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Bill Young on Strategic Philanthropy

Published October 14, 2019.

Considered a bit of a maverick in the philanthropy world, Bill Young takes a bundled approach to giving, supporting Windmill as a donor, guarantor, and community bond investor. With over 20 years experience in the private sector as CEO of Hamilton Computers, Bill applies his background in business and technology to make strategic decisions about his philanthropy.

Our Senior Development Officer, Sarah Stuewe, sat down with Bill to discuss bundled giving, social impact investing, and why he supports Windmill in so many different ways.

Could you tell me a bit about your approach to philanthropy and how it differs from simply writing a cheque?

My organization, Social Capital Partners, is an analogue to Windmill in terms of trying to figure out new models for solving structural social challenges. From a philanthropy standpoint, for me, the most important things are the management team and the theory of change. I look for a theory of change that incorporates not just, here’s the problem we’re tackling and how we’re going to do it, but, also, this is why the impact is going to be really strong.

As a philanthropist, I like to make long-term bets, not fund individual projects or provide a grant for a program and get the report back. I think about it the way people think about their investments in the private sector. Let’s find a company with a great strategy, a great management team, and take a long-term investment horizon. Windmill does all of this really well.

You support Windmill Microlending in a variety of ways by bundling your giving. What inspired that approach?

So often we’re only given the option to donate. Usually it’s, if you give this much you get your name on a chair, if you give this much you get your name on a building. I don’t think we’ve been creative enough in the not-for-profit sector. On the flip side, philanthropists tend to put themselves in these boxes where philanthropy means making a donation, or a grant to a program. I’ve always been someone who believes you can create new pools of capital that wouldn’t exist otherwise, and that’s what I like about Windmill.

As a donor, I believe in Windmill’s theory of change, management team, and impact. And I think, if I’m happy donating to this organization, I’ve already done my due diligence on any investment product because I’ve told myself I’m happy with a 100% write off, so why not also go for a Windmill community bond.

A community bond makes tons of sense, it’s a great way for a philanthropist get their money back and also be able to recycle it. While I’m not getting risk-adjusted rates of return, I’m getting way better returns than the 100% write off of a donation. It’s a creative option for me as a philanthropist and it allows me to participate across the whole continuum as a donor, guarantor, and investor in the community bond.

What advice would you offer someone who is thinking about supporting Windmill?

My quick advice would be “do it.” You’re going to have a hard time finding a better place for your donation budget or your impact investment budget. We know how important immigrants are to this country, we’ve all seen immigrants who have to take survival jobs. Windmill’s model works, the data shows it works and it’s a really important issue. So, my advice would be, do it.  But, if you’re not ready to do it, do some due diligence, take a look at the numbers, take a look at the data. And if you can come up with a better option, get in touch with me!

What impact would you like to make as a donor?

I do think the wheel of fortune has spun disproportionately well for some of us, and it sure doesn’t spin well for all of us. For those on the fortunate side, I think there should be some responsibility to try and figure out how we can do things better and not just give back, but look at the root causes. I think Windmill has done a great job looking at the root cause of why immigrants have to take survival jobs and asking, “How do we solve this?”  

For more information about how to support Windmill Microlending with bundled giving, please contact Jeni Piepgrass, National Director of Development, at (403) 228-9981 x. 222 or

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