By Lynda Mansson, Director General, MAVA Foundation

What does it mean to close a foundation ‘elegantly’? Since we began planning for our sunset many years ago, this was our objective. We’ve shared many of our lessons throughout this process and here I’d like to focus on internal organization to ensure a smooth closure while simultaneously breathing new life into staff motivation.

Closing a foundation well is complex and multi-faceted. There is one key thing we did that made the difference: about 18 months before the end, we designed 5 transversal streams of work that would ensure our smooth exit. Every single staff member was involved in one of these streams which was ancillary to their primary positions, but in some cases took a more significant share of the total time when other tasks were naturally diminishing.

This offered some interesting possibilities for team members to profile themselves around various topics, to learn new skills, and to work with a different team. It also ensured that everyone had a key role in helping to strategize and implement how to close well, creating a very high degree of ownership.

The five streams were:

  1. Learning
  2. Engaging other donors
  3. Final evaluation
  4. Telling MAVA’s story
  5. Legal and physical closing
1. Learning

We were devoted to harvesting and sharing our key lessons from our experiences in philanthropy and conservation. A core team orchestrated the production of our learning products. They were not responsible for writing all of them, but kept track of the slate of proposals, following up and ensuring timely delivery, maintaining the overview so that all key areas were covered, and finally proof-reading and approving each product to ensure overall coherence.

A key part of this work was an orchestrated calendar of promotion of the different products, coordinated with all other communications to ensure a measured release of communications for greatest impact.

Overall 17 different learning products were produced, and we expect up to 6 more to come out in 2023.

This work will continue through the very final months of MAVA.

➦ Team members included Simon Mériaux, Salla Ba, Charlène Minster and Thierry Renaud. Many different team members were involved in producing the various learning products, sometimes in groups, sometime duos, and occasionally individually.

2. Engaging other donors

A duo of senior staff strategized new opportunities, made key introductions, held events to showcase the work of our partners, and tracked the overall additional commitments from other donors. This is also an area where I spent quite a bit of my time to ensure a smooth continuation of the work we care so much about.

Our latest analysis shows that for just the Mediterranean and West Africa programmes, CHF 50.1 million in additional funding raised by our partners with our help as co-funding for the outcome action plans in the final phase with MAVA, and CHF 99.5 million raised for the continuation of the work post-MAVA.

Several donor collaborations were built from scratch and some of our fellow donors have hired MAVA staff into their own foundations.

Towards the end, this work shifted to become more opportunistic and less proactive.

➦ Charlotte Karibuhoye and Paule Gros led this stream of work, with contributions from many other team members as well.

3. Final evaluation

This core team designed the concept, process, templates, and timeline for the participative evaluations for all of our outcome action plans.

24 different workshops were held with partners to conduct these evaluations. Feedback from partners shows that they found it to be a useful, light exercise which highlighted key achievements, lessons and impact in a concise document.

These final reports can be used both as reporting and celebration on what was done together, but also for future fundraising efforts by the partners.

This core team disbanded after its job was done.

➦ Team members were Luis Costa, Marie Madeleine Gomez and Holger Schmid. All programme staff were intimately involved in preparing for and coordinating the final evaluations.

4. Telling MAVA’s Story

An additional core team looked at the coherence of our messages as well as seeking opportunities to promote our story.

They oversaw the production of the MAVA commemorative book and led on the conceptualization and execution of our celebrations – both virtual and in person. In reality this team was less active than many others since the individual pieces required a lead and a support team rather than one point of organization.

➦ Team members were Nathalie Cadot, Suzanne Amrein and Eve Cabo. Simon Mériaux also contributed enormously to this stream.

5. Legal and physical closing

This was about all the administrative, logistical, legal and financial tasks that need to be seen to conclude operations. This included everything from ensuring that we end the contract for the photocopier to giving notice on our office rental agreement to deciding what happens to the artwork and sofas in the office. This stream of work will be active until the very last day of MAVA.

➦ Team members were Rachel Sturm, Ahmet Fall, Laurianne Demierre, Sokhna Ndiaye and Shalini Joseph.

Final thoughts

This creative solution of building cross-cutting work streams was key to smoothly managing many aspects of our closing. As with any significant change, it took quite some internal communications to get everyone on board with this new structure, but we got there in the end. I believe everyone found their place and enjoyed the new assignments. The results are a collective accomplishment that the whole MAVA team can be proud of.