Eugene nonprofit executive director to speak at Harvard and MIT events next week, just a month after the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a case study about the agency’s unique social enterprise approach to providing social services. Download the RWJF case study >


Terry McDonald, who heads the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, will be part of a panel discussion at a Harvard conference. Two days after that event, he is the only speaker presenting an hourlong talk to MIT students in that school’s entrepreneurship program. He will also offer one-on-one sessions with students seeking advice about social enterprise.


Sunday March 3: Harvard’s social enterprise conference is organized annually by students in the Business School and the Kennedy School. The theme this year: “Unlikely Allies: Forging partnerships for progress.”

Tuesday March 5: MIT, a special session for students in the school’s entrepreneurship program and those studying nonprofit management. Terry’s presentation title: “Pivoting Toward Opportunity.” Download the program flyer >


McDonald takes a business approach to administering St. Vincent de Paul, the largest social services agency in Lane County. The agency earns about 60 percent of its revenue through its waste diversion and materials management businesses. The businesses include both typical and atypical strategies for earning money: 15 retail thrift stores, nine which also contain small bookstores, four mattress recycling facilities, a used car lot, a glass foundry, an upcycling department with a fashion designer creating new designs with used materials, and an appliance repair department. The earned income supports homeless shelters, affordable housing programs, and emergency services. McDonald is a sought-after speaker, who presents annually at a range of conferences, including those focused on reuse and recycling, the circular economy and affordable housing.

McDonald said that while he and his staff often get positive feedback locally about St. Vinnie’s unique approach to serving its community, the national recognition is a new development.

“It’s exciting to be able to lay out our model and share it with others. We’re surprised and pleased that what we do has come to the attention of these institutions.”

A reason for that broader recognition may be St. Vincent de Paul’s grant to help other nonprofits start or grow social enterprises with the goal of job creation for those with barriers to employment, revenue generation for nonprofits and environmental sustainability. That grant, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has allowed SVDP to help 12 nonprofits generate $20 million in revenue and create 130 sustainable jobs over the last five years. The nonprofits are based all over the country – Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, Washington.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just released a case study about the project. Nancy Barrand, the program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who oversees the St. Vincent de Paul grant, praised the agency for its broad approach and wanted to see other nonprofits develop a similar model.

“SVdP had put in place one of the most expansive networks of services and supports to address homelessness I have ever seen and was the anchor institution for the county’s safety net. Moreover, a major portion of its budget was self-sustaining through its business enterprises. … It was a model that could benefit any community,” she told case study author Mary Geisz.