John Watson, #20StoriesFor20Years

“I got involved with SVP Minnesota as a partner four years ago. I was mainly a new business guy when I worked for money. I did product development, startups, that kind of thing. So that fits beautifully with SVP’s mission because so many nonprofits are trying to do exactly that. They’re not starting from the beginning. They have a concept and it’s proven, but they want to make it bigger and better.

I love the fact that there’s clarity on what the nonprofits are trying to accomplish. They’re right at that inflection point where if they could figure out a couple of things, they’re gonna blast forward. And in fact, they do. We multiply the size of organizations, on average, in a few years. I love the personal contact that you have with the leaders and working as part of a team. And I love that it’s not a long-term commitment. You know, if you join a nonprofit board, they expect three years and a lot can change in three years. So, I love to be able to come in and contribute where it is needed. It’s a wonderful concept.

I think there are cultural challenges that we need to figure out while doing this work. Many of the partners are privileged old white people and the people we work with aren’t. So, there’s issues of trust when we’re trying to make it a team of equals. The nonprofits might say, ‘You don’t understand, you’re from a business culture. We don’t have plans and strategies in the same way you do, and we’ve been pretty successful. Why do you wanna change who we are?’ And they don’t have to change, but they could be more effective. So slowly and with patience, that relationship develops.

I’d encourage people to become SVP partners because no matter what your skillset is, we can find a place for you. We have some introverted people that love to work on computers by themselves, we have other people who love the connection, and there’s everything in between. I love the flexibility to go in and out and find new opportunities where you think you could add. And when you do that, you pick up a whole lot of skills that you didn’t have before. It’s kind of a step at a time, but when you look at what you can accomplish, it really adds up.”

John Watson, SVP Partner

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