The evolving landscape of grantmaking and community investment

In the ever-evolving world of social impact, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest strategies, tactics, and best practices. Recently, on “The Social Impact Show,” we had the pleasure of speaking with Emelie Jutblad, the Head of Finance, Impact and Operations, and Dirk Gawronska, Digital Transformation Lead at Z Zurich Foundation, a globally recognised organisation transforming lives across the globe.

The Z Zurich Foundation, launched in 1973, has transformed from a local charity into a global powerhouse, impacting over 11 million lives. In 2023 alone, they positively impacted more than 2.7 million lives, and more deeply transformed another 140,000 lives. Their mission? Empowering vulnerable individuals to create better futures for themselves.

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The four pillars of the Z Zurich Foundation

The Foundation’s work revolves around four key pillars: adapting to climate change, improving mental well-being, enabling social equity, and responding to crises. These pillars are not chosen arbitrarily but are selected due to their increasing urgency and complexity, affecting individuals, communities, and society.

For example, in partnership with UNICEF, the Foundation promotes mental well-being among young people worldwide, equipping adolescents and caregivers with the information, skills, and strategies to care for their mental well-being. This initiative is set to reach 30 million people and promote positive conversations and connections around mental well-being.

In terms of social equity, the Foundation empowers youth with the skills, education, and resources they need to succeed. Through their partnership with Junior Chief in Africa and JA Worldwide, they aim to empower 550,000 young people across Africa to succeed as innovative job creators and well-qualified job seekers.

Employee engagement and impact

The Z Zurich Foundation also prioritises engaging Zurich Insurance’s employees in doing good. Through their giving program, “My Impact,” Z Zurich employees can donate to a wide variety of charities, create fundraising campaigns, and find volunteering opportunities. In 2023, the total donation amount, including matching, reached a new record high of almost 4.5 million Swiss francs.

Moreover, the Foundation supports and encourages Zurich employees who go the extra mile, serving as board members or trustees of charitable organisations. They recognise that charities worldwide desperately need dedicated, skilled individuals who can steer the direction and strategy of their organisations, maximising their impact.

The Foundation's grantmaking process

The Foundation’s grantmaking process is not just about providing funding. They work closely with their partners to create value and establish strong partnerships. They assess the ability to generate impact for vulnerable people as one of the most important factors. Once a grant is approved, they formalise it through a contract and work closely with the partners throughout the grant’s duration, providing capacity building where needed.

The importance of measuring impact

The Z Zurich Foundation has developed a robust way to measure impact. They break down the impact on people into two categories: positively impacted lives and transformed lives. The latter category represents a deeper and more long-lasting impact.

Looking into the future, the Foundation plans to double its impact in the next four years, aiming to create brighter futures and more opportunities for 25 million vulnerable people. This ambitious goal underscores the Foundation’s commitment to making a lasting impact and driving positive change in communities worldwide.

Key takeaways

The conversation with Emelie and Dirk provided valuable insights into driving social impact at scale. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Engage your stakeholders: Involve community members, non-profits, government agencies, and other stakeholders in the grantmaking process.
  • Build relationships and collaborate with partners: Cultivate strong relationships based on trust, transparency, and mutual respect.
  • Provide capacity-building support: Offer resources, technical assistance, and training opportunities to strengthen organisational capacity and effectiveness.
  • Learn from those directly impacted: Listen to their experiences, insights, and solutions to inform strategic decisions and program interventions.
  • Be flexible and adaptive: Be willing to adapt your strategies and initiatives in response to changing circumstances, emerging trends, and stakeholder feedback.
  • Measure impact: Establish clear goals, outcomes, and metrics to assess the impact of grants and community initiatives.
  • Communicate and share your stories: Share stories of impact and success to inspire others and raise awareness about the importance of community investment.
  • Be transparent and accountable: Practice transparency and accountability in everything you do.
  • Stay committed for the long-term: Creating impact requires sustained investment and commitment over the long term.

The Z Zurich Foundation’s work serves as an inspiration for social impact professionals looking to scale and grow their programs. Their focus on collaboration, impact measurement, and long-term commitment is a testament to their dedication to creating a better future for vulnerable individuals worldwide.