Martha’s Vineyard is rich in charitable organizations, but the newest group to arrive on the scene does so with a new model and money in hand. MVYouth, a new philanthropic organization founded by 40 Vineyard families, has committed to spend $4 million over the next four years to support Island youth through expansion grants to local organizations and scholarships.
Unlike many Island nonprofit groups, MVYouth will not rely on fundraising efforts, in particular the ubiquitous annual summertime event. Each of the founding donors has pledged $25,000 annually to MVYouth, for a total of at least four years, which will be disbursed at $1,000,000 per year, according to a press release. In addition, MVYouth’s founders agreed to underwrite all of the administrative, overhead, and operating expenses separately.
MVYouth is the creation of Daniel Stanton and Jim Swartz, who now serve as its co-chairmen. Summer residents of Edgartown, the two friends share backgrounds in banking and finance, as well as long histories of supporting causes that help young people.
Mr. Stanton is a retired partner from Goldman, Sachs & Company. He currently serves as the president of The Boathouse in Edgartown and on the board of the Vineyard Golf Club. Mr. Swartz is the founder of Accel Partners, a global venture capital firm, and Impact Partners, a financing and advisory firm advancing independent cinema. He has been a strong supporter of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard and served as co-chairman of its capital campaign.
“It was a big decision to make sure all of the donations would flow right through to the organization,” MVYouth executive directorLindsey Scott of Chilmark told The Times in a phone call Monday. “The 100 percent flow-through model is very important to what we are doing, and the willingness of the founders to take on any additional costs so the funds go directly to benefit the organization’s cause is very generous.”
MVYouth filed for 501c3 nonprofit status in June and expects confirmation soon, Ms. Scott said. The organization will manage two programs, expansion grants and scholarships. Expansion grants will support organizations that enrich the lives of young people from birth to 25 years old through quality programs and services, according to the press release.
Grants generally will not be awarded to maintain operating budgets, but rather to support capital investments and program expansions.
“MVYouth has been careful not to disrupt existing donor contributions that sustain the many Island nonprofits,” the press release explained. “Instead, MVYouth will add capital to organizations ready to take quantum leaps forward.”
MVYouth plans to award approximately 25 percent of its funds to scholarships, which will cover needed tuition expenses and fees for students who are unable to afford to attend their school of choice.
They saw a need
In separate telephone interviews with The Times this week, Mr. Swartz and Mr. Stanton described what inspired them to start MVYouth and their hopes for the organization’s future.
Mr. Swartz said he and Mr. Stanton came up with the idea for MVYouth after observing the difficulty many Island organizations have in mounting fundraising campaigns, particularly for new capital items.
“They do a great job getting funds for an annual operating budget and sustaining efforts, but when faced with the need to put on a new roof, for example, or to add or expand a program, it becomes a burden for them to hire a development person and raise the money,” he said.
Mr. Stanton said the more he started investigating the needs of Island youth, the more he discovered, including at-risk children, teens and young adults in need of early intervention programs, and college-bound students with financial needs.
“I’ve spent time personally with the superintendent of schools and folks at the high school, and while I don’t know everything about all of the issues, I think what we’re doing will brighten the future for some kids,” he said. “We can’t help them all, but we think we’re on the right path.
Mr. Swartz said the model for MVYouth, in which donations go directly to the cause and not to administrative costs, was inspired by the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and the Tipping Point Community in San Francisco, where he lives part of the year.
“We watched what was working in other communities and felt it was a good time to try that here on the Vineyard,” Mr. Swartz said.
“We felt it was time to not just focus on one charity, but several ones with a common theme, to try to benefit kids,” Mr. Stanton said. “If this organization is sustainable, and if, let’s say over 20 years, MVYouth is able to give twenty to thirty million dollars to scholarships and organizations that benefit kids, I can’t see how growing up on this Island won’t get a little easier for many of them because of it.”
The flow-through model also dovetailed with the two men’s goal to attract new — and younger — donors.
“We thought there was a whole group of young people on the Island who weren’t really engaged yet with philanthropic efforts on the Island and want to be,” Mr. Swartz said. “From what we’ve observed, they would be happy to have an organization they think is well run and well managed to contribute to, particularly one that has no overhead and the funds flow through directly.”
“A number of people who haven’t been here that long, some of them are more recent seasonal residents, feel like they’re investing in the future of this Island,” Mr. Stanton said. “I encouraged them to look at it that way.”
Mr. Swartz said that he and Mr. Stanton set a goal to launch MVYouth’s fundraising efforts this summer, never expecting to meet their $4 million funding target so quickly.
“We started approaching people at the beginning of the summer, and we were astounded ourselves that we were able to raise as much money as we did,” he said.
“I think causes that are very focused on one group of beneficiaries, in this case, children on the Island, really resonate with a lot of people,” Mr. Stanton said.
“Basically in about seven to eight weeks, we went from zero to forty donors,” he added. “That was really as fast as we thought it would be possible to get that done.”
“A key difference for MVYouth is that we did not raise money through an event,” Ms. Scott said of the organization’s successful efforts. “There were one-on-one conversations with members of the board of trustees and prospective donors, and out of those conversations came all our founding donors.”
Mr. Swartz and Mr. Stanton both said they fully expect MVYouth to keep growing.
“We wanted to log in a base number of donors here so we could be confident we could tell people we’d distribute a certain amount of money each year, “ Mr. Swartz said. “And we hope over time we can raise some more money.”
“We like to think that in a couple of years from now, MVYouth will generate funds in the $1,000,000 to $1,500,000 one to one and a half million dollar range, and that other residents, whether full-time or seasonal, will participate,” Mr. Stanton said.
Low cost model
To keep administrative and overhead costs to a minimum, Ms. Scott, who was hired in March, is the only paid staff member.
“Outside of my salary there is very little in the way of operating costs,” she said. “There is no office and no phone line; basically everything is happening by computer through me, on a laptop.”
Ms. Scott lives in Chilmark with her husband, Josh, and two children. Trained in art history and art education, her previous work experience includes teaching art at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and creating an interactive film and theatrical film program for children and families for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.
MVYouth’s board of trustees includes Steve Barnes, Drew Conway, David Fialkow, Mimi Haas, and Ron Rappaport. A local advisory board, still in the process of formation, currently includes Mr. Rappaport as its chairman and members Meg Bodnar, Brock Callen, Beth Kramer, Brian Mackey, and Peg Regan.
“Every one of them was hand-picked, based on their experience, their exposure to different issues on the Island, and their personal histories,” Ms. Scott said. “We have a really great group, a nice dynamic among people who are thoughtful and generous. Everyone is really interested in seeing the community of youth organizations well funded.”
Since the majority of the founding donors are seasonal residents, Mr. Stanton said he is excited about having a local advisory group.
“It would be misguided for us to assume we’ve got an understanding of all of the intricacies of the issues that affect kids on this island,” he said. “We felt strongly we need a group of people who live here 12 months a year and have a history of working with kids.”
Application deadlines are November 15 for expansion grants and March 15, 2015, for scholarships. The advisory board will review the applications, conduct interviews for both programs, and make recommendations to the board of trustees. Grants and scholarships will be announced next spring.
For more information about program requirements, application details, and deadlines, go online to mvyouth.com or email Ms. Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.