The knowledge and networks of KBF and its partners have helped investment company Sofina, one of Belgium’s biggest corporations, to donate millions of euros to projects in Asia and Europe that focus on the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact in healthcare and education.
When investment company Sofina set up a 20 million-euro Covid Solidarity Fund, it chose the King Baudouin Foundation to manage it. The Fund’s aim is to help address the adverse consequences of the pandemic in two key areas related to sectors in which Sofina has a particular investment interest: challenges in healthcare systems and services, and the digital gap in education.
The Fund, set up to disburse over two years, has awarded grants of at least 500,000 euros to selected non-profit initiatives. It is supporting 15 projects in western Europe, Singapore, and India – places where Sofina is active. Several projects focus on harnessing technology in education while tackling the digital divide – notably unequal access to remote learning. Others include a telehealth platform, psychosocial support for children, and addressing nursing shortages.
“Based on the excellent collaboration with KBF on the management of a previous fund, Sofina decided to work again with the Foundation for many reasons,” said Victor Casier, a member of the Brussels-based company’s executive committee. “This includes their professionalism, their wide international reach and reputation for helping in sourcing projects, and their experience in dealing with the complexities of cross-border donations.”
Compliance and Due Diligence
When considering potential beneficiaries of the Fund in India, Sofina staff were impressed with ACT, a grant-making platform, and in particular by its EdTech programme. This aims to tackle problems in Indian education that have been aggravated by illness and lockdown. It also hopes to turn crisis into opportunity by leveraging the increased use of technology which Covid-19 has brought to help schools come back better than they were before.
By investing in products and platforms that can improve access to quality learning among poorer Indians, it is striving to improve literacy, life skills, and youngsters’ readiness for the job market.
Convinced by the concept, Sofina still needed expert advice on two critical issues that mark much of cross-border philanthropy: first, conducting due diligence on the potential grantee to ensure its suitability; and second, ensuring compliance with national laws, which in India notably includes a vetting system for grants coming in from abroad – the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. For this, KBF turned to its U.S.-based partner Give2Asia.
Give2Asia’s India country adviser Parul Sachdeva said identifying quality Indian nonprofits that are eligible to receive foreign funds is a “moving target” due to changing regulations. “In this case,” she said, “Give2Asia reviewed how recent changes could impact grantmaking decisions for funders in Europe and elsewhere.”
ACT EdTech programme manager Aashrey Tiku said Sofina’s support was very welcome: “ACT EdTech has helped more than 15 million children and it is rapidly extending its support to reach even more,” he said. “EdTech solutions are developed through WhatsApp and mobile apps that can ensure quality content reaches the students in need and that there is no gap in learning.”