Ellen Walthour, #20storiesfor20years

“I was Executive Director for The BrandLab, whose mission is to change the face and voice of the marketing industry. The BrandLab serves youth and already had some success, so in 2012 we applied for and received a Social Venture Partners MN grant. We started a relationship that lasted for three years. SVP typically looks for organizations that are at a tipping point, which we were, so the timing was great.

I’m very entrepreneurial, so I love building the road as I go, but the organization was getting too big for that kind of leadership. SVP helped me see how governance can work for an organization. I learned how building out committees and other structures were going to help us build capacity for the long haul. And now when I look at other organizations and I see where they’re at, I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, if they could just figure out their governance stuff, they’d get so much more out of their volunteers.’ So that was super helpful.

Our SVP Lead Partner became a support system for me beyond the work. Leadership can be lonely because you don’t have a peer to talk to, but she provided a place where I could wrestle with a thought partner. And more people on my team benefitted than just me. Our program director also got a leadership opportunity. She managed the SVP group, so she was able to meet all these fantastic leaders and learn from them too. It gave a newer staff person the chance to work with multiple stakeholders, which is important in the nonprofit sector.

What’s different about SVP is they really want you to show them what’s behind the curtain. They want to help you untangle the messy. All organizations are messy… I don’t care if it’s a Fortune 500 company… it’s still messy. They want you to open all those drawers and show them. Like, ‘We know this isn’t working great and we know we can do it better, but we don’t have the capacity. So, help us.’ And it became a true partnership.< I’ve been around a lot of funding circles, and I think SVP is really trying to get rid of the power dynamic between the funder and the nonprofit. The folks that are involved are just so passionate about putting their time and their energy and their resources towards making the world a little bit better. No one’s in it for themselves. It’s really a team effort. SVP wants to make young people’s lives just that much easier to navigate in this tricky world.” Ellen Walthour SVP Board Member, SVP Partner, former Investee Organization Leader Photo and Story Credit:  Humans of Minneapolis, Inc

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