Foundation Financing Is Breaking New Ground
Deutsche PalliativStiftung as Entrepreneur
As a reaction to the sustained low interest rate phase which forces foundations to look for alternative financing options, Deutsche PalliativStiftung (DPS) carried through a first corporate takeover.
The current investment and interest rate situation is making it difficult for foundations to finance their work. The revenues from foundations’ basic assets have considerably decreased due to the sustained low interest phase. A few years ago, interest rates of up to 6 per cent were quite usual; today, they hardly reach 1 per cent. In order to be able to maintain all projects, new ways of financing are called for. Hence, in September 2016, Deutsche PalliativStiftung (DPS) took over R.S. Arbeitsschutz Bedarfshandelsgesellschaft mbH, thus embracing an unconventional way of foundation financing. “As R.S. proprietor, we hope to become independent of external funds. It is our goal to sustainably realize our projects, and to finance the foundation’s operations exclusively by utilizing the company’s profits. Thus, donations can still be channelled directly into our projects at 100 per cent,” says Dr. Thomas Sitte, Chairman of the Board at DPS. “Our slogan ‘Protect and Help’ is a perfect fit for personal protective equipment, as it is for Deutsche PalliativStiftung.” Taking the term CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility, i.e. the entrepreneurial responsibility towards society and social concerns) literally, a company is to serve society. That’s why RS Arbeitsschutz GmbH will thus from now on not only offer its products, but also the philosophy of Deutsche PalliativStiftung, the “ultimate responsibility as a value in our economy”. Seen in this way, all customers are also potential multipliers and ambassadors of Deutsche PalliativStiftung.
In 1982, Roswitha Seibert founded R.S. Arbeitsschutz Bedarfshandelsgesellschaft mbH as a company in Kaltenkirchen (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany). She imported protective work gloves from southeast Asia and sold them from a central warehouse at Hamburg harbor to customers all across Germany. After more than 34 years, Ms. Seibert (then aged 72), wanted to hand over her company and do good at the same time. The reason why she decided to explicitly support hospice and palliative work, is quite clear to her: “I’ve taken a look at a number of hospices from the inside, and some of them made me quite afraid. There still is a huge need to be met. I think that old people who spent decades of their lives working hard, who maybe even survived WWII, should be able to enjoy the last stage of their lives as comfortably as possible.”
A foundation taking over a company may raise some concerns. “Like with every other company, there remains a basic risk despite all safeguarding measures. The business success is never guaranteed,” says Dr. Thomas Sitte. DPS makes sure that the corporate takeover takes place in compliance with the meaning of the foundation’s basic tenets. Since transparency is a valuable good especially in the non-profit sector, DPS has committed itself to making all cash flows transparent. Thus everybody can see that all R.S. earnings actually flow into DPS work. Moreover, DPS fulfills its social obligations as a foundation. “It is of great concern to us that the working conditions in the production facilities from which R.S. sources its products are complying with socially and ecologically correct standards. Ms Seibert used to check on this regularly, and we will continue to operate in this vein,” Sitte clarifies. DPS plans to introduce a corresponding label for working gloves to certify this.
As mentioned, it is not the financial aspect alone that is the focus of this takeover. The company will continue to contribute to pursue the foundation’s goals. One elementary component of DPS activities is to sensitize a wide range of circles in society to the topic of death and dying, and to spread the word about how important hospice and palliative work really is. DPS sells protective gloves under the new name of “R.S. Schützen und Helfen” to regional and supra-regional companies. Thus, people are faced with a topic that usually is given only little space in their everyday life. Good palliative care means that terminally ill patients are able to live their life until the very end without being subjected to unbearable pain, with dignity, according to their own wishes, and enjoying all-round care. Protect and help are thus fundamental terms which connect the foundation with the company even on a content level.