The heart-warming story behind tennis superstar Roger Federer’s international foundation.
In 2016, the Roger Federer Foundation supports 17 programmes in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and in Switzerland for around 6.5m CHF. Nearly 650,000 children have benefitted so far from these projects. It is the Foundation’s goal to reach one million children by the end of 2018.
“I am tomorrow’s future”. Nolonwabo Batini, a 15-year-old girl from Ndzondelelo High School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, made this self-confident discovery when Roger visited her school. Her conviction became the vision and the central theme of the Roger Federer Foundation.
Roger was only 22 years old and not yet number one in the international tennis rankings when he set up the foundation in 2003. This early start of his philanthropic engagement is rooted in his education and social environment. Roger’s mother comes from South Africa. During holidays spent in the region, Roger, who grew up in the rich country of Switzerland, became aware at an early age that not all children of the world enjoy the same privileges. Based on this experience, he developed a desire to support children living in poverty, to empower them in a way that would enable them to utilise their potential.
Family members mostly constitute the Roger Federer Foundation Board of Trustees and the values of the family are reflected in the Foundation’s work. Roger’s unwavering attitude to life is based on the idea that everybody has potential: you only need to nurture it and allow it to blossom. One of the key “theories of change” of achieving this is education. Consequently, the Roger Federer Foundation invests in the improvement of the quality of education in existing educational institutions for children aged 3 to 12 in Southern Africa and Switzerland. And it consistently pursues an empowerment approach in doing so. Its beneficiaries are always in the driving seat and take responsibility in every initiative. The Roger Federer Foundation is not a handout charity: it concentrates on mobilising and empowering the local communities to initiative a process to increase the quality of education. The Foundation’s goal is the mind-set change of people. Through mentorship they start to understand that a better future lies in their hands; that in a joint effort, they are able to achieve sustainable change.
From a small and erratic beginning, there is today a professional managed Grant-Making Foundation committed to the rules of the Swiss Foundation Code. The organisation strictly follows a system of checks and balances and an efficient project management cycle. Transparency, measurability and evaluation of the activities are fundamental. As a learning institution, the Foundation seeks the advice of experts and stakeholders. Currently, the Roger Federer Foundation works with 15 carefully selected local organisations in long-term partnerships. Consequently, it is a strategic choice to partner with local NGOs directly based on the conviction that developing countries need strong local stakeholders and with the result that more than 93% of the Foundation’s expenditures flow into the countries hosting its programmes. As a result, there is need of a higher involvement in the development of the programmes and in the capacity building of the local partners.
The Roger Federer Foundation limits its geographical outreach to the countries of Southern Africa and Switzerland in order to have a clear profile as a Grant Foundation and maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of human and financial resources. There is potential to become a stronger stakeholder in the selected region.
The organisation has gained a deeper knowledge of the Southern African region, its mechanisms and cultures. There is the opportunity to compare projects and share lessons learned between the programmes. And most importantly, the probability of achieving systemic change increases.