MVYouth achieves first year goals

A total of $1 million was awarded to youth programs and students.

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Lindsey Scott, MVYouth Executive Director and Julie Fay, Martha's Vineyard Community Services Executive Director cut the ribbon on the new Island Wide Youth Collaborative building. — Photo courtesy of MV Community S

In its first year of tent-free fundraising, the new Island non-profit MVYouth (MVY) hit the ground running. A total of $1 million was used to help fund construction of the Island Wide Youth Collaborative building, a baseball field for Little Leaguers, and five four-year scholarships of varying amounts.

The MVY’s mission is to provide capital for exceptional Island organizations serving children, teens and young adults, and college scholarships for deserving students.

In keeping with that mission, MVY awarded about $800,000 to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) and Martha’s Vineyard (MV) Little League. Another $75,000 was awarded to five high school seniors for renewable college scholarships that will total nearly $300,000 over four years.

MVY founders and co-chairmen Dan Stanton and Jim Swartz provided an update on the organization’s first year in a meeting with The Times last week. MVY executive director Lindsey Scott and Attorney Ronald Rappaport, a trustee and the advisory board’s chairman, also attended.

Summer residents of Edgartown, Mr. Stanton and Mr. Swartz are friends who share backgrounds in banking and finance, as well as long histories of supporting causes that help young people. Mr. Stanton, a retired partner from Goldman, Sachs & Company, was a founder of The Boathouse in Edgartown and currently serves as its president. He also is 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.

Mr. Stanton said they were prompted to create a new non-profit organization in part by a shared past experience in sponsoring a party for an off-Island group.

“It was a really nice event, and at the end of it, we raised almost to the dollar what the event cost,” Mr. Stanton recalled. “And I went to Jim and I said, you know, this is like the definition of running in place, and we’re just not getting anywhere. I said I want us to think about a different approach, that would really would do more than add to operating budgets and could really move the needle, and to use a word Jim uses, have impact.”

“One of the driving objectives that Dan and I thought about was we wanted to help smaller groups on the Island get out of the perpetual fundraising cycle,” Mr. Swartz added. “I call it eliminating the chicken dinners, the pancake breakfasts.”

In a unique departure from many of the Island’s non-profit organizations, he and Mr. Stanton proposed that MVY would operate on a flow-through model that eliminates the usual tent type of summer fundraising events. Instead, they asked founding donors to pledge to contribute $25,000 annually for a minimum of four years, with $1 million to be disbursed annually. The contributions flow directly to the causes, similar to the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and Tipping Point Community in San Francisco.

Administrative, overhead, and operating expenses are divided up and paid for separately by the donors, which amounted to about $1,000 each this year, Mr. Swartz said. Ms. Scott, the only paid employee, works part-time from her home in Chilmark.

“People know they’re writing a check once a year, and they know exactly what the organization is costing them; they know where it’s going,” Mr. Swartz said.

As a result, he added, MVY seemed to hit a responsive chord with younger people with resources, most of them seasonal residents, who cared about the Island and wanted to give to local causes, but who hadn’t gotten connected with any yet.

“We wanted to provide a convenient, easy, low-friction way for them to engage with what the needs of the Island are,” Mr. Swartz said.

MVY, launched last summer, went from no founders last summer to over forty in six weeks, Mr. Stanton said. In the interest of sustainability, he added, “We’re trying to bring in five to ten new founders every year. We finished last year with 46, and brought in about five this year.”

MVY awarded its capital grants in the fall and early winter, and scholarships in late winter and spring. The board of trustees voted unanimously to award $177,810 to the MV Little League to complete the construction of Penn Field in the spring in time to serve as home field this season.

MVY also awarded MVCS $620,780 to build a facility for the Island Wide Youth collaborative, which will integrate services for youth people struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held last week at the completed new facility, built on the MVCS campus across from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

“The people who came up to talk to me, you could feel the emotion in their voices,” Mr. Stanton said of the event. “You could see it, that this was really something that accomplished a dream some of them have had and they felt very strongly about.”

Mr. Stanton said that last year MVY received 30-plus scholarship grant applications, which local advisory board members vetted and narrowed down to 12 students.

Five finalists were selected based on merit and need. The MVY scholarships filled the void between the financial packages their colleges of choice offered and what their families could afford to pay, Mr. Stanton said, and the money is already in the bank in escrow.

Recipients and the colleges they will attend are Lee Faraca, California Polytechnic State University; Anne Ollen, Barnard College; Charles Parkhurst, UCLA; Gayla Walt, Tufts University; and Madeleine Moore, University of Chicago.

MVY also presented the other seven scholarship semi-finalists with a backpack, an iPad, and a $1,000 gift certificate for the bookstore of their college of choice at the high school’s class night on June 12.

Mr. Stanton said MVY worked hand in glove with high school administrators to avoid duplication in awarding scholarships. “Once the school knew who the MVYouth recipients were, it took them out of the competition for other monies and freed it up for other students,” he said.

Mr. Rappaport is a founding director of Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney law firm in Edgartown. As town counsel for Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury, he has been involved with many Vineyard civic organizations, and he is familiar with the Island’s non-profit scene.  

In addition to seeking new donors who are not committed to other causes, Mr. Rappaport pointed out that MVY also has made it a goal not to compete with other Island charities, which have enough difficulty raising money as it is.  “I’ve done the best I could to make calls to different organizations to see if they’ve had any drop-off as a result of this,” he said.

The deadline for MVY’s next grant cycle is October 15, Ms. Scott said. The local advisory board will then review the applications and narrow them down to semi-finalists to recommend to the board of trustees, which will make the final decisions.

Detailed information about MVY, including a list of donors, grant and scholarship criteria, and its application processes, is available online at www.mvyouth.com.