Ian Woosnam’s approach to philanthropy is intentional. As one of the “Big Five” generation of European golfers who made Europe competitive in the Ryder Cup, including winning the 1991 US Masters Tournament and being inducted to the Golf Hall of Fame in 2017, Ian has the networks, money and time to devote significant resources to charity. His strategic approach, and the results it has catalysed, helps us understand how people can pool their unique connections, talents and resources to solve critical issues in Barbados.

In the late 2010s, as Ian settled into making Barbados his second home, he learned about the climbing rate of diabetes in the country. Diabetes, clinically called diabetes mellitus, is a chronic metabolic disease and well-known global epidemic. While Type 2 diabetes is preventable, Type 1 cannot be prevented. Barbados has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the Caribbean, with reports of 1 in 5 adults having the disease. The cost to government for treating and managing the epidemic is estimated to be about $64 million per year, with the need for nuanced treatment options expanding. Solving the problem of diabetes is expensive, demanding both preventative action and effective management of the disease to control its most damaging effects.

Ian has two daughters living in the UK with Type 1 diabetes. Donors with such close ties to a cause they care deeply about sometimes slip into the trend of impulsive, or solely self-directed giving. Though these one-off gifts are valuable, the ad hoc approach is not a successful method of driving long-term, systemic change to solve a social issue. Rather than writing a one-time cheque, or starting up his own initiative, Ian partnered with an existing organisation. He chose to invest in The Barbados Diabetes Foundation, a local registered charity working to solve the issue of limited access to holistic diabetes care. Its current three main sources of funding are Government grants, a support grant from The Maria Holder Memorial Trust, and proceeds from golf tournaments held under the auspices of Ian Woosnam.

The first Woosnam-sponsored golf tournament was at Apes Hill Club in March 2016. Designed as a Golf Cup based on the Ryder Cup, this event and subsequent Woosnam-sponsored golf tournaments at Royal Westmoreland Golf Club in 2018 and 2020, have raised Bds $609,000 for the Barbados Diabetes Foundation. These funds have been donated to the organisation for the ‘specific and restricted purpose’ of the treatment of persons with Type 1 diabetes. This enabled the creation of a Type 1 Diabetes Register in 2017 and establishment of a dedicated fund accessible to anyone with Type 1 diabetes in Barbados. The arrangement filled the Foundation’s need to provide more tailored diabetes care, and a broader national need to prevent and reduce cases of uncontrolled diabetes. This ‘restricted impact’ donation model is one of the ways philanthropists can strategically engage with charities and other social enterprises to solve pressing issues.

We often meet generous people like Ian who have connections to Barbados and who, because of their personal life experiences, decide to use their resources and engage with the local community to provide real help for pressing social issues. This help is often in the form of time, volunteered skills, money or a combination of them all. Ian’s story is important because it shows how philanthropists can grow into social investors, strategically using their own talents and resources not only to give to causes they care about, but to drive catalytic change in a clearly defined and urgent area of social need. This approach, which we are calling ‘strategic philanthropy’, is a useful tool for those with existing giving practices, as well as those facing new circumstances – for example, a change in location, culture and/or unpredictable factors, such as the covid-19 pandemic.

Strategic philanthropy combines heart, thought, awareness and clarity of intent. The approach considers the issues you care about deeply, the evidenced issues that need solving in your environment and who is already working on/interested in the cause you are keen to support. For example, online resources for funders and volunteers, such as the ASIRE Blog & Barbados Charity Map, can help you better understand local needs and identify your giving priorities. The outcome of this focused approach is a more connected philanthropic ecosystem; a clearly identified philanthropic goal that is personally resonant, locally relevant, does not duplicate existing efforts, is connected to collective action and drives impact in an identified area of need. Founded in 2015 to help charities help, ASPIRE Foundation (Barbados) Inc. is an evidenced opportunity for strategic local philanthropy. For example, ASPIRE’s Incubator Programme is a 12-month business development fellowship for local social organisations. Organisations access pro-bono business support valued at $60,000, a small seed grant of $10,000 and certification in core governance standards. It was created to nurture a hub of the most promising local non-profits and social leaders with systems-changing solutions to local priority issues, help combat the regulatory issues of the sector and connect investors and non-profits with shared goals. By the time of graduation, these organisations are in a stronger position topartner with social investors to solve our biggest issues. The 2021 ASPIRE Incubator Programme cycle is open for applications. The first fourteen non-profits graduated the programme in 2020.

We are looking for likeminded philanthropists who believe that strategic investments can accelerate solutions to our most pressing challenges. Our urgent goal is to support 50 important local social enterprises by 2025.

Are you interested in joining our mission to help charities help? We’d love to hear from you. Please give us a call at 1-246-232-6043 or drop us a line at admin@aspirebarbados.org.

ASPIRE Foundation (Barbados) Inc. is a local non-profit working to build up the civic sector and non-profits that change lives. ASPIRE is a member of the Barbados NGO Major Group, the WINGS philanthropic network (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support) and the Caribbean Philanthropy Alliance (CPA). Learn more at aspirebarbados.org.