Harriet Marmon Helmle is a legend in the San Antonio nonprofit space. In addition to her work as a CPA – she is currently a Senior Financial Advisor with CAPTRUST – she has spent more than 40 years creating and growing nonprofits for San Antonio’s youth and children. She may be best known as the founder of San Antonio Youth Literacy and for her efforts to bring Communities in Schools, Girl’s Inc., and the San Antonio Education Partnership to San Antonio. We know her best as the first Executive Director and Founder of the San Antonio affiliate of Social Venture Partners.
Social Venture Partners San Antonio started as a donor advised fund in 2016 and became a recognized 501(c)3 organization in 2019. It is a network of donors who give to SVPSA with the mindset of investing in nonprofits to help them grow – a sort of venture capital approach for nonprofits. Harriet knows from experience that giving your professional skills along with giving funding is what makes the most impact.
“All nonprofits ultimately help kids, directly or indirectly,” Helmle said. “If they are helping parents, they are helping kids. All kids benefit from a healthy community – physically, mentally, and financially. We have such tremendous need here in San Antonio. The goal of SVPSA is to help nonprofits scale up their services to deliver to more people and do it more effectively.”
“I cannot think of a nonprofit in San Antonio, from the Chamber of Commerce to the kennels at Haven for Hope that Harriet has not sat on a committee, led a fundraiser, been on the board and given her heart to help succeed,” Becky Dinnin, SVPSA Executive Director said and added, “She inspires everyone she meets, every single day.”
Helmle’s proud of what SVPSA has accomplished so far, particularly the number of nonprofits that have been supported through the Fellowship program and through an online pro-bono volunteer portal, Catchafire.org.
“The smartest thing I ever did was hire Becky Dinnin,” she continued. “She and Jennifer Moriarty worked to launch those two programs and today we can say we’ve supported more than 145 local nonprofits. I don’t know of another SVP chapter that can say they are responsible for helping that many.”
Helmle says that since nonprofits typically don’t have the money to spend on top notch HR, accounting, or fundraising staff, most of that work (and more) typically falls to the Executive Director.
“I can’t think of a person on this earth who can do all of that,” Helmle said. “You can try to count on board members for support, but when there is a gap in need, who can nonprofits reach out to? Where do they get professional, unbiased, objective support?”
This gap in capacity is why Social Venture Partners gives funding and engages with nonprofits through our programs. The biggest way is through our Catchafire volunteer portal, Harriet says. It has also been helpful to the SVPSA Partners who want to volunteer but don’t know how best to help when they have limited time to share. With Catchafire, you can do it from your couch at home.
“In San Antonio there are lots of people who will write a check, but fewer who can give their time for pro-bono services,” she said. “There is a vast variety of help needed. When nonprofits can get specific about their needs, they get a lot of people responding. And that support further develops those nonprofits. “
Harriet noted that SVPSA’s Fellowship program focused on data and measurement this month. This addressed one of the biggest red flags for nonprofits: how to measure outcomes and define success. Some of the partners are experts in data and IT – so they give time and teach this unique training course.
“Funders want to know if the nonprofit is achieving success; and almost every nonprofit struggles with data and measuring impact. It goes well beyond counting bodies that go through the program and SVPSA’s training shows nonprofits how to find out, ‘Do they actually help the people in the program?’ That’s the critical question.”
Harriet is animated when she explains how proud she is to be a part of SVPSA’s innovative approach to helping nonprofits.
These two programs have helped SVPSA reach more nonprofits than they thought possible – and it happened during Covid.
“Now that we are coming out of the pandemic,” Harriet said, “SVPSA can really start running again with our community programs and start looking for more ways to make a difference in San Antonio.”