Philanthropists step forward and lead responses to moments of crisis, says Tony Fleo, CEO of Social Venture Partners Dallas. That’s what they do.
Fleo and his team are doing their part with a new event that he calls a Digital Gathering. On Thursday, SVP Dallas will (virtually) bring together leaders from four of North Texas’ most respected foundations for an online discussion on how the local social impact community is responding to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
The event will host panelists Roslyn Dawson Thompson, President and CEO, Texas Women’s Foundation; Matthew Randazzo, President and CEO, The Dallas Foundation; Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton President and CEO, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas; and David Scullin, President and CEO, Communities Foundation of Texas.
Fleo will moderate the conversation to find out what each of these organizations is doing, and how they can be strategic in doing work together over the coming months.
Right now, Fleo aims to help philanthropic leaders be aware that “we must respond to the immediate needs while simultaneously making concrete plans and partnerships to deal with the long term effects of what our community will be experiencing,” he said.
Time is of the essence, and SVP Dallas CEO Tony Fleo says he was “blown away by how quickly the leaders of the foundations responded” to his invitation with their willingness to participate: “Literally within an hour of my request.”
After that, Fleo says things fell into place quickly, within the day. While SVP didn’t know what to expect in terms of response, he is delighted to see the number of participants climbing towards 700 already, Fleo told Dallas Innovates.
The event caps at around 1,000 participants.
Fleo feels fortunate to have a nimble and entrepreneurial team, already poised to look for creative ways to keep SVP Dallas’ partners connected. His team has had the flexibility to work remotely for a few years now, and “I am the one that has to catch up with the technology that makes it all work!” he said.
SVP Dallas seeks tech partner
In terms of technology, SVP Chief of Staff Sean Caho hopes to find a local platform for these types of digital gatherings in the future. “For the time being, and the sake of spooling this one up as quickly as possible, we’re using Zoom,” he said.
SVP Dallas hosted its first remote event earlier today. SVP’s Social Innovation Luncheon Series for March (The Value of Women in the Workplace) was converted to a digital event. CEO Fleo said SVP Dallas will be donating what participants would have paid for the in-person lunch to Cafe Momentum.
Asked if there are more digital gatherings in the works, Fleo noted that he has reached out to invite other notable business leaders. “We will also be doing more sessions along the same lines as the one scheduled for Thursday,” he said.
“We already miss being together at various events with our partners but are figuring out all sorts of ways to keep our members connected. We will be inviting all of our SVP Dallas partners to Zoom into our regular team meetings and be a part of how the sausage is made,” Fleo said.
Social Venture Partners, which calls itself the world’s largest network of engaged philanthropists, is a global organization with 3,500 members “from Boston to Bangalore.” In Dallas-Fort Worth, the organization has about 200 Social Venture Partners. “They range from filmmakers to financial managers, from nonprofit leaders to corporate veterans,” according to SVP’s website.
These are highly-engaged community leaders that commit to improving lives and maximizing social impact through the partner’s collective resources and expertise, SVP states.
Supporting social entrepreneurs
With the evolving COVID-19 crisis, SVP Dallas understands that there will be many short- and long-term issues that non-profits will have to endure in order to fulfill their missions. The organization is also concerned with the for-profit-for-good companies it works with.
“We want to make certain that they get the support that they need as well,” Fleo said. “We will deploy pro-bono consulting services of our partners to work with our non-profit leaders as well as our social enterprise leaders on everything from financial forecasting, legal consults regarding leases and contracts, marketing and PR issues, and more.”
SVP Dallas also will be looking to raise funds to support local social entrepreneurs in the for-good-for-profit space, he noted.
Fleo sees the Dallas-Fort Worth philanthropic community working together to provide the most assistance in the most efficient way. “The responses have been significant and well-orchestrated,” he said. “I have every confidence that local leaders will rise to this challenge and will stay responsive to the needs of the community now and over the long haul.”
New needs in the community will emerge and that will take new thinking, he acknowledged. “For many non-profits, it’s people and it’s programs.”
Fleo says we need an immediate shift from restricted funding to funding for general operations so that non-profit leaders can be flexible and respond to immediate needs.
“For all of us dedicated to caring for our community, how we can most effectively activate our relationships, financial resources, and networks to lend support is heavy on our minds,” SVP Dallas said in a statement.
How to participate
For more information about the event, go here.
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