From “Should” to “Could”: Investee Partnership with The Burn Institute Wraps Up

Updated: Sep 22



When The Burn Institute applied as an Investee with San Diego Social Venture Partners, Executive Director Susan Day had her plate full leading an organization offering life-changing services to burn survivors through a broad network of community partnerships and staff support. Board Governance and Strategic Planning were on The Burn Institute’s “should do” list. These items were important, but investment in capacity building often took a back seat to more pressing matters such as maintaining program operations. A team of SVP Partners came alongside staff to turn The Burn Institute’s “should do” list into a “could do” list.


At the start of The Burn Institute’s Investee engagement with SVP, the team of Partners wasted little time in developing a Board Governance Committee. The committee consisted of Day, the organization’s Board Chair, two other board members, and SVP Partners Jake Erlendson and Joyce Ross. In the first year, the Board Governance Committee made excellent progress in understanding the underlying issues faced by the board and proposed actions to address them.


Due to the unfortunate timing of the COVID-19, meetings were halted to take care of more urgent matters for the organization. Yet it was the “kind, consistent nudging” of Partner Joyce Ross that allowed the project’s momentum to continue. The team did not stop at reviewing and revising board member roles and responsibilities or increasing member attendance at meetings from 50%-75%. Over the next year of the engagement, along with Ross, SVP Partner Lynda Morin assisted The Burn Institute’s board in developing an evaluation process for the organization’s executive director. “Joyce is a powerhouse,” said Day. “She was such a sounding board to me. Encouraging and tough…I wasn’t getting an annual review. Joyce said, you need it, and they [the board] needs to do it.


The other item on The Burn Institute’s “should list” was Strategic Planning. Beginning in January 2020, SVP Lead Partner Paul Rosenstein, along with Partners Jake Erlendson and Mary Temple conducted a strategic planning session with the organization’s staff. This session was built upon months of collaboration between the SVP Team and The Burn Institute, including prior interviews with board members, a SWOT analysis and a “Distance from the Core” activity to narrow down topics to include in a plan for strategic growth. Although the pandemic put a pause on the process, Lead Partner Paul Rosenstein worked with Day to re-engage The Burn Institute in Strategic Planning. “SVP was the catalyst to get strategic planning done. Leadership at The Burn Institute wanted to do this process. SVP pushed it along,” shared Day. To close out the project, SVP Partner Tom Watlington facilitated a successful in-person strategic planning session for The Burn Institute’s board members and key staff in which the organization was able to focus its expansion of programs and initiatives as well as prioritize investment in the future of its board composition.


SVP may have provided essential funding to The Burn Institute over the course of the two-year Investee engagement; however, it was the accountability to achieving its goals that the organization valued most. SVP Partners were instrumental not only in moving along significant Board Governance and Strategic Planning projects, but they provided The Burn Institute with practical resources and a vision that will help to shape the organization for years to come.


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