In recent months, we’ve gotten to know the VOW Network, a organisation which is taking an innovative approach to funding the activities of non-profit organisations via investments - a topic of growing interest in the current ‘post-covid’ environment of reduced philanthropic giving, and a subject broadly in sync with our recent ‘grant alternatives’ event in London, Investing in a Liveable Future.
The VOW Network, established in 2022 and based in India, is affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). FaithInvest’s founder Martin Palmer, as well as current FaithInvest staff Mathew Jensen and Hasnane Arain, provided input to VOW for their first report, Endowments for Not-for-profit Institutions.
The vision of the Vow Network, as described in the report, is for non-profits to become less dependent on grants and more sustainable in the long run through investment activity. From the report:
'Nonprofit investing is just as important (if not more so) as the fundraising practice itself. And it doesn’t have to be high risk, but an intentional focus on stewarding what the nonprofits have, and making the most of each donation'.
'Alongside other fundraising activities, a well-managed investment account can help nonprofits fund specific projects and reach long-term financial sustainability'.
To support their goals, the VOW Network will operate in a variety of innovative ways, for example by providing first time entrepreneurs access to ISKCON’s affiliated consulting arm, the Bhaktivedanta Consulting Group, and advisory interactions with seasoned entrepreneurs.
Importantly, the group intends to generate funds through pledges - 'vows' - which will be used to create an endowment that will support an ‘Investors Club’ where, for example, angel investors can provide, and non-profits can seek, access to capital for their initiatives, the use of which requires a partial return of capital to further fund the endowment. This aspect of the VOW Network speaks in a special way to the theme of collaboration, and of a virtuous circle of benefits and giving back.
While not exclusively for the faiths, this initiative is being positioned by ISKCON and the VOW Network as well-suited for any non-profit that seeks to become less dependent on grants and more sustainable for the long-term.