Social Venture Partners Chicago Chooses Local Education Nonprofit as Investee

Chicago-based Social Venture Partners Chicago (SVP Chicago) is a partnership of philanthropic leaders who invest time, expertise, and money in innovative nonprofits that have the potential to make meaningful and sustainable improvements within the Chicagoland community. They aim to help nonprofits to be as effective as possible in delivering programs and services by helping to build their organizational capacity.

Yesterday, their hard work came to fruition, as they announced that One Million Degrees will be the first local nonprofit to benefit from SVP Chicago’s venture philanthropy funding model.

One Million Degrees works to empower low-income, highly motivated community college students in Chicago.  Being an SVP Chicago investee means that One Million Degrees will have the opportunity to receive $75,000 over the next three years, and will have access to the professional skills of the SVP partners in 10 capacity-building areas, including strategy and planning, leadership and board development, financial management, information technology, marketing, human resources, legal, program design and evaluation, and fund development.

“The selection process was difficult because there are so many excellent educational nonprofits in need of resources,” said SVP Chicago founding partner Tasha Seitz. “One Million Degrees (OMD) stood out for three reasons. First, they serve an audience -community college students – which has been historically underserved by educational nonprofits. We believe that the support these students receive from OMD will increase their probability of success not only in community college, but also in education and careers that follow. Secondly, we were impressed with the strength of the OMD leadership team, their vision for the future and their results to date. Finally, we believe the SVP partners can bring skills and experiences that will complement the leadership team and accelerate OMD’s growth.”

Formerly the Illinois Education Foundation, One Million Degrees was founded in 2006 by a group of social entrepreneurs who saw that the needs of community college students were being overlooked. Through a unique program that provides academic, personal, professional and financial support, the organization helps low-income community college students graduate, apply to four-year universities, and find jobs.

“I’m very pleased that One Million Degrees has been selected as the first organization in Chicago to partner in a three-year engagement with Social Venture Partners Chicago,” said Paige Ponder, Chief Executive Officer of One Million Degrees.  “We’re ecstatic to have the opportunity to work one-on-one with some of Chicago’s best business people and entrepreneurs.  The investment and the relationship with the SVP team will help us accelerate our expansion. With the help of the SVP team, we’re confident we can achieve our goal of impacting 1 million lives by supporting and developing the talents and skills of Chicago community college students.”

SVP Chicago operates like a venture capital fund for local early-stage nonprofits. Investment recipients receive a three-year funding commitment and access to the skills and expertise of the partners, allowing them to scale more quickly. SVP partners vet the applicants, shape outcomes and ensure wise investment of their pooled funds.

Each year, the partners at SVP will decide on a sector to fund. The next investment cycle will begin in fall 2013. For more information on becoming a partner, visit

To learn more about One Million Degrees, visit

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Written by:
Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.
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