Lunsford says that ASVP invests in "fixing the root causes" of various social problems. He notes, for example, the troubling rise in the incidence of diabetes among low-income groups. Because many cases of diabetes can be traced to poor diet, Lunsford says, ASVP plowed money into an Austin-area nonprofit called The Sustainable Food Center, which educates people about the relationship between diet and diabetes, and offers information about buying and cooking healthy foods.
"Promoting a good diet can significantly reduce the onset of adult diabetes later in life," says Lunsford. "So you get out of this cycle of just treating the symptoms. We think an investment in the front end here will pay off tenfold or a hundredfold down the road."
Lunsford and ASVP believe that venture philanthropy will help bring what he calls "market sense" to the nonprofit world. In one surprising move, ASVP even engineered a merger between two small nonprofits that were working on different aspects of the same problem. Handling the details was a former Disney executive.