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Taking a business-like approach to philanthropy

We achieved success by being innovative, capitalizing on a gap in the market and being accountable to each other and our customers. Since 2012, we have been able to focus on our other passion, the KMR Group Foundation. Our nonprofit is dedicated to giving children the equal opportunity for success and development through innovative programs and academic scholarships.

Ultimately, we want to create replicable, sustainable and efficient community programs in Clark County, and then replicate those programs in other communities.

Marty and I see this transition from the vitamin business to the foundation as a seamless one. We’re still helping people, but we’re doing it in a different way.

We aren’t the only ones using a business-like approach to philanthropy. I’ve watched in the past decade as philanthropists have adopted this model.

Current discussions on philanthropy abound with new terms – “venture philanthropy,” “impact investing,” “entrepreneurial philanthropists,” “social venture capital” – suggesting a new generation of philanthropists who are using successful business models to address local and global challenges. As these new philanthropic concepts are evolving the terms are often used interchangeably.

But no matter which term you use, they all have a common denominator and belong to the new family of strategic philanthropists that take a more hands-on approach and a focus on achieving outcomes and a willingness to take risk and embrace innovation.

Creating value

Strategic philanthropists, including myself and Marty, are using this strategy to look for targeted and lasting impacts. We want to apply innovative approaches to sustainable development, focus on entrepreneurial talent and stress transparency, accountability and long-lasting outcomes. Local ownership is important to ensure that actual needs are being met and results are sustainable. Whereas traditional philanthropy often focuses on the inputs (which organization to financially sponsor), the strategic approach focuses on results.

In many cases, this strategy builds on the entrepreneurial tradition of creating value and the understanding that a business approach focused on “returns” on investment (albeit financial, environmental or social) is needed for sustained social change.

Innovation

At the KMR Group, we want to evaluate and bring innovation to our giving. That means not just making a financial commitment, but also putting our managerial skills to work and measuring the impact of the funding. We want to build a relationship with the people being granted money.

For years the KMR Group donated money to deserving organizations and programs, but now we have the time to invest our business experience to the endeavor. One of our guiding principles when we’re deciding on a partnership is whether our involvement is going to move the needle.

This is why two-way communication is paramount to building a sustained relationship with any organization we help. Our management team evaluates and considers not just the percentage spent on compensation and fundraising, but also the quality of the staff and development team of a potential partner organization. To be financially sustainable, organizations need competent management and effective fundraising.

Tackling the big problems in our community requires long-term planning and sizeable resources. It’s just like building a business. You start small by focusing on a clearly defined region or community, learn from your mistakes and scale up gradually.

Kate Jones, founder and executive director of the KMR Group Foundation, brings 25 years of executive management and marketing experience to the nonprofit that is dedicated to improving the lives of children through its innovative programs and academic scholarships. She is also managing director of Coremix Capital. Jones was previously founder and President of Avid Health, the health supplement company that developed the popular L’il Critters and Vitafusion gummy vitamins.

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