What do you want the future to be?

Hear the experts from leading organizations in the Every Woman Every Child movement.

We philanthropists can make more of a difference

Lessons learned at one of the world's largest foundations

Jamie Cooper-Hohn

President & Chief Executive Officer The Children's Investment Fund Foundation (UK)

Jamie Cooper-Hohn is a co-founder of CIFF and serves as the Foundation's President & Chief Executive Officer. Ms. Cooper-Hohn has more than 20 years' experience in roles that have involved bringing private sector, government and nonprofit leaders together to pursue innovative policy and programming around a broad array of economic and social issues. Prior to assuming leadership of the Foundation, she served as Co-Director of Shine Trust, a grant-making trust supporting children in poverty in England through educational initiatives.

She also served as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Development for Gould Partners in New York City, a nonprofit collaborative effort aimed at expanding educational opportunities for inner-city children and their families. As Associate Director for the Center for Policy Alternatives in Washington, D.C., Ms. Cooper-Hohn led the organization's efforts to promote innovative legislative responses to social and economic issues.

She has served on several boards in the international development sphere, and currently serves, among others, as a United Nations Commissioner on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, as a member of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Board of Dean Julio Frenk Advisors, is on the Business Leadership Council for Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT), is a member of the Coutts UK Philanthropy Advisory Board and a member of the Impetus Advisory Council. Her other experiences include working for CBS News (U.S.) and the Atlanta Project, an initiative of President Jimmy Carter.

Ms. Cooper-Hohn received a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College and a Master of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

I would like to speak philanthropist-to-philanthropist about how we can make more of a difference in global development, and to explain what my foundation, the Children's Investment Fund Foundation, has chosen to focus on—and why.


This year is our tenth at the Children's Investment Fund Foundation. While my husband Chris and I initially put in $10 million, the Foundation now has almost $4 billion, and scale means something very different when you're giving away $100 million plus.

In my third or fourth year, when we were getting quite large, I made several mistakes. I opened five country offices, then closed them down; hired two very senior staff, then counseled them out. Finally, my board said, "Jamie, why don't you contact some of the larger well-managed foundations and find out how they're organizing, who they're hiring, and see if we can't smooth this a little bit going forward?"

So I did. But because my passion and fixation is "impact," when I spoke with the chairs and CEOs of these foundations, I also would say, "Please tell me about your best grants."

These were foundations giving away more than $100 million a year, so you would assume their largest grant is quite significant, $20 million plus.

Four of the 25 people I met had no real sense of their grantees. In the vast majority of other cases, when they described the organization they were funding, they spoke about an inspirational leader or about what the organization did.

So I would say, "Well, you've obviously given it a very large grant. What are you expecting?"

In almost no case could they tell me. They were validating that there was either a charismatic leader or they liked what they saw when they did a site visit. And if they like what they see in five years, they'll write another check.

That is not the same as getting impact.

If you want impact, you need to know what success is. There's a difference between working in a space and working toward an outcome.

I ask that you see your philanthropy as an investment and not a gift.

People will constantly say to me, "Well, if I'm doing women's empowerment, I have to work in a space; there is no outcome."

But there is. You can be working toward women getting elected. You can be working toward women's economic power. But if you aren't clear about what you're trying to achieve, you'll end up focusing on things that may or may not make a difference.

Passion plus activities is not impact.


From our experience and learning, I also would suggest that you think in a transformational way—think big. We don't believe in saving one child at a time. Seven million children die every year. We can do better than that.

Use the evidence. Know where you can make a difference at scale. Focus. Get to know your area. Look at ways to leverage. Make sure what you do is institutionalized. These things will help make your money go much further.

And please know that you aren't done when you write the check. You can make a huge difference in impact if you stay with your programs. We independently monitor what we call "the critical path"; those are the key accomplishments we expect as we work toward a goal.

No battle plan ever survives its first contact with the enemy—we have to keep assessing what's working and what isn't the same way a business would know when its advertising strategy is working or not. If your assessments tell you promotions aren't working, you don't keep investing in promotions. You try something different. You have to do the same thing with philanthropy. Some programs will work; some won't. But if you're not tracking your efforts, if you're just site visiting and seeing the one family that benefited, you won't know what is really happening.

We made at least a 100% increase in impact in every single program we've run by looking at the critical path and having conversations with our grantees about where we need to course correct.


In terms of our own work on child health, we look at the evidence to answer key questions, such as "Where do we need to work? Where are the gaps? Where do we know there are things that work that just aren't being implemented? How can our foundation be additive in this space?"

Our foundation has, for 10 years, been most involved in pediatric AIDS. It's been a journey, from getting treatment up and going in India, where there was real resistance to pediatric AIDS, to focusing now on how to prevent mother-to-child transmission. It's been exciting, with many successes, although a lot of work still needs to be done. There are still seven countries where AIDS is the leading cause of child death under five.

The second area that we focus on is perinatal mortality. Right now, 40% of child deaths occur in the first month of life, and 75% of those happen from the time mom goes into labor to a child's first week.

A lot of people assume that when we talk about infant mortality, we are advocating for incubators and other major interventions. But there are a number of studies at fairly large scale showing that if you simply wrap a baby after it is delivered rather than, as they do in many countries, put the baby on the side while delivering the placenta; if you use a clean razor to cut the umbilical cord; if you wash your hands; and if you immediately place the baby on mom's chest, these actions alone will save 25% to 40% of at-risk babies' lives. These simple interventions are not expensive. But they do require people knowing what to do.


We also are very passionate at our foundation about solving "undernutrition," which is now estimated to be the underlying cause in 45% of children's deaths. Often, because children are not getting basic nutrients, their bodies are too weak to fight disease. A million children also die every year of starvation, one of the easiest things to diagnose and treat.

We know from a recent UNICEF report that 10 countries have been able to cut the number of their children stunted by undernutrition by a third in the past five to 10 years. This has been achieved by doing simple things such as improving hygiene, breast feeding and supplementing children's and pregnant women's diets with vitamins. These are very cheap interventions that can have an enormous impact. Mothers will be a third less likely to die in childbirth. We also know from longitudinal studies, mostly in Latin America, that individuals who are not stunted will have 20% to 45% higher wages and be a third less likely to live in poverty.

A number of countries like Kenya, Nigeria, India, that see themselves as virtually middle income, still have more than 40% stunting. This is a huge issue; very cheap to fix. It's a really important economic issue. And, working together, insisting on impact, we can make a difference now.

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