Watch a video of Executive Director Linda Springer discussing CSVP's structure and background at the Foundation Center's "Coffee and Conversation with a Grantmaker"
The mission of Cleveland Social Venture Partners (CSVP) is to build a community of active donors who strengthen and improve the performance of Cleveland nonprofits through donations of money, time and expertise.
Our vision is to enlarge the community of active donor volunteers to deliver the most effective philanthropy in Cleveland.
- Engaged Philanthropy/Donor Volunteerism: CSVP shares its time and expertise as well as its finances to strengthen the nonprofit sector.
- Continuous Learning: CSVP is committed to learning and personal growth. Ongoing education, implementing meaningful innovation, and assessing progress are organizational cornerstones.
- Community: CSVP values the power of the collective and the benefits of working within a partner-driven group. We build a community within the partner group, with the SVP network, and with our investees to contribute more effectively to the larger Cleveland community. We value respect and candor from each other.
- Innovative and Sustainable Problem Solving: CSVP believes that identifying the right problem is worthy of our best efforts. We partner with our investees to solve problems in order to achieve enduring systemic improvement.
- Excellence: CSVP believes that excellence comes from aspiring to be better. We learn from all sectors and value the application of the appropriate business principles to the nonprofit sector in order to achieve the strongest return on our investment.
Cleveland Social Venture Partners engages philanthropists and social investors to contribute time, money, and business expertise to nonprofit agencies and organizations in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The combination of financial contributions with Partners' time and expertise is primarily a response to needs expressed by many nonprofits and mirrors the practices of investors in start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in the for-profit world. Nonprofit organizations have expressed a need for longer-term funding, more flexibility in allocating grant dollars, assistance in developing organizational capacity, and connections with the business community. Cleveland SVP addresses these issues by combining cash grants with volunteer support designed to strengthen the organizational capacity of Investees. The purpose of this section is to provide an overview of Cleveland SVP’s volunteer support model, describe the lifecycle of Cleveland SVP’s relationship with its Investees, and further define the elements of organizational capacity.
Cleveland SVP is comprised of individuals with a wide range of expertise and experience in the fields of business and technology. These individuals, or “Partners,” contribute a minimum of $5000 per year for a minimum of 2 years. These funds are pooled and invested as grants to local nonprofit organizations. Once a grant is made, Cleveland SVP works in partnership with the nonprofit to improve their ability to deliver effective programs. Cleveland SVP, recognizing that nonprofit practitioners are the program experts, aims to complement this programmatic expertise with a set of skills that will help build organizational, management, and technology infrastructure, thereby enhancing a nonprofit’s ability to carry out its mission.
Elements of Organizational Capacity
Cleveland SVP uses eight categories to describe the many facets of organizational capacity where Cleveland SVP Partners might contribute time and expertise. These categories are:
- Management Systems – generally the practices of executive level staff focused on optimizing the resources of their staff and volunteers, including strategic planning, volunteer management, and human resources
- Board and Governance – development and on-going operations of Board of Directors, advisory committees and oversight entities
- Finance – fiscal management of an organization including grant management.
- Fund and Revenue Development – activities, including the diversification of funding, which will lead to the sustainability of revenue and donors
- Information Technology – planning and implementation designed to incorporate the use of technology in enhancing services or making the organization more efficient
- Marketing and Media – developing activities and materials designed to increase the visibility of the organization, promote public awareness of a specific program, or enhance fundraising efforts
- Evaluation and Outcomes – measuring the impact of a program on the target population and using these results to guide program design
- Replication/Expansion – the expansion of an existing program to another location by the founding organization or the packaging of the core principles and elements in a form that others can duplicate in another setting
Building the Cleveland SVP–Investee Relationship
How does the volunteer support model work?
Investment Selection Process
To apply for support from Cleveland SVP, prospective applicants must prepare a two-page Letter of Inquiry. Members of Cleveland SVP’s Investment Team review the Letters of Inquiry and invite full proposals from a very select number of organizations. As part of their written proposal, organizations are asked to define their organizational capacity building needs and how Cleveland SVP might be able to assist. An organization's response to this question serves as a starting point for a conversation with Investment Team members during the site visit. During the visit, the site review sub-team will explain more about Cleveland SVP's model for volunteer support, field questions from the nonprofit organization, and begin an initial discussion around these questions: “What does your nonprofit need besides money?” “What do you need to build your organizational capacity?” During the proposal review and site visit process, potential Investees are strongly encouraged to evaluate and examine the SVP model to determine how they could most effectively work with Cleveland SVP. Whether Cleveland SVP can be a “value add” to an organization is an important factor in determining which finalist is ultimately funded by the Investment Team.
Cleveland SVP makes single-year investments with the intent of forming multi-year relationships with our Investees. This operating principle stems from our belief that effective funders must be willing to support nonprofits over a multi-year period. It often takes several years for the results of an investment to come to fruition or for organizational capacity building efforts to be realized. However, Investees are required to participate in an annual review process to ensure that investment dollars are being used for their intended purpose, to measure progress on goals and objectives, to assess volunteer projects, and to determine the overall impact of Cleveland SVP’s volunteer efforts. Assuming progress, Cleveland SVP expects that funding relationships with most organizations will last for a period of three to five years.
Kicking off a Relationship with CSVP
Once a new Investee is selected and funds are awarded, there are a few steps that need to happen before work can get underway.
- Orientation session: New Investees are invited to Cleveland SVP for an orientation session. During this session, the Investee will be introduced to their Lead Partner and Cleveland SVP staff. The Lead Partner is the Partner that serves as the primary liaison between an Investee and Cleveland SVP. In addition, new Investees will be introduced to three documents that Cleveland SVP uses over the course of its work with Investees. These are the Cleveland SVP Organizational Assessment Tool, Annual Objectives form, and Volunteer Job Form.
- Cleveland SVP Organizational Assessment Tool: New Investees will be asked to complete an Organizational Assessment Tool. The tool is essentially a matrix of organizational attributes designed to help Investees identify their strengths and weaknesses. The tool should be completed by the Executive Director, with assistance of key staff or board members, if appropriate. Completing the tool provides insight into the areas where Cleveland SVP might best direct its volunteer efforts. In addition, the tool helps guide an Investee in defining Annual Objectives.
- Annual Objectives Form: Each year, Investees complete an Annual Objectives Form to define what they intend to accomplish over the course of the year. The components of this form include: use of investment funds (how funds will be used); organizational objectives. (tactical steps that will be taken to strengthen the organization or infrastructure), program objectives (tactical steps that will be taken to improve capacity for the nonprofit's public programs), and client outcomes (summary of client outcome targets for the coming year). The form is also used to indicate the areas in which Cleveland SVP Volunteers will be requested.
- Volunteer Job Form: The Volunteer Job Form is a template used to define volunteer projects once an Investee identifies the areas in which they would like Cleveland SVP assistance. The form is comparable to a short job description. To complete the form, Investees define a contact, title for the volunteer job, description of the time and skills required, start and end date, and expectations for the position. A volunteer job may be a one-time project, short-term project, or an on-going role, depending on the nature of an Investee's needs. The Volunteer Job form is used to help Cleveland SVP staff to link Partners to volunteer opportunities that best match their skills and availability. New Volunteer Job forms can be generated throughout the year as new projects arise. Investees typically identify three to six volunteer jobs over the course of the first year of funding from Cleveland SVP.
Getting to Work
Once an Investee has defined their Annual Objectives and Volunteer Jobs, Cleveland SVP can begin to identify Partners to contribute their time and expertise. To do this, Cleveland SVP profiles all of its Partners that are willing to contribute their time and expertise. Cleveland SVP gathers data about their skills, geographical preference, time availability, interests, and educational and professional background. Cleveland SVP staff match the Partner profiles with the Volunteer Jobs submitted by Investees. The result is a “Volunteer Team” (V-team) of Partners that works with each Investee.
There are three layers of support that make up the Cleveland SVP-Investee relationship:
- The Cleveland SVP Volunteer Team (V-Team) is a core group of three to eight Partners that works most directly with a given Investee. Each V-team has a “Lead Partner,” who is the key liaison between Cleveland SVP and the Investee as well as the contact person for the V-Team members. V-team members are identified as having an interest in that Investee and having appropriate skills and time to complete the specific volunteer jobs. The composition of the V-Team may change over the course of the year as Partners complete projects or Investees' needs change. The V-Team is not fixed. Instead, the V-team refers to a group of Partners working with a specific Investee at any given point in time. In fact, V-Team members are often working on unrelated projects yet they work towards a shared goal of improving an Investee's organizational capacity.
- Other Partners are the other members of Cleveland SVP that a Lead Partner or V-Team member can call upon for a specific question, need, or connection. At any time, other Partners may be called upon as a short-term resource.
- Extended Support represents relationships that Cleveland SVP has developed with consultants and other organizations in the community that could provide services or resources to Investees. Cleveland SVP Partners cannot always fulfill the volunteer jobs requested by Investees. As a result, Cleveland SVP taps others such as technology consultants, graduate student teams, nonprofit consultants and corporate partners. Extended support can also include friends and professional associates that Partners identify to contribute time and skills. The overarching goal is to use Cleveland SVP's connections to enrich the support that we can lend to Investees.
Renewing the Engagement
In the end-of-year review, or engagement renewal process, the Investee leadership, in collaboration with CSVP’s Lead Partner, reports on progress toward their annual objectives in the workplan. In addition, they are invited to submit a request for funding and capacity-building assistance for the coming year, which is essentially a workplan for the new year that defines Annual Objectives.
Over time, volunteer needs change, new ones arise, and projects are completed. During the first year, Cleveland SVP staff, the Lead Partner and the Investee will mutually develop a longer-term plan and vision that lays out overall goals for building capacity and will be used to jointly assess progress over time. Cleveland SVP seeks to develop a long-term vision with Investees so that we have a shared understanding of where our organizational capacity building efforts are headed. Cleveland SVP is committed to the helping ensure the long-term sustainability of its Investees, and aims to help our Investees reach the next stage of organizational development. The long-term vision is unique to each Cleveland SVP–Investee relationship.
Understanding the CSVP Approach
Cleveland SVP’s model is not appropriate or desirable for all nonprofits. Some organizations will not want or need the combination of money and hands-on expertise. Most nonprofits are not accustomed to such an engaged approach from a funder or to a funder being so involved with the “guts” of an organization. For those nonprofits willing to engage in this type of relationship, Cleveland SVP's approach presents a unique opportunity for financial and organizational capacity building support. However, it takes appreciable time and effort not only from Cleveland SVP, but also on the part of the Investee to develop:
- An understanding of Cleveland SVP’s approach and how to effectively partner with and use Cleveland SVP’s resources;
- A level of trust with Cleveland SVP that enables jointly addressing core problems and organizational needs;
- A mechanism for educating Cleveland SVP Partners, as needed, about their organization so that volunteers can effectively carry out their work.
To optimize the relationship, an Investee must be willing and able to spend the time and resources, especially up front, to accrue the benefits. For example, some Investees have estimated that they spend five hours per week in the first few months of work with Cleveland SVP, focused on implementing the volunteer work.
The Cleveland SVP–Investee relationship is not “transactional” or “hands-off.” As a result, it is not the common relationship between funder and grantee. Cleveland SVP seeks to develop true partnerships with nonprofits where we mutually invest in the success of the nonprofit's mission. It is a significant partnership, designed for one purpose – to build a nonprofit's organizational capacity and infrastructure to better achieve its social mission.