(Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

In the fall of 2000, John Denny saw an opportunity to take old-fashioned philanthropy and turn it on its head, transforming it into a dynamic, engaging, risk-taking adventure for hundreds of “new” philanthropists in Pittsburgh.

With the work he was doing across the region, John was in a prime position to identify the need to further engage highly successful young entrepreneurs in our community. At the same time, he saw a gap in support for nonprofit organizations that desperately needed hands-on, patient help to grow, expand, and – all too often – to survive. John started Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh (SVPP) to bridge this gap and bring the entrepreneurial and nonprofit communities together.

One of the leading forces behind a rapidly growing national movement, SVPP is a unique model of social venture philanthropy. This model fosters lasting partnerships among the people who are creating lasting change by investing their time, expertise, and dollars to strengthen the innovative nonprofits doing incredible things in our region.

But what makes SVPP truly unique is that its partners contribute both financial and human capital, which means they roll up their sleeves, donate their time and talent, and work with investees long-term to focus on measurable results.

One of the first attempts to apply the venture capital model to grant making, SVPP has attracted hundreds of partners who want to do more than write a check to their alma mater. Since 2000, SVPP has touched the lives of countless people in need, contributing more than $1 million and thousands of hours of professional consulting help from its partners to more than 15 unique nonprofit organizations and initiatives. The organization has leveraged more than $10 million from investors to investees, and spurred the creation of a new, statewide social venture capital program based on the same model for success.

With SVPP, John Denny helped expand the meaning of philanthropy, redefining who can be a philanthropist in our region – and what it means to give back.