Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.


February 2007

Mon, 2007-02-05

From VPP

VPP's Mission Ahead: An Update on Capital Raising

This is the first in a series of updates on VPP's capital raising efforts from the Chairman of VPP's Development Committee, Jack Davies.

In the seven years I have been involved with Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), I have had the good fortune to be involved in a number of different ways—as a founding investor, as a board member, and also as a member of the boards of two of VPP’s investment partners, Heads Up and See Forever. Through all of these various roles, I have witnessed first-hand that VPP’s strategic investment approach works. More »


Q&A with Award-Winning Filmanthropist Ted Leonsis

First-time film producer Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman of America Online, Inc. and a VPP Founding Investor, is just back from the Sundance Film Festival, where his film, Nanking, won a prestigious Jury Prize for documentary editing. More »

In This Issue


VPP's Mission Ahead: An Update on Capital Raising


Q&A with Award-Winning Filmanthropist Ted Leonsis



  • SEED



From VPP

VPP's Mission Ahead: An Update on Capital Raising

This is the first in a series of updates on VPP's capital raising efforts from the Chairman of VPP's Development Committee, Jack Davies.  

In the seven years I have been involved with Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), I have had the good fortune to be involved in a number of different  ways—as a founding investor, as a board member, and also as a member of the boards of two of VPP’s investment partners, Heads Up and See Forever.  Through all of these various roles, I have witnessed first-hand that VPP’s strategic investment approach works.  Twelve nonprofits in the National Capital Region are becoming stronger, more effective institutions as they grow to serve tens of thousands of children better by 2010. 

To do my part to continue the good work of VPP, I have stepped up to chair VPP’s development committee to help raise the capital for VPP’s next stage. We have set an ambitious goal of raising $45 to $50 million dollars and are pleased to announce that as we move out of the "quiet phase" of our fundraising, we have commitments for nearly half of our total campaign goal. Many thanks to the more than 25 individuals, families, or institutions (of whom 14 are Founding Investors) who have already committed to funding VPP’s next phase. This funding will provide growth capital for investments in nonprofits and will finance VPP’s own operations and expansion as well, including its strategic assistance to its nonprofit investment partners and field-building activities.

While we are encouraged by this positive response so far, we know that we have much work ahead.  Stay tuned for more updates to come on our campaign progress and plans for the next stage of VPP.  For more information, or if you would like to arrange a one-on-one meeting to discuss our plans, please contact Steve Whisnant at or 202-263-4796. 


Q&A with Award-Winning Filmanthropist Ted Leonsis

First-time film producer Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman of America Online, Inc. and a VPP Founding Investor, is just back from the Sundance Film Festival, where his film, Nanking, won a prestigious Jury Prize for documentary editing. Nanking tells of the horrors of war through the eyes of a group of European and American expatriates who heroically banded together to save 250,000 Nanking residents during the Japanese occupation of the Chinese city in 1937. The film has received numerous positive reviews, including one from Reuters that says that the ”beautifully crafted film...honors the highest calling of documentary filmmaking.”

Congratulations on the Sundance Documentary Editing Award! Tell us about the Sundance experience. What surprised you most about the reaction to the film there?

Thank you. The Sundance Film Festival is a tale of two cities—there is a serious artist-indy filmmaker platform where producers and directors can meet, exchange ideas, learn from each other, and offer support and encouragement for making films that large studios would not finance. The films are front and center and the people that go and see the films at Sundance 24/7 are the best and most well-informed consumers in the world. And then there is the other Sundance—with movie stars and parties and hot buttered rums being consumed at ski lodges and gifting suites. The amazing thing about Sundance is that the two worlds blend together so well and so uniquely to make it a once in a lifetime experience.

I was most moved that every one of our six screenings at Sundance was sold out--that the audiences were attentive--like they were at a religious service--there were gasps from the viewers at the right moments in the film--and people were sobbing; they stood and clapped at the end of the film and the question and answer sessions at the end of the film were informative and crisp and smart.

What was your favorite celebrity encounter at the festival?

There were several celebrity encounters that I shall remember most--meeting Bono and hanging out with him; and my encounter with Teri Hatcher. See my blog posts for details.

VPP: The 'filmanthropist' term you coined has received a lot of buzz. What are your social change objectives for this film?

I believe that Filmanthropy is a new way for social entrepreneurs to get a message out about a cause--shine a light on an issue--motivate an audience to do something about the issue and have the content around the message be seen by a very large global audience. Nanking tells a very emotional story--about how--even in war times--people can stand up--be counted--do great work--change history--change lives and do the right thing; in the right way.  


Investment Partner Updates


SEED Foundation to Open Campus in Maryland
Thanks to Elizabeth Frazier, Director of Communications, for this update.

Art and Pat Modell have committed an anchor gift of $5 million to build a SEED school to serve Maryland children.  This investment is vital to SEED’s work in Maryland, as it ensures that hundreds of children will benefit from SEED’s successful public boarding school model.   

Through their work with the Baltimore Ravens, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the House of Ruth, the Johns Hopkins Heart Institute and other organizations, the Modells have long been cornerstones of the Baltimore community.  The Baltimore Sun featured a story about the Modell’s gift.

In addition to Maryland, The SEED Foundation plans to build a second SEED campus in DC and is working on feasibility projects in California, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Newark.

Management Changes

Heads Up Plans Executive Director Transition
Thanks to Sara Brandspigel, Development Manager, for this update.

Darin McKeever, Heads Up Co-founder and Executive Director, announced that after nearly 11 years of service, he will be transitioning out of his day-to-day role as Heads Up’s Executive Director later this year.

McKeever co-founded Heads Up in 1996 with fellow Harvard graduate Vincent Pan. They created Heads Up to provide after-school literacy programs to low-income children in some of Washington, DC’s lowest performing schools by engaging college students as tutors. In addition to leading Heads Up, he has been a vocal advocate for children and youth in the city.

“Heads Up has grown from a very personal calling for me and my co-founder Vin Pan into a local institution with a national reputation and a track record of innovation and impact. After considerable thought and many conversations with the board and my family, I’ve decided that the time is right to set out in a new direction,” McKeever said.

Heads Up became VPP's first investment partner in 2001. Since then, the organization has nearly tripled the number of participating students to become the largest, private, after-school and summer program in DC schools. 

“Heads Up is well-positioned for success in the years ahead,” said Carol Thompson Cole, VPP Managing Partner. “The board of directors has worked closely with Darin to ensure a smooth transition.”

McKeever will remain on staff through June 15. For the remainder of the year, he will continue to serve on the board and as an advisor on key projects.


College Summit Welcomes New Human Resources Head Thanks to Tom Harrison, Marketing & PR Coordinator, for this update.

In January 2007, College Summit welcomed Steve Scheier as Vice President of Human Resources. Having managed the human resource departments of several corporations, the San Francisco native brings equal amounts of passion and expertise to the position.

Thus far, Scheier has spent most of his time in the new role learning about College Summit’s human resources, or “talent.” Through one-on-one, in-person meetings, he has met with every employee of the 90-person organization and found the open conversations illuminating. “They are very smart, mission-oriented, and dedicated [employees],” Scheier says. “They really want to succeed.”

In less than two years, College Summit opened pilot programs or launched full regional offices in five new geographic regions. An organization dedicated to building the capacity of high schools and school districts to improve college enrollment must build its own capacity as well. In the last 12 months, the nonprofit’s human resource or “Talent Team” has recruited and added 40 employees, created comprehensive management training, launched a diversity initiative, and beefed up its new hire orientation to keep pace.

Scheier knows a little about rapid change. He spent nine years at Apple Computer and sums up his experience by saying, “What I learned at Apple was that it is possible to do the impossible.”

It wasn’t rapid growth, however, that attracted Scheier to College Summit. “I wanted to work somewhere where I can help have an impact on the world and address some of the needs in this country. College Summit is a mission driven organization with traction.

Partnerships & Alliances


CFNC Collaborates on Smart Beginnings and Start Strong Initiatives
Thanks to Kate Lyng, Manager of Development, for this update.

CFNC is playing an integral role in the development of two state proposals linked to the Smart Beginnings and Start Strong Pre-K Initiatives, championed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Smart Beginnings is an initiative intended to build “a comprehensive state and local network of early childhood services, designed to ensure that all children have the care and experiences necessary to prepare them for success in school.” The initiative’s focus is also on parent education, allowing families to become better educated on early childhood development and the benefits of accessing these high quality programs.

Working as part of an Arlington-Alexandria collaborative, the Smart Beginnings Sub-committee seeks to develop a “system” for integrating information regarding the complete range of early childhood services available to Arlington and Alexandria families. The new system would centralize information that is now held by a variety of people, allowing providers to access information in order to inform families about the total range of services available. It would include a search mechanism, be supported by a database, be sustainable, and accessible to families as well as providers. The Committee also plans to address an evaluation component, outreach efforts, money for staff development, finding a place to house the initiative (possibly CFNC) and will research other similar systems in place.

The Start Strong Pre-K initiative is designed to offer increased access to preschool for all four-year- olds. CFNC is working with members of the Alexandria Early Childhood community to apply for funding to be one of six pilot programs.  These pilot programs will allow the state of Virginia to test program features by examining strategies for staff development, measurement, evaluation, and collaborative funding. The pilot programs will focus on ways to increase access for at-risk children not being served by publicly-funded programs. The pilots will build on strides made by the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) by addressing challenges of unequal access to ensure that all eligible children have the opportunity to enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed in school.

Noteworthy Announcements


Mary's Center Produces Legislative Toolkit
Thanks to John Alejandro and Lyda Vanegas, Department of Advocacy and Communications, for this update.

As a result of the collaborative efforts between Mary’s Center’s Advocacy and Communications Department, legislative staff representatives from the offices of Senator Barack Obama and other federal legislators, the World Bank, and the National Council of La Raza, Mary’s Center has created a legislative toolkit focused on immigrant health care issues. The kit is designed to provide federal, state, and local legislators with a variety of immigrant health care facts and figures, the impact of current health policies on immigrant families, model legislation that addresses access to community-based health services, and the unique needs of immigrants as related to health care.

“We’re providing this resource to lawmakers so that they may stay informed of key health issues, so that future policies and legislation may better serve the needs of immigrant populations,” says Maria Gomez, President and CEO of Mary’s Center. “Our partnership with VPP has enabled our center to establish and expand our advocacy and communications department to create important resources such as this to educate key decision makers and to give a voice to the people who need quality health care services.” The design and production of the kit was made possible by the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. To receive an electronic copy, please email



Baseball Season Comes Early to the Latin American Youth Center
Thanks to Jim Whitney, Director of Communications, for this update.

Opening Day isn't until April 2, but baseball fever was in the air when Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta and two of his players, centerfielder Nook Logan and pitcher Mike O'Connor, visited LAYC on January 23, talking baseball, taking questions, and signing autographs.

Acta, who was named manager in November and grew up in the Dominican Republic, alternated between Spanish and English during the visit.

Welcomed by LAYC Executive Director Lori Kaplan, the Nationals talked with youth in LAYC's workforce program and students from The Next Step and YouthBuild Public Charter Schools, both founded by LAYC.

Acta urged the young people to stay in school and pursue their dreams, sharing his own experience arriving in the United States in 1987, at age 18, to play Rookie League, and not knowing a word of English. Just two months later, Acta explained, he was able to communicate well in English.

Acta said he had a simple dream: "to become a baseball player, come to the US and buy lots of jeans and sneakers." He's living the dream. He told the young people to take advantage of opportunities, saying “you can be whatever you want in this country."

Acta also encouraged the young people to look past skin color and language differences, saying, "We're all the same."

O'Connor, who grew up in Ellicott City, MD, and played for four years at nearby George Washington University (GW), described the hard work that eventually led him to the major leagues. In high school, O'Connor said, there were better players on his team, and when he arrived at GW, it wasn't clear he would even make the team. He kept at it, and today he's a 26-year-old pitcher in the majors.

Logan, who came to the Nationals from the Detroit Tigers last September, talked about growing up in Mississippi in a tough neighborhood, where people looked out for him and helped him find his way. He said he tries to make it up to the people who steered him in the right direction.

In closing, Acta said that it sometimes takes courage to walk away from tough situations and old friends who are doing bad or dangerous things, but that it's important. Sometimes, we need to "separate ourselves," he said.

The visit to LAYC was part of the Nationals' 2007 week-long Winter Caravan, which provides fans throughout the DC metro area a chance to meet with members of the Nationals before they depart for spring training in February.

And that home opener against the Florida Marlins is just around the corner.


CMHS to Help Communities Across the Country
Thanks to Ricarda Dowling, Director of Development, for this update.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has awarded The Center for Multicultural Human Services (CMHS) a three-year, $748,908 grant  to create a national technical assistance center that will help communities around the country respond better to the needs of immigrant and refugee children and families.  The primary purpose of the Training and Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) is to help the human service community nationwide develop knowledge, skills, and confidence in working with and providing much-needed social services to an increasingly multicultural client base.

"The immigration boom is no longer restricted to large cities such as New York and  Chicago,” says Dr. Dennis Hunt, Executive Director and Founder of CMHS.  "It extends all over, including into small town America. In that regard, this grant offers CMHS an incredible opportunity to share with other communities the knowledge that we've gained over the past 25 years. With our experience, we can make the learning curve a lot less intimidating."

“CMHS clearly stands out as a pioneer in this kind of work,” says Wendy Yallowitz, RWJF program officer. “The work they have done with immigrants and refugees serves as a model for communities throughout the US.”

“Rebuilding Lives: A Guide for Human Service Providers Serving Refugees and Immigrants” is scheduled to be published in May 2007.


 Councilmember Visits AALEAD's Program in Maryland
Thanks to Rosetta Lai, VP for Development and External Affairs, for this update.

Since September 2006, AALEAD has served Asian American students from low-income families in Montgomery County at Loiederman and Parkland Middle Schools.  There are 25 children enrolled in the after-school programs for mentoring or tutoring. Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich visited AALEAD’s after-school program at Loiederman Middle School on January 17.  Joined by Loiederman Principal Alison Serino, Elrich talked with students, AALEAD’s management team and staff about the work and additional possibilities for AALEAD in Montgomery County.