Civic Garden Center
staff had a dream: turn an abandoned Avondale gas station site into a
high-tech example of all things environmentally sustainable. The
far-reaching goals of the Green Learning Station targeted builders,
developers and public officials as well as homeowners and students.
The innovative idea and environmental focus intrigued the then-new Social Venture Partners Cincinnati
a non-profit made up of individuals who invest their financial and
professional capital in group grants, known as "partnerships." It was
2008, and SVP gave its first grant--$25,000--to the Civic Garden Center
to support the development of the Green Learning Station
, which was slated to open in 2009.
"They wanted to be relevant to today's communities," says Lisa Davis-Roberts, SVP Cincinnati director.
began a unique collaboration between grantor and grantee. SVP
Cincinnati assigned a team of partners to support the project. Members
included a financial management expert, a project manager from Procter
& Gamble, a venture capitalist and a marketing expert.
their research, partners discovered a major concern, located just
blocks from the Civic Garden Center. The successful and popular Harold C. Schott Education Center
at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens
, which opened in 2006, already fulfilled many of the Green Learning Station's goals for environmental education.
of pulling funding, SVP members helped CVG partners develop a new
strategy for the site, one more in line with their central mission of
helping people garden. "Rather than try to be everything to everybody,
the new Green Learning Station is about gardening for people,"
With rain gardens, vertical gardens and
container gardens, pervius paving and composting, the station highlights
practical ways that people can positively impact the environment in their daily lives.
It will open to the public this summer.
"The cost is a fraction of what it was going to be," Davis-Roberts says.
explains that money, in this case a total of $55,000, is just the start
of SVP's investment in a project. "We work with our organizations for
three to five years."
SVP members invest $6,000 of their own money for three years and
also commit to an average of 100 volunteer hours—time spent sharing
their expertise with non-profits. Davis-Roberts says that Cincinnati's
roughly 20 partner units (which can be made up of more than one person)
represent a wide range of skills, including legal, financial, IT,
marketing and project management.
Working with professionals, many of whom have years of experience in
corporate settings, offers non-profits invaluable insights. "Non-profits
need cash," Davis-Roberts says. "They also need capacity building."
SVP Cincinnati, which launched in spring 2007, is one of 25 affiliates
of the Seattle-based non-profit in cities across three countries. So
far, the local branch has invested in four non-profits. "We want to grow
an engaged community of knowledgeable donors,"
• Become a partner
. Make the most of your social investments by using your expertise to be a part of positive change.
• Link with SVP
. See which of your LinkedIn connections are already involved. Then join them and start spreading the word.
• Get your hands dirty. Learn more about the Civic Garden Center's Green Learning Station
before it opens this summer.By Elissa Yancey
Photo courtesy SVP Cincinnati