Philanthropy gave me purpose - Myriam Vander ElstPublished on 01 Nov 2019
Philanthropy is a powerful tool in bringing families together, according to Myriam Vander Elst.“It gives people a common purpose that can be built around the values of the family - transcending business interests,” she told guests at the latest Stonehage Fleming Next Generation course in the UK.
As Managing Director at Epic Foundation, Myriam Vander Elst understands well the transformative influence of giving. “The foundation uses the power of money and network to help those who have not been so lucky, to make the world a better place and to contribute to society,” she said.
Epic is committed to enabling solutions for individuals and businesses to support high-impact social organisations. Myriam joined the foundation in 2015 after a chance meeting with founder and CEO Alexandre Mars.
Following the sale of her family business in 2011 Myriam found herself looking for purpose - a cause that aligned with her values. “To be the sixth generation of a highly successful family is unusual. And to have lasted so long in business highlights how cohesive our family culture was.”
Myriam spent the next three years looking for a charitable cause to put her inheritance to good use. This proved difficult as she struggled to find something she could really believe in.
When in 2015 Myriam met Alexandre Mars, serial entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Epic Foundation, she had a light bulb moment. “His vision was to make giving the norm”. The rigour of Alexandre’s approach and key principles of honesty, impact and effectiveness appealed to Myriam.
“At Epic we approach philanthropy like the private equity sector. We look for outstanding charities - game changers in the issues they are tackling,” explained Myriam. “We carry out months of due diligence and have 15 key performance indicators against which we measure investee charities.” Epic currently has a portfolio of 28 organisations and has raised $19m in last three years. 100% of funds raised goes to charitable organisations within the portfolio, which focus on children and youth.
“Epic is what I needed,” said Myriam. “Its structured, effective approach to philanthropy resonated with me. It is something I am so proud to be a part of today.”