Christi Strauss, #20StoriesFor20Years

“I retired early and wanted to make a difference. Social Venture Partners Minnesota gave me a place to use the skills I had accumulated over a long business career. My first project was on Cookie Cart  and having come from a General Mills  background, it was perfect. Now I’m working with Bolder Options , a youth mentoring organization, and we’re helping them think through ways to recruit more mentors of color so their mentees of color have folks who relate to them and understand where they’ve come from. Half the time, I think the nonprofits have all the answers, it’s just bringing fresh eyes to a problem. So sometimes it’s not that your skills make a difference, it’s that you ask questions that allow them to step back and rethink things.

It’s been fun to collaborate and hopefully build relationships where we feel like we can all be vulnerable with each other. Over time, you develop that trust by listening, not by going in and pretending you have all the answers. Then everyone is more comfortable sharing what they don’t know or aren’t doing well. It’s always hard in the early stages when the nonprofit leaders might want to feel buttoned up about everything, but we get a lot more done if we all open up and share the stuff that’s buried away.

I’ve watched the SVP organization change and grow over these past few years. We’ve worked a lot on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve added SVP fellows and found other ways to diversify our group and include other voices. We’ve made the grant making process much less onerous and better for the applicants. We’ve done anti-racism training and provided programming anyone can take part in, whether it’s hearing a Native American woman talk about her family’s history in this area, or touring a Somali mall. I think SVP feels like a little gem that we just need to get the word out about. So for folks who are saying, ‘I need to learn more on this social justice journey, but I feel like it’s a vocabulary I don’t know and I’m worried I’ll say the wrong things,’ I’d say, ‘Come join us.’”

Christi Strauss
SVP Partner and Board Member #communityimpact #nonprofit #SVPmn20StoriesFor20Years #collectiveaction

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