In his early 60s, Roger Massy-Greene AM sold a business he had spent 25 years building and found himself with more money than he or his family needed.
Driven by a strong sense of responsibility to himself, his family, and community, this change in circumstance started a philanthropic journey defined by strategic giving and social capital.
The Eureka Benevolent Foundation co-founded by Roger Massy-Greene AM and his wife Belinda Hutchinson AC focuses on three key areas: disadvantage in early childhood, education, and the developing world.
Yet, just as important, the foundation is about family engagement.
“A priority for me was to find a way where we can build in a more strategic way what I call family capital rather than just financial capital,” explains Roger.
“That meant not just inviting the family to join with us but creating a structure where they have a genuine and equal vote in what the foundation does."
“We invited management consultants to help us review the foundation’s approach and what emerged is a clear strategy that underpins our activity today.”
The foundation looks to invest strategically to leverage widespread and sustainable outcomes, typically by making fewer but larger grants. It is a 'hands-on' approach with social investment at its heart.
“We consider ourselves as social investors,” says Roger, “looking for tangible outcomes from the investments we make. We think of ourselves as investing both capital and our efforts, contacts and networks… our social capital.”
Activity and support are driven by evidence and measurement.
“The foundation has focused on making fewer grants with a clear objective being to measure the impact of those investments. For all three focus areas, they run competitions to identify the ‘best in class' for our investees and concentrate efforts in places where we can achieve the greatest returns.”
In practice, this means conducting extensive preparation when looking to run a grant competition. It involves asking the right questions, such as which organisations to invite to make submissions, how the process is to be structured, who are the subject matter experts to involve, and, importantly, who else is active in that space.
“When we make a grant, we are very clear about the reporting expected,” explains Roger. “Impact can be measured by having clear target metrics in place but when looking at social outcomes, we know they are harder to measure. You can, however, also learn about impact from what you see, by being hands-on, and witnessing first-hand what is being achieved.”
Roger and family members also look for social impact from their financial investments, while looking to preserve the foundation’s balance sheet. In their view, social returns from financial investments are only considered if they are confident about their financial returns. The foundation has been instrumental in underwriting social impact bond issues in Australia as part of its strategic investment program.
The foundation supports a range of projects in the developing world including The Hunger Project, a global NGO and Good Return, the Australian arm of World Education. Good Return provides micro-loans and financing for small businesses and female entrepreneurs in Tonga, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The foundation also helped finance the launch of an ethical children’s television network in Kenya that, in just 18 months, has grown to become the second most watched children’s channel in that country.
The Hunger Project’s activity in Malawi, like elsewhere in Africa, has been particularly successful in creating programs that support both individuals and communities to achieve sustainable self-reliance from hunger and poverty.
The foundation brings together Roger and Belinda's family in a way that is collaborative and generative. It is also an opportunity for family members to gain direct experience on how a well-governed organisation works.
“We run formal board meetings and an investment committee where family members have the opportunity to see and participate in things they might not typically encounter until later in their lives,” explains Roger. “It will benefit them in their own journeys in life.”
It is also part of the foundation’s strategy to become a perpetual vehicle for family unity and cooperation, building family social capital while making a valuable community contribution.
The family are pretty determined about making sure the money is spent wisely. It is a rewarding journey with an enormous emotional and personal payoff for all of us in knowing that we are making a positive difference for so many people. I am confident that things will continue to go well in the hands of future generations of our family.
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