Andrew Rolfe’s Ubuntu Fund Seeks New Path to Success

Running a non profit is not a task that anyone should undertake lightly. The truth is that success in the non profit world is hard to come by and the stakes are already so high. Jacob Lief is the founder and chief executive of the Ubuntu Education Fund. It has been his goal to bring education to the impoverished and at risk children that live in Port Elizabeth — a township in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Lief’s work is obviously changing the lives of the people he helps and as a result it is of the utmost importance that his charity stay efficient and effective.


Jacob Lief was on a speaking gig at the World Economic Forum for it’s yearly gathering in Davos. Lief was looking around the room when a realization hit him: “It was nonsense. The money was flowing in but we weren’t changing people’s lives.” Lief had finally stumbled upon a concept that a great many non profit leaders would come to: even if the money was coming in, it didn’t mean that it was getting to where it needed to go. For Lief this meant that change needed to occur and it didn’t to start happening quickly.


So, this brought Jacob Lief to the board at the Ubuntu Fund. The board, which includes prolific philanthropist Andrew Rolfe, helped to green light a new approach to to raising funds. Lief would go on to call this approach the ‘Ubuntu Model’. The Ubuntu Model, as it would turn out, is a change in donation fueling that focuses exclusively on high end benefactors and grounded family funds. Andrew Rolfe and the rest of the board wanted to focus on raising funds that made a difference, that could come in without any strings attached.


Benefactors, as Andrew Rolfe and Jacob Lief know, are the fuel for a non profit to succeed. However, those same benefactors can become overbearing when they make extensive demands and requirements. Andrew Rolfe, for example, is not one of those kinds of benefactors. Rolfe has donated over $100,000 of his own money to the Ubuntu Fund over the past several years, all the while allowing the fund to do its job.


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