Seed Money for Social Change: A New Effort to Nurture Nonprofit Leaders in LA

photo:  Chris Rubino/shutterstock

photo:  Chris Rubino/shutterstock

Social Venture Partners works in a few dozen cities, both in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, it has over 40 affiliates in nine countries and more than 3,400 partners, which is a considerable reach.  

The LA branch of this large network is Social Venture Partners Los Angeles. The group has been best known for the annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch Competition. This event involves coaching over a three-month period before pitching a program to a panel of judges for a chance to receive funding.

Now there’s a new SVP L.A. grantmaking program that’s been gaining some traction, too.

It's called System Change Accelerator, and the focus here is on addressing the root causes of pressing social issues. This intensive program is longer, nine months instead of three, and the prize for grantees is $10,000 in seed money. Topics of interest thus far include education inequities, domestic violence, combating Islamophobia, homelessness, and voter disenfranchisement.

What’s interesting about these seed money for social change grants is that nonprofit leaders were selected as recipients rather than their organizations as a whole. Five Los Angeles leaders were chosen recently to receive training from business leaders, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders to learn about how to strengthen the infrastructure of their organizations, craft effective pitches to secure more funding, and build capital.

We’ve seen a rise in nonprofit capacity funding lately among locally focused funders. Community foundations, health legacy funders, and private family donors have finally begun to listen to nonprofits that have been longing for this kind of support for many years. But seed money like this from SVP L.A. is taking nonprofit capacity grants one step further by adding training and mentoring components in addition to hard cash. SVP gets its money to award grants from $5,000 minimum annual contributions from partners, which is pooled together to fund local nonprofits. It's like a giving circle but with a little more business expertise on the table.

“There is a powerful opportunity to channel the networks, expertise, and capital of private sector and nonprofit leaders—we believe the synergy will be catalytic to accelerating profound social change across Los Angeles.” said Christine Margiotta, executive director of SVP L.A.

The recipients of the Los Angeles grants and training are executive directors, program managers, and steering committee members for the Center for Powerful Public Schools, CSH Speak Up, FreeForm, Korean American Coalition, and Vigilant Love.

SVP was established in Los Angeles in 2004 and has over 75 members contributing to annual grantmaking funds. At least 10 local nonprofits are receiving long-term capacity building funding, and over 100 groups have received support through the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, which was created in Los Angeles and has since been replicated by eight other SVP affiliates. The most recent focus of the group is on collective action initiatives to improve educational outcomes in East and South L.A.