La Jollans give expertise back to nonprofit groups
BY CATHLEEN WOLFContributor
Three La Jollans who are involved with San Diego Social Venture Partners want to do more than give. They want to share their talent and expertise with local nonprofits to make them even better.
SDSVP is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that aims to accelerate social change by developing the organizational capacity and sustainability of each nonprofit it supports, empowering them to serve the community more efficiently.
One of the founders, Karen Brailean, is best known as past chair of the La Jolla Music Society. Who would know that she was an electrical engineer who became chief executive officer of an Internet security company? Ten years ago, who would have thought she would help found SDSVP and serve as board chair for two years?
“Concepts like involved giving and social venture funding were brand new to philanthropy then,” she said recently. “But now we’ve sparked a movement.”
When Brailean led the La Jolla Music Society board, the Partner Resource Teams of the organization helped her ramp up their systems on a limited budget.
Mark Fackler, a longtime La Jolla resident who enjoys adapting business formulas to help nonprofits grow, founded a San Diego computer services company and over 16 years grew it to
$40 million in sales before he sold some equity and retired. A Vistage group member and chair of that leadership group for 19 years, he became an SDSVP partner six years ago and has been chairman since 2007.
“The Social Venture Partner model is amazing,” Fackler said. “Statistics show the 6-to-1 leverage that our dollars produce. ... Multiply that by 26 cities and you get nearly 2,000 dedicated partners, giving $32.2 million and six times more through in-kind contributions to 335 nonprofit organizations.”
SDSVP partners follow a rigorous process to select nonprofits to invest their monetary and human capital over a three-year period. Last year, they added the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF) dedicated to “Stopping Kids from Killing Kids.” Fackler previously served as its president.
The other La Jollan active in the venture partnership is Linda Bernstein, who joined three years ago and recently became a board member. With an education degree from UCLA, she taught at The Children’s School about 20 years ago. Bernstein left education when her husband, Robert, started SeaSpace Corp. in their home. The business is now a global leader in oceanographic and environmental remote sensing with customers in 35 countries.
Bernstein was thrilled when the partners chose education as this year’s investment focus. She’ll be lead partner for Audeo Charter School, a new SDSVP investee that serves middle and high school students at nine learning centers in San Diego County. Their curriculum offers self-motivating alternatives to traditional education, providing a flexible model of collaborative learning, self-paced lessons and work-study options.
“We can really make a difference in education where school budgets are drastically cut,” Bernstein said. “These learning centers can serve even more kids who might not complete school otherwise. That’s a compelling reason to give dollars and talent.”
Her experience with nonprofits adds to her effectiveness as a lead partner. She was a founding board member for the San Diego Jewish Academy, a board member at Congregation Beth El and on the San Diego Foundation’s scholarship committee.
To learn more about San Diego Social Venture Partners or become a donor or partner, visit