Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.


September 2014

Wed, 2014-09-10

“My mom taught me that if you don't risk anything, you aren't going to get anything in return."
- Roxanne Cano, Year Up NCR graduate

From Carol’s Desk: Creating Talent Pipelines in the NCR and Beyond

As this message hits your inbox, students across the National Capital Region are already back to school and preparing themselves for the future. Here at VPP, we are also thinking about their futures – and how to help create pathways for our young people to lead successful, productive lives.

Those pathways are tougher to come by for millions of young people without access to
higher education and living-wage careers, which is why VPP has been proud to partner with Year Up  a national nonprofit that helps urban young adults get the skills and experience they need to reach their full potential. 

This month, VPP president and CEO Carol Thompson Cole reflects on the successes of our partnership with Year Up, both in the National Capital Region and nationally. Read Carol’s Column here.


Year Up Paves the Road to Professional Success

VPP is excited about today’s release of our case study chronicling our investment in Year Up, a nonprofit that works in the National Capital Region and across the country to help young adults in urban areas get the skills and experience needed to succeed. Through intensive career training and internship experiences, Year Up helps these youth build a strong foundation for success and helps launch them into employment.

Through VPP’s partnership with Year Up, we’ve supported Year Up National Capital Region so that it could expand its program and provide training and opportunity for more youth. In addition, we worked with Year Up’s national branch to impact the national conversation around opportunities for youth from low-income areas – from public perception to federal policy to business practices to alumni outreach.

Our case study details our investment with Year Up and shares the many success stories that have emerged.

You can read the case study here.


AppleTree Praised for its Effective Education Model

Earlier this summer, the Pioneer Institute released a new study recommending that states establish charter schools that provide high-quality early education to low- and middle-income youth. The study, “Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree's Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools,” highlighted the great success of VPP partner the AppleTree Institute’s early childhood charter schools, using it as a case study to demonstrate the effect that its education model can have.

AppleTree’s seven D.C.-based public charter schools strive for academic outcomes that can
have a lasting impact on young children. AppleTree’s schools focus on serving low-income students – many of its 760 prekindergarten students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches – to help close the achievement gap that can impact low-income students in K-12 schools. In addition, it’s helping implement its “Every Child Ready” curriculum at seven additional schools in the D.C. region.

VPP is proud of our partnership with the AppleTree Institute to support its great work
on public charter schools. We look forward to seeing the great results it continues to produce, and to see the impact it has as it becomes a model for other schools in the D.C. region and beyond.

To learn more about AppleTree’s work, you can read the study here.


Metro TeenAIDS “Summer of Data”

This summer, Metro TeenAIDS made it its mission to change how staff, partners and clients use and share data about HIV/AIDS and their work to combat it so they could create greater collective impact. Metro TeenAIDS, a community health organization that uses education, support and advocacy to help young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS, launched its “Summer of Data” to build capacity and understanding about how to effectively use data to achieve greater results.

Through a series of events including seminars, art-based activities, brown bags and data releases, Metro TeenAIDS helped organizations strengthen their internal culture to be driven by data, and use it to inform their activities and change how they talk about data externally.

One reason Metro TeenAIDS has been so successful in driving its partners to focus on data is through being transparent about its own accomplishments and challenges, which organizations are sometimes hesitant to discuss openly. For example, Metro TeenAIDS is sharing best practices around its implementation of a new data management system to help the organization analyze the impact of its service, as well as how to motivate staff to use the system. It is also sharing the importance of data protection and making sure information is secure. This transparency is helping build a community where peers can share best practices so they can work to better share data and learn from it to improve their efforts moving forward.

The Summer of Data officially wraps up in October, but Metro TeenAIDS hopes to continue it as an annual series.

Visit Metro TeenAIDS’ website to see upcoming events and highlights from past ones. 


Inspired to Make a Difference

VPP’s investor community is made up of philanthropists from around the region who have invested themselves in the causes that matter most to them. VPP sat down with VPP investor Robert Hisaoka to talk about one cause that is inspired by the legacy of his sister—and one for which he has raised more than $5.7 million.

Joan Hisaoka lost her battle with cancer when she was 48 years old. To honor his sister’s memory and her dream of assisting those living with cancer, VPP investor Robert Hisaoka held the first Joan Hisaoka “Make A Difference” Gala in 2008.

Since then, the event has raised more than $5.7 million for organizations in the National Capital Region that bring hope and healing to those faced with serious illness. Those organizations include Life with Cancer, the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, and the Brem Foundation to Defeat Breast Cancer.

The Seventh Annual Joan Hisaoka “Make A Difference” Gala will be on September 20,

What are some of your proudest moments as part of this work?

Bob Hisaoka: This is something that my sister would have enjoyed: watching and seeing the work grow and helping others that are living with cancer – truly “making a difference” for those living with cancer. In the same way she learned the healing power of this sort of support, she would be proud to see us working to extend it to others.
Joan really started this work, and so she’s the creator in my mind. I am simply proud to continue it.

How has the VPP community played a role in advancing your cause?

The only way this undertaking would have been possible was through the association
with VPP and all the friendships I have established through the years. There are many VPP investors, donors and board members* that are on the host committee or executive committee of the Gala that give their time, money and knowledge to make the event a success. 

When I first started, we had less than three months to put the first event together. I didn’t really realize what a short time that was to put 500 people in a room starting from zero. Fortunately, through these relationships, we were able to fill that first evening with 500 people and raise $700,000 and launch this event from a good, strong base.

My work with VPP has really flowed both ways. It’s given me the opportunity to learn about great organizations and educational opportunities in the region,and I’ve been able to work with smart, passionate people who have really invested in the work I am passionate about through the Gala.

What does the future look like for the “Make A Difference” Gala?

We’re hoping to raise $1.5 million this year, which will take us over $7 million for the first seven years. Importantly, 80 percent of donors’ dollars are going to the organizations we support, and we are constantly focused on how we can have the most impact within the community.

We keep growing, and I look forward to seeing where else we can help. We added a third organization a few years ago – the Brem Foundation to Defeat Breast Cancer. Dr. Rachel Brem is with The George Washington University Hospital and specializes in providing breast cancer early detection and screenings for those not able to afford it. In fact, she has a mobile truck that goes throughout D.C. It is through organizations like these that I hope we can continue to make a difference.

*Numerous members of the VPP community play a role in making the “Make A Difference” Gala possible, including Katherine Bradley, Jack Davies, Lauren Peterson Fellows, David Joubran, Richard Kay and Gabriela Smith on the event’s Executive Committee. Even more have sponsored the event.

To learn more about the Gala and the fundraiser’s beneficiaries, visit


Links We Love

Updating its 2011 piece on collective impact in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, FSG focuses a new article on key mindset shifts that funders and organizations must make to successfully execute collective impact strategies: Essential Mindset Shifts for Collective Impact.

A thought-provoking piece by Nonprofit Quarterly editor in chief Ruth McCambridge that asks organizations to consider how the changing landscape impacts external influences on nonprofit management: External Influences on Nonprofit Management: a Wide-Angle View.

In the article To Maximize Impact, Evaluate More than Just Outcomes, Julie Slay of Arabella Advisors discusses how funders and nonprofits can achieve greater impact by evaluating, not just final results, but also how those results are achieved.

This blog post from the Collective Impact Forum outlines a number of different forms that effective collaboration can take to create even more change than any one organization can make on its own: Which Form of Collaboration is Best for You?

Congratulations to Myrna Peralta, President and CEO of VPP Portfolio I investment partner CentroNia. Myrna was recently named a Community Champion by Capital One. 

Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) makes the future brighter for youth living in the National Capital Region by tackling the largest barriers to their success and forging partnerships that bring the expertise, passion and reach necessary to achieve life-changing results. Over the past 13 years, VPP has raised $90 million to help children and youth of low-income families in the National Capital Region access quality education, health care and career training – setting them on the right path to learn, graduate, and become successful, healthy adults. This funding, coupled with our management expertise and support in strengthening staff leadership, has increased the capacity of local nonprofits to help them serve an additional 15,000 children and youth across the region each year.
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