Mission Edge's Ken Davenport Builds a Stronger Infrastructure for San Diego Nonprofits
San Diego Nonprofits Deserve Your Attention and Support
CEO of Mission Edge Ken Davenport has two toolboxes. The first is the business acumen he acquired over 20 years of working with start–up companies and nonprofits. The other is from Home Depot.
Four years ago, Davenport and several other business– minded philanthropists launched Mission Edge, which offers infrastructure support for San Diego nonprofit organizations. They did so with a goal of allowing them to focus more deeply on their core mission and devote themselves to their passion, rather than logistics.
After seeing countless organizations whose resources were being unnecessarily diverted from their objectives, Mission Edge was born. “I’ve seen an Executive Director spend literally dozens of hours responding to a claim of wrongful termination of an employee, something that could have been avoided with some simple HR advice,” says Davenport. “But nobody on his team had the expertise. What we are doing is allowing organizations to become more efficient by outsourcing certain business operations to our experts so they can avoid costly mistakes. We consider it a huge success when nonprofits can do their work more effectively and spend more time working on their passion to best serve their specific target audience.”
That includes his own. When Mission Edge moved into its current address in Old Town, Davenport designed an office that fosters collaboration, with a shared space as the hub of activity. A skilled carpenter, he also built conference tables from scrap wood and wired them for electricity. “I’ve always been pretty handy,” he says.
In addition to business acumen, Davenport leverages his own passion for creating something from nothing using his own hands. He says he is happiest when he’s building something— whether it is a business plan or office space. “I really like the formation process and seeing things come to fruition,” he says. Working with more than 120 other San Diego nonprofits in every sector, from the arts to education and from youth to veteran support, Davenport has had ample opportunity to do just that. Mission Edge has an impressive client list, including San Diego Junior Theatre, Zero8Hundred, Feeding America San Diego, Habitat for Humanity, Promises2Kids and the Timken Museum of Art, among many others. “Most nonprofits are great at serving the community, but struggle with the business side of things. Some organizations just need a little help in accounting,” says Davenport. “Others need a more comprehensive support package. We’ve had clients tell us that we saved them a ton of time and money, or that we’ve really helped them scale back.”
“We came to Mission Edge looking for a finance person and someone to help with human resources,” says James Saba, Executive Director of San Diego Junior Theatre. Saba says the children’s theatre has an annual budget of $1.3 million, which is a tricky budget level because the organization is large enough that it needs to raise substantial funds, but isn’t big enough to warrant a full–time accountant or human resources staff. “We share a CFO and HR director with other organizations and it’s worked out quite well. Ken has vetted these people, so I’m not taking a stab in the dark. If they made it past Ken, they’re going to work out well for our organization.”
When Davenport is not at Mission Edge, he spends time with his wife of eleven years, Juliet, and his ten–year–old
son Gabe, a budding military buff. “He’s been interested in airplanes and military stuff since he could talk,” he says. Gabe’s interest in the military may come from Davenport, who serves on the board of the Travis Manion Foundation, an organization dedicated to assisting veterans and families of the fallen by empowering them to inspire the next generation of leaders. It also stems from Gabe’s paternal grandfather, a Korean War veteran.
This summer, Davenport joined his 84–year–old father on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. As he traveled with 120 World War ll and Korean War veterans, his dedication to serving veterans grew. “I was sitting on the bus with guys in their nineties telling me about their missions flying bombers over Germany, and realizing that this great generation is passing. But we have our own ‘greatest generation’ in those who have served since 9/11, and it’s become important to me to help where I can.”
To that end, Davenport launched Transition Edge, a project of Mission Edge that assists veterans in securing jobs after their service. “Veterans have a sense of dedication and purpose, and that sense of mission is very valuable,” Davenport says.
“I really enjoy helping veterans understand how their skills are transferable and marketable in today’s civilian job market. Veterans helped protect this country and the freedom we enjoy today. It’s an honor to help them build a secure future for themselves and their families.”