I was an entrepreneur in the 1980s, working extensively in Asia when I became involved in not-for-profit boards. After obtaining my master’s degree from MIT and consulting with private companies and public agencies for more than 20 years, I was drawn to not-for-profit work. I saw the value in what these organizations bring to the table and how they can contribute to local communities. Some might assume it would be a difficult transition to make, going from business to not-for-profit work, but I tie a great deal of my old work into what I do now. I use my former business practices and networks and blend the two together pretty seamlessly.
We can all agree that the for-profit world and the nonprofit world are just that—two different worlds. But Bruce Dewar has expertly married his 20 years of business experience with his position as CEO of LIFT Philanthropy Partners, a Vancouver-based not-for-profit that works with other not-for-profits to make them more sustainable and effective. His business savvy was also instrumental in the seamless transition the organization has made from its previous life as 2010 Legacies Now, a not-for-profit created in 2000 that proved to be an integral component of Vancouver’s bid for the 2010 Winter Games. Legacies Now was truly revolutionary, and its new incarnation is proving to be just as groundbreaking, because Dewar and his team of 13 are using a venture philanthropy approach that is changing the way businesses, governments, and individuals invest and engage in social change. The end goal, of course, is to help other organizations create significant social impact within their respective communities.
LIFT Philanthropy Partners is the evolution of 2010 Legacies Now, not a transformation. A lot of thought was put into the transition; it was something that was discussed for a year and half while 2010 Legacies Now was still operating. What we learned as 2010 Legacies Now—the practices we adopted, the connections and networks we made—those things gave us the skills and expertise we now use to help us operate as a venture philanthropy organization.
As 2010 Legacies Now, we developed and supported more than 12,500 community programs that engaged more than two million people across British Columbia. It’s difficult to let go of a project that was so successful, but it’s like sending your child off to university. You know they’re going to do amazingly wonderful and impactful things, but it’s still a little sad to see them go. That’s how it felt when we were closing the chapter on 2010 Legacies Now.
I’ve been in the not-for-profit sector for nine years and I’ve learned a lot. I have an understanding of how not-for-profits work, and I understand how the business side of things operates. This combination allows us to be more creative in how we find solutions. It enables LIFT to engage stakeholders in a meaningful way because we understand the bigger picture; we understand that organizations have financial obligations and community responsibilities.
LIFT’s approach is all about how organizations can make a bigger impact. We work with each organization on a strategic plan to increase their accountability and increase their capacity to grow their social impact. We also focus on metrics because now, more than ever, investors want to know where funds are going and how they’re being used. We provide not-for-profits with the expertise they need to be sustainable and more effective.”