SVP Spring Happy Hour at Wallace’s Taproom

On Thursday, May 11 nearly 100 civically engaged Pittsburghers joined SVP Pittsbugrh and our Full Circle nonprofits for good drinks and conversation. During the Happy Hour our Full Circle nonprofits – Amizade, Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE), FOCUS Pittsburgh, Just Harvest and Homewood Childrens Village – pitched their organizations’ impact to the audience. Enjoy these photos from the night!

Many thanks to the team at Wallace’s Tap Room for welcoming SVP and our supporters!


SVP Pittsburgh in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette!

Social Venture Partners to take a deeper dive into social issues

By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

During the past decade, Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh has invested nearly $1 million in fledgling nonprofit organizations that take a new and innovative approach to solving social problems in the region.

Among those that have benefited from the group’s money and expertise are Homewood Children’s Village Literacy Program; Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank; and Assemble, a Garfield-based nonprofit that integrates creativity and learning in the arts, sciences and technology.

The members of SVP include 35 philanthropists, most of whom pledge $4,000 each year and decide as a group where to target their grants. Beyond writing checks, the members mentor nonprofits and their leaders to help them become financially stronger and more sustainable.

For years, Social Venture Partners showcased its strategy at its annual headline event, Fast Pitch, in which eight nonprofits presented three-minute summaries of their mission as they competed for a share of $25,000 to $30,000.

While the event attracted a lot of buzz and hundreds of attendees to hip venues like the Circuit Center on the South Side, SVP last year decided it wanted to broaden its reach and impact more nonprofits in the region.

“It’s an evolution in our strategy,” said Pat Calhoun, board chair.

Beginning this spring, the group is sponsoring a cohort of 16 leaders from eight nonprofits. It will provide them with hands-on financial planning, strategy advice, discussion forums, networking and other one-on-one business consulting.

The initiative is called Full Circle and will run for four to six months, during which each nonprofit is matched with two Social Venture Partners mentors.

Prior to Fast Pitch, finalists received about six weeks of training and coaching sessions from SVP members.

“We thought if that was expanded, done more frequently throughout the year, and became accessible to more organizations, then everyone would love it and build upon it,” said Kenny Chen, a board member who consults with nonprofits. Last year, he co-founded involveMINT, an organization that helps nonprofits better recruit and retain volunteers.

By 2017, SVP plans to add a second cohort to Full Circle each year so that the partners can work directly with 16 nonprofits and 32 leaders of those organizations.

While Fast Pitch — and a smaller Fall Pitch event in which the group invested $15,000 in two organizations — successfully met SVP’s goal to support social innovation, “We felt it was really limiting our potential to have an impact in the community,” Ms. Calhoun said.

The new program “enables our partners to learn more about different social challenges Pittsburgh is facing and gives us more opportunity to plug in and add value and expertise to help solve those problems,” she said.

This year SVP won’t charge participants; eventually it will set a tuition fee of about $1,500 for participants in Full Circle.

The new format also could include speed brainstorming sessions among three to four of the cohort nonprofits, and mini-pitch nights during which nonprofit leaders could hone their communication skills.

Social Venture Partners was founded in 1997 in Seattle by a software entrepreneur who believed philanthropists should work one-on-one with nonprofits to address civic problems. The Pittsburgh organization launched in 2001 and SVP now has affiliates in 39 cities worldwide.

To provide nonprofits in its cohorts with more business know-how, SVP Pittsburgh will tap New Sun Rising, a 10-year-old organization in Millvale that assists social enterprises with business plans and helps identify the financial resources they require.

New Sun Rising has worked on projects in 40 neighborhoods in the region, including helping to develop and identify revenue streams for the nonprofit Millvale Community Library.

According to its executive director, Scott Wolovich, the organization operates “launch” incubators in Millvale, where it hopes to create a locally sourced food hub that will employ local residents; and in the Hilltop-Allentown neighborhood, where efforts include working with the Hilltop Men’s Group to restore the community through environmentally conscious cleanup projects.

The Hilltop Men’s Group will secure contracts for the projects and pay its members — many of whom have employment barriers — to do the work including cleaning up vacant lots and landscaping.

New Sun Rising and SVP “had been running in the same circles but never directly collaborated,” said Mr. Wolovich.

When he met with Social Venture Partners last fall about a partnership, “We immediately recognized some gaps in the community in terms of support for nonprofits — especially around innovation and income-generating strategies,” he said.

“While nonprofits have different goals and objectives, there are a lot of for-profit strategies that have great potential to impact the nonprofit sector.”

Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580.

You can view the original posting of this article on the Post Gazette’s here!

A letter from 412 Food Rescue, 2015 SVP Investee

412 Food Rescue, SVP Pittsburgh’s 2015 Fall Investee, has made some incredible strides since winning our Fall Pitch. They have rescued countless pounds of food, partnered with Zipcar, launched their Ugly CSA program, piloted a food education program, and received a donated truck to help pick up even more food donations! (Check out these previous updates here and here.)

We received a letter from Leah Lizarondo, cofounder of 412 Food Rescue, with another amazing update. This is an excerpt, but the entire letter is beyond all our expectations:

“Despite major cuts to the federal SNAP program, The House Authority of the City of Pittsburgh’s (HACP) relatively recent collaboration with 412 Food Rescue has managed to effectively end hunger in our public housing communities. Historically, our communities have averaged 5 to 7 emergency referrals for families without food each month. Over the course of the last six months, however, HACP has received zero referrals for families without food. We attribute this dramatic success to the ongoing efforts of 412 Food Rescue.”

To see the words “end hunger” within a community we work with puts me at a loss for words. This is why we do what we do. Personally, I am floored by how much our very small staff has worked hard to accomplish.

The media loves the technology story when they cover 412 Food Rescue. But this is the real story. “Innovation” is only interesting because it makes previously insurmountable goals possible.

We are on to something. And we will keep on growing our impact–and demonstrate how recovering the food we waste is significantly important in any work against hunger.

Thank you for your support–for helping us make this happen.



HACP isn’t the only one who has noticed this amazing work, Hopeful Headlines featured 412 Food Rescue in a recent article, Misfit Foods Find Their Place in Fight Against Food Waste.

Stay up to date on all things 412 Food Rescue by following their Facebook page.