Kevin Robinson, #20storiesfor20years

“I’m Executive Director of 30,000 Feet. We provide arts education support for young people who struggle with literacy, usually ones who are highly mobile and living on the margins. We also have a high school program called Tech Geeks which focuses on young people who want to get into computing jobs but have barriers to employment. We have an ‘earn and learn’ model where they get paid $15 an hour to work 10 to 20 hours a week with the goal of getting a Code Academy certificate. Then we partner with local corporations who have admitted that maybe they’re not doing the best job with diversity to provide post-completion internships and opportunities. 50% of those jobs go to young people who have contact with the juvenile delinquency system, so they get referred from Ramsey County juvenile probation in the effort of diversion. We got connected to SVP Minnesota through a grant writer we work with. We put in an LOI, got a full application invite, went through the due diligence process, and got chosen as one of the organizations to go through the SVP three-year cohort.

A key cog of an SVP partnership is that you’re bringing people who’ve had different experiences together. You’ve got a lot of folks coming from the corporate side, more traditional, and then you’ve got community organizations. And we all need to get out of our comfort zones and push ourselves to work with people that we’re not used to working with over a long period of time. So, it’s been important for me to be in spaces with people I normally wouldn’t. Maybe we would meet at a formal event or a fundraiser, but not be in the grind together, working together, and hanging out together. You’re putting people in relationship with each other. So, if you’re coming in with preconceived notions, it’s going to get uncomfortable. But when things have been hard, we’ve had quite clear and honest communication. And I think that after we leave this, we’ll all be better off, not only capacity building and organizational-wise, but also in that we’re learning from each other. We’re all going to walk away better people, better humans. I think that’s a unique piece of SVP’s model.

I’m super passionate about this work. A lot of that comes from my parents, especially my mom. In my household, you had compassion for people, but you also did something about it. Not just feeling sorry for somebody, but also being active in it. To this day, my mom does voter registration stuff, housing ordinance stuff, rent cap stuff. That’s carried me throughout the journey of my work. I’m also passionate because people invested in me, and it was important for me to give that back. My favorite class freshman year was Hallway 101. I wasn’t going to class. But I still remember people pouring into me, like, ‘Kevin, you’re too smart to be doing this. You need to go to class.’ So, knowing the importance of that, I was like, ‘I gotta do that, too.’ It’s a coming full circle moment for me.”

Kevin Robinson< Executive Director and Co-founder, 30,000 Feet SVP Investee Organization Leader Story and Photo: Humans of Minneapolis

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

Jessica Rogers, #20storiesfor20years

“I’m the Executive Director of Connections to Independence. We call ourselves C2i. We work with youth and young adults who are in and aging out of the foster care system. It’s a holistic approach to moving young people into thriving post-foster care, rather than just being in survival mode. In 2017, we applied for a grant and partnership with SVP Minnesota. We got through to the next round where you submit a full proposal and I was like, ‘We’re going to get this, this is so exciting.’ Then we didn’t. I was totally crushed. But SVP’s feedback was amazing. They were like, ‘Let’s meet about why you didn’t get it.’ We learned that we needed to tell our story more clearly and concisely. So we spent the next two years going through the process of getting it right. We applied again and made it to Pitch Night, which was terrifying [laughs]. But it was great. We had thirty minutes to really tell our story. We had to show our finances, our mission, what programs we ran, and our vision for growth. They call you with the results that night. My grant writer and I were sitting by the phone having a glass of wine, all stressed out. Then they called and told us that we got it. They said it was the quickest decision they had ever made and that it was unanimous. It was amazing. It’s been one of the best things that’s ever happened to our organization. And it’s not just the money, which is always great. It’s also being intentional about what we needed and how they could help. They found out what we wanted to do, and then they brought in people who fit those components of our work. We had an impact team of four SVP Partners who consulted with us pro bono. If we didn’t have a person on our team who could do something, they’d find someone else and have them help. The wealth of knowledge they have with their network of partners is amazing. I mean, ‘You need help with marketing? Let me make a phone call. Finance? Let me shoot an email.’ That is so invaluable. We just wrapped up our three-year SVP partnership. At the beginning it was a little rough because I wasn’t engaging them as much because I do everything myself, you know? A lot of people, especially women of color and nonprofits, are like, ‘Let me just do it and get it done.’ But I really learned how to lean on my team. And they opened my eyes to different types of growth for our organization. Now we have a housing program. We have a mentoring program. We did outreach across the river. We’re working on local and national advocacy initiatives that involve systems change work. And this is stuff that we weren’t doing before that we’re doing now because of the different lens I started looking through working with SVP.” Jessica Rogers SVP MN Board Member Executive Director Connections to Independence< Photo and Story Credit:  Humans of Minneapolis, Inc
Apply Now!

is open!
All applications due July 20th at 5 PM.