Why Skoll Pushes Impact Investing

Social Benefit + Dollar Return


One of my favourite expat Canadian billionaires is Jeff Skoll. He was featured in Saturday’s Globe and Mail where he is described as giving away over one billion dollars already while shunning the limelight.

Yes he has signed the Gates/Buffett and is so far the only Canadian to have done so.

I am not sure I would agree that Jeff shuns the limelight. No one as involved in movie making as he is can be said to be really out of the news.

However, he is a very important example of entrepreneurship married to social vision and generosity. When he advises fellow billionaires, he does not tell them just to write cheques. He suggests instead that they invest in the kind of change they want to see.

This is another aspect of social enterprise. Will it eventually replace traditional philanthropy altogether?

On another note that might be related, a colleague was commenting this week on the kind of road cyclist who signs up for the long distance bike rides many charities hold. They remain popular and each rider hits up their friends for sponsorship. Profits go to the charity of course and they are good fundraisers using  third parties as the source of funds.

He fretted that these kinds of donors are not being stewarded for continuing support. After thinking about his comments, I question whether these riders (who are motivated more by the chance to do the ride than a desire to help the charity) are really donors at all.

Perhaps as charities, we should recognise them less as donors and more as customers. By providing a high quality event we may get them as repeat customers. Rather than seeking donations, perhaps they will eventually just pay a hefty entrance fee. They can fundraise for it of course. What would be the downside of turning some of these events into straight business propositions?

Increasingly where do we draw the line and is it important for us to do so?


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