The Ubuntu Education Fund has been a big part of bringing education and potential back to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa over the past several years. The non profit program was established by CEO Jacob Lief as a way to give educational opportunities to the impoverished, vulnerable, at risk and needy children of the region. Over the past several years Andrew Rolfe and Jacob Lief have helped to grow the company up, focusing primarily on what he now calls the Ubuntu Model.
Lief knew that finding success with a philanthropic endeavor meant that you’d have to be beholden to your benefactors. He also knew that benefactors could actually mire the process, causing cash flow problems to areas of need due to the bureaucratic nature of the industry. So Lief had to do something. He settled on the Ubuntu Model which focuses on a specific type of donor. Lief was speaking at an engagement in Davos for the World Economic Forum when he came to the realization that he needed to find a change. Lief says, “It was nonsense. The money was flowing in but we weren’t changing people’s lives.”
This mentality brought Jacob Lief to approach Andrew Rolfe and the rest of the board. Andrew Rolfe was a benefactor himself, having donated over $100,000 during a five year span, so he clearly understood the needs of the company from both ends. Jacob Lief suggested his Ubuntu Model and the rest of the board got on board. The Ubuntu Model, in Lief’s own words, says “We now go for high net-worth individuals or family foundations who understand that highly restricted funding isn’t worth our time.” Lief’s decision to maneuver the company in this direction came with some shock due to the nature of fundraising but it ended up being a great move.
Any time that you focus on changing your fundraising model you have to be prepared to see funds dry up, at least a little bit. The switch to the Ubuntu Model led the company to start receiving more streamlined and efficient donations and, as a result, they are now more effective than ever.