“Like many people in this city, I like to win. A love of competition, deep and consistent focus and a willingness to endure short- and sometimes medium-term suffering to achieve long-term results are part of my mantra.
SC Lowy has grown its support from a fundraising event in Nepal (a race – no surprise there) to ultimately joining the EMpower board this year. Starting small, learning and developing loyalty and commitment over time builds comfort that funds donated are used most efficiently.
As a small firm focused on Europe and emerging markets in Asia, we were looking for an organization with expertise in these countries. EMpower also spoke to us because it was started by professionals in the finance industry, many of whom wore also looking to give back where they have built their careers. Finding the right partner means knowing what you are looking for, doing the research, and building the relationship slowly.
The second principle is to see yourself as an investor, not a donor. Thinking about yourself as investor in an organization rather than a donor to a charity changes the way you view your involvement. It also changes the way your chosen charity sees you. Making an investment, we focus on returns and accountability. In donation, we tend not to spend as much time in such evalusation.
Making an investment, we are in a longer-term scenario. Malting a donation, we are often working in the moment. The approach and the outcomes for the firms and the recipient non-profits are usually very different.
The next principle is to realize that the theory of change is standard operating practice.
Just like a business, a charity or foundation should have clearly thought through the difference it wants to make, and how it will go about achieving that difference. It should have a plan for tracking whether its objectives are being met and a way to measure success. It then needs to repeat that evaluation process regularly, to see whether its goals need to be updated or changed.
For us, a foundation structure like EMpower makes sense. Operating a little like a fund of funds for social organizations, the goal is simple – to shift the trajectory of the lives of at-risk youth in emerging markets. The strategy is simple – a focus on women, children and education initiatives. Tactically, this means finding locally-led, grassroots organizations who are in a better position to know the context, issues and players and how best to support youth in their communities.
These are tough for investors like us to find — hence the foundation structure. Along with phased grants/financial support to these board-vetted quality organizations that can last up to 10 years, EMpower develops substantive partnerships that foster the grantee organizations’ growth and fuel innovative, results-oriented programs.