We started our conversations with the Jazi Foundation at the EVPA conference in Paris in early November and today we had the chance to deepen into the main points of contact between our Foundations’ main drivers -Strategic Philanthropy and Effective Giving- with Robert Boogaard, founder of Jazi Foundation.
Robert Boogaard is a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years experience running businesses & startups. Now he co-manages a private investment company and is the founder of the Jazi Foundation and the driving force behind ‘Effective Giving’, focused on the goal of increasing the impact of philanthropy.
Robert, first of all thank you for your time. I’d like to start by asking you to explain to the Italian audience what the Jazi Foundation is doing for improving the impact of philanthropy in the Netherlands and abroad.
Jazi Foundation (“Jazi” is the Swahili word for “Give”) was founded 4 years ago. Our goal is to seek out and support the most effective nonprofit organizations in the areas of children and poverty alleviation. We also catalyze initiatives that aim to increase the impact of philanthropy, mainly in the Netherlands.
We are entrepreneurs and run a successful business in the sector of commercial real estate and venture capital. When we decided to launch the Jazi Foundation we opted to use the same approach as when we invest. To be precise, we use a venture philanthropy approach, supporting NPOs not only with our financial resources, but also our knowledge, network and time. Jazi Foundation aims to help NPOs to capacity build and grow. This is the reason we provide unrestricted funding and we focus on things that usually other funders don’t want to fund, because they are not ‘glamorous, warm or cuddly’. For example, we support an organization involved in care for children with disabilities. They needed to get accreditation for their new orthopaedic training college, as that would allow them to improve their fundraising capacity. So we decided to help them obtain that, instead of funding operations to heal the handicapped children.
Because we are donating our own funds we are also in a unique position to be able to take risks in the path of reaching the biggest social impact. But we also believe we have to be responsible for the effectiveness of our donations. In our view critical self-evaluation and continuous learning are therefore essential. We make an internal review every 3 months in order to do the best we can and we share our learning’s with other Foundations.
I suppose this is the reason why you created the ‘Effective Giving’ Community in the Netherlands. Can you explain how the movement works?
One year and a half ago, I came in contact with the Effective Altruism movement which is about answering one simple question: how can you use your resources to help others the most? This year I decided to start a version of the movement – insert link http://www.effectivegiving.nl – in the Netherlands, aiming to tailor the effective altruism principles to foundations and philanthropists. It’s a ‘learning community’ and we have already catalyzed a number of Foundations in Netherlands to commit to learning the principles of effective giving together, sharing best practices and lessons learned. The movement provides the community with education (we’re in the process of launching a ‘mini-MBA Effective Giving for Foundations’), partnerships and events. We organize private sessions in order to provide Foundations with a ‘safe space’ in which they feel comfortable sharing intimate information amongst each other, but will also we share the learning’s open source and at no cost online, so everyone can benefit from them.
I enjoyed your TED talk on failure. This is an important point for Foundations too. Could you give us your piece of thought about that?
As Foundations we are in a unique position to take risks to help generate social impact: we have resources that others don’t have and are only accountable to ourselves. Obviously we have a high expectation of success, but sometimes we also have to cope with failure, and we shouldn’t be scared of failing. The important point, in philanthropy as well as in life, is to learn from failure. If you learn from failure, it can still be a success! And what you learn you have to share with the other Foundations to let them learn too and grow from your experience. Then you really add value.
I can share a case with you: Jazi Foundation supports an organization from Ghana, the Achievers, with a simple mission: education for all girls in slums in Ghana. They had the dream to scale up the organisation in order to help more and more girls. But after 3 years of supporting them we have learnt that bigger is not always better! It was very challenging for them to run a big organisation and the Achievers risked failing because of their increased size. This is the reason why we are now helping them to scale down, after a period of helping them to scale up!
A final question: what does it mean for you to follow the pillars of strategic philanthropy and effective giving?
Strategic philanthropy and effectiveness are not necessarily linked: you can practice strategic philanthropy – giving unrestricted funds, for multiple years, etc – and become very ‘efficient’. But if you choose the wrong causes, select the wrong interventions or support the wrong NPOS, you will not be ‘effective’. Your impact could even be negative. The key therefore is to add strategic philanthropy to an effective giving approach.
We usually chose evidence-based organizations, using things like randomized control testing, or at least with extensive knowledge on their field of action and strong theory of change. We believe that the correct choice of NPO is responsible for 80% of your impact, strategic philanthropy for the other 20%.
Watch Peter Singer’s TED Talk http://www.effectivegiving.nl/petersinger-ted/ –