant data collected by the Foundation Center and staffing and board composition trends from the Council on Foundations. The team tapped the advice of more than 50 philanthropy professionals and reviewed relevant literature to collect, describe, and assess diversity programs and resources, and solicit comment on successes and challenges. These philanthropy leaders include scholars, directors of diversity programs, program participants and executives of major private, community and family foundations and philanthropic associations.