About

In 2007 I left the Van Leer Foundation and started Van Gendt Philanthropy Services. I wanted to capitalise on my experience in so many different national and international settings. And I wanted to offer that as a consultancy or board service to foundations, companies, families and family offices in the Netherlands and abroad.   

For me a donation is not an objective in itself, it should be an instrument in a strategy of wanting to make a difference in a way, that initiatives have an impact and can be sustained. Effective philanthropy also implies, that organisations have a focus in what they do, that they are prepared to take certain risks and occasionally even play the wildcard.

Besides my interest in effective philanthropy, I wanted to support interested parties with their investment portfolio. The investment strategy of philanthropic organisations has some unique features; foundations are long term investors with distinct liabilities.
I have enjoyed the last 12 years of my life as a trusted advisor for a range of organisations and families, on short term assignments or for longer periods of time.

Investments

Foundations often have endowments to invest and their investment strategy has to be tailor-made. I start with an analysis of the liabilities of a specific foundation, followed by a discussion about desirable spending in combination with a discussion about risk tolerance. Such a discussion should not just take place with management but also with the supervisory board (if this exists) as the investment policy is a fiduciary responsibility of governance. Issues of ESG and impact investing are part of the discussion.

The result of these discussions is a risk-returnprofile, based on which a strategic asset allocation can be formulated. What follows is an implementation strategy, where I will oversee the long term interests with prudence. I represent the interests of the foundation in relation to banks/investment managers. I have ample experience as advisor, member or chair of investment committees of foundations, families and corporations.

Governance

I am and have been on the  Board (both executive and supervisory) of many organisations and enjoy that role. In the case of supervisory boards it is my attitude to take a proper distance from management and seriously execute my duties of oversight. However I am always available as a sounding board for management, I will offer my experience and network to strenghten management.

Often I am seen as a source of inspiration for management and fellow board members. In my governance responsibilities I always take an active role in audit committees, investment committees and remuneration committees in order to see that organisations are both strategic, agile, well managed and on the cutting edge.

Advice

My style of advising is to listen carefully and to realise that in many cases there are no quick fix solutions for a problem. Tailor-made advice is essential in stead of copy/paste. I bring my wide experience in different settings to bear on my consultancy, which is therefore practice- oriented but with the right feeling for strategy. As an advisor I do not try to please the people, that I work for. I am diplomatic and always respect their final decisions, but feel that their interests are well served by me offering alternatives.

I advise on strategy, governance, monitoring, next generation issues, evaluation and management questions. It is important for me not just to advice foundations as grantmakers but also work with a limited number of grantseeking organisations, like NDT, Movies that Matter. Being on both sides enhances the quality of my advice for both parties.

Recruitment

Jointly with Pieter Stemerding, former director of the Adessium Foundation and now independent philanthropy advisor, I carry out searches for executive and board positions. Our focus is on the search and selection of candidates for family and corporate foundations. For us the starting point is a deep understanding of what a family or company is looking for, their key values & core operating principles and future plans and ambitions. On the basis of such a comprehensive ‘audit’, we formulate a strategic approach and a job profile. Subsequently, we will discuss long and short lists with our principals and will carry out initial interviews.

This process will eventually lead to two to three candidates proposed for final interviews with the principals. An important search we recently facilitated was the request by Joop and Janine van den Ende to help them identify a new executive director for the VandenEnde Foundation.

Presentations

I am asked for presentations, lectures and keynote speeches at important national and international meetings and conferences. As a speaker and presentor I always try to bring new insights in stead of repeating what is regarded common knowledge. As a moderator in debates and public events I challenge people and stimulate interactive discussions and am able to distill the esence from a discussion.

Skills & specialities

Biography, awards & distinctions

I studied economics in Amsterdam and after my masters was invited to teach in the University of Amsterdam and the University of Leiden. After a few years I had the fortune to win a prize of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France and I moved to Paris to do research at the International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP). When this came to a close, I was offered a great job at the OECD in the Scientific Affairs Directorate. I lived on the Ile St. Louis and combined my work in OECD with writing a Guide on Restaurants (The Insider’s Guide to Paris) for Pan American Airways.

After 5 years I left Paris to become Deputy Director of the Scientific Council on Government Policy (WRR), a think tank in the Office of the Prime Minister. When the Chair of the WRR was appointed as the Queen’s Governor of Limburg he asked me to join him to become Deputy Director of the State Administration of Limburg in Maastricht with the objective to create – supported by substantial financial schemes – structural employment initiatives in Limburg. While working in Limburg I prepared my doctorate in economics and defended my thesis on consumer preferences in the public sector (‘The Voucher Concept and the Publicness of Basic Education’) at the University of Amsterdam in 1980. In 1984 I left this job to become one of the directors of a large multinational real estate and investment company, based in Antwerp and later on in Utrecht. In 1988 I joined the Van Leer Entity as Director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation and later on the Van Leer Group Foundation. In 2007 I started Van Gendt Philanthropy Services.

I have always combined my work with other interesting assignments. These past responsibilities include among others: Vice Chair Board Mitros Wonen (public housing corporation), Utrecht; Board Member Council on Foundations, Washington DC; Board Member European Foundation Center, Brussels; Board Member Kantoren Fonds Nederland, Utrecht; Advisor Draeger Netherlands BV, Zoetermeer; Board Member Foundation Financial Officers Group (FFOG), USA; Chair Board Alliance Publishing Trust, London; Board Member BoardSource, Washington DC; Member Board of Trustees Partners in Health, Boston; Chair Jerusalem Film Center, Jerusalem; Chair Samenwerkende Branche Organisaties Filantropie (SBF), The Hague; Member Board Bernard van Leer Stiftung, Luzern; Founder and Board Member Stichting Lokale Fondsen Nederland, the Hague; Founder and Board Member European Foundations Financial Investment Officers Group (EFFIO), Brussels; Board Member Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, The Hague; Chair Dutch Association of Foundations (FIN), The Hague.

1978

Australian-European Award

1991

Honorary Doctorate Universidad del Norte, Colombia

1998

Honorary Doctorate Newcastle University, Australia

2005

Distinguished Grantmaker Award, USA (first time awarded to a Non-American)

2008

Elected: Most influential actor in the field of philanthropy in the Netherlands

2013

Recipient European Philanthropy Compact Prize