Linda Ireland, #20Storiesfor20Years

“After 30+ years in many corporate roles, I’m fortunate to be at a point in my life where I can fill my time with a mix of hands-on philanthropy and service on boards. When I met SVP Minnesota at a “Taste of” breakfast, I found a way I could do good work, learn things that would make my box bigger, and be part of a new community. I have relationships with partners and nonprofit leaders I never would have without SVP.

For my first project, I was the lead partner on an impact team that worked with Brandlab. Their work is with youth who come from different backgrounds, many of whom are first generation immigrants. It makes you realize how narrow your own experiences are and how wonderfully diverse the perspectives of young people are in the Twin Cities. Over time I’ve worked on several impact teams. At World Savvy, we worked to design a scalable organization structure. At Breakthrough Twin Cities, it was about diversifying revenue. At RECLAIM, we’ve worked on developing the board. Each one helped nonprofit leaders deepen or expand their organization’s impact, and they all stretched my brain and heart in very different ways.

The relationship building between partners and investees is both the most challenging and rewarding part of the work. Perceived power and trust are both at play. It’s understandable why nonprofit leaders might come to the table very tentatively. Sometimes when people expect you to behave a certain way, they see that in your behaviors, even if it’s not what you’re putting forward. So we need to clear all that stuff out of the way on both sides and make everybody feel comfortable that this is about shared learning. It takes a lot of listening and a lot of questions. The more time we can spend on that, the easier it becomes.

To go through what our world has gone through in the last few years, especially in the Twin Cities, and not feel like I’ve come to understand things in a different way, I’d be disappointed in myself and feel like we all failed, you know? So I appreciate the chance to become a more effective partner to people on the front lines doing such great work. I didn’t have a career as an activist. I didn’t do youth development work. That’s not what I did in my career. I have so much respect for the strengths that other people bring to the table, and enjoy putting what I bring to work in new ways. The opportunity to learn from amazing people has changed me.”

Linda Ireland, SVP Partner and Board Member

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