The Kirlin Charitable Foundation has chosen to participate in and contribute to a growing movement within the philanthropic community, one that has been most commonly called venture philanthropy. Although definitions vary, we think of venture philanthropy as a focus on building strength, capacity, and sustainability within nonprofits. We think of it as parallel and analogous to the ways in which venture capital and entrepreneurial efforts define the for profit sector. We help new and developing ventures articulate their vision, mission, goals and objectives. We help them develop clear strategies and technologies that will build their organization and result in positive outcomes for their constituency. We take risks, make mistakes, and evaluate our process for internal and shared learning. We place ourselves in the middle of an orchestrated dialogue between innovation and evaluation that we trust will result in a successful and harmonious social return on investment.
As a new member of the philanthropic community, we see ourselves as students as well as contributors. Fortunately for us, we find ourselves within the epicenter for philanthropic innovation and activity, namely Puget Sound. We are currently members of two pooled funds in our area that share our passion for meeting the needs of children and education, and that operate with the spirit of venture philanthropy: Social Venture Partners and Washington Women’s Foundation. As members of these organizations, we have the ongoing opportunity to learn, share our experiences, and discover avenues for collaboration.
Fostering creative imagination in giving and meeting social needs is at the heart of the Kirlin Foundation. We hope to leverage our enthusiasm, research, and experience in partnerships designed for effective change. First and foremost, we want to meet the needs of our children. In doing so, we must help develop strong, vital, and innovative organizations to carry out the task. As we have heard it said, “A strong, capable nonprofit organization stands a better chance of producing desired results than a weak one.”