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Netjets Volume 4 2018

SPOTLIGHT ROGER FEDERER

SPOTLIGHT ROGER FEDERER OPENS DOORS. HIS NAME MAY BE LEGENDARY ON THE TENNIS COURT, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING THE KIND OF ACCESS REQUIRED TO RAISE BIG MONEY FOR HIS FOUNDATION, IT CERTAINLY HELPS TOO. “We have zero fund-raising costs because there’s interest in the work we do and because there’s interest in Roger. And there’s huge scope for advocacy by Roger himself when he finally steps down from tennis,” says Janine Händel, CEO of the Zurich-based Roger Federer Foundation. “But, of course, in the countries where we operate nobody knows who Roger is. It’s just the quality of the work that matters then.” It’s high-quality work indeed. Established almost 15 years ago, the Roger Federer Foundation is the little-known side of the tennis star’s work. It’s professionally managed but at heart a family affair: Roger’s wife, mother and father all play their part in the foundation’s board, if not, yet, his two sets of twins. “Roger is big on family,” says Händel. “He’s said that if his wife didn’t want to travel to tournaments with him any more, he’d just stop playing.” That family aspect perhaps explains the foundation’s remit: tackling child poverty through improved education. “Education is the most powerful tool of sustainable change,” explains Händel. “It’s not just a human right, but really helpful in exiting poverty. Educated people are healthier, and more engaged as citizens, which makes them better able to pursue their other rights. And we look first to young children because early childhood education is the foundation of all learning. If you don’t have a quality base you don’t have the potential to succeed later in life.” Like tennis star, like foundation: the latter is distinctly methodical in its approach, finding relentless consistency and focus more productive than, as it were, flashier shots. It works not only with young children, but with those in six nations across southern Africa – Federer’s mother is South African and the player himself is dual-nationality – which allows it to benefit synergistically, in terms of costs and reputation, from roughly similar education systems. Its approach is to partner with local organisations directly to improve the cost effectiveness and have local actors in charge who are experts in the local context. “Just giving handouts – treating the recipients like children at Christmas – is disrespectful and doesn’t allow them to be part of the solution. It makes them dependent,” argues Händel. “It works best when their efforts are pulled together. That’s not easy: when you’re hungry and living in a poor environment you might not have the energy to fight for change. Only with coaching and empowerment are you able to tackle your 14 NetJets

JENS HONORÉ problems. Our local partners are in effect coaches empowering the people to find and implement solutions for improving their situation.” In other words, rather than, for example, deliver school dinners – a good meal is a crucial aspect of giving children the concentration to learn – the foundation helps the community in need better organise to collect its own food locally and prepare school meals as a community effort. When a system is in place, the foundation can then monitor its effectiveness. “Sometimes small interventions can still change lives you only need to find the most effective ones,” Händel adds. It’s all part of the global agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals to give all children access to education by 2030, a realistic target in itself, says Händel. The bigger question will be over the quality of that education. The foundation has its own targets too: to have raised what will be in the region of $40m to reach one million children by the end of this year. “We’re very hopeful of reaching that target. We may have done so already,” says Händel. “And there’s no backing down from that target anyway; it is our promise to the children. I remember when we first proposed that goal. Roger said he’d never dreamed of being able to reach so many children. He said that the number was unimaginable to him.” Händel concedes that there remains a big funding gap when it comes to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and especially when it comes to the education of younger children – the foundation’s recently agreed strategy for 2019 through to 2025 will be to focus on pre-school education. That the foundation has money to spend at all comes, in large part, down to Federer himself. Almost all of his tennis sponsors are contractually obliged to commit money to the foundation, “which is unusual and an interesting model for other sportspeople to consider,” Händel suggests. And a cut of licensed merchandising brings money to the foundation (around $800,000 in 2017). Then there the fundraising events Federer attends, and the exhibition matches he plays. “How many exhibition matches typically see the money go straight into the players’ pockets?” asks Händel. “I’d say around 80% of our expenditure is money directly related to Roger. It’s indirect donation by him: he diverts money to the foundation when he could earn it for himself. In fact, we avoid any proactive fundraising. As a team we feel that if we’ve convinced people sufficiently with the quality of our work they will donate to us, not just because we’ve shouted loudest. And I think that approach very much comes from Roger’s modesty.” Ah yes, that famed humbleness in victory and grace in (unusual) defeat that has made Roger Federer the template for sportsmanlike behaviour, one seemingly all too rare in the 21st century. It turns out that, behind the scenes, he’s putting that to eminently good use to help the next generation as well. Roger Federer is a NetJets Ambassador. rogerfedererfoundation.org ■ 15 NetJets

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