[Noozhawk’s note: The Goleta Valley Housing Committee is not in a dire financial situation. An earlier version of this article was incorrect and has been revised below.]

The Social Venture Partners movement has provided a new way to give that has caught on in Santa Barbara.

Social Venture Partners is a philanthropic model that was created in Seattle 14 years ago. It borrows from venture capital practices and mobilizes experienced philanthropists to direct hands-on investments to support nonprofit organizations’ long-term sustainability.

While venture philanthropy’s original aim was to inspire a high level of involvement from both parties, it turned into a war of words and egos, according to Geoff Green, SVPSB partner and executive director of The Fund for Santa Barbara.

“At its worst, it was an arrogant, invasive philanthropy because wealthy capitalists who made a lot of money believed they knew everything and could help any nonprofit,” he said. “It destroyed a number of nonprofits.”

But the SVP model took the best parts of venture philanthropy and capitalized, he said.

“When that went away, you had other groups that had a real analysis of how to leverage their talents, market their expertise and give money,” Green said. “The Santa Barbara chapter figured out a formula and ways to avoid hyper-involvement.”

The Santa Barbara chapter has expanded from its four founding members to a network of 68 partners in three years.

Gerry Flake, chairman of SVPSB’s investment committee, said the Social Venture Partners model differentiates itself because it’s democratic and a metrics-driven project.

“We don’t call them grants, we call them investments because you have to take us with you through the project,” he said. “It’s a metrics-driven project. You have to have a business plan, and the investment for next year is not guaranteed. People who joined just didn’t want to write a check, we want to make a contribution.”

SVPSB recruits partners who conduct extensive studies in the areas they decide to invest, whether it’s homelessness, low-income housing or environmental issues. They spend about six months researching investment areas and nonprofit organizations.

“They have really extended conversations when talking through revisions and in-depth analysis of the proposals and volunteer hundreds of hours,” Green said.

SVPSB partner Sabina Netto works with the Goleta Valley Housing Committee and is part of a team that is helping the group of five churches that founded Villa La Esperanza, an affordable rental housing development in Goleta. SVPSB is working with GVHC to identify options that will allow them to use their assets to further their mission in the community.

“Traditionally, certain grants go directly toward the programs, but SVP offers money that can go toward the general operating budget,” Netto said. “We’re funding organizational capacity building.”

Partners work closely with different nonprofits to develop proposals and vote on strategies.

“(SVPSB) brings an excellence of involvement that’s above and beyond what committees can do by themselves,” SVPSB executive director Joan Young said. “Because of the consulting and coaching, everybody learns and works together.”

The partners help with anything from marketing strategies to leadership training. If they can’t answer certain questions themselves, they recruit resources who can. Each lead partner is required to do quarterly reports to assess what needs improvement.

“They are like the philanthropy all stars,” said SVPSB partner and Venoco Inc. community relations coordinator Marybeth Carty. “They’re one of the finest groups I’ve been with.

“From a business standpoint, they leverage financial investment to a far greater effect due to the deep and diverse skill set the partners bring. They have the business acumen, great experience and a keen desire to help.”

The first areas that SVPSB tackled were homelessness and low-income housing.

“They are a pretty fearless group, but the organizations we partnered with have had difficulties,” Carty said.

With the nonprofit WillBridge of Santa Barbara, which helps homeless people find housing, it wasn’t a simple solution, but Carty said it reinforces SVPSB’s authenticity as they picked one of the most difficult areas and jumped in.

Green said SVPSB isn’t afraid to admit what it doesn’t know; they have replaced arrogance seen in the venture philanthropy model with humility.

“This is a different kind of volunteerism and philanthropy,” Young said, “and is something that can make a huge impact on nonprofits in Santa Barbara.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at akacik@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.