January 16, 2018

Interview with Veit Bötsch of BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt pioneers of Venture Philanthropy

Veit Bötsch Head of Finance and Controlling, BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt stopped shortly and gave some advice to new VP’s and SI’s. He outlined opportunities and gave insights on the future of BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. Here is what he had to say:

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The BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt is one of EVPA's key supporters not only in Germany but in general. What do you believe are the main advantages of being an EVPA member? 

EVPA is a broad and diverse community of organisations,  they are our main partner in the field of venture philanthropy and social investment in Europe. The BMW Foundation benefits very much from this network. It helps us find allies for common activities. Moreover, the EVPA’s Knowledge Centre and its excellent publications are very helpful in terms of improving our own support tools and methods of uncovering need for action, thereby inspiring us to take up new projects.

Overall, EVPA and the BMW Foundation share the same goals: promoting venture philanthropy, enhancing cross-national and cross-sectoral collaboration. Together we work to increase support for the social sector, foster knowledge transfer, international cooperation, and seek to create a new kind of philanthropy.

Where do you see the potential for a stronger engagement on the part of EVPA to help create an ecosystem for venture philanthropy in Europe?

We believe that governments, businesses, and civil society in Europe should collaborate and jointly develop solutions to the challenges of our time in order to shape our common future. Hence we want to identify and promote ways in which philanthropy and social investment can develop, sustain, and grow collaborations with public funders. Our joint public-private leadership program, launched in 2017, is a way of increasing and harnessing resources and expertise as well as cross-sector collaboration. Only in cooperation with actors from all kinds of different sectors organizations can maximize their societal impact and make systemic change possible.

The BMW Foundation is one of the pioneers of venture philanthropy in Germany. Can you share with us how you started off and what your key lessons as a funder/investor have been so far?

The area “Invest” is one of the three pillars of the work of the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. (The other two are “Inspire” and “Connect.”)
On the one hand, the foundation applies VP tools and principles in its programmatic work by supporting impactful organisations according to the principles of venture philanthropy. On the other hand, we have a longstanding history of supporting national and international VP intermediaries, such as EVPA, AVPN, and others, which help civil society organizations and social businesses achieve sustainable success and impact.

One of our key lessons is that, besides the selective support of individual organisations, there is an absolute need for “places to meet” where people can find out about possibilities, learn from each other, get support in terms of tools, methods, and even access to financial support. We aim to open up new ways for social engagement for people from all social sectors. There are so many people with huge expertise in business, politics or academia who want to work for the common good and are grateful for entry points.

What would be your general advice for foundations or newcomers in the field before they decide to use the VP/SI approach? What are the key aspects and benefits they should take into account?

Use networks like EVPA to get started! Get connected and exchange experiences with others! Be aware of your strengths and try to find a way to use them best!

You have hosted the EVPA Germany Country Meeting last September. What were your main takeaways?

The topic of the meeting – “Venture Philanthropy as a Contribution to Solving Challenges of Migration” – was calling for some hands-on experiences and practices to be displayed and discussed. Therefore it was interesting to get deep insights into the work of two social entrepreneurs who are trying to help ease the refugee crisis. Among others, it demonstrated that social entrepreneurs need enablers to get from ideas to real impact.

Furthermore, the meeting demonstrated that we need authentic proofs of concept to build trust in investees, to capture attention, and to inspire others. In this context, a European-wide network is as important as local communities. They are the strong base that international networks can build on. EVPA’s organisational structure, including its national representatives and the national members’ meetings, enable the local communities to flourish.

In 2016, the corporate foundations of the BMW Group, the BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt and the Eberhard von Kuenheim Stiftung, joined forces and consolidated their staffs and operations into the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. Did this process have any implications for your strategic focus in general and your venture philanthropy and impact investing engagement specifically?

The new mission of the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt is to promote responsible leadership. We aim to inspire leaders worldwide to work towards a peaceful, just and sustainable future. Venture philanthropy was an important paradigm for both foundations and hence has remained highly relevant also in the new strategic alignment. The BMW Foundation wants to encourage leaders globally to use venture philanthropy and impact investing as effective tools for social change and funding – not only in the foundation space but also in the public and private sectors. We continue to support relevant intermediaries, we organize activities and have our own VP portfolio. In addition, we have developed the Eberhard von Kuenheim Fund, which forms the connecting link for all impact investments of the BMW Foundation and helps to realize our mission not only through our operational programs but also, step by step, through our investments. 

Where do you believe the German VP/SI sector is headed in the coming years?

In the last two decades, we have observed a generational shift. At a time of rapid social change, a new generation of philanthropists is bent on putting their resources to work for the common good. They seek an integrated approach, bringing business discipline and strategy to philanthropy. They want their contribution to have a real impact. Hence, new models, tools, and methods are emerging that will change the way of giving. We also see that more and more big and relevant players are entering the space and we would like to encourage changes in regulatory requirements which make it easier for German foundations to apply principles of venture philanthropy, such as tailored financing. 

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