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NerdWallet’s Top 5 Venture Philanthropy Organizations

July 23, 2012
Personal Finance
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This year saw Occupy movements pop up around the country, investors throw money at presidential candidates, and banks suffer serious loses on bad bets. At a time like this, it’s nice to know that even though they aren’t always in the spotlight, there are organizations out there still supporting public goods. NerdWallet is looking on the bright side this summer and honoring a few of our favorite venture philanthropy organizations. These groups research, educate, advise, and most importantly invest in nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike that are working to help marginalized Americans and create real social change. They all do some amazing work, and here it is.

Venture Philanthropy Partners: Creating leaders

Proud of their smart investing, Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) provides strategic investment in community organizations seeking to build and become strong nonprofits with powerful means of change. Through monetary investments and expert consulting, VPP boosts the efforts of social change nonprofits that help children and youth in low-income areas in the National Capital Region. Rather than spread their funds and expert resources thinly to all nonprofits, VPP researches nonprofits with the most potential to impact the developmental and educational needs of these underserved children. They then concentrate their efforts into helping these select organizations be powerful sources of impact in their communities. Specifically, their investments are directed at helping to create leaders as a means of strengthening a group’s “organizational capacity.” This is carried out not just by supplying the money, but creating a functional partnership to see that these nonprofits succeed in their goals of improving child welfare in their communities, growing their organizations and serving more people. To date, VPP has raised and pledged over $85 million to invest back into nonprofits. These philanthropic nerds are making the smart bets on nonprofits, and are making a difference for these children in need.

Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund: Education, environment, and international development

Founded in 1998, the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (known as SV2) is a self-described partnership of giving. The fund connects donors together into a pool that allows them to issue sizeable grants to nonprofits who prove themselves to be cutting-edge and primed to make a difference. SV2 combines these monetary resources with the advising and consulting abilities of its partners to raise the efforts and efficiency of nonprofits serving their communities in different ways. The fund holds three rounds of grant issuing per year in the range of $100,000-$150,000, giving one to an education nonprofit, one to an environmental nonprofit, and one to an international development nonprofit. The goal in mind is to find nonprofits that are innovative and proving their success, and to then provide them the means of building their program capacities and scaling up operations. Their strength in providing social changing philanthropy comes from their wide range of professional partners, which number over 100 and include lawyers, doctors, tech entrepreneurs, and university professors to name just a few. This has lead to them granting over $3 million to 35 nonprofits since SV2’s founding. These professionals see the potential of small nonprofits working well with the right resources, and use their fund and insight to expand those socially beneficial operations. SV2 is always looking to expand on their own philanthropic efforts and bring more partners into their giving circles, so look them up today.

North Star Fund: Solutions through grassroots

The North Star Fund is a New York City community foundation that organizes donors, raises money for grants, and offers technical support for a wide range of grassroots nonprofit groups. Their areas of impact range from housing and heath care to wage increase to human rights. These philanthropists support it all, and they do so by funding groups who work for the social justice of marginalized groups such as low-income families, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ, women’s groups, and the elderly. In the more than 30 years of their history, the North Star Fund has distributed $35 million to more than 700 groups serving the five boroughs of NYC. What’s more, the North Star Fund is one of the few venture philanthropies that believes in investing in small grassroots community activism, instead of just directing its funds to large established nonprofits. We support the North Star Fund and anyone willing to give the small grassroots nerds a helping hand in fighting for social justice.

NewSchools Venture Fund: An excellent education for all potential nerds

NewSchools is a venture philanthropy firm founded in 1998 by a social entrepreneur and two venture capitalists. The goal? To help education entrepreneurs bring change to public education by funding and supporting their organization’s growth. NewSchools is able to accomplish this by raising money from individual and institutional supporters, and then investing this capital back into education reform organizations. These venture philanthropists have high standards however, and put both their nonprofit and for-profit applicants through rigorous screening to make sure they have the capabilities to bring real change to the quality of education received by underserved students. One of the key initiatives of NewSchools is their College Achievement Network, which connects charter schools serving low-income families and works with them to ensure these students are prepared to enroll and graduate from college. This initiative conducts research and analyzes data on affordability, social pressures, family stress, and poor academic planning issues that might all factor into a student not receiving a quality education. NewSchools is also working on expanding its program of individual city-based funds, which serve smaller communities in need of public education assistance. We like these guys because they are committed to serious investing in public education, in both innovative and expansive ways.

Funders Together: Ending homelessness once and for all

Initially begun in 2004 as the Partnership to End Long-Term Homelessness, Funders Together is a national network that connects individual and institutional funders together. Their united goal is to end chronic homelessness, and they have expanded their efforts to specifically target the helping of families, youth, and veterans who face the challenges of being homeless. The purpose of the network is to bring people looking to fight national homelessness together for effective collaboration to address large-scale issues. This model allows them to make strategic investments and issue well-reasoned grants. Through individuals they have advised and through their collaborative fund, Funders Together has invested over $200 million in programs that create supportive housing, provide health care, and develop sustainable community models to help end widespread and chronic homelessness. These guys connect caring people and organizations and educate them on the issues most affecting the homeless community. They are unique, dedicated, and innovative, and they have proven results. Funders Together also has local funder collaborations all over the country so that people looking to help out can connect to Funders Together in their region. As the only philanthropic organization dedicated to ending homelessness in America, Funders Together deserves serious recognition and support, and NerdWallet cheers them on in their work.