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Pittsburgh venture – Local market may not be ready

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Pittsburgh may get its own venture philanthropy organization soon, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported July 10.

Executives of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Hillman Foundation, both among the region’s 20 largest foundations, are discussing a Pittsburgh version of Washington state’s Social Venture Partners.

Instead of being funded by an individual or a family, the Washington State organization is modeled on a venture capital group and has hundreds of “partners” contributing both their money and their expertise.

The discussions are in the very early stages. No timetable has been set. Neither have guidelines for what kinds of projects such a group would fund.

Reaching high-tech entrepreneurs has become central for nonprofits trying to find ways to attract new money, however. Venture philanthropy has proved effective at doing just that.

Social Venture Partners was created by technology leaders in the Pacific Northwest, including former Aldus Corp. president Paul Brainerd. The group now has more than 250 partners.

The partners donate a minimum of $5,400 annually for at least two years. They also work in small teams to make grant decisions and create partnerships with nonprofits.

Social Venture Partners has sister operations in Austin and in Phoenix. There are also a few other venture philanthropies across the country, most notably the Robin Hood Foundation in New York.

Some in Pittsburgh wonder if too much is being expected from recent successes, however. Most high-tech entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh are still actively running their companies, leaving little time for active nonprofit involvement.

Venture philanthropists may simply have to wait for the market to mature.

For full story, go to Bizjournals.

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