The Venture Philanthropist

Venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship are hot topics these days. One of the first such enterprises to gain attention in Canada, though, was started 15 years ago. I wrote about it then for CPAmagazine.

It wasn’t exactly a eureka moment, but it was pretty close, says Bill Young, founder and president of Toronto’s Social Capital Partners Inc.

He is referring to his decision to dedicate his time and money to charity, not long after his mother gave $40 million she had made off a hot tech stock to a charitable foundation. “I’d volunteered my time on boards, been a Big Brother, but I always had an inkling that I’d like to do more,” says the 48-year-old CA.

So in 2001, Young opened SCP, which provides grants to early stage nonprofit organizations that don’t rely on government funding.

“The idea is to invest in visionary leaders and offer them our expertise. It’s venture philanthropy,” says Young.

SCP’s aim is not only to make a success of its beneficiary organizations but also to ensure disadvantaged employees get valuable training. While still in its early stages, SCP has five deals on the go, including a $65,000 commitment to a Winnipeg joint venture of five not-for-profits called Inner City Renovations, whose staff of 15 (12 are disadvantaged First Nations people) renovates inner-city homes. “It provides both low-income tenants and the unemployed with a future and with hope,” says Young, calling it a holistic solution to some larger social issues.

Young, who spent 20 years in the private sector, supports his philanthropic venture with its three full-time staff with $10 million he earned after investing in his cousin’s Red Hat Inc. The US company hit pay dirt when it became the leading supplier of Linux operating system software and is the source of his mother’s windfall.

“What I’m doing now has a double bottom line: a beneficial financial outcome for the organizations we give to and tremendous social returns,” says Young. “This is giving me the opportunity to do something truly meaningful.”

-Bonnie Munday 

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