A Bittersweet Blog
Did you know that an SVP Partner acts as a 'Lead Partner' for every Investee we fund? We wanted to check-in with these volunteers to learn more about their stories and experiences in this most-important role. Bill Ellis, Lead Partner for now SVP graduate, Explorations in Math, shares his story of a great experience come to a bittersweet end. We also created a video (debuted at our June 5th Spring Meeting) to share the relationship between SVP and EIM; check it out below!
So, let’s get the bitter out of the way first – it’s over. The grant cycle has come to its planned end, and I am being laid off in my job as Lead Partner. I’ll miss being SVP’s representative in working with the great organization and fine people that comprise Explorations in Math. But the fact that it's over has some deeper implications for SVP.
How can SVP as an organization and its Partners as individuals continue to support its past Investees? The Grant Committees are hard at work selecting new Investees, with financial, SVP staff, and volunteer support soon to flow to those deserving organizations. In the competition for scarce resources, that’s the way it should be. Paul Shoemaker rightly shows us how to focus on our philanthropic work, so a little diffused help to a growing number of past Investees isn’t the answer. Maybe we should get a group together and do some brainstorming about alternatives – Investee Alumnet, Lead Partner Emeritus, Adopt-an-Investee, annual past Investee conference ….?
Moving on to the sweet, it has really been a pleasure and privilege for me to work with Explorations in Math. As far as I know, the concept of Lead Partner at SVP is unique in the grantmaking world. Yes, foundations have grant officers who check up to see how their money is being spent, but that’s a rather detached view from above. The message there is “here’s a check, spend it like you said you would in the grant proposal, and write us a report at the end.” SVP’s message is “now that you’ve deposited our check, let’s both get to work to make your organization a success.”
The Lead Partner is not an overseer, but a liaison to help the Investee work with SVP, support the procurement of volunteer help, and be engaged in the development and review of the annual work plan. The relationship between the Lead Partner and Investee is an interesting balancing act. I wanted to be close enough to the organization to know and understand its mission and programs, but detached enough not to be tempted to dip in and meddle, and to try to see to it that both the Investee’s goals and those of SVP were met. I did this by volunteering to help with some of their programs, like Mathfest, and meeting regularly with the Executive Director.
There were two different EDs during my tenure, both came from the private sector, and both were outstanding in their leadership. Many nonprofits try hard not to show their weaknesses to their funders. Encouraged by SVP’s style, Explorations in Math was extremely transparent and open in their communications with SVP. It’s a cliché, but a problem or challenge became an opportunity, and Explorations in Math took full advantage of SVP expertise, volunteers, and support consultants to deal with the inevitable issues that arise with a growing organization.
For you readers who aren’t familiar with Explorations in Math, check them out! They have a well-articulated mission, and excellent programs. And by the way, with SVP funding ending, they could use additional contributions… they will certainly receive my continued support.
Bill Ellis is the SVP Lead Partner for graduate Investee, Explorations in Math. For more information on SVP's work with EIM, please look here! Interested in becoming a Lead Partner? Check out our upcoming opportunities.