• Yvonne Döbler

The country needs new donors.

(Reading time: 6 - 11 minutes)

Hans Schoepflin 1 Stifter 2000px c Arno DietscheFoundations. The foundation landscape is changing rapidly. Whereas philanthropists used to respond regionally and locally and individually to specific emergency situations, more and more philanthropists today think strategically, internationally and collaboratively. And they - like Hans Schöpflin - manage their foundation like a company.

"Foundations and their employees lose humility when they simply provide money for projects - they can quickly become arrogant," says Hans Schöpflin. This is not a thesis. It is a firm conviction. Another one that characterizes the entrepreneur, people and philanthropist well is that "entrepreneurs should not give their foundations full capital. Foundation capital should continue to earn money entrepreneurially so that funds can be spent on grants." And a third: "We support social organizations that we consider to be socially relevant, we find out what works, and then we look for partners worldwide with whom we can put the organizations on a long-term economically viable footing."

Hans Schöpflin, scion of an entrepreneurial family, manages his two foundations, the Panta Rhea Foundation in California and the Schöpflin Foundation in Lörrach: entrepreneurial, consistently focused on impact, collaborative - i.e. in cooperation with strategic partners such as NGOs or politicians. The 78-year-old is thus an example of a new, modern generation of donors.

"Older foundation models usually intended to be active regionally and locally. They respond to inquiries and then support very specific projects. The traditional donors are usually closely linked to their region and would like to give something back in this region," says Sophie Eisenmann, Head of Philanthropy DE at UBS in Frankfurt. She looks after a large number of client foundations and private clients and has noticed a clear change in thinking among the new generation of donors: "The foundation capital was mostly acquired globally. This is why the new founders also operate globally, often without a fixed location. And they run their foundation like a profit-oriented company."

For example, there is a growing trend to invest small amounts of money in social start-ups. If the idea works, it has a measurable social impact and is scaled up with the help of partners. "Modern philanthropists see themselves more as facilitators and networkers - less as donors of money," she says.

Hans Schöpflin is a prime example of this new generation of philanthropists: He was born in Freiburg in 1941 and grew up with two siblings, Albert and Heidi, in his parents' villa in Lörrach-Brombach with a large park. His grandparents first opened a general store in 1907, then switched over to textile wholesale and became pioneers in mail order from 1930 onwards: "At first on handcarts, later on horse-drawn carts, their employees brought the parcels to the post office. Around 900 people worked for us before the Second World War," he says.

After the war and occupation, the second generation takes over the company and ensures expansion - during the time of the economic miracle, the Schöpflin catalogues are found as "standard works" in many German households. The entrepreneurial family builds company apartments for their employees, and Schöpflin is also present in the southern states of Germany with shopping centres. In the 1960s, economic problems arise, and in 1964 the Schickedanz family - and thus the Quelle mail-order company - finally buys 74.9 percent of the shares in Schöpflin, and later the rest.

Hans Schöpflin never joined the company, but went his own way: in the mid-1970s he moved to the USA, where he initially worked successfully as an employed manager and has been earning his money as a venture capitalist since 1982. He is successful, marries and has three children. In the mid-90s, he earned his first millions, and his mentor Sol Price, who has been with him for many years, says: "Now you are successful, so give something.

Almost at the same time, his son dies of a drug overdose. For Hans Schöpflin, a time of questioning and reflection now begins - of his own actions and social developments. Globalization is gaining momentum, and water - traditionally a scarce commodity in San Diego - is to be privatized. The Nestlé company wants to buy a spring, fill it with water and then sell it at a high price. "The privatization of water is a nonsense. I couldn't let you do that, it's a public good."

Schöpflin takes a strong stand against the global corporation and quickly realizes that this cannot be achieved alone. In 1998 he establishes the Panta Rhea Foundation, seeks allies, joins forces with environmentalists, lawyers and geologists and fights against the project for three years until he actually wins in 2001. "It's been a great training project for me and has had a profound impact on the way I organize my foundations." He said that philanthropy is not fundamentally different from business. "I took financial risks, I brought people and things together and kept my eye on the ball," he smiles, as if this unlocked the secret of successful entrepreneurship. More seriously, he adds: "Neoliberalism is all about profit. I have learned to be very critical of large corporations. It's all about money, regardless."

With the successful completion of the water project, Hans Schöpflin knows what direction he wants his foundation to take: "It's about the system. I want to preserve what is good for the next generation and if necessary radically change what is not so good."

In 2001 he and his siblings established the Schöpflin Foundation in Lörrach. They contributed their parents' house, the old villa, as foundation capital and initially founded the Villa Schöpflin - the Centre for Addiction Prevention. To be more effective, local politicians are elected to the advisory board. The foundation finances the first projects 100 percent itself. When these are successful, the city of Lörrach and the district join in. "In the field of prevention, we are now 80 percent financed by public funds," Schöpflin says. His concept: "We take our money, experiment, learn by making mistakes and optimize. Once the project is established, the public sector will join in. We take the risk, the state scales the success."

A few years later, his brother proposes to use the old garden house as an after-school care centre for children - the scarce supply of childcare is already a hotly debated social issue back then. As the grounds are large, a day nursery will be added later as well as the Schöpflin workshop in the estate's extensive park. Conferences and theatre performances with more than 150 guests can take place here.

Until 2014, Hans Schöpflin will finance and organize the Foundation's activities from San Diego. In his family office, he manages his assets with eight employees and generates the income for his philanthropic activities. "Currently, the annual budget of the Schöpflin Foundation is approximately ten million euros. Almost 8.5 million of this comes from the family office, and this is regulated by the contracts with the foundation," he says. The foundation itself generates the difference through events and public subsidies.

Hans Schöpflin not only manages his foundation differently from the traditional way, he also invests differently: "The assets are invested entrepreneurially. The portfolio is very broadly diversified, from direct company investments, especially in the health care and information technology sectors, to real estate and indirect investments in private equity funds," says the entrepreneur.

In 2002, he hired a managing director for his American foundation - and left after a year: "She was very experienced in managing a foundation, and that was our problem," he says. Because Schöpflin does not want to have a foundation as it is traditionally managed. "I am spontaneous, fast, flexible and open. I need a CEO who is." Tim Göbel, CEO of the German foundation since 2016, puts it even more clearly: "Everyone who works here has previously worked on socially relevant issues at an NGO or elsewhere. We do not need a foundation professional with a lot of experience in the traditional handling of foundations. We need people who are strong in implementation, who are passionate about our issues - real social entrepreneurs".

Sophie Eisenmann knows this thinking from the new founders. "They don't make a distinction between career, private life and foundations," she says. Rather, they base their entire lives on their convictions, "so that all three areas of life fit together and work together". The advantage of the holistic approach is - in addition to the great impact the founders have - another one: "They are very extensively networked in their topics. Their network is so large that they can follow every development in their topics, initiate, support or use projects - for all three areas of life," says Eisenmann. Authenticity in living, working and donating seems to characterize the new movers and shakers. "We also observe the development when the next generation takes over the parents' foundation. Often the foundation is reoriented," says Eisenmann. As far as the purpose of the foundation allows, the activities would be changed in the direction that corresponds to the value framework of the successor.

Hans Schoepflin 2

Six years ago, Hans Schöpflin moved back to Lörrach from the USA. Dort, he is increasingly involved in the content of the German foundation. He is involved in the areas of refugee and integration, non-profit journalism, business and democracy, and school and development. "Everything that improves the social and political system in the long term," summarizes Hans Schöpflin. And gives an example of the way the Schöpflin Foundation operates: "We have been involved in the citizens' movement Finanzwende, which was founded in 2018 by former Green Member of the Bundestag Gerhard Schick.

Schick wants to limit the influence of the financial industry on political decisions. His aim is to give more weight to the long-term goals of society as a whole than the short-term profit interests of the industry. Even ten years after the financial crisis - triggered by the Lehman Brothers investment house - the system has not changed fundamentally, he says, and only private involvement can help.

It is typical of the entrepreneur Schöpflin that he communicates completely transparently and is not afraid to give figures: "We have pledged 250000 euros each for three years in order to kick start the project and motivate others to participate. Today Finanzwende has 2500 supporting members and is no longer dependent on us alone."

This is exactly how Schöpflin wants to work: "We support what is socially relevant and promises impact. Always with the goal that the projects have a long-term effect and can largely stand on their own financial feet." It is important to him to explain what support means: "We don't order people into the house, have them presented and then pour out money. That's how traditional foundations do it. We go there, we want to see who's doing what. We communicate at eye level, we see ourselves as partners, and we stick with it long-term."

Hans Schöpflin is currently preparing to resign from the board and move to the advisory board. "The foundation is my life insurance, because here I can live out my energies," he smiles. At the same time, he wants to see the time "after him" organized and wants the foundation to be detached from itself.

The entrepreneurial element, the willingness to take risks, should be retained. "I have united people in my foundation who have understood this and can live it. They don't stop at what we have achieved, they still have questions and go in search of answers. They use my network and ensure the continued existence of the foundation in my spirit." He wrote the foundation's statutes openly, "so that those responsible are not tied to their hands.

The current turbulence on the capital markets has not affected the financial basis of the family office and thus the foundation. "There is enough there to continue financing all our projects and to initiate new ones - even in the Corona crisis," Hans Schöpflin makes clear: "And if we don't generate as much income, we can go to the Family Office's capital stock. Even then, it will extend far beyond my death" ®

Author: Yvonne Döbler

Publishing address

  • Private Wealth GmbH & Co. KG
    Montenstrasse 9 - 80639 München
  • +49 (0) 89 2554 3917
  • +49 (0) 89 2554 2971
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Social media