My husband and I joined SV2 because we wanted to be more strategic in our philanthropy. Instead of writing a bunch of random checks, we wanted to learn more about the nonprofits receiving our gifts, and use our skills to help them if we could. When I first visited an SV2 meeting, I thought to myself, "Many of these partners look like us. The don't look like the stereotypical ‘super rich’ philanthropists, and they're making a difference. So there must be something we can do, too."
I believe that helping Grantees beyond the dollars is part of "the deal" of being an SV2 Partner - it's our commitment to the cause. My career background is in nonprofit fundraising, so when SV2 sent out an email saying that Blue Planet Network (SV2 Grantee 2011-14) needed help hiring a Development Director to lead their fundraising efforts, I emailed back saying I was willing to help.
I had coffee with Lisa Nash, the CEO of Blue Planet Network, and she explained that finding the right Development Director would be absolutely crucial for Blue Planet Network's next stage of growth, enabling the organization to help millions more people gain access to clean drinking water. She asked if I would be willing to "screen" the finalists after she interviewed them. It seemed simple enough, so I said, "Sure."
I met with four candidates over coffee, and they all voiced the same concern - the job description looked like a full-time workload packed into a part-time position. I thought they had a good point, so I called Lisa and we had a great discussion. I said, "If you want to achieve your ambitious growth goals, then you just need to 'bite the bullet' and make the position full-time now."
Lisa and her Board of Directors worked hard to come up with the funding for a full-time position. When we commenced the search for a full-time Director, we quickly found a candidate who had all the right skills, extensive experience with international development, and a great personality fit. Blue Planet Network eagerly hired her a few months ago, and their fundraising efforts have been thriving ever since.
The truth is, I only spent about seven hours helping Lisa with this hiring process, and those hours were spread out over the course of several months. To me, it felt like I was not doing a lot. In fact, I often said to Lisa, "With the little I know about Blue Planet Network, who am I to advise you on the pros and cons of each candidate?" But Lisa said my insights were invaluable, and that I helped her keep hoping that we eventually would find the right person.
But as I've reflected on the experience, I've realized that sometimes the organization needs just that - the outsider view. A second set of eyes. An unbiased person who can just be honest because, "I have nothing to win or lose." Someone who doesn't know the day-to-day operations or the politics and can just come in and ask, "Have you thought of doing it another way?"
Maybe our bite-sized pieces of advice mean a lot more to the Grantees than we realize. Encouraging Lisa to make the position full-time didn't feel like a big deal to me. But for a small nonprofit, struggling to figure things out, that advice might be all they need to make a bigger impact.
I only spent about seven hours helping Lisa with this hiring process, and those hours were spread out over the course of several months. To me, it felt like I was not doing a lot. But Lisa said my insights were invaluable, and that I helped her keep hoping that we eventually would find the right person.