Becoming a Venture Capitalist: A Study of the Socialization of Social Venture Partners

Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy (U of Southern California)



Case Study Sector


The research project reported here sought to help meet the need for better understanding of donor education and learning, a need which is increasing with the emergence of more engaged, strategic donors and new giving vehicles. There is little scholarly work on these processes of “donor socialization,” which include both formal donor training and experiential means of immersing donors into the culture of an institution, thereby helping to sustain the institution while also helping donors become more effective philanthropists.

This multi-method research project examined donor socialization in Social Venture Partners International (SVPI) by gathering survey and interview data from individuals who became “partners” in local “SVP” affiliates of SVPI, as well as document and observational data on SVPI’s much imitated methods of donor development. The project set out to investigate both what SVP partners learn and how they learn it, to address questions about the content, process, and impact of socialization on these donors, and to derive best practice recommendations for the field of donor education and development.

The results provided strong evidence that involvement with SVP has the intended effects on individual partners. Nearly all partners—97.7%—reported that they had learned something significant since joining SVP, while 70.9% said their amount of giving increased, and 86.3% said they changed how they give. Partners indicated that their involvement with SVP was a factor—often a “significant” or “primary” factor—determining these changes in how much they give, how they give, and what they have learned. That is, SVP socialization has an impact on partners’ giving behavior, practices, and knowledge. Moreover, the influence of SVP appears to become more pronounced both as partners become involved in more SVP activities and as they serve as partners for a longer time.



  • Strategy


  • Northern America

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