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Downes Murray International (DMI): Jenni Mcleod & Emmi Albers

Strategy and altruism combine in a winning formula

Juliet Pitman



Jenni Mcleod & Emmi Albers of Downes Murray International

As any entrepreneur who has tried to drumup capital for a struggling start-up will confirm, raising funds is not an easy business. But it’s one that Downes Murray International (DMI) excels at. Drawing its clients from the not-for-profit sector, DMI is headed by partners Jenni McLeod and Emmi Albers and has a long and successful history of fundraising. With a unique approach and a strong team of trained and passionate staff, the company combines altruism with strategy in a winning formula.

Originally a subsidiary of Response Group, a communications-based company, DMI grew from a small core of not-for-profitclients for which the group provided fundraising services. As Jenni McLeod points out, it was Terry Murray, who lends his name to DMI, who first identified the opportunities available in the South African market for fundraising within the not-for-profit sector.

DMI focuses 80% of its fundraising efforts on private individuals, not corporates or foundations, and this is something that sets the company apart from other players in the sector. DMI’s approach is not formulaic; all programmes are tailor-made to suit client-specific needs and a strategic fundraising audit and feasibility study is conducted for each new client. Thereafter, the DMI team helps the client to define strategies, recruitand train staff and put admin systems in place in order to raise funds.

“We encourage and show clients how to build and nurture relationships with their funders,” says McLeod, “but we don’t ever come between our client and their donor. All fundraising is done under the client’s identity, not ours. Our role is to provide the strategic direction necessary to point clients in the right direction.”Rewarding work and making a difference inspires passion in McLeod, Albers and their team. And it was this passion that Murray recognised when he decided to sell DMI’s shares in 1999.

“Emmi and I were groomed over many years to take over the company,” explains McLeod. A six-year payment plan was worked out during which time she and McLeod were able to forfeit profit share in order to buy the company. “We were party to everything that was gong on in the company over that period, and we were already known and trusted by our clients – this allowed for a smooth takeover.”

That’s not to say that moving from a position as employee to one of owner and leader didn’t have its challenges. “We had no capital when we started,” recalls McLeod. The pair overcame this challenge by keeping finances on a short leash and running a tight ship financially. But it is to their team that McLeod gives the most credit and her approach has always been for staff to work with management, instead of for them. “We try to choose people who are altruistically motivated,” she explains.

Intensive theoretical and experiential training is part of an orientation programme in which new recruits are mentored by senior staff members until they are confident and competent enough to handle client accounts on their own. “Our greatest assets are the people who run our programmes,” McLeod concludes.

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

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From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

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Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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