Treebeard Trust has a three-pronged operating model:
GIVING MONEY AWAY
Like most trusts and foundations, we give a small amount (up to 5%) of our assets every year to charities.
We don't call these grants, but impact only investments. Financially it amounts to the same thing, but we believe it's important to recognise that philanthropic capital is tiny relative to the size of the problems we're trying to solve. Every penny we spend is an investment, and it needs to generate a return, albeit social rather than financial.
We aim to support only a handful of exceptional partners. They are dynamic, often early stage organisations, imbued with entrepreneurial flair and led by gifted people.
UTILISING THE WHOLE OF OUR ENDOWMENT
We believe that how we invest our money is equally if not more important than how we give it away.
The traditional foundation model is to focus all attention on the 5% (spending money) while the remaining 95% (investment capital) is outsourced to a third party. This strikes us as fundamentally flawed and a wasted opportunity. Given the scarcity of philanthropic capital (and the abundance of investment assets) it is critical that foundations take the lead in exploring the opportunity for commercial solutions to social problems. Fortunately, the timing could not be better. A growing number of social impact businesses and commercially driven non-profits offer a wealth of opportunities for open-minded investors.
We already have 20% of our assets in impact investments, and our aspiration is to reach 50% over time. Our portfolio spans a wide range of equity, property and debt investments in a diverse range of organisations. What unites them all is their blend of a clear and powerful social impact with a rigorous commercial model.
Our remaining assets are invested in public markets or held in cash. In both cases we aim to deploy them as responsibly as possible. We are mindful that ALL investments have an impact; and we want to be sure that at the very least, none of ours are negative.
USING OUR VOICE AS WELL AS OUR WALLET
We have limited resources – our global workforce comprises 0.5 full time employees – but insofar as we can we will pursue our mission through means other than just financial. We will work for our partners, not have them work for us, and we will use our networks and forums (including this website) to support them and be a catalyst for positive change.