The Ubuntu Education Fund is a fascinating study of how nonprofit organizations and social enterprises can effect sustainable change at the grassroots level. Ubuntu was founded by Jacob Lief and Malizole Gwaxula in 1999. The organization’s goal was simple: to address the crisis regarding the education of orphaned and vulnerable children in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth and Eastern Cape areas.
They started by distributing school supplies to these children through Gwaxula’s school. However, they soon found out that the quality of education is influenced by factors other than lack of school supplies, such as hunger, difficulties at home, and HIV/AIDS.
At this time, they discovered that traditional development models do not have the capacity to effectively tackle the complex issues that communities face. This led to the development of the innovative and internationally renowned Ubuntu Model. This approach has made grassroots service delivery more professional. It allows the organization to create educational, health and household stability programs that will profoundly impact the community.
The Ubuntu Education Fund is overseen by a highly qualified Board of Directors. Andrew Rolfe, a successful entrepreneur and business leader in his own right, serves as its Chairman. In recent years, Ubuntu has shifted its fundraising strategy. The Board began declining funding that came with restrictions, which inadvertently did not benefit the lives of those for whom the Fund was set up. Instead, now they seek partnerships with family foundations or high net-worth individuals. According to Rolfe, the organizational budget may be smaller now, but Ubuntu is able to achieve more of its core goals.
Sometimes donors will serve on a nonprofit’s board and thus be able to affect its strategy and operations. This can be beneficial, especially if the donor has relevant professional experience. This is the case with Andrew Rolfe and the Ubuntu Fund. Rolfe brings with him a wealth of experience in effective leadership and management.
Nonprofits like Ubuntu need a steady flow of money to spend on what they need to innovate, expand programs, or work more efficiently. Even with a reduced budget, the organization is now able to target their programs to help those who really need it.