For Andrew Currie – entrepreneur, conservationist, and advocate for endangered animals – doing “everything I can to help our fellow non-human beings” is both a calling and a journey.
“After my co-founders and I sold our software company in 2000, I was referred to Josie Heath, then president of the Community Foundation,” recalls Andrew. In turn, Josie invited him to serve on the foundation’s Board of Trustees. “I’d never done anything like that before – it was my first education about the nonprofit sector, and what it means to work with other nonprofits to help a cause.
“Getting involved with the foundation was invaluable and a turning point for me, and the Community Foundation board is still one of the best-run boards I’ve ever served on.”
Indeed, Andrew’s turning point was first realized by his joining Josie and others to form Social Venture Partners Boulder County (SVP), an accelerator for established nonprofits, helping them to be their best. “SVP remains the best place for business people to learn how to help the causes and nonprofits they care about,” he says.
From there, Andrew’s foray into philanthropy – including establishing a Donor-Advised Fund with the Community Foundation – took off in earnest.
“I have benefited in my life from countless supportive family members, teachers, business partners, and team members,” he continues. “I don’t take solo credit for my education, experience, skills, or financial success – so, yes – I feel it’s important to give back to society.
“After selling my company and making enough money to live well the rest of my life, I made the decision to focus my talent, experience, skills, and relationships on making a difference in the world … on changing the world for the better.
“I need meaningful work to be happy and fulfilled, and my heart led me to the environment, nature, and helping wild animals – especially those that are endangered.”
Andrew describes his charitable giving as “one important part of a wide range of activities I do, including pro-environment election giving, impact investing in direct private deals, state and federal advocacy, and pro bono strategy consulting and problem solving.”
“I listen, study, and then focus on approaches that can solve core problems – not just treat symptoms,” he says.
As such, Andrew is also actively involved with the Community Foundation’s Environmental Affinity Group (EAG). “Peer groups like EAG are important because environmental giving is only a tiny fraction, about 3%, of all charitable giving,” Andrew says. “EAG is a way to grow broader support for important wildlife and environmental needs from our peers – and to learn be as strategic and impactful as possible in our environmental giving.”
Proof positive, Andrew’s work includes impact investing for land conservation for wildlife habitat. He led a small impact investment team that helped create a 5K-acre prairie wildlife preserve in Colorado, and – as an impact investor – he helped add land threatened with development to James Peak Wilderness. What’s more, Andrew is senior adviser at the Impact Finance Center, captain of the environment track of the CO Impact Initiative, a member of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, and founder and former director of Environmental Entrepreneurs Rocky Mountains.
“I’m actively seeking people who care about the environment and wildlife, and who are interested in learning new and powerful ways to help the causes and nonprofits they believe in through impact investing,” Andrew says. “For example, you can make loans to nonprofits from your Donor-Advised Fund – many people don’t know that.
“We’re forming an environment impact investing circle where each person chips in a charitable donation to a pooled DAF of a few thousand dollars – which is what many of us donate anyway to sponsor a table at a fundraising event, for example. Most of us can lend 10 to 100 times more than we can donate.”
That’s how Andrew helped create a conservation buyers group that just completed its second deal – a land conservation low-interest loan for wildlife habitat. “We’re proof that small groups of people who care about conservation can work together, pool our resources, and make a difference in Colorado and beyond at the scale of thousands of acres.”
Concludes Andrew, “The natural environment here in Boulder County has inspired me for 30 years. I have grown up and grown wiser by taking countless walks, hikes, and bike rides in the mountains, foothills and prairie here in all seasons. I am connected to our Boulder County and Colorado landscape, emotionally and spiritually.
“There are also a lot of dedicated people here, and great nonprofits working to help nature. All this informs and inspires my environmental and wildlife giving, and grounds me as I work to help endangered species in Colorado, across the country, and in far away places like East Africa.”