When Paul Shoemaker agreed 17 years ago to be the first president of Social Venture Partners (SVP), it was a time when hundreds of suddenly wealthy Microsoft employees were retiring young and taking their newfound mantra of "if you have it you share it" into the community.
Thus it was that dozens of Microsofties were ready to seize the opportunity that would be created when SVP founder Paul Brainard, the father of desktop publishing who had sold his Aldus Corp. and turned to philanthropy, convinced Shoemaker to leave his position as Microsoft group manager for worldwide operations to head SVP.
That 1998 luncheon meeting where Brainard made his pitch to Shoemaker came a few months after more than 130 potential contributors met with Brainard, Shoemaker and a couple of other high-tech leaders to found SVP as a kind of donor's circle, as it was once described. The partnership was set up with each member "investing" at least $5,000.
What followed, under Shoemaker's guidance, was the growth well beyond that Microsoft nucleus into what soon became a 501c3 focused on philanthropic investments. Today SVP is the world's largest network of engaged philanthropists and over the years the partners have invested not just dollars but volunteer hours in the non-profits they focused on.
SVP has spread not only to 39 cities across the country but in the past couple of years has reached into nations on four continents, including Asia with a launch first in India, then Japan, Australia, Korea and China.
Now shoemaker has announced that he will be stepping down from the position that his business card and the SVP website simply describe as Executive Connector, transitioning out over the next three to five months as the board looks for a successor.
Shoemaker's successor will assume leadership of an organization that has grown to 550 members in the Seattle area and more than 4,000 globally. Each partner now antes up $6,000 for the investment pool.
SVP website indicates members have collectively given more than $15 million to King County nonprofits and that money was stretched farther by the tens of thousandsof volunteer hours given by SVP Partners.
This number multiplies when looking across SVP's international network. Since SVP's inception, the partners across the country and internationally have collectively given more than $54 million and "countless volunteer hours."
Shoemaker, who will remain on the board of the SVP International Network, says there will be "more to come" for international growth as he will be taking the initiative to focus on bringing SVP to Latin America this fall.
Shoemaker says that not only is SVP's impact becoming global, but "partners and investors are reaching for more positive change than ever, with exploration into impact investing and deeper diversity, equity and inclusion work."
Moving into impact investing, which SVP is exploring and which will be a key agenda item next fall when SVP's international conference will be held in Seattle again for the first time in a number of years, would add a different factor to SVP philanthropic investing.
Impact investing brings financial returns into consideration alongside social and environmental impact since the investments are in for-profit entities. Shoemaker says SVP involvement in impact investing, and how to go about it, is still to be determined. But he notes that "a lot of partners are already into impact investing on their own."
"Impact investing is where the action is," Shoemaker said. I asked him about B Corp investing and he said "I don't know if B Corp companies are an up or down trend but I think they are here to stay, sort of becoming more on the radar."
B Corp companies, a corporate legal status permitted in a number of states including Washington, allow for a higher purpose than shareholder value, permitting companies' decisions to go beyond maximizing financial results to include positive social or environmental impact.
I asked Shoemaker if it was fair to say that SVP could only have been launched in Seattle and only because of the giveback focus of those young Microsofties.
"I'm not sure about that, he replied. "But it was surely the best time and place to have created SVP."