First Sentier Investors

The challenge

First Sentier Investors is a global investment management business which has for many years supported a wide range of good causes through its philanthropic arm, the First Sentier Foundation.

With offices across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, the Foundation wanted support to unite its staff and stakeholders behind a new global strategy, that would see funding rationalised into one key area of giving with a compelling vision and clear narrative. Once the vision was agreed, it also sought support to set up new grant-making and measurement practices that allow the Foundation to understand and report on its impact.

The approach

Before beginning the strategy development process, NPC undertook a number of 1:1 calls with key stakeholders within First Sentier Investors. The purpose of these calls was to understand views on the current work of the Foundation and how a new charitable strategy could align with corporate strategies, including the company’s leading work in responsible investment. From these calls, we grew our understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities for the client as it looked at refocusing its philanthropy.

The NPC team then worked iteratively through a process of online workshops and surveys, to engage staff from around the world in the development of a new strategy. We listened to staff views, developed several options, and refined these based on staff feedback—ultimately selecting a single preferred option. Across the process, we engaged with more than 110 staff members, hearing diverse opinions and feedback which helped to shape the strategic focus. Once the focus was agreed, NPC then developed a set of grant-making criteria.

NPC then worked with First Sentier Investors’ Executive Leadership Team to refine the final strategy, and to discuss implications of the new positioning for the wider business. A final version was shared with everyone who engaged with the process in September 2022.

Once the strategy was finalised, NPC helped develop grant-making processes, providing critical friend support to the client team as they developed new structures for governance and management at the Foundation. This included developing an application form for those invited to apply to the foundation; and building the Foundation’s approach to measurement for the initial years of its strategy. This work was finalised with training in the new tools for staff involved in grant-making.

The result

The First Sentier Foundation’s new strategy launched in autumn 2022, with positive buy-in and feedback from across the staff base and leadership team. At the end of 2022, the first grants were made using the new application process, and the Foundation team has now moved into a process of embedding its strategy and processes over the next three years.

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