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A Little Advice Can Go A Long Way

Lux Art Institute is an incredible organization in Encinitas that redefines the museum experience by inviting museum observers into the creative process. They reached out to Social Venture Partners hoping for Spark Team support that would to make changes to their education program to make it even more profitable. By having some earned revenue, Lux is better able to support their overall mission. Ralph Birchmeier and Ned DeWitt, two SVP Partners, stepped up to the challenge.

They were a great team! Ralph says, “It felt good to have Ned there because he pulled me in to SVP.” Ralph joined SVP in December 2019, and within a week he was approached about providing support to Lux Art. Ralph’s background is in finance and accounting so he was the perfect person to help them out. As a former CPA and a CFA charterholder, Ralph has spent most of his career analyzing financials and building equity portfolios. He says, “numbers are kinda my thing”. Ned, on the other hand, says “my background wasn’t that relevant. I ran a sales department and would evaluate new markets and products.” But, while Ned might have felt that his experience wasn’t directly relevant, his approach made a big difference in helping Lux Art evaluate the cost of their programs. As usual at SVP, we’re better together.

Ned and Ralph are both convinced of the value Lux Art brings to San Diego. Ralph was particularly excited about the opportunity- Lux Art is a part of his community. His children had taken a field trip there and his friend had hosted her 50th at their garden. It’s obvious to Ralph Lux Art’s work has an impact that felt beyond Encinitas. He explains that artist residents from all over the world connect with the San Diego attendees, and the community, in turn, connects and inspires them. Lux Art’s is more than the programs they offer to elementary students, but how Lux “helps the community connect with each other.”

The engagement was straight forward and finance focused. Ned and Ralph explain, they reviewed financials during their first meeting with Lux and asked a lot questions about direct cost versus revenue and ultimately proposed a new tool for cost accounting. The capable team at Lux Art ran with it! Ralph says, “with a little direction they were able to modify their program to virtually eliminate all of the deficit”. Andrew Utt, the Executive Director at Lux Art says that Ned and Ralph’s involvement revolutionized the way they saw their financial success in terms of cost, number and revenue per student. He added, “The board is very pleased to see that this success will translate into growth.” The tool was exactly what they needed. This Spark Team will have ripple effects! Ned explains, “I got the permission of Lux to use their template and gave it to another nonprofit helped by SVP and they’re using it to evaluate programs in the same way.” If the impact at Lux is any indication, the engagement will not only have an echoing impact in engagements to come with SVP partners but with other nonprofits that SVP supports.

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