Jacob Lief founded the Ubuntu Education Fund in order to bring education to impoverished and vulnerable children living in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. His goal was to make a difference to those vulnerable children in order to bring them some hope for a better life. The Ubuntu Fund has, for years, been making a real difference in the region but Jacob Lief realized that it wasn’t quite enough. Lief was at a speaking engagement when he came to a stunning realization: “It was nonsense, the money was flowing in but we weren’t changing people’s lives.” Let’s take a moment to dissect Lief’s issue and see how the Ubuntu Fund made the required changes to make a difference.
The problem, Lief soon realized, was that the Ubuntu Fund was too beholden to the generosity of their benefactors. This is a realization that many non-profits will have to make in their lifetime. The problem wasn’t that benefactors weren’t being generous. In fact, the Ubuntu Fund had been streaming in donations for years. The real problem was that these funds were coming in with caveats: benefactors wanted their money going to a specific portion of the cause. THIS was the issue that Jacob Lief, and soon Andrew Rolfe as well as the rest of the board, would come to face. Lief knew that a change was needed so he approached the board, including mega donor Andrew Rolfe, in order to brainstorm a solution.
The solution would come in the form of a new approach to raising money. Andrew Rolfe and Jacob Lief decided that they wanted to raise donations from a very specific set of benefactors: high net worth individuals and those family foundations that were wealthy and solidified enough to be more free spending with their donations. The reason for this approach was simple: these donors wouldn’t require layers of red tape on their donations. Andrew Rolfe and the rest of the team would be free to use these donations as needed in order to help the target of their non profit. The change was immediate and successful.