Sybren Raaijmakers

Sybren Raaijmakers

  • is from the Nether­lands and has degrees in econo­mics and
    law. He worked in the finan­cial indu­stry on stra­tegic orga­ni­sa­tional change, such as mergers and process auto­ma­tion, and is now working at Compendor, a regu­la­tory tech­no­logy (regu­la­tory compli­ance) startup. He founded Start­Gi­ving to do some­thing good and to help others do the same.

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About two years ago, I finally did it. I borrowed €50,000 from various family members, convinced a good friend and colleague to join me, and started working nights and weekends. I wanted to do some­thing good, and I wanted to make it easy for lots of others to do good as well. That is how Start­Gi­ving came into existence.

There are a lot of ways of giving or doing good for people and for compa­nies alike, and there are enough orga­ni­sa­tions (inclu­ding the big four consul­ting firms) willing to help compa­nies set up programmes for a hefty fee. However, at Start­Gi­ving, we believe that no matter how big or small your company, there should be no barriers to doing what you believe in – even if it’s only contri­bu­ting a very small amount per year. That is why we offer compa­nies all the basics for free. This includes a corpo­rate gover­nance codex, draft poli­cies and processes, as well as draft contracts with poten­tial third parties – the foun­da­tion for a good ESG (envi­ron­mental, social, gover­nance) compli­ance program. For us, this is the bare minimum any company can and should do, with no need to spend any hard-earned money. We then offer compa­nies the means to take further steps, such as finding volun­tee­ring oppor­tu­nities for their employees, dona­ting into our sustainable fund or imple­men­ting other stra­tegic projects (carbon-neutral travel­ling, bike plans, fairtrade coffee & snacks, third-party checks, supply chain opti­mi­sa­tion, etc.). Compa­nies can track all their efforts directly in a perso­na­lised version of our plat­form, so they can engage their employees, report to share­hol­ders, or inform the public without having to spend money or time on expen­sive reports.

We observed that many compa­nies only do some­thing in the field of Corpo­rate Social Respon­si­bi­lity (CSR) when a specific employee or maybe a super­vi­sory board pushes for it. However, as soon as this person leaves or the board changes, the efforts scale back. Those respon­sible work on it either in their spare time or only at half-capa­city, so the projects do not reach their full poten­tial. Doing good is not the core busi­ness of most compa­nies – they usually do not have a specia­list for CSR. Anything that is not your core busi­ness, but important none­theless, should be outsourced to compa­nies with exper­tise. CSR is a diffi­cult and complex land­s­cape, and we help compa­nies navi­gate it easily.

Our sustainable fund is only a small part of our services, but it is some­thing that no one else offers at the moment. Any company or any employee can donate into the fund, which is managed by an inde­pen­dent third party and focused on sustainable invest­ments. Every year, donors can then give the invest­ment returns to the causes that lie closest to their heart. The fund ensures that only the proceeds are granted, so the fund will grow and provide a steady stream of money to those causes that are important to donors or their company. This way we make it possible for anyone to make a lasting impact, year after year. Our vision with the sustainable fund is to harness the power of the finan­cial indu­stry, which is normally only acces­sible to the ultra-wealthy, to do good. Our true goal is to make this happen across genera­tions – someone’s grand­children or employees can go back in time and see what impact they had over their entire life­time and continue this legacy by contri­bu­ting them­selves. Teaching the next genera­tion to value what they have been given and to share with others is some­thing that I perso­nally think is very important.

Buil­ding Start­Gi­ving has not been without fail­ures. After deve­lo­ping our plat­form, we learned that the product was just not that much in demand. We focused too much on the fund and our target audi­ence was too broad. However, instead of giving up we decided to keep our heads up and pivot the offe­ring to be more in line with what the market is asking for. Ulti­mately, we want to be able to offer our donors projects that we run ourselves. This way we could be 100% trans­pa­rent and accoun­table, and our commu­nity would be able to influ­ence directly what they find important. In the mean­time, we are looking into tech­no­lo­gies such as block­chain (yes, I know it’s a bit of a beaten horse) to make dona­tions more trans­pa­rent until we are able to offer our own projects.

I want all compa­nies in Europe to take more respon­si­bi­lity, and I also believe this to be good for busi­ness. Compa­nies that inno­vate now on social and envi­ron­mental issues will be ahead of even­tual regu­la­tions. I want to be able to show compa­nies that in the end, this is the best for ever­yone, inclu­ding their own busi­ness.

Sybren Raaijmakers

Sybren Raaijmakers

  • is from the Nether­lands and has degrees in econo­mics and
    law. He worked in the finan­cial indu­stry on stra­tegic orga­ni­sa­tional change, such as mergers and process auto­ma­tion, and is now working at Compendor, a regu­la­tory tech­no­logy (regu­la­tory compli­ance) startup. He founded Start­Gi­ving to do some­thing good and to help others do the same.

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