Reflections and “Epiphanies” From the Social Venture Partners International Winter Conference in Scottsdale

April 20, 2012

From my life as a member of a venture philanthropy partnership–Social Venture Partners Tucson–here’s a piece I posted early today. For more information about SVP Tucson, go to

There is an old adage about seminars:  Learn one thing and you’ve gotten your money’s worth! I attended the Social Venture Partners Turn Up the Heat: Next-Level Strategies for SVP Winter Conference in Scottsdale on April 16-17, 2012. I went to two programs, learned two big things and got a great reminder about the value of Social Venture Partners. Oh, and there was an EPIPHANY! Pretty good value!!!

First, I attended a dinner focused on collective impact. Several presenters related collective impact experiences in their communities. The issues on which these communities focused varied, although most of them worked on education. The players were different, community by community, and the processes also differed. One strand, however, was evident throughout:  Successful endeavors require a substantial amount of time, talent and treasure, and a total devotion to measurable outcomes.

Can we “do” collective impact in Tucson? The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona is, already! As for “can we,” if the “we” is Social Venture Partners, I think the answer is “not right now,” for we lack the capital and other resources that are necessary to be successful. Can we use our social capital to help make things happen in our community? Absolutely, and I hope and expect that we’ll be discussing this issue in the coming months.

Second, I attended The Art and Science of Fund Development, a full-day program about fund development issues. The big takeaway:  Words really matter!  Framing the way in which we communicate about Social Venture Partners—about why we do what we do, and how what we do matters—drives our level of success in broadening our support base. Of course, the message that words matter is not new, but the presentations about how we share our stories allowed me to see the issue from new perspectives. I deal with words every day from 8 to 5. I know they matter greatly. (Sometimes I tell people I am a technical writer whose forum happens to be the courts). Now I also know I need to give to my SVP life the same attention to words that I give them in my work life.

I also had an epiphany about the fund development side of Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson. There are epiphanies, though, and then there are EPIPHANIES! I had a few epiphanies during the session, and the EPIPHANY on the drive home from Scottsdale. The EPIPHANY:  We own Social Venture Partners Tucson. We own this partnership, all of us, in the same way in which we own real estate, stocks and bonds, businesses, and other assets. We have made an investment, and now we are responsible for it. What that means, and how it translates into action, requires more thought and plenty of conversation. For now, I’m thinking about it and I hope and expect that it will be part of our conversation in the coming months.

Of course, spending time with Partners always adds value to my life. The SVP network includes a really fine bunch of dedicated, interesting people. Being with them is truly pleasurable!

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