General Operating Support
Trust. Between funders and nonprofits, it’s hard to establish.
Power dynamics get in the way. That’s why SVP gives multi-year grants. Building trust takes time, and change doesn’t occur without trust.
We ask a lot of the nonprofits we partner with. We ask them to show us where they’re weak – where they need help. It’s not usually the side you show a funder. But when we finally have that conversation – that’s when we all know we’re getting somewhere.
Trust also allows us to get out of the way when we’re not needed. SVP is not in the business of telling nonprofits what their mission should be, or what their programs should focus on. They’re the experts. Likewise, they know where they need to spend their money.
Most grants nonprofits receive are restricted. Nonprofits have to spend the funds on specific programs (e.g. providing backpacks for students in need). They can only use a small percentage (if any) to cover their “overhead,” which can include anything from rent to the administrative assistant’s salary.
We believe that this distinction is unnecessary and hamstrings nonprofits. (And we’re not alone on this.)
What impact is the organization having on our community? Can they demonstrate it? Have we built a relationship on a foundation of mutual trust? These are the questions we focus on. If the answers are solid, where they spend their grant dollars is irrelevant.
More on General Operating Support...
“Who,” I would say in a low voice that would reverberate through the restaurant, “who would make the program happen then? Elves?! UNICORNS?!!!” In Vu Le's latest blog post, he shares some of his not-so-sweet experiences in navigating the complex maze of nonprofit restrictions.
“Organizations that build robust infrastructure…are more likely to succeed than those that do not,” wrote Ann Goggins Gregory and Don Howard of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “This is not news, and nonprofits are no exception to the rule.” A sentiment echoed in the words of our Investees, who have shared their thoughts on general operating support.