No man is an island, and that’s true for non-profits too. We can’t end homelessness alone, but working together, we can. We’re lucky to work with inspiring partners throughout the Sea to Sky and Vancouver who are advancing social justice and empowering marginalized communities: like Social Venture Partners (SVP) Vancouver.

There are loads of reasons we love SVP: not least their amazing staff team. But most importantly, it’s because they do things a bit differently. Their “venture philanthropy” model is a unique – and effective – approach to tackling big social problems like homelessness, poverty, and food security. They’ve made a huge impact here at Zero Ceiling, giving us capacity to become bigger, stronger, and more impactful.

Who are Social Venture Partners?

Social Venture Partners Vancouver logoSocial Venture Partners (SVP) are an international non-profit dedicated to creating long-term change in our communities. Their mission is to “ensure more children and youth reach their full potential – contributing to a stronger community and a better world.” In Vancouver, SVP brings together over 200 philanthropists, who collectively have given over $6 million to non-profits over the last 20 years and donated over $18 million of in-kind support.

SVP’s “venture philanthropy” model goes far beyond simply providing funding for non-profits to deliver programs. Instead, they invest in capacity building, offer multi-year funding, and build lasting partnerships with non-profits in communities around the world. In place of one-year, program-specific grants, they invest in non-profits for 3-5 years, coupled with expertise, mentorship, and training to help non-profits “investees” achieve their mission.

So what exactly is involved? Here’s three things we love about what SVP do:

1. Support for Capacity Building

Building capacity is a big deal for non-profits, but it’s often over-looked by funders in favour of direct programs and services. However, capacity building is vital if non-profits are to make a bigger impact tackling complex social problems like homelessness.

A large group of non-profit representatives pose for a photo at the end of the 2019 SVP Retreat

Zero Ceiling staff celebrate the end of the 2019 SVP Vancouver retreat, with staff from awesome non-profits from across the Lower Mainland.

What does capacity building look like? It could mean investing in mentorship for Executive Directors, governance training for new Board members, or communications tools to amplify a non-profit’s message.

At Zero Ceiling, SVP invested in new technology to strengthen our programs, evaluation, and fundraising. They also provided training, mentorship, and support for a whole range of topics like fundraising, impact measurement, and communications. For the last two years, we’ve attended their annual retreats, connected with other awesome non-profits, and left full of new ideas and inspiration.

2. Multi-year, Unrestricted Funding

Another unique part of being an SVP investee is getting access to multi-year funding. SVP invest for 3-5 years in every non-profit partner, which we think is awesome. Why? Multi-year, unrestricted funding gives non-profits time and space to focus on working towards bigger goals. It reduces the time we spend securing funding when we could be working towards our mission.

Crucially, unrestricted funding can be used for core operating costs like office rent, supplies, insurance, and professional development . They might not be the most exciting things to spend money on, but they’re the building blocks of impact. Without reliable core operations, non-profits struggle to make an impact and create lasting change.

Side note: Over the last few years, people have started to rethink how charitable funding works. This seminal TED Talk from Dan Pallota sums it up better than we ever could. For anyone interested in creating change, it’s a must-watch:

3. Strong, Long-Lasting Relationships

We first received funding from SVP back in 2015, as part of a three-year funding agreement. That investment helped us double the size of our programs, staff team, and budget between then and now. And it didn’t stop there. We’ve stayed in touch and benefited from SVP’s expertise and support ever since.

Then when COVID-19 hit, SVP granted us $10,000 from their COVID-19 Capacity Response Fund. Their funding came at just the right time, ensuring we could meet the needs of our participants in the early days of the pandemic, and keep planning for the future. They’ve also provided free training for current and former investees since the beginning of the pandemic: like how to fundraise in a crisis.

As a non-profit, these long-term relationships with funders are so valuable. They give us confidence, capacity, and someone to work together with at difficult times.

Thanks for Five Years of Making an Impact, SVP!

We’re not going to lie – we hope “venture philanthropy” catches on. We’ve loved working with SVP over the last five years, and look forward to being partners long into the future. Their powerful combination of unrestricted funding, long-term partnerships, and expertise has helped us making a bigger impact for dozens of young people since we started working together.

If you love what SVP do as much as us, visit their website and sign up to their newsletter to learn more.