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Morino, Mario

By Derrick Frazier

Graduate Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

Biographical Highlights

Mario M. Morino is one of the pioneers of venture philanthropy, a bold new form of charitable giving. In venture philanthropy (modeled after venture capitalism), philanthropists seek out and help social entrepreneurs who are in the process of developing new nonprofit organizations. These donors provide funds that give entrepreneurs the chance to make their new organizations succeed, along with providing much guidance and other means of non-monetary support. Often, venture philanthropists will hold entrepreneurs accountable for producing real-world charitable results.

After serving for thirty years as an entrepreneur in the computer software industry-and accumulating considerable wealth in the process-Morino founded the Morino Institute, a charitable organization that explores and promotes ways for the Internet and the Internet-driven economy to advance positive social change. Later, Mario Morino launched Venture Philanthropy Partners, a charitable investment organization that seeks to benefit the lives of children from low-income neighborhoods by strengthening the body of nonprofit organizations that serve them. Never losing touch with his impulse for entrepreneurship and public service, Morino has also been the driving force behind the YouthLearn Initiative, Netpreneur, and Potomac Knowledgeway. He also now serves on the board of directors for a variety of charitable, educational, and technology-related organizations.

Historic Roots

Mario Morino is a long-time resident of Cleveland, Ohio, where he currently lives with his wife and three children. Frequently, however, he commutes to Washington, D.C. For thirty years, Morino was a leader in the computer software and services industry, starting out as a software engineer in his basement, ( Public Interest 2002). In 1973, he co-founded the software company Morino Associates. The company merged with another company in 1989, forming the Legent Corporation. In turn, Legent was bought in 1995 by Computer Associates through the largest computer industry transaction of the time (General Atlantic Partners "Our People").

Having amassed considerable wealth during his career in the information industry, and having retired from Legent in 1992, Morino decided to create and fund his own charitable organization, the Morino Institute. Founded in 1994, this nonprofit organization focuses on exploring and promoting ways in which the Internet and Internet-driven economy can advance positive social change. The institute carries out this focus by pursuing four goals:

  1. Discovering what sort of impact the Internet exerts on society;
  2. Closing the social divides (including the "digital divide") that separate the "haves" and "have nots" in society;
  3. Advancing a new manner of philanthropy-specifically, "venture philanthropy"-that is more effective at solving social problems than many older, more traditional ways of acting charitably; and,
  4. Stimulating the entrepreneurship that is necessary in order for social problems to be addressed more effectively.

(Morino Institute "About")

As it carries out these goals, Mario Morino's organization is guided by the following five primary guiding principles:

Ultimately, great social change is made not by technology, but by people.

  1. Significant social change comes from the "bottom up." Rather than simply having a few people in important positions dictate how society should change, there needs to be a great concerted effort by parents, teachers, religious leaders, activists, and others to address the local problems that affect their own neighborhoods and towns.
  2.   It is not possible to promote positive social change simply by injecting money and programs into a community. As the Morino Institute explains, for example, "You can wire the schools [with the Internet], but if the teachers don't accept or know how to use technology to advance learning, the wiring really doesn't make a difference."
  3. Social problems are complex and interrelated. To solve them, you have to look below the surface and deal with the roots. "The Digital Divide, for example, is not truly about those who don't have access to the Internet . . . It is, instead, a symptom of more profound and longstanding gaps in access to economic and educational opportunity."
  4. Simply donating funds to charities will not solve the problem. True philanthropists must make "significant long-term investments in people and institutions," and provide assistance with management and technology, where it may be appropriate.

(Morino Institute "About: Vision: Guiding")

In 2000, through the Morino Institute and with the partnership of other nonprofit and commercial leaders, Mario Morino launched Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP). This philanthropic investment organization seeks to benefit the lives of children from low-income neighborhoods by strengthening the body of nonprofit organizations that serve them. In particular, it provides major funding, management expertise, and other non-monetary resources to "high-potential community-based organizations that are serving the core developmental, learning, and educational needs of children from low-income communities in the National Capitol Region" (VPP "About"). In addition, the organization works with other concerned leaders and entities to ensure that these community-based nonprofits are able to receive and use effectively the money, talent, and other resources that they need (Ibid.). Currently, Morino serves as the chairman of Venture Philanthropy Partners.

Beyond being a leader in philanthropy, computer software and services, Mario Morino's influence and interest have extended to progressive efforts in entrepreneurship. He has been one of the major driving forces behind Netpreneur, "Greater Washington's network of entrepreneurs" (Netpreneur.org); and Potomac Knowledgeway, a collaborative project in northern Virginia intended to encourage entrepreneurial growth through supplying or using current digital networks.

Today, Morino provides guidance and service to a number of institutions. He is a trustee of Case Western University, his alma mater; the Brookings Institution, an independent research organization; and The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, an organization that facilitates Washington, D.C.-area charitable giving (Yale "Advisory Board"). Additionally, he sits on the advisory board of the Yale School of Management - Goldman Sachs Foundation Partnership on Nonprofit Ventures, which hosts the National Business Plan Competition for Nonprofit Organizations (Ibid.). He serves on the board of directors for Ai Metrix, a firm that provides data network and infrastructure management solutions (Ai Metrix "Company").

  1. Among the honors and awards that Mario Morino has received are:
  2. Washington Business Hall of Fame (2001)
  3. Ernest and Young's Entrepreneur Supporter of the Year (2000, 1998)
  4. Washingtonian Magazine 's Washingtonian of the Year (1999)
  5. American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award (1999)
  6. KPMG High Tech Entrepreneur of the Year (1993)

(General Atlantic Partners "Mario Morino")

Importance

Ever an innovator, Mario Morino has made major contributions, first, to the fledgling computer software industry and, second, to a cutting edge approach to philanthropy.

Through the Morino Institute, Venture Philanthropy Partners, and various other endeavors, he has been a leader in promoting positive social change-particularly for youth in low-income environments. Besides having a direct impact on the social problems that they are fighting, Morino's philanthropic endeavors have acted as models, as proof of validity, and as sources of inspiration for numerous individuals and organizations associated with the concept of venture philanthropy. Indeed, many of the values and practices commonly associated with venture philanthropy can be traced in large part to Morino.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Today, as much as ever, the Morino Institute and Venture Philanthropy Partners serve as premiere examples of how the concept of venture philanthropy can be launched into action. Numerous other philanthropists-wishing to find the most effective way to make positive changes in society-turn to the methods, values, programs, and areas of focus that define Mario Morino's organizations. Morino frequently expresses his perspectives on philanthropy through the media and at public speaking events, serving as a key representative of the venture philanthropy movement.

To date, individuals and organizations investing in Venture Philanthropy Partners have provided more than $30 million to funding community-based nonprofit organizations that serve children in low-income neighborhoods. The guiding principles of the Morino Institute-through which Venture Philanthropy Partners was incubated after being formed-continue to guide many other leaders and organizations; they have recognized the benefits of the "venture philanthropy" approach that Mario Marino supports so strongly (Yale "Advisory Board").

Under his direction, the Morino Institute also launched the YouthLearn Initiative, through which educators and youth development professionals can receive comprehensive services and resources for strengthening technology-oriented in-school and after-school learning programs (YouthLearn "About"). This initiative arose out of the Youth Development Collaborative Pilot, a two-year program (sponsored by the Morino Institute) through which four diverse community-based communities in the Washington, D.C.-area were given leadership training and services designed "to help them build the capacity to plan for and apply technology to strengthen their youth development and after-school programs" (YouthLearn "History").

Key Related Ideas

Entrepreneur: Any person who creates and leads a new organization. This term often refers to business entrepreneurs -people who create new businesses in order to make a profit by offering new products and services for the public to buy. However, in recent decades, there has been a growing awareness of social entrepreneurs -people who create new nonprofit organizations in order to address social problems that are not already being dealt with sufficiently.

Nonprofit organization: An organization that exists for the purpose of benefiting society as a whole; one which does not generate a profit for shareholders, executives, or owners; commonly referred to as "charities" or "nonprofits."

Philanthropy: Any act of giving that is intended to benefit society as a whole. While there are many forms of "giving" that may be considered philanthropic, two of the most common ones are donating money to a charity ("giving one's wealth") and volunteering for a good cause ("giving one's time and effort").

Social problems: Problems commonly faced by large groups of people which, in turn, affect the well-being of the whole society. Examples include poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, racism, alcoholism, and drug addiction.

Venture capitalism: A situation in which wealthy individuals or organizations provide funds ("capital") and guidance for entrepreneurs that are trying to create new businesses ("ventures"). If the entrepreneurs succeed in making their new businesses profitable, they share their earnings with the wealthy individuals or organizations that funded them.

Venture philanthropy: A type of philanthropy modeled after venture capitalism. Rather than giving money to organizations that are already well-established, venture philanthropists seek out and help social entrepreneurs who are in the process of developing new nonprofit organizations. In addition to providing the funds that give entrepreneurs the chance to make their new organizations succeed, these philanthropists also provide extensive guidance and other means of non-monetary support. Often, venture philanthropists hold entrepreneurs accountable for producing real-world charitable results. If the entrepreneurs' nonprofit organizations fail to make enough of a positive difference in society, they may have their funding withdrawn.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Raul Fernandez: Founder of Proxicom, an Internet solutions firm. In 1999, Fernandez joined Mario Morino and Mark Warner in providing the initial funds for Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP "About").
  • Gary Mulhair: Head of Community Wealth Ventures around the time when this organization worked with the Morino Institute to create Venture Philanthropy Partners (see William Shore entry below). Also, Mulhair was the founder and former chief executive officer of Pioneer Human Services (VPP "When: Origins").
  • William ("Billy") Shore: Founder of Community Wealth Ventures, a consulting firm that helps nonprofits develop new sources of revenue. Also founder of Share Our Strength, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting hunger. Teaming with the Morino Institute, CWV conducted exploratory research that led to the creation of Venture Philanthropy Partners (Ibid.).
  • Mark Warner: Governor of Virginia beginning October 2003; former leader and developer behind the Virginia Health Care Foundation, Techriders, and the Virginia High-Tech Partnership. In 1999, Warner joined Mario Morino and Raul Fernandez in providing the initial funds for Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP "About").

Related Nonprofit Organizations

Ashoka: One of the great leaders in the field of social entrepreneurship (from which the field of venture philanthropy is derived), this global organization seeks and sponsors individuals at the community-level who create groundbreaking, systems-changing social programs. Over 1,000 Ashoka fellows have promoted systems-changing entrepreneurial programs across thirty-three countries (SVP "Resources").

Morino Institute: A charitable organization founded by Mario Morino that explores and promotes ways for the Internet and the Internet-driven economy to advance positive social change.

New Profit, Inc.: This venture philanthropy-oriented firm provides long-term sponsorship for a small portfolio of nonprofit organizations, providing mentorship, service on the organizations' boards of directors, and opportunities to network with other service providers and funders (Ibid.).

New Schools: A nonprofit venture philanthropy fund in California that is designed to foster and support a network of entrepreneurs in the field of education. Working with a variety of nonprofit and for-profit ventures that promote education, this organization seeks to ensure that the organizations it supports are able to gain the financial, intellectual, and human capital that they need.

Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF): Through its portfolio of seven nonprofit organizations in the Greater San Francisco-area, REDF operates about twenty revenue-generating charitable business enterprises that provide employment to economically disadvantaged (and often, formerly homeless) individuals, both on a temporary and permanent basis. REDF's highly developed mechanisms for holding its beneficiary organizations accountable for producing positive social results have set a high standard in the world of venture philanthropy (Ibid.).

Robin Hood Foundation: Providing extensive management and technical assistance to a variety of organizations with which it has formed long-term relationships, this organization seeks to combat poverty in New York City. As with Ashoka, REDF, and Mario Morino's organizations, it is considered to be a pioneer in the field of venture philanthropy.

Social Venture Partners (SVP): Serving as a prime example of the venture philanthropy model, SVP applies the "venture capital approach" to the nonprofit organizations that if funds, providing expertise and guidance in addition to funding (SVP "Mission").

Venture Philanthropy Partners: Mario Morino's organization that is designed specifically to improve the lives of children living in low-income communities.

Related Web Sites

Ashoka Web site , at http://www.ashoka.org/home/index.cfm , provides an excellent description of social entrepreneurship, from which (arguably) the concept of venture philanthropy is derived. The site contains a link to an outstanding online journal and library of resources for anyone who is interested in social entrepreneurship, available at http://www.changemakers.net/.

Founding Perspectives section of Morino Institute Web site provides a fascinating, thought-provoking manifesto of the principles and values upon which venture philanthropy is founded. This is a great resource for anyone who values fostering positive social change, at http://www.morino.org/about_visio_foun.asp .

Morino Institute Web site , at http://www.morino.org/ , provides information on Mario Morino's principle organizational vehicle for philanthropy, on its programs, publications, partners, and on venture philanthropy.

Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) Web site , at http://www.vppartners.org , provides ample explanation of the rationale, motivation, context, methods, values, and principles upon which Mario Morino's efforts to improve the lives of children in low-income communities are based.

Bibliography and Internet Sources

Ai Metrix. "Company." Ai Metrix. http://www.aimetrix.com/.

General Atlantic Partners. "Our People: Mario Morino." General Atlantic Partners. http://www.gapartners.com/usa/people/default.asp .

Morino Institute. "About the Morino Institute." Morino Institute. http://www.morino.org/about_index.asp .

Morino Institute. "About the Morino Institute: Vision: Guiding Principles." Morino Institute. http://www.morino.org/about_visio_guid.asp .

Morino Institute. "Guiding Principles" Morino Institute. http://www.morino.org/about_visio_guid.asp .

Morino, Mario. "High Impact Through High Leverage ." Keynote speech for the Leadership in Nonprofit Management Award Luncheon at the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations, Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, Ohio, 21 May 2003.

Morino, Mario. Public Interest with Kojo Nnamdi , transcript. WAMU, Washington, D.C. National Public Radio affiliate, 9 July 2002.

Netpreneur.org. "Homepage." Morino Institute. http://www.netpreneur.org .

Social Venture Partners. "Mission." Social Venture Partners. http://svpseattle.org/about_svp/mission.htm .

Social Venture Partners. "Resources: Venture Philanthropy-Leading National Organizations." Social Venture Partners. http://svpseattle.org/resources/Resources_Venture_Philanthropy.htm .

"A Time for Giving," NewsHour , 25 December 2001. Transcript available from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/july-dec01/philanthropy_12-25.html . (Mario Morino and other guests discuss "how charities are faring in the post-Sept. 11 th holiday season").

Venture Philanthropy Partners. "About Venture Philanthropy Partners." Venture Philanthropy Partners. http://www.vppartners.org/about/index.html .

Venture Philanthropy Partners. "When: Origins." Venture Philanthropy Partners. http://www.vppartners.org/about/history/origins.html .

Yale School of Management - The Goldman Sachs Foundation Partnership on Nonprofit Ventures. "Advisory Board: Mario Morino." Yale School of Management. http://www.ventures.yale.edu/advisoryboard.asp .

YouthLearn Initiative. "About YouthLearn." Education Development Center. http://www.youthlearn.org/about/default.asp .

YouthLearn Initiative. "History of YouthLearn." Education Development Center. http://www.youthlearn.org/about/ydcpilot.html.