“Sit,” says the toddler, dragging over a doll house twice his size.
Obediently Brad Zumwalt, former president of EyeWire Inc. and current president of ZincVentures, folds his knees to the ground and starts to play.
No, this is not the latest in therapy for executives, it’s the family resource centre at the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) and the occasion marks the first donation of Social Venture Partners (SVP) Calgary.
The new, but mighty kid on the Calgary philanthropy block gave $30,000 to CUPS’ One World Child Development Centre and $50,000 to Calgary Community Support For Young Parents last week.
|Shannon Oatway, Business Edge|
|Brad Zumwalt of Social Venture Partners plays with Thomas Nahbexie, left, and Jesse Calf.|
But the gifts were much more than a mere cash donation.
Along with the cash, both organizations will receive the time, the expertise, and the connections of the approximately 50 partners, not to mention their significant others, involved in SVP Calgary.
The organization was launched last year to pioneer an innovative approach to charitable giving in Canada.
Instead of just writing the big cheque, they roll up their sleeves and get involved.
Like venture capitalists, they volunteer their time, business expertise and resources to help non-profit groups and organizations achieve their goals. Zumwalt has described it as “venture philanthropy.”
“It’s got to be a good thing,” says Zumwalt as he unloads a toy truck.
Pamela Scott has to agree.
The executive director of Calgary Community Support For Young Parents says the cash will increase their budget by 20 per cent so they can directly help up to 20 more families.
She can’t put a dollar figure on the worth of the assistance with developing their infrastructure, marketing and promotions.
On top of that, she’s hoping members of SVP Calgary will train as volunteers. At CUPS, the families attending the resource centre asked for help so their children would start school on an equal footing with other kids. The result is the One World Centre. SVP’s grant will fund a teacher who starts in August.
Combined with CUPS’ pre-natal program, the centre will ensure children in the city core get a strong start.
Scott, whose group provides education and support to young families with children under the age of three, commends SVP (Calgary) for “committing resources to change the future and not for Band-Aids on current problems.”
She says for every dollar spent on prevention, making sure children become capable adults, society saves seven dollars in intervention at a later stage. Scott cites brain development as an example that’s comparatively easy to track.
From conception to age three is the period of most rapid development when a healthy environment, nutritious food and stimulation really count. Some remedial work can be done after that, but for the most part the window of opportunity is totally lost, she says.
SVP’s donations are part of a trend recognizing that it’s important to support families before crisis, said Scott. It’s much harder to change habits and patterns afterwards.
Melanie Bird is a case in point. She and her oldest daughter, now 8, were referred to the CUPS family resource centre when they were new in town.
“They helped with everything; the big stuff and the small stuff,” she says.
“They helped me in so many areas.”
With CUPS help, she took some training and now she is the aboriginal family support worker and, as for her three children, “my kids love this place.”
As for Zumwalt and SVP, he’s looking forward to jumping right in and developing new partnerships. In the present, though, he’s got miniature dump trucks to unload and doll houses to move.