The Woolwich Counselling Centre (WCC) has been named the recipient of the 2012 Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region (SVPWR) Investee award. With the award comes guaranteed funding of $25,000 per year over the next three to five years, along with mentorship and guidance from more than 50 partners with SVPWR. “We’re pretty thrilled,” said Mary Wilhelm, executive director of the centre.

SVPWR launched back in 2010 using a business model created in Seattle, Washington in 1997 by Paul Brainerd. His vision was to build a philanthropic community that leveraged venture capital practices, meaning a group of partners pool not only their money – a minimum donation of $5,000 is required per year – but also their technical or vocational skills to help community-based organizations grow.

“The $25,000 is important but it goes way beyond that. The other pieces are very attractive,” said Willhelm.

”] “We’re not just about writing a cheque,” added Jennifer King, executive director of SVPWR. “Along with the grant comes the expertise of our partners.” That expertise can range from a marketing and business background to promote the investee, to legal and fundraising assistance as well.

“It really is a partnership,” King said. “We believe in the idea that we can accomplish more by pooling our money and our time.”

In three years the SVPWR will reexamine the progress of each investee and decide if they wish to continue funding them. They also perform annual evaluations of the program to see how the groups are progressing and how the funds are being used.

WCC provides various counseling programs and services to support the needs of the people of Waterloo Region, with a focus on youth and children. They help about 160 kids per year with issues ranging from grief and loss to autism, and Willhelm hopes that number will climb to at least 200 with this increased funding.

As far as dedicated funds for children are concerned, the group receives a donation from the United Way as well as $15,000 from Wallenstein Feed every year, so $25,000 of guaranteed funding every year over the next three to five years will go a long way to increasing their programming capabilities, not to mention the other benefits they will draw from joining with partners of the investee program.

The process of being named an investee is a six-month procedure. First, companies or groups write a letter of interest stating why they wish to be selected as the investee. From there the list is whittled down to five agencies in the region and they are invited to write full proposals, which require references and a business-like approach, said Willhelm.

“You’ve really got to show your stuff and be very transparent.”

The next step is to make a presentation in competition with one other agency to decide a winner. This year the WCC was up against the John Howard Society, and both groups presented on May 7 at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, with WCC selected as the investee for 2012.

“They had strong leadership and a great board, and their focus on children and youth development, including play-based therapy, really spoke to us,” said King of why the counselling centre was chosen.

The WCC investment begins immediately, and SVPWR’s next call for Letters of Interest will take place this fall. For more information on Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region, visit