What if orphans across the world had the support to thrive?

Editor's note: Ladislav Kossar manages the wealth of the Kossar family, with a focus on creating social impact. This column was written by Mr. Kossar for the fall 2015 edition of SVCF Magazine. Access the full version of SVCF magazine online

Ladislav KossarThere are 153 million orphans around the world—more than the population of Russia.

In 2006, I didn’t know this. But I did know that, after a successful run in venture capital and investment management, I wanted to give back.

That year, I bought a bracelet from an orphan at a shopping center in Slovakia, where I am from and still live. He invited me to his orphanage. While there, I asked the staff how I could help. They said, “Figure out a way that you can spend quality time with the children.”

My sister and I organized an outdoor camp, which was the birth of PROVIDA, our family foundation. PROVIDA supports marginalized children, incubates social enterprises and supports community art projects in the region.

By 2013, after attending conferences for social entrepreneurs, I realized something critical: The global network of social entrepreneurs working with orphans had an abundance of knowledge and passion, but they weren’t being properly supported by funders. NGOs were competing for capital and spending too much time fundraising; donors weren’t collaborating in support of their grantees. The patient and collaborative capital the NGOs needed was missing.

This isn’t surprising. Funders and social entrepreneurs speak very different languages. However, my investment management background and my work with PROVIDA has made me somewhat fluent in both. I felt I could connect these two worlds, helping successful orphan-focused the overwhelming needs. And so The Orphan Opportunity, a donor advised fund at SVCF, was born. We’ve built a platform to pool diverse donors and provide patient and rigorous support to the best social entrepreneurs in service of a single mission: to uplift the most vulnerable children on our planet.

Teal Brown Zimring, whom I met at Nexus Youth Summit, co-created Orphan Opportunity and now serves as executive director. Teal knows how to structure multisector partnerships, is an expert in development economics, and understands the American and global philanthropy sectors. 

In 2014, at the Opportunity Collaboration conference in Mexico, we piloted our vision by offering grants to organizations working with orphans in Afghanistan and Uganda. The Cordes Foundation matched our grants, so our initial $30,000 quickly became $60,000. 

One of these grants went to the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project in Uganda, which needed capital to maintain and grow its work with orphans. We were piloting trust and cooperation and building resilient partnerships.

Today, we are preparing a full portfolio of grants, which will go to exceptional organizations with successful track records working with orphans. We want to support social entrepreneurs from around the world who are offering holistic care—from food and shelter to education and job skills. 

Our goal is to support these organizations with three-year grants to help them build management teams, stabilize operations and grow. We are currently conducting due diligence on the groups we’d like to fund, ensuring we understand their needs and can help them find further success. 

We are also looking for people who can use their entrepreneurial or venture investing skills to help us build this. This is a global operation, and our advisers, funders and grantees will come from Asia, Africa, South America, the United States and Central Europe. 

There are millions of parentless children today who are vulnerable to war, trafficking, poverty and disease. Many people across the world are already doing the critical work that saves these children. They simply need the right support—and that’s our job. 

With the love of our parents, we have thrived. I believe that every child deserves an opportunity to thrive.

Ladislav Kossar manages the wealth of the Kossar family, with a focus on creating social impact.