Jill Olson

"Over the past eight years, I have met others whose compassion for our community has kept me signing up year after year to be an SV2 partner."
How did you hear about SV2?

Nine years ago I sat next to a jovial gentleman at a fundraising dinner. We talked that evening about nonprofits dear to our hearts and I explained how a paper I wrote in graduate school inspired my parents to start a family foundation which they asked me to administer. My dinner partner was a current SV2 partner and he told me several SV2 partners also managed their family’s foundations and he thought SV2 membership might be a great way for me to learn from and network with other family foundation managers. He invited me to a cocktail party for perspective SV2 partners and I joined that month!

What made you decide to join?

Lindsay Austin Louie was the warm and wicked-smart Executive Director of SV2 when I joined in 2008 and her personality was one the attractions that drew me to SV2. My dad had a small stroke the weekend I was supposed to attend the annual SV2 partner gathering as a potential partner and when I called Lindsay to explain why I could not attend the event, we ended up talking for a long time on the phone about my dad’s health scare. It was Lindsay’s warmth and compassion that convinced me that SV2 was an organization worthy of my time and charitable dollars. Over the past eight years, I have met other staff and partners whose compassion for our community have kept me signing up year after year to be an SV2 partner.

How have you been involved?

Shy by nature, I kept a low profile during my first few years at SV2 but Lindsay had other plans for me. Lindsay recruited me to co-lead an Educational Grant round and she recruited my son, Andrew, for the SV2 Teens program when it first launched. It’s hard to say which one of us was most challenged by our SV2 experiences in those first years! Andrew repeated the SV2 Teens program a second time and talked for years afterwards about the businesses the group visited, the entrepreneurs they met, the nonprofit executive directors that inspired him and how difficult it was to choose just one grantee from a pool of fabulous applicants. I currently serve with Nancy Heinen as a Lead Partner with our amazing 2015 International Grant Round recipient, Village Enterprise (VE).

What have you enjoyed most?

My work as Lead Partner to our Grantee, Village Enterprise. The vibe of Village Enterprise staff attracts a tribe of faithful donors and supporters; it’s almost like an audible drum beat of success beating out an irresistible rhythm. Last year a handful of SV2 partners met with visiting Kenyan Country Director, Tadeo Muriuki, to learn about VE’s business training, mentoring and saving circles for poor rural clients. He displayed an infectious passion for the people who come to VE with no business background and graduate from their program with business skills, business partners, a dedicated mentor and membership in a savings circle. My proximity to the talented and committed Village Enterprise staff has inspired me as a philanthropist to not just fund enterprises but to befriend them.