Interview met Serger Raicher (EVPA)

25 november 2009, 08:59
FM sprak tijdens het EVPA-congres op 18 november in Amsterdam met Serge Raicher*. Raicher is mede-oprichter van de European Venture Philanthropy Association in 2005 en hij werd vorig jaar tot voorzitter van deze organisatie gekozen. De leden van EVPA staan voor een betrekkelijk nieuwe vorm van filantropie. ‘VP' betekent: niet zomaar geven, maar lenen en participeren. Investeren in maatschappelijke projecten alsof het een investering in een onderneming betreft. Dat is de wijze waarop rijk geworden ondernemers (o.a. uit de private equity-sector) maatschappelijke problemen willen oplossen: zakelijk, bedrijfsmatig en betrokken.

De EVPA (opgericht 2004, hoofdzetel Brussel) is een snel groeiende belangenvereniging van personen en organisaties die zich bezighouden met venture philanthropy. De EVPA wordt officieel erkend door de European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (EVCA) en wordt financieel ondersteund door o.a. Barclays Private Equity, Pantheon Ventures, Natixis Private Equity and KPMG. EVPA is tevens lid van het European Foundation Centre (EFC) en werkt nauw samen met vele vermogensfondsen in geheel Europa.

Serge Raicher maakt deel uit van Toolbox, een in België gevestigde venture philanthropy-organisatie, en is lid van de investeringscommissie van het VP-fonds van de Koning Boudewijnstichting. Hij kan bogen op een meer dan twintigjarige loopbaan in de private equity-sector, onder andere als secretaris-generaal van EVCA, destijds onderdeel van Pantheon Ventures. Pantheon is een zogenoemde FoF ("Fund of Funds", ook wel "multi-manager investment" genoemd), een investeringsfonds dat een portfolio van andere investeringsfondsen beheert.  

EV:  If you would have to explain to a layman what the essence of Venture Philanthropy (VP) is; what would be your answer?
SR:  Venture philanthropy is a field of philanthropic activity where private equity/venture capital models are applied to the non-profit and charitable sectors.  There are many different forms of venture philanthropy but EVPA believes the key characteristics are: high engagement by the donors, tailored financing for each organisation, multi-year financial, as well as non-financial support, organisational capacity-building to achieve greater impact en performance measurement.

EV:  What, in your opinion, are the (fundamental) differences between "Traditional Philanthropy" and "Venture Philantrophy"?
SR:  In a nutshell, with venture philanthropy, the donor is much more engaged.  The latter looks at capacity-building for the grantee.  This entails more resources since non-financial aid, in the form of management courses or mentoring, for example, is involved.  On top of this, more financial support is given not only for the capacity building, but really to ensure that the grantee has a greater chance of success.  This will involve multi-year financing as opposed, for example to a one-off, grant.  Finally, both grant-giver and grantee agree on milestones and ways of measuring the social impact.  Some traditional philanthropy may have bits and pieces of these characteristics but in a truly venture philanthropy activity, all of these characteristics are present, to a much greater extent.  This also explains why the decision making process with VP is longer and much more personalised. 

EV:  Are all characteristics of venture capitalists in the commercial world also applicable to the non profit world?
SR: Not everything is applicable, even though the principles have a lot in common.  For example, achieving financial profit is the subject of debate amongst venture philanthropists.  In the VC world, it  is obviously the goal to achieve financial return on the funds invested.  In venture philanthropy, some are of the opinion that financial return is okay as long as there is social return and impact, while others argue that the only return should be social.  VP applies more generally to the social sector, with a social mindset.  VC's who engage in VP (and many do) will keep this in mind and adapt their models. 

EV:  What are the big challenges of VP to grandmaking foundations, in your opinion?
SR:  VP is by no means a one-stop problem-solver.  EVPA believes that the way foundations work has proven efficient over the years (in some cases, for centuries).  VP applies to certain types of "entrepreneurial" social organizations, where traditional grantmaking organizations want to apply the VP model.  They might need to re-examine and implement big changes in their giving procedures.  Greater engagement involves more staff, more work, and with resources stretched thin, and funding sometimes difficult to obtain these days, some foundations may not be able to rise up to the new challenges venture philanthropy entails. 

EV:  Can traditional philanthropy only learn from VP, or also the other way around?
SR: They both can learn from each other since both are evolving.  We have a number of traditional philanthropy members in EVPA and they contribute to the discussions.  VP is simply one of the tools in the box. 

EV: What are in your opinion the new trends in VP, also discussed during the EVPA conference in Amsterdam?
SR:  The recent economic downturn has put more stress on measuring impact of all philanthropic activities.  We expect this topic to gain increasing visibility across the board.  A second trend is the blurring of lines between social impact and commercial activities.  Many social entrepreneurs find that it is much easier to fund a social endeavour through an underlying economic model, and we have seen the rise of the social enterprise model.  By the way, the increasing interest from academia, through MBA and wider business-related programmes for social entrepreneurship is a testimony to this.

EV:  What is in your opinion the reaction of VP/EVPA to the current sentiment in the market: "capitalism" and "capitalists" have suffered major blows in the current economic recession; some even say that capitalism itself is bankrupt?
SR:  It is not my place nor that of EVPA to comment on capitalism's merits or shortcomings, and any other economic system for that matter.  I have noted that many of today's largest foundations and grant-making organizations are funded thanks to wealth accumulated through industrial and/or capitalist success stories.  The financial crisis has been difficult for everyone, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.  Healthy markets are good for everyone;  most especially when profits are used for the common good.

EV:  Could you elaborate on the added value of EVPA? And also on the relationship with EFC and grandmaking foundations?
SR:  EVPA is very important since it is the only organisation of its kind in the world that groups those interested in and who practice venture philanthropy.  We are announcing the launch of the EVPA Knowledge Centre during this conference.  The Knowledge Centre will be the hub for knowledge, research, and thought leadership on venture philanthropy.  This is one of most significant initiatives in VP since a good number of years.  Even in the United States, where VP  began, there is no one sole umbrella organisation which joins together all VP adherents. An Asian initiative is being launched along the lines of the EVPA model and we welcome this.  EFC, as well as other large, established organisations, like the King Baudouin Foundation and Van Leer Foundation,  are valued EVPA members.

*Met dank aan dr. Rien van Gendt



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