The AKO Give Back Initiative
The Foundation is funded by donations from Nicolai Tangen, the founder of AKO Capital, and the AKO Give Back Initiative provides all AKO Capital staff with the opportunity to nominate a charity to receive a grant from the Foundation. As well as nominating charities, the staff collectively determine the grant recipients. A committee of staff members selects a short list of charitable projects and all staff then vote on the allocation of an annual pool of approximately £300,000 across these shortlisted charities.
The Foundation believes that a philanthropic mindset does not come naturally to all people, but that this can be acquired. The objective of the AKO Give Back Initiative is to encourage philanthropic involvement by all staff at AKO Capital, as well as to develop leadership skills within the organisation. “How you give back to society” is also an important question in the AKO Capital partners’ year-end review process. Since its inception, grants approaching £1 million have been made by the Foundation under the AKO Give Back Initiative. In 2019 the largest grants were to the following recipients:
- Beat: Beat works to help those suffering from eating disorders. It acts as a champions, guide and friend to all affected by eating disorders; it offers direct support in the form of a helpline, online support groups and message boards; and raises awareness through events, training, and campaigning.
- Born Free: A wildlife charity that opposes the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaigns to keep them in the wild. The Foundation’s grant supports Born Free’s education activities in Kenya, which are designed to inspire people of all ages to respect wildlife and natural habitats.
- FareShare: Works with the food industry to access and redistribute surplus food, which would otherwise go to waste, to those who need it most. Priority is given to food categories such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy, and products which can be used to support children and youth programmes.
- Kids Run Free: Works in schools to encourage children to run and take other forms of physical exercise, thereby improving their confidence, wellbeing and knowledge of health.
- Teens Unite: Supports young people suffering from cancer, enabling them to live as full a life as possible. The Foundation’s grant contributed towards the construction of The House of Teens Unite, the UK’s first mainland retreat for young people who have been diagnosed with cancer, providing short-term accommodation, leisure and wellness facilities.
Increasingly, charities initially given grants under the AKO Give Back Initiative have subsequently developed deeper, multi-year relationships with the Foundation. Lively Minds and OnSide, both covered in the Education section above, are examples of such relationships. The trustees are delighted that charities introduced to the Foundation through this initiative have subsequently become important recipients of Foundation grants.
In addition to the annual opportunity to recommend purely financial support, AKO Capital staff are also encouraged to give their time and expertise to those charities that the Foundation supports, for example by serving as charity trustee, school governor or mentor to young people.
Connecting the dots
The Foundation seeks to add value to our partners beyond the purely monetary, and where opportunities for mutual assistance are seen the Foundations will connect its partners with each other. Examples of the connections facilitated include:
- Appearances by Adam Grant (Wharton), Jamie Oliver and Brett Wigdortz (Teach First) at the Business for Peace annual summits in Oslo.
- Exhibiting the winning proposal from the AKO Curatorial Award at the Courtauld at the SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum.
- The launch of the 2030 Childhood Obesity Alliance, funded by the Foundation, by the Jamie Oliver Group with the help of the founder of Teach First.
- Suggesting an independent field trial of Little Sun solar lamps at Strømme Foundation schools in West Africa. The aim would be to demonstrate a statistically significant link between solar lighting and educational achievement and child health, through a rigorous assessment by an independent research group.
- A proposed cooperation between the Courtauld
in London and the University of Agder, Norway, where the Foundation is funding a PhD in Nordic modernist art.
- The Institute for Social Change at Central Saint Martins – UAL is now also working for the Bite Back campaign. AKO Capital also offers internship opportunities to students at educational establishments that it supports. And albeit not at its instigation, the Foundation is pleased that two of its other partners will be working together, with an OnSide Youth Zone being included within the Ark EdCity project.
Expected level of future grants
The general approach to determining the level of grants was confirmed at a recent meeting of trustees when it was agreed that the Foundation should not seek to exist in perpetuity, and that its intention would be to make grants such that the Foundation had spent all its resources within a limited number of years of the death of its founder Nicolai Tangen. The Foundation seeks to fund those charitable entities and initiatives within its areas of interest that it believes are likely to have the greatest impact; this intention reflects a belief that the return for society generated by such projects is higher, and likely to be longer-lasting, than that which can be earned on financial investments.