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Women Bisnow
February 21, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

"Something that has been a driver in my work is that I absolutely love this town. The community was one that wrapped its arms around its children," says Washington native Carol Thompson Cole, CEO of Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), about growing up in the Petworth neighborhood of DC. Serving in the DC government in the 80s and 90s, Cole was faced with a very different city than she grew up in. "In '68 when the city started to burn, that's when things started to change. I take great pride in having been a government official at a time of great difficulty. Today we are in a renaissance, but the people are different."



Cole was the first woman to be appointed DC City Administrator and served as Special Advisor to President Clinton on the District of Columbia, and Executive Director of the DC Inter-Agency Task Force. Today she is at the helm of VPP, helping local leaders build high-performing nonprofit institutions focused primarily on children from low-income families.

Cole flanked by colleagues Courtney Dunakin and Victoria Vrana.


Co-founded in 2000 by tech kings Raul Fernandez, Mark Warner, and Mario Morino, VPP recruited 26 other business leaders to contribute more than $30 million to capitalize its first investment fund. The Who's Who included Steve and Jean Case, Jim Kimsey, Ted and Lynn Leonsis, and Russ and Norma Ramsey, and took an innovative approach to philanthropy, creating investment partnerships through multi-year funding and an in-house investment team. "Our view is that [the groups we help] should not become dependent on us but more independent themselves," says Cole.


Commitment is working on a national holiday. The VPP team pictured in their offices on President's Day.


Using the best principles of private equity to boost nonprofits ready to scale, VPP is a high-engagement philanthropic model. Cole emphasizes that three things have to align for VPP to invest: the leader, the accomplishments in the area, and an opportunity to invest.

"The Police Boys and Girls Club were financially strapped and decided to merge with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. We said mergers and acquisitions are hard enough for business people, imagine what it's like for nonprofits. This will be a challenge, this is the time for us to come in," says Cole. "There has been a huge shift in demographics with many low-income families moving to the X-Burbs.  The Boys and Girls Clubs have had their biggest growing need in upper Montgomery County and the Manassas area."

Currently raising money for a second fund, VPP hopes to begin investing in the spring of this year. "We decided to stay in the national capitol region," says Cole, who notes that expanding nationally is a possibility down the road. "I always wanted to be a leader in this community. I wanted people to understand the region from people who had lived here all their life. We have a team in place that has lived and walked the area."

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