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Mario Morino Uses Expertise and Money to Make Philanthropy More Effective

For Mario Marino, being an entrepreneur is in his DNA. A pioneer in the technology industry, he has brought that entrepreneurial spirit—and knowledge—to the world of philanthropy. In the early 1970s, Morino co-founded and helped lead the software firm Legent Corporation to great success. By the 1990s, Legent had become one of the industry's 10 largest firms, but in 1992 Morino followed his heart and retired from the private sector to devote himself to philanthropy.

Though Morino had amassed great wealth, he knew that effective philanthropy required more than money. He set out to learn how the nonprofit sector worked. During the next year and a half, he met with more than 700 people—everyone from college presidents to gang members.

After eight more years of researching and experimenting, Morino’s extended learning period culminated in the creation of Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), a philanthropic investment organization that provides “significant funding and strategic assistance to help build the capacity and strength of nonprofit organizations.” VPP is a hybrid of Morino’s for-profit experience as a long-term advisor to leading investment firm General Atlantic, and his upbringing, where he learned the importance of community in a child’s life.

VPP serves as a leading example of the venture philanthropy movement, but Morino has arguably exerted greater influence on the nonprofit world through his continuous learning, which he shares through his speaking engagements and writing. Case in point: In his groundbreaking book Leap of Reason, Morino lays down a challenge to philanthropists: to empower nonprofits to measure what matters. His hard-won insights are helping many donors make the leap to more effective philanthropy.

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