Running a non profit is much like running a regular company, but there are some key differences. The biggest difference between a non profit and a regular company is that the non profit is beholden to the requests of its benefactors. Andrew Rolfe and Jacob Lief, board member and founder of the Ubuntu Education Fund, know firsthand how a needy benefactor can dramatically alter a non-profit’s mission. This is why Jacob Lief and Andrew Rolfe are pioneering what has become known as the Ubuntu Model. The Ubuntu Model seeks to take more control of a non-profit’s mission without jeopardizing the well being or intention of their benefactors.
Jacob Lief summed it up best after speaking at the World Economic Forum. He referenced his work with the Ubuntu Education Fund by saying, “The money was flowing in but we weren’t changing people’s lives.” The reason for this was simple: the Ubuntu Fund was beholden to the special interests of their varied donors. Donors like to know that their money is being used in a specific way and that causes it to be earmarked in order for the donation to be accepted. So despite the Ubuntu Education Fund raising a ton of money, their usage was limited and constrained.
Andrew Rolfe and the rest of the board got on mission with Jacob Lief when he decided to shift how they would seek out donations. The Ubuntu Model consists of focusing primarily on high worth donors who are willing to allow the fund more leeway with how the money is spent. Basically, Lief and Andrew Rolfe know that they can’t save and impact lives if they are caught up in red tape and various other restrictions. Imagine money tagged solely for staffing usage just sitting and rotting while the Ubuntu Education Fund needs money for on-site supplies in South Africa. This is a tough place to be in.
With the Ubuntu Model now gaining some notoriety there may be potential for more non profits to pursue this course of action. Whether the Ubuntu Model takes off or not is ultimately up to those in charge being willing to take the risk. For the Ubuntu Education Fund, which serves impoverished children in South Africa, the gambit has been well worth it.