Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2) awards $445,000 in grants and impact investments

Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2) is pleased to announce $445,000 worth of grants and investments in local nonprofit and social enterprises. Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, also known as SV2, is a Peninsula-based group of more than 200 individuals who pool their resources to support innovative nonprofits and social enterprises and learn about effective giving.

Since its founding in 1998, SV2 has provided $5.2 million to 81 locally-based nonprofits. In many cases, SV2 donors, known as partners, also participate as hands-on strategic advisors or volunteers with the nonprofit groups.

Topping the list of this year’s grantees are the Palo Alto-based Silicon Valley Urban Debate League and the San Francisco-based Global Press Institute, each of which will receive $120,000 over three years.

In addition to the three-year grants, SV2 also awarded smaller, one-time grants to three San Francisco-based nonprofits: Accountability Counsel ($20,000), Aim High ($10,000), and Literacy for Environmental Justice ($15,000), as well as the Santa Clarabased ALearn ($10,000). This year for the first time, SV2 also piloted an impact investment initiative directed at early-stage, for-profit social enterprises. In that category, SV2 made one-time investments of $25,000 each in Learning Genie, Nepris and PastureMap. SV2 also made several smaller field-building and SV2 Teens grants.

SV2 partners actively participate each year in the grant-making process, with separate cohorts focused on education, the environment and internationally-oriented nonprofits, among other issue areas such as economic opportunity and at-risk youth.

“SV2 provides a unique and valuable opportunity for literally hundreds of Silicon Valley residents to learn to become more effective, strategic givers – whether they are just starting out or are seasoned philanthropists. We collaborate and learn by doing, and are able to share our professional experience with social ventures that are poised to scale their impact,” said SV2 board chair, Bill Brownell.

This year, SV2’s education group focused on out-of-school-time learning, considering organizations that provide summer and after-school opportunities. They selected Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL), which brings debate programs to eight schools involving over 300 students in low-income areas of East Palo Alto, Redwood City, and San Jose.

SVUDL helps low-income youth tap the power of their voices to compete and excel, according to SVUDL Executive Director Dmitri Seals. Competitive debate fosters rhetoric and leadership skills that re-engage youth with their academics, encourage them to be leaders in their schools and communities, and prepare them for successful careers. “The value of an SV2 award is far more than the money,” Seals said. “It’s the people who matter most. SV2 partners are seasoned experts who bring a world of connections and advice to help this program reach its full potential.”

SV2’s international grantmaking group considered dozens of globally focused nonprofit organizations based in the Bay Area and narrowed the list down to several finalists. Partners selected Global Press Institute (GPI), a group that trains women in developing media markets to produce high-quality local news coverage that elevates local and global awareness, ignites social change, and addresses the decline in quality of international journalism. GPI distributes its stories widely, both in-country and through its award-winning publication, Global Press Journal, and its syndication division, Global Press News Service. GPI’s journalists provide a different and important perspective as citizens of the developing countries and communities they are writing about—often uncovering stories that would otherwise not be told.

“Global Press is thrilled to be working with SV2. As we finalize Vision 2020, our strategic plan for the next 3 years, we realize the need for bold, forward-thinking partnerships that will help us achieve our ambitious goals,” revealed Cristi Hegranes, Founder and Executive Director of GPI. “Working with SV2 will allow us to grow our team and maximize our impact, while also providing us with unmatched professional advisors and advocates. This is the perfect moment for us to work together.”

Another group of SV2 Partners focused on making a grant to an organization working on developing the next generation of environmental stewards. Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) creates urban greening, eco-literacy, community stewardship, and workforce development opportunities in Southeast San Francisco. Focused on the Bayview Hunters Point community, LEJ is at the center of the largest redevelopment effort in San Francisco in recent history as they re-green Candlestick Point and other
nearby areas.

In the category of early stage, for-profit social ventures, SV2 partners considered companies involved in education and the environment. Learning Genie created a mobile application that allows educators to personalize early learning by collecting data for student assessments. Nepris allows students and their educators to interact with professionals around the world through an online social platform meant to promote student engagement. The Nepris platform gives students the opportunity to make the connection between their curriculum and their potential careers down the road. PastureMap, also a mobile application company, empowers cattle ranchers to manage their grasslands more efficiently and profitably while sequestering carbon and reducing CO2 emissions.

Tony Stayner, one of the SV2 partners leading this pioneering initiative, shared his perspective: “Providing capital to innovative social entrepreneurs unleashes powerful market forces to solve the world’s biggest problems. This pilot allowed dozens of SV2 partners to learn about impact investing as another tool for scaling social impact, while offering the prospect of financial returns, not possible with grants. We’re excited to dive in again.”