In this episode, Amy Armstrong, CEO of Social Venture Partners Arizona, joins Mike to talk through the unique venture capital approach they take to philanthropy in Arizona. If you’re a not-for-profit organizational leader or work with those who are, this is a must-listen podcast!

SVP takes a two-pronged approach in its mission: 

  1. They connect their partners to provide expertise and funding to emerging and growing local non-profits that are working to make children successful in Arizona.
  2. SVP Arizona also educates its philanthropists on best practices and insights to improve the impact of their giving. 

Learn more about Social Venture Partners Arizona over on their website: Svpaz.org

You can also connect with SVP Arizona on Twitter.

 

 

Contact: Mike Jones mike@resoundcreative.com

Discuss at https://www.facebook.com/azbrandcast/

The show is recorded at the Resound offices in ever-sunny Tempe, Arizona (the 48th – and best state of them all).

Show Transcript

Mike Jones:
This is the AZ Brandcast where we explore Arizona’s brand and the brands that make Arizona. I’m Mike Jones.

Mike Jones:
All right, everybody. It’s another episode of AZ Brandcast. Want to thank you so much for joining us today. I am super excited for this episode. Not least because of our guest Amy Armstrong who has graciously donated some time with us to hang out and talk about her role as CEO of SVP, Arizona. We’ll get into more… Social Venture Partners in Arizona if you want to get the full acronym out there. And a little bit about SVP Arizona, they are a network of philanthropists who take a venture capital approach to their philanthropy. So we’re going to be talking a lot about giving and philanthropy and all that fun stuff today. And they have a two-pronged mission as their organization. One is to connect their partners, to provide expertise in funding to emerging and growing local nonprofits, specifically ones that are focused on helping kids here in Arizona to be more successful, to grow in their education and all sorts of other needs that they have.

Mike Jones:
And then their second prong to their mission is to help educate their philanthropists. Many of who are maybe a little less experienced in their giving on best practices, insights, ways to make their giving more impactful as they get more into that. So I’m super excited to have you on, Amy. Thank you so much for coming on and taking the time with us and really excited to talk about SVP Arizona and maybe some other stuff. We’ll see what happens today. But tell me a little bit about just SVP. So I kind of gave the really the 30,000 foot view version, but I want to hear from you. What is SVP Arizona and what do you see happening right now?

Amy Armstrong:
Well, first of all, thanks for having me. Very excited to be here on the couch session. So SVP was founded in 1999. We are the second affiliate of the SVP international group of affiliates around the world. There are 41 of them across the world. And really we take, like you said, a venture capital approach to nonprofits. There are so many well-meaning, well hearted people that start a nonprofit because of a passion or a will to change the world or solve a problem, but they often don’t have the business experience. And so a nonprofit is a incorporated structure. It’s just a different tax status. So you really do need to operate it like a business in order for it to be really successful and to grow and thrive. So that’s where SVP comes in. We do have this network, like you said, of philanthropists that have a variety of experiences.

Amy Armstrong:
So everything from HR to finance, to legal, to technology and everything in between so we can really plug in what the nonprofits need to help their capacity building, to really increase their business. We don’t go in and tell them how to run their program. So for instance, right now we work with Homeless Youth Connection and Read Better Be Better. I don’t know how to help homeless youth, I don’t know how to teach third graders how to read. I’m not going to try and tell them and none of our partners are going to go in there and tell them how to make their program better. But what we can do is ensure that their operations and that their business is thriving and working as smoothly as it can in order for them to enhance their program and be the best that they can be. So we do collective grant making. So all of our partners pay to be in the partnership and then we pool that together.

Amy Armstrong:
The venture capital approaches that we take a longer time. This isn’t a one time grant, but we go in there typically as a five year granting cycle and usually a bell curve. And we will make that long term investment. We also know… A VC is not going to go into a business and be like, “Here of my one time investment. I’d like to see my ROI in six months.” So we know that it’s going to take a little bit of time. So giving that five year timeline allows us to really get into the weeds and truly move the needle, not just do one off bandaids. And that collective grant making is awesome because as a philanthropist, I can give an organization $5,000, which is amazing. But if I can pool that with 50 other people, we can make game changing grants and gifts to this organization. And then to add on our time and talent just compounds out so much. And so that’s really where the power of SVP comes, not just from the dollars, but from the expertise.

Amy Armstrong:
In terms of the history, we really started out with Jerry Hirsch, our amazing founder brought us here from the Seattle starting point. And it was a lot of his original colleagues. So a lot of real estate people in Arizona. Which is amazing in terms of the growth of SVP. Why it really took off is because it was a lot of success and people in the real estate industry wanting to make a bigger impact on their community. It has since evolved. We still have a lot of the original partners engaged, but Arizona’s evolved, Phoenix has evolved. The tech industry here, just a younger demographic has allowed us to kind of shift some of our partnership makeup, which is great because then we get more expertise in different areas. So it’s really gone through its own rebrand as we’ll talk about. Not necessarily rebrand, but a rebirth of some sorts. So that’s SVP. I personally got involved because my husband and I moved back here. I’m a native by the way. People always say, “What part of Phoenix or Arizona did you live in?” And I just say yes.

Mike Jones:
All of them.

Amy Armstrong:
We moved 20 times before I was 18. So you pick a part of town and I’ve lived in it.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Amy Armstrong:
But we moved away, my husband and I, to go to college, had our kids up in Colorado and then moved back about 13 years ago for my husband to get involved with the family office. And my in-laws are extremely philanthropic. My father-in-law founded a software company. And so he was lucky to come into wealth that way. And they truly have the biggest hearts ever. And so they wanted to make sure that that wealth that they came into helped other people and lasted generationally. And so when we first moved back, we didn’t really know anyone. We’ve been gone for 13 years. When you leave as a 19 year old and you come back with kids, it’s a whole different group of friends that you’re looking for. And so they invited us to be a part of Social Venture Partners. We were told there was good people and free wine. So that’s originally, we were like, “All right, we’ll try it out.”

Mike Jones:
That’s a good pitch.

Amy Armstrong:
It is.

Mike Jones:
I got to write that one down.

Amy Armstrong:
So maybe we should put that in our partner package. But we really just wanted to go meet people and set some more roots down in Arizona. And I slowly got involved with a couple of committees and at the time I was actually an interior designer. So I’m a certified kitchen designer. That is my background that has nothing to do with what I do now.

Mike Jones:
I don’t think I realized that. That’s really cool.

Amy Armstrong:
My fun fact, if I’m ever in one of those get to know each other and you have to say a fun fact is that I’m actually a published author on public restrooms, which is not something that you would associate with me now.

Mike Jones:
I love that.

Amy Armstrong:
I used to write for a magazine in Denver and I had a regular column. Denver [inaudible 00:07:10] bathroom Denver’s [inaudible 00:07:11] bathroom. So ask me about-

Mike Jones:
Think about niche marketing.

Amy Armstrong:
Right. Right.I didn’t have a lot of competition [crosstalk 00:07:17]

Mike Jones:
No. I’m sure you didn’t.

Amy Armstrong:
I was the go to public restroom person. But I had my own firm at the time. I was just starting out. I had… Because we had moved here. So I kind of restarted. Was getting some clients and was balancing the time, the open time that I had was sitting on some committees, learning to get more philanthropically involved. My in-laws really taught me about giving with my heart, and really listening to people and understanding their stories. But as I got engaged more with SVP, not that my in-laws don’t give with their head, but I feel like I learned to give with my head because we did site visits and we looked at PNLs and I learned more about the business side of nonprofits.

Amy Armstrong:
And I found my myself really struggling with my interior design part of it. I was like, really I’m going to spec expensive crap for people’s houses instead of go help this amazing organization? And so luckily we were in a place where our kids were still small. So staying home with them more was actually a benefit. It was also in 1990 or I’m sorry, 2008 when the market crashed and so people’s stopped building. So interior design, wasn’t the most lucrative thing at the moment, especially since I was going to take a job doing some commercial-

Mike Jones:
Super exciting.

Amy Armstrong:
Very high business time. And so I actually stopped taking clients and focused on staying home with the kids and doing more philanthropy. And I just 100% percent fell in love with it. And so I credit SVP for really being what pulled me into that. And of course my in-laws, but the SVP structured part of it. So Patrick and I, my husband, have been partners for 13 years. And so that’s how we originally knew about SVP. So we’ve been engaged on a very individual level as philanthropists ourselves.

Mike Jones:
So you’ve gotten involved, you’re now CEO. So you’re leading the organization here in Arizona. It’s been through some shifting. How did that come about and tell me about that process?

Amy Armstrong:
So we were lucky to have Terri Wogan as our executive director/CEO for over 12 years. And she was fabulous and she really grew that brand and solidified us in the city, but she was ready to retire. She gave us lots of notice. It’s not like she just left. She gave us wonderful amounts of notice and she’s actually a partner now so we still get to use her expertise. But as with any leadership change, organizations go through a little bit of adjusting, especially when you have a long term leader. There’s people that are very associated with that. And there’s always some questions of, what’s it going to look like in the future? Who’s going to be leading it? So we actually did go through a few changes and had a period of some gaps in leadership as well.

Amy Armstrong:
And so I, as a partner, had a very unique set of skills. So I also had founded my own nonprofit and run that for almost nine years. So I had the experience of being the executive at a non-profit. I also have been a philanthropist now, fairly engaged. That’s been my world is philanthropy for over 13 years. So I have that for-profit side of it. I’m sorry, the philanthropic side of it. So people say, what do you do? I’m like, well, I give money or I beg for it depending on the hour. Which one is it? But then I’ve also been a partner for 13 years. So I know most of the people, I know some of the history. My husband was on the board for years. So it was just kind of a perfect storm of everything that we needed at the time. I also, because I’ve known most of the board and the executive team for a long time, I had the rare ability to run a little faster and a little harder than somebody else might have.

Mike Jones:
You already held that trust built in.

Amy Armstrong:
Right. And because I had had experience, they knew that I was successful in other areas. I didn’t need to do a lot of asking permission. I really just ran with my ideas. And then when they worked, I didn’t have to say, “Can you forgive me?” I was like, “Look, it worked.” So that was really part of this whole shift of leadership. And then so I only originally signed on as the interim CEO while we did a search. And so I did six months and then I added another six months. And then finally, my husband was like, “You either need to find somebody or you need to make a commitment. You can’t keep kicking the can.” Because part of rebuilding a brand is we need to know what to expect in the future. We need some-

Mike Jones:
That consistency of leadership.

Amy Armstrong:
Absolutely. So I made a three year commitment to stay on after that first year. So I’m now in… I’ve just finished two years of my… Well, that was the first year and then three more. So I’m still around at least for a few years. And I’ve told my board, I’m not saying yes or no now to any future commitment. But I will definitely be here for a few years because I really love it. These are the people I’m used to, these are the organizations I want to support. And just being entrepreneur myself, like to take something that… And I don’t mean this… It didn’t almost die, but it was really struggling and to rebuild it. I mean, when I came on, we had 22 partner units and a unit could be my husband and I are considered a unit as a household. So we were down to 22, which is definitely the lowest that we’ve that in a long time. And obviously the less partners we have, less grant making we can do. So it affects everything in that cycle. We just hit 50 partners yesterday.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Amy Armstrong:
So in two years, despite a global pandemic, we have well over doubled our partnership. And we have a huge event next week and I think we’re going to be at 55 by the end of the week.

Mike Jones:
That’s fantastic.

Amy Armstrong:
Hitting 2022 goals already.

Mike Jones:
That’s the way it should be done. Getting ahead. That’s great. What were some of the things you identified coming into that role and taking leadership where you saw, hey, there’s some opportunity to really maybe change things or focus things, or really kind of shift the brand in some positive ways? Obviously coming out of some kind of lack of consistency in leadership there’s probably a lot. But maybe what one or two that were highlights.

Amy Armstrong:
There’s an organization called Nonprofit Lifecycles that really talks about how there are different areas and different parts of your life that the nonprofit will be in. And kind of rebrand, refresh relaunch is all part of that. So everyone kind of goes through that. So it was for me, just a picture that… And I’m talking with my hands, which of course on a podcast you can’t see. But they’ve got this kind of bell curve of you’re going up, you’re going up and then you start to decline and you either die out or you go back to the front of the part where you’re going up and you redo that again. So you need to just be willing to look at things differently, keep the things that work, but also be willing to change. I mean, I went through our entire budget and gutted a bunch of things.

Amy Armstrong:
There was a lot of programs that we reevaluated. Do we bring it back? Can we pause it? Do we run full force with it? One of the challenges is SVP is a very diverse partnership. We have everything from just starting out in their career, want to learn about philanthropy to I’ve been a philanthropist for 30 years and I just want to be a funder at this point. We have diverse sets of what side of the aisle you sit on. COVID has brought out another set of diverse [crosstalk 00:14:43]. Some partners are like no masks, some partners are like only masks. So it’s really hard to balance, which we want a diverse set of partners. That’s what we need, but it is hard to balance what everyone wants. So doing some surveys at the beginning to see where kind of the majority lies and then going and talk to the people outside of the majority and say, we can’t do this program that you want, or this event or this specific… We used to do Fast Pitch. Half the people want it back half the people said never again.

Amy Armstrong:
So how do you make everyone happy? So really, but going back to those individuals that maybe don’t fall within the majority, or maybe it is the majority, but we don’t have the capacity to do that. I mean, when I came on, I was literally the only person on staff. So I can’t do all of that. But just to make sure that people understand that they’re heard and that you’re recognizing what they understand. And I’m not saying not now, or I’m not saying no, but not now. I want you to know that I hear what you want and I appreciate that and I will get to it. I’m not shoving things off. So that was one of the, I think, successes was just going back and also asking people that had left the partnership, why? Why did you leave? Hearing the nos is just as important as hearing the yeses. So I think that was one of the lessons.

Mike Jones:
That’s great case study and just the power of collecting those stories from kind of within the organization and then obviously people who have exited in their partnership. Or if we’re talking to a for-profit business, we do this a lot with our clients of, hey, you need to actually talk to your staff. We can’t put all the leadership in one room and make all these assumptions about the organization and the brand and the strategy, and then not go talk to the boots on the ground, right?

Amy Armstrong:
Well, and the historical knowledge. I mean, it’s a 21 year organization. To be able to go back and say, hey, we tried that, why didn’t it work instead of just making assumptions on our own. That historical knowledge is just totally valuable for everything we do.

Mike Jones:
So fast forward a little bit. We’re now in 2021, what’s kind of… You’re getting some success. What are you attributing that to? What are things that are working?

Amy Armstrong:
Well, I will say that I think COVID actually helped us. COVID-

Mike Jones:
Tell me more. I always want to hear these stories.

Amy Armstrong:
Well, we joke that it was not. We’re not called socially distanced venture partners. But so definitely trying to get people excited and come to events on Zoom was like, [inaudible 00:17:19]. Another Zoom. Nobody wants to do another Zoom. However, as somebody that was rebuilding a brand, and I will say January, 2020, we brought on Michaela. She had just graduated from NAU. She is a genius when it comes to giving fresh eyes, thinking about our messaging, thinking about our communication from a holistic standpoint. So having her come on board to join me. Again, I was the only person. So having that extra support and extra voice and sounding board and just collaborative person to be there. Of course, it was January, 2020. We spent two months in the office and then we were like, see you. So that was definitely a challenge. But bringing her on board was a major turning point for us. But nobody wanted to do Zoom anymore. So the good thing was we didn’t have to worry about event planning.

Amy Armstrong:
We weren’t spending money on event planning. So we got a chance to really sit down and be strategic about things. It was a good excuse for us not to have to do certain things because we couldn’t. But now I would say COVID is really helping us because people are chomping at the bit to get back into person. And so we are one of the first organizations, at least that I’ve seen and that we’ve been associated with, that have been holding events. And we’ve tried to be really cognizant of that diversity in the partnership. So we’ve had events. For instance, our big spring partner event, we actually held multiple ones. One was on Zoom, nobody registered by the way. Another one was we are going to be outdoors and masks are mandatory. And then the next one was outdoors, masks are optional. So we’re trying to hold events earlier than some people are but with different requirements. I will also say that the mask mandatory one after about five minutes, everyone’s like, “You good? You good? You good?” So it became-

Mike Jones:
It’s hard to enjoy your wine with your mask on.

Amy Armstrong:
It is. Somebody had invented a little mask with a straw holder, I think. That could have been a good product.

Mike Jones:
I’ve seen this.

Amy Armstrong:
So I’m not the only one.

Mike Jones:
My favorite going back to… We didn’t talk about this on the show, but before we jumped on the show, we talked about your husband’s background in music. And I’ve seen photos of bands playing with the mask with the whole in the middle. So they can wear their mask while they’re still playing. I was like, that’s kind of funny. I don’t know what I think about that.

Amy Armstrong:
Well, the good thing about music is that usually the band’s up on stage. So they can be separated. So it was nice to go to my first concert.

Mike Jones:
That’s so cool.

Amy Armstrong:
That just felt really good.

Mike Jones:
Well, you have to tell us what concert it was now.

Amy Armstrong:
I went up to Denver to go to Green Day.

Mike Jones:
That’s cool.

Amy Armstrong:
Green Day is my all time favorite in person band. Not singer, band. Because they put on a show, they involve kids in the audience. I love every Green Day song ever written. I just… It’s like now they play it on classic rock, which is a little concerning-

Mike Jones:
It is weird because classic rock has shifted a lot.

Amy Armstrong:
It has that’s because we’re getting older now. But it was amazing. It was outdoors. It was… I wore my mask, but that was good because then I could scream all the songs. And there’s this couple lyrics that you always forget and I was like, “Nobody knows. I’ve got a mask on.” But it was really, really good. And then we’re going to see [crosstalk 00:20:31]

Mike Jones:
That’s cool.

Amy Armstrong:
So another concert here in town.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Amy Armstrong:
So getting the music back. And my husband has a music studio. So once in a while I get a private concert late at night. We’ve had a couple drinks and then he’ll play guitar.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Amy Armstrong:
That’s wonderful. So just to get back to the getting into events, I just think that COVID, that so much time of not having big events, people are so excited to get involved that SVP as a socially… I mean, we use the word social because we’re helping the social sector. But there’s also definitely a friendly colleague social part of it. We do have events with happy hours and appetizers and dinners and we’re having a holiday party. So people are just craving that interaction With people that are like-minded. And I think it’s… I mean, we have a sold out event next week. I think it’s been great for us. So it’s just a perfect storm of events.

Mike Jones:
It is. I don’t think I had this kind of planned out, but I’ve been wondering this decision to focus more on… So your investees or these nonprofits that you’re grant making, you’re creating these grants for, your focus has been more recently on nonprofits that are primarily focused on kids here in Arizona. That’s not something that’s been historically a part of SVP or Arizona the whole time.

Amy Armstrong:
Yes and no. Yes and no. So we used to have two main investment vehicles and it was education and then critical issues. Which is very vague, but also very encompassing. It’s specific, but not. And so several years ago, while Terri was still in leadership, SVP hired a company to come in and really meet with the partnership and talk about what are your focus areas, what should we really be giving our dollars and our time to. And that project was finished but never put into a wrapped up package. So you talk about branding, it was all sitting there But it didn’t have a cute little graphic to go with it and a two sentence summary. So that was one of the very first things that I did was took that information and that research and data that was already there and just put it into something that was easily digestible for everyone.

Amy Armstrong:
So that’s the making children successful through three different ways. And this kind of includes the critical issues. So it’s either educational opportunities, safety and support and health and wellness. The great thing is we also have wonderful success stories over the last 20 years of somebody that fits into each of those categories so that we have a good exam of where we work in that space. And so just giving something easy to chew for people has been really helpful. So yes, we always focused a little bit on education and that stuff, but it hones it in a little. But again, it’s vague.

Mike Jones:
But it’s more specific than just kind of, well, we help nonprofits in Arizona, right? I mean, it’s like, well, you throw a stone and you’re going to hit someone. That could be a potential for that. And to have something more specific I would assume provides kind of a better point of kind of engagement for partners and even for investees who are interested in joining the program of like, hey, are we a fit?

Amy Armstrong:
And I mean, I think that everyone can find something that fits within one of those categories. Now, does every nonprofit fit in there? Obviously not. But most people have a few nonprofits or a few focus areas that they appreciate a consideration of. And so we can usually plug somebody into one of those three.

Mike Jones:
That’s great. What has made Arizona a unique place? What have you found in kind of working with SVP Arizona for so long? Maybe the environment around philanthropy, and I’m going to mess that word up every time, around nonprofits-

Amy Armstrong:
I usually can’t say it half the time so it’s fine.

Mike Jones:
What’s your perspective on Arizona and what unique either special, unique aspects, characteristics, or even challenges to the state?

Amy Armstrong:
I think Arizona is unique in philanthropy specifically because it’s not the old school philanthropy. You don’t have the Rockefellers, you don’t have the Kennedys, you don’t have the big name philanthropists. There’s also not a lot of big companies based here that have old time philanthropy. And so everyone… I’m not everyone. I’m making a generalization. My communications degree would say don’t make an ominous claim. But for the most part, people don’t have a very long established hundreds of years philanthropic practices. So there’s an ability to be a little bit more nimble. There is an ability to look at different issues that might not be under the typical philanthropic umbrella that old money, for quotes, has. And also there’s a lot of younger people. I mean, we touched on this a little bit earlier.

Amy Armstrong:
There’s new tech companies, there’s a lot of people transplanting. Arizona doesn’t have a lot of us natives left here. And so to have those people that are coming from other places, they bring a unique perspective. It also can be a challenge because there are some people that are snowbirds. They usually associate their philanthropic dollars with Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, where they’re from. So to get them to be engaged here monetarily can sometimes be a challenge. But I think it’s unique in that we can explore other avenues. We can be a little bit more creative in our philanthropy because it’s all kind of a little bit new still. So I think there’s some challenges and some really good opportunities. I think the spectrum of experience here in Arizona is really unique as well.

Amy Armstrong:
Like I said, we have so many young tech people. We also have… We have a wide variety of income levels too. I mean, every state does, but I think we have the opportunity to address a lot of our specifically education challenges and that equality gap. And so I think we’ve got some good opportunities to make some big leaps in the future. There’s Arizona, and I need to make sure… I’m going to paraphrase some of this, but so for instance, Phoenix Union High School District, we’ve had a partnership with them for many years.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome. That’s my Alma mater. North High School. Go Mustangs.

Amy Armstrong:
Yes. The Mustangs. So Phoenix Union typically is a projector of 10 years out of what the city of Phoenix is going to look like. City of Phoenix is usually a projector about 10 years out of what the country’s going to look like. And Phoenix Union High School District right now, and I don’t know the exact stat and I apologize to my friends at Phoenix Union for not knowing this off the top of my head, is something around over 80% Latino. So that’s a projector of Phoenix and that’s a projector of the country. And so for us not to use as a great opportunity to say, how can we include more people of color? How can we talk about what their needs are? How do they differ from ours and give them better voices? That’s something that’s unique to Phoenix, not just Phoenix. But I mean, that’s an opportunity that you don’t have in Minnesota.

Mike Jones:
There’s a lot of places is in the country that don’t have that same kind of demographic mix or have kind of a future forward kind of, you can take snapshots of Phoenix now and see where things are potentially going to be down the road for a lot of other places in the United States. We actually had, I don’t know if Brandon Clark from Cradle, amongst other things that he does. But he and his partner came on, I think that was two years ago, to talk about some of the work that they’re doing. It was really fascinating to see how they’re kind of leveraging this kind of demographic forward momentum that Phoenix has and kind of seeing how can we help organizations better understand where they might need to be in a few years based on data they’re grabbing here.

Amy Armstrong:
He’s taken it even a step further with en engaging the voices of youth and bringing a whole group of people from across the border to work with… So youth from Mexico and youth from Arizona to work together. We are sitting on both sides of the border, there’s no reason why it’s us versus them. We can work together. So that’s-

Mike Jones:
Which is a really unique attribute of Arizona.

Amy Armstrong:
Yes.

Mike Jones:
Just this kind of economic corridor that we have with Mexico that… I mean, I don’t know if you really see that outside of Texas and maybe to some degree California as well. But there’s something unique here about that.

Amy Armstrong:
We have a scholarship program at ASU that we’ve had for a little over 20 years that works with independent students. So whether they’re from foster care or some kind of independent situation. And by the way, when I say we, I mean our family foundation not Social Venture Partners. And we take our students down to Mexico to [inaudible 00:29:44] on the other side of Douglas, at least two times… Well, not, not COVID years. But at least two times a year. And we stay in the dorms down there, we build houses, we do a food distribution. And there’s a real argument for people in Mexico don’t want to come to the US. If we give them an opportunity to enhance their own communities, they want to stay there. They amazing communities they just don’t have the opportunities that we do so that’s why you see the influx of people trying to come here illegally because what other option do they have. So if we can go across the border and help our neighbors to establish a little bit more stability there, then that solves both problems.

Mike Jones:
Yes it does. A little bit of a marketing question here. So talking about the category that people might put SVP Arizona in, how would you categorize the organization? So kind of people know, that’s kind of… if I can think about other organizations like that, and I kind of know how to position it.

Amy Armstrong:
I mean, venture philanthropy is the real category that I would put us into. It’s different from social impact investing because there is no monetary return except for that, to society. Which definitely has monetary returns if you… Especially, if you talk about prevention versus problem solving later. The term venture philanthropy seems young and seems new and is kind of a buzz right now, but it actually was first used by Rockefeller in the late ’60s. So it’s not really a new term. It’s just that it’s hasn’t had as much traction. I think people are understanding more of trust based philanthropy. That’s something that… SVP just actually held an event on that to talk about what is trust based philanthropy. There’s thank goodness a huge shift from really funders micromanaging their money and saying, I can only give to this program and you can only do you know this with my money and you can’t spend it on anything besides this program.

Amy Armstrong:
There’s no salaries, there’s no overhead. I’m like, “Well, until you figure out how to run a nonprofit with pixie dust, we got to have operations.” Again, going back to a nonprofit as a business, You have to carry directors and officer’s insurance, you have to pay all these different payroll taxes. There are… You have to have an office. Even if you work from home, you have to provide technology. There are expenses, you can’t just have only programmatic expenses. So when people say, how much of your budget goes to program versus admin versus funding? What’s going to happen is that nonprofits are just going to get creative with their accounting. Every nonprofit has overhead expenses. It’s a business. It’s just the way it is. Would you ever expect a for-profit to grow and have good impact without ever marketing themselves? No. Nonprofits should be able to market. Now, obviously there’s those horrible stories out there of some nonprofit executive taking a private jet. Those are so few and far between, and it’s like, all the bad stuff always gets the press, right?

Amy Armstrong:
The people that are doing the normal natural, correct things, they don’t get the press, right? It’s only the bad stories. So I think that the trust based philanthropy is really increasing, which is great. By trust based philanthropy I mean that funders give money to organizations and say, “You are the expert. I want you to do what you want with this money to better increase your impact.” Because just like I said, I don’t know how to help homeless youth, but I know how to help Homeless Youth Connection by giving them funding and expertise. So trust based philanthropy, I definitely think has been an increase in why venture philanthropy is successful and more of a buzzword. And I mean, I don’t want to go back to Rockefeller and be like, he was ahead of his time, but I mean, it’s an idea that’s been around for a long time. I’m glad that it’s becoming more out there and aware. I mean, even SVP is over 20 years old. I mean, this isn’t a new concept at all, but it’s gaining a lot of popularity.

Mike Jones:
That’s great.

Amy Armstrong:
Again, good timing for us.

Mike Jones:
Yes. And we’ve talked a little bit about the pandemic and how that’s impacted SVP Arizona in particular around events and that kind of thing. I think one thing I wanted to maybe draw out a little bit was the partnership that kind of maybe birthed out of some of that constriction and that was the 40 under 40 with the Phoenix Business Journal. I know that’s been my kind of entry point in SVP Arizona. And as I’ve looked at that over the last year, it just seems like, man, that is such a great case study and the power of partnerships in building brand awareness and even finding these like-minded partners to help facilitate hitting these goals that you’re looking for. So maybe share a little bit about that.

Amy Armstrong:
The 40 under 40 partnership was really an idea that I had because I wanted to diversify the partnership. I made a commitment when I came on board and this was even before the happenings of 2020 and focus on philanthropy shifted a little bit, but this was before that. I made a commitment to diversifying our partnership. This is probably not a popular term, but I didn’t want it to be the old, rich white guys club. And not that it was completely, but I mean, that’s who if you think about real estate investment in Phoenix, that’s-

Mike Jones:
Center of philanthropy in Arizona.

Amy Armstrong:
Yes. And they play a very important role and I appreciate every one of them, but I also wanted to open it up to new voices. And so sometimes it can be really intimidating as much as we might have our best intentions to say, we want to include everyone. Well, do you think people that are younger and especially people of color are really feeling welcomed into people that is just a bunch of rich white guys? So 40 under 40 was really a way for me to bring in a well vetted group of people that I knew were looking to do something. The business journal does an amazing group of narrowing down 400 plus nominations to 40 people. I was in the class of… Gosh, I don’t remember. I’m well over 40 now. So whenever I wasn’t 40. Several years ago. But I remember being so impressed with all the people that I shared that award with that year.

Amy Armstrong:
And so the Phoenix Business Journal, we partnered with them and said, everyone that is being awarded 40 under 40, we will ask them to do a supple elementary application if they’re interested. And we will choose a handful of people, this year we have five, that we will do a sponsored partnership for one year. They can get their feet wet. They are considered a full partner. There is no differentiation. So they’re a full partner, but it’s sponsored by some of our other programmatic grant writing that we do. And so that it was a great way to bring in not only some younger people, but a more diverse set of voices. And I did that with the regular partnership too. So I’ve been personally seeking out suggestions from other people who would be good to be involved. I’m very happy to say that of the new partners that we have brought in since I’ve started over 27% are people of color.

Amy Armstrong:
Which there’s room for improvement, absolutely. But it’s much higher than what it was before. And so I’m really proud that we’re bringing in that voice. And 40 under 40 was a great way to start that ball rolling. Also, just in terms of technicality, some of our older partners who have the extra money to give the extra funding for that are burnt out, they’ve retired, they don’t want to do anything. They just want to be funders. And then we’ve got a whole group of people that maybe can’t afford the partnership, but are really gunning to go and they have great new ideas and great expertise already. And so that was just a perfect mixing of those two scenarios.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome. That’s really cool. I think that’s a great story of just the power of partnership and the power of kind of thinking outside of the box and how you can connect your brand with another brand and see that there’s some really cool leverage points in how to achieve these goal that you have. What’s next? What’s coming up for SVP Arizona?

Amy Armstrong:
Well, we have 19 events planned for 2022. So definitely not a shortage.

Mike Jones:
You’re making up for last year.

Amy Armstrong:
Yeah. We’re doing a good variety of social happy hours, educational events, think tanks where our partner can sit down and do rapid fire ideas for that one problem that our investees, our non-profit investees are facing. We’re bringing in guest speakers and authors. We always do our big spring and fall partner events to make sure that the partnership knows each other too. I mean, I’ve made lifelong friends in this partnership. And while we say don’t pitch me bro, it’s not a networking group in that sense, naturally some partnerships like that do happen because people get to know each other and become friends and colleagues. And so we’re really trying to get a variety of events. We’d like to expand our portfolio because when I came in, we were kind of sunsetting our last person in that five year cycle, but we didn’t have a pipeline coming in.

Amy Armstrong:
So as a good VC mentality, we needed to fill our pipeline. And so we are up to three investees. Ideally we have five one in each year of that five year cycle. So really seeing our portfolio grow and seeing that needle move. Now, that it’s been a couple years, we see some things happening, which is exciting. It’s you have to be patient with it but it’s exciting to see that grow now. And so we’re also looking at, do we bring back Fast Pitch? We’re doing a feasibility study. Some people really want it back and can we bring that to the community? It was definitely a value add for some nonprofits and for the community to be able to see those pitches. We’re looking at bringing in, which is something that I’m very excited about but I’m trying to remember that it’s not all about me, is what used to be called SVP Teens, but we’ve called Next Generation as well.

Amy Armstrong:
So we have several families in our partnership that are multi-generational. So it was originally… My myself included in that. It was originally the grandparents and then the kids, and then there’s the grandkids involved. But how do we have these discussions where we’re establishing good philanthropic practices in our high school students or younger so that by the time they get to be an SVP partner, they’re hitting the ground running, they already know. They could teach some of those classes at that point. But also how do we make sure that the next generation… And we have to consider that many of our people in our partnership do have disposable income plus. We have many high net worth individuals. So how do we not create jerks in the world, wealthy jerks? We want to make sure that our kids are more grounded and philanthropic and generous with their money, as well as being good business contributors. So that’s really an interesting program to me. We actually have one of our original SVP teens that is now a full partner.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Amy Armstrong:
So he was not in the partnership for about 15 years or so, and so nice to have him as an adult and contributing to the partnership and having that historical knowledge. So it’s really nice to have those full circle stories. So that’s definitely what’s next. And I mean, I said we hit 50 partners yesterday. I’ve got 100 in my sights. I’m not slowing down until I hit 100. I’m usually aggressive in my goals. But if you’ve ever taken that strengths finder test my number one, there’s my one and then the second and third are like, wait. My number one is woo. And I-

Mike Jones:
That’s the strength to have to-

Amy Armstrong:
Wooing people to my cause. And I will say that I just actually finished the women leading change program at Harvard as part of their executive certificate and also creating collaborative solutions. And the woo, I feel like one of the reasons that it’s really stands out so much for me, and this is what I noticed in that class is because I’m authentic about it. So I’m never going to try… I’m not like the used car salesmen. I only will talk to people about things that I’m truly passionate about and I believe in. I believe in the work of Social Venture Partners. I believe in the nonprofits that we philanthropically fund. I believe in the work, I believe in building better philanthropists. I’m not going to try and sell you something that I am not myself 100% in. And so I think having that authenticity, it’s apparent. People know that I’m being real.

Mike Jones:
It’s real. It’s real and true. I think-

Amy Armstrong:
And I can’t help but I get excited about it. And I talk with my hands. And then I’ll talk about something and I start crying and it’s all very real and authentic. So I think that people appreciate that. So I’m going to use that to get 100 partners.

Mike Jones:
I love it. That’s a great goal. All right. So there’s one question I didn’t prep you for because this is what we do every show. So we’re really into improv, improvisation. And one of the kind of famous games of improv is called name 10 things.

Amy Armstrong:
Oh boy.

Mike Jones:
So you’re going to be on the spot. This is where the real hot seat comes in. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s very off the cuff. So the one-

Amy Armstrong:
Hopefully it’s not 10 of one thing, because I will blank at two.

Mike Jones:
Name 10 places SVP will one day host an event. I was trying to kind of… I was thinking about things you’re passionate about, but also fun. There’s no wrong answers. That’s one of the rules of name 10 things.

Amy Armstrong:
Okay. Well, next week we’re having an event at El Toro which is classic Phoenix, old school. I’m so excited. It’s one of my favorite places. Just the views of the mountains and the feeling of it. It’s just got desert, cowboy, old world feel. This the first time we’re ever hosting a major event there. So I’m very excited about that. I’m going to be honest and go holiday parties at my house.

Mike Jones:
Two, there you go.

Amy Armstrong:
My husband and I just finished building our house and we’ve been working that for three plus years. So I’m very excited to finally have an event at my house that was built for entertaining And we moved into in 2020.

Mike Jones:
You have to wait this long.

Amy Armstrong:
Yes. So we are ready. I’m going to throw out the White House just because why not? We’re going to be invited to the White House. I’m going to say someplace like a cool park let’s go with Hance or something like that. We’ll have a cool outdoor event.

Mike Jones:
I think that’s four.

Amy Armstrong:
Four. Fast Pitch started at Tempe Center For The Arts. So if we go back, that would be going back to our roots. I’m going to say we’re going to host a cool video shoot event at your green screen right behind you.

Mike Jones:
There we go, six.

Amy Armstrong:
There you go. We’re trying to utilize some local businesses and really shed the light. So we’ve been to the Vintage right on Osborne. And so I’d like to go back there. They’re fantastic to us. Where else? So this is Arizona Community Foundation. And the reason going to put that on the list, we are housed at Arizona Community Foundation and we’ve had in the past a lot of events there, those think tanks, all that kind of stuff. We haven’t been able to with 2020 and COVID, and we’re still not back to being able to host events. So I’m going to list ACF just because I love being in that office and I’m so excited to have people see it again.

Mike Jones:
That’s eight.

Amy Armstrong:
And I’m going to say, so we just had an event here, but I’d like to go back, Helios Education Foundation. That new campus, I’m sure everyone’s seen it, but not many people have been in it because it was closed. It is unbelievably gorgeous and so well, from somebody with an interior design background, so well thought out. Even the parking garage, which is down below, underneath is beautiful. There’s fountains in the park parking garage. They didn’t have the first floor and the second floor, the whole building does not go to the edge of the parking lot. So natural light comes in and then all of the landscaping from the first floor overflows, hangs the walls into the parking garage. So I mean, it’s just so beautiful and well thought out and natural. So I can’t wait to host another event there and for more people to see that space, because it was gorgeous. Oh boy. Number 10.

Mike Jones:
The finale, 10.

Amy Armstrong:
I feel like I should have saved a big one for this but now I can’t think of thing. We do-

Mike Jones:
The moon.

Amy Armstrong:
As soon as Elon’s a donor, we’re going-

Mike Jones:
Elon’s joining.

Amy Armstrong:
Yes. Elon, if you’re listening partnerships only $5,500 a year. It’s totally within your budget. I’m going to say we do not do direct advocacy work because we’re a 501(c)(3). And so we’re limited on what we can do. However, some of the people, the collaborations and the partnerships that we have in town do. And so I would say at the state capital to increase some educational legislature.

Mike Jones:
All right. There we go, number 10. Thanks for playing along, Amy.

Amy Armstrong:
Thanks.

Mike Jones:
Sorry we sprung that on you.

Amy Armstrong:
No. It’s okay. It was actually a good variety.

Mike Jones:
We always have a blast with that one.

Amy Armstrong:
And then the moon and then Mars.

Mike Jones:
And then the moons, that’s 11. But it goes to 11.

Amy Armstrong:
There you go. I love a good music reference right at the end. It does go to 11.

Mike Jones:
Amy, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on. If people want to learn more about SVP and events coming up and the programs you’re working on, maybe how to get involved or maybe advocate for the organization, where can they find out more?

Amy Armstrong:
We are Launching our brand new beautiful website at svpaz.org, O-R-G.

Mike Jones:
That’s awesome.

Amy Armstrong:
So they can go there to find all of the information, learn about our investees, who we’re helping out in the community and also how to become a partner or just our general event calendar. We do have some non-partner only events the community members are allowed to come to, welcomed at.

Mike Jones:
Highly recommend people check that out. My partnership with SVP Arizona’s has just been fantastic. It’s been super fun being involved the last two years, year and a half. And just thrilled that you could come on the show and talk with us a lot and detail about everything that you guys are doing. So thank you so much for coming on.

Amy Armstrong:
Well, thank you for having me. This was fun.

Mike Jones:
Well, that’s it for another episode of AZ Brandcast. We want to thank all of our listeners for hanging out with us today and learning more about SVP Arizona and Amy and their story. If you want to find out more about AZ Brandcast, listen to any of our past episodes. You can find us at azbrandcast.com, where you can also sign up for a newsletter and make sure you don’t miss another episode. You can also find us on iTunes, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, Stitcher. Really pretty much anywhere that you want to listen to podcasts we are there. And if we’re not, send me an email and we’ll make that happen. So just want to remind every buddy, again, every time, you are remarkable.

Speaker 3:
The AZ Brandcast is a project of Resound and is recorded in Tempe, Arizona with host Mike Jones and Chris Stadler. It’s produced and edited by Sam Pagel. Music is produced and provided by [inaudible 00:49:31] an Arizona based music group. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, under abroadcast.com. If you’d like more episodes, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you prefer to get your podcast. To contact the show, find out more about AZ Brandcast or to join our newsletter list to make sure you never miss another episode, check out our website at azbrandcast.com. Copyright Resound Creative Media LLC 2020.