Social Venture Partners gives local nonprofits the opportunity to grow through investors who are actively engaged in helping them succeed.

There aren’t many things more gratifying than giving back to the community. And that’s where Social Venture Partners comes in.

“Social Venture Partners is Cincinnati’s home for engaged philanthropists,” says Lauren LaCerda Merten, Executive Director of SVP Cincinnati. “We are part of an international network of 3,500 partners who collectively invest time, talent, and grant money in innovative ways to strengthen local nonprofits.”

The purpose of Social Venture Partners is to help enable its investors to make the Cincinnati region a strong and more vibrant community, according to LaCerda Merten.

Launched in 2007, Social Venture Partners has raised more than $1.6 million through grants to investees, Fast Pitch grants, and in-kind contributions and consulting to investees. And because it’s dedicated to helping the city’s nonprofits, those numbers will continue to grow.

Social Venture Partners was originally launched in Seattle, by Co-Founder Paul Brainerd, who wanted to start something that would allow people to not just write checks but work side-by-side with nonprofits. Since its first model in the Pacific Northwest, Social Venture Partners has expanded to more than 40 cities throughout the world.

“Our partners invest their time, money, and skills in nonprofits in their immediate communities,” says LaCerda Merten. “On the other hand, our partners are part of a global network. They share common ideals, similar struggles, and can tap into a wealth of knowledge through network-wide conference, online resources, and virtual cross-city forums made possible by Social Venture Partners International.”

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati has expanded to 60 partners and LaCerda Merten says they’re always looking to add more. The current portfolio of partners range in age from 18 to 60+ years. They include people who have climbed the corporate ladder, lifelong volunteers, those who are starting their adult lives, and college students. LaCerda Merten adds that half of the partners in Cincinnati are women.

“All are bound by the common thread of looking for a way to combine the power of business with their passion for philanthropy,” says LaCerda Merten.

There are two main programs at Social Venture Partners – the Investee Program and Fast Pitch.

The Investee Program features one selected nonprofit chosen through an extensive application process. Known as the Investee, the nonprofit gets grants that are typically $60,000 over three years.

“Each grant is leveraged by the strategic contribution of our Partners’ time and expertise over the three year period, so that the average benefit to the nonprofit is three to five times greater than the cash grants alone” says LaCerda Merten. “Social Venture Partner grants are just the beginning of our investment. Partners invest their expertise, experience, and networks to help nonprofits succeed.”

Lauren LaCerda Merten, Executive Director of Social Venture Partners Cincinnati

The other program is the Fast Pitch program. “Fast Pitch is a technique borrowed from the venture capital and startup communities,” LaCerda Merten. “It is a way to showcase and accelerate nonprofits making a difference in our city.”

Through this program, nonprofits get six weeks of training in telling effective, inspiring stores and then competing against each other in a 3-minute pitch for up to $40,000 in prizes.

“In its fifth year, Fast Pitch 2018 was bigger and better than ever,” says LaCerda Merten. “It was attended by more than 600 people at the Duke Energy Convention Center and we continue to hear the impact beyond the cash rewards.”

Other ways Social Venture Partners helps local nonprofits is to launch with Inspiring Service.

“This is a website to facilitate volunteerism in our community,” says LaCerda Merten. “And we are working on Mayor Cranley’s Volunteerism Task Force to support the Give One for Cincy Challenge. Give One for Cincy is an initiative of Mayor John Cranley to motivate all Cincinnatians to spend a minimum of one hour per month volunteering their time for others.”

Social Venture Partners Cincinnati is committed to developing a community of informed, powerful donors. “The engaged philanthropy model provides partners with a unique opportunity to learn about the challenges facing our community and local nonprofits,” LaCerda Merten. “From annual Social Venture Partners International conferences to local panel discussions with nationally recognized experts, our education programs allow partners to build skills and knowledge for truly effective philanthropy. We offer partners a safe forum to explore more deeply their giving philosophies and interests.”

Social Venture Partners is always looking toward innovation. “We are always looking for ways to expand our partnership and our impact in the Greater Cincinnati community,” says LaCerda Merten. “We are actively evaluating best practices across the Social Venture Partners global network to identify new approaches to some of Cincinnati’s most challenging community problems. We are also working to innovate our Fast Pitch program as we head into the sixth year.”

To learn more about Social Venture Partners Cincinnati, click here. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

LaCerda Merten says that information about the upcoming 2019 grant cycle will be posted on the website as well as on social media. Those who are interested in joining as a partner can contact LaCerda Merten at or by calling 513-458-6715.