At a star-studded event in St. Tropez in July, the nonprofit AURORA Institute made its debut. The organization hosted a party featuring NBA champion and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, singer Robbie Williams, and a who's who from across the sports, fashion, and art worlds, raising more than US$8 million in its inaugural fundraising event.
It's only the opening act for a group that plans to help tackle the issue of global mental health and wellness in a new and innovative way.
Tech entrepreneurs Christian Angermayer, Louise Tabbiner, and Henry Chalhoub joined forces for the venture, bringing a distinctive Silicon Valley-style approach to the concept. Instead of the plodding pace of many nonprofits, AURORA has adopted a collaboration-driven, shoot-for-the-stars startup mindset to the space of mental health. “The global mental health crisis is getting worse, fast,” Angermayer says. “We want AURORA to have the biggest impact as soon as possible.”
AURORA believes that mental health has long been overlooked and underfunded. For instance, it cites statistics from the World Economic Forum that 2% of government health spending is dedicated to mental health, and only 0.5% of global philanthropic giving towards health is dedicated to mental health.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people currently suffer from a mental health related issue. Angermayer reports that from that group, 80% do not have access to affordable, high-quality mental health treatment.
“We are witnessing a mental health crisis of epic proportions,” he says.
AURORA serves as an incubator or accelerator amplifying the efforts of those doing impactful work. In other words, rather than starting another traditional organization from the ground up, AURORA wants to turbocharge the best of what's already out there. “What we want to do is give these existing charities and NGOs a platform for awareness and fundraising,” Angermayer says.
That provides AURORA with a unique focus and position, and empowers it to direct its contributions where the largest difference can be made in the quickest amount of time. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Angermayer says. “We offer existing non-profit organizations a platform to raise more money and awareness for themselves.”
Further, by providing funds to organizations and individuals in many different fields, and with many different ideas and approaches, it increases the number of viable and successful paths for facing this issue. “The mind is as beautiful as it is complex, and we need as many solutions as possible,” Angermayer says.
AURORA launched with an initial goal of raising US$50 million in five years. After a smashing inaugural fundraising event, the organization's aspirations have already grown. “After raising just over US$8 million at our first event, we're confident that we're on the right track,” Angermayer says. “Actually, I hope we will raise much more [than US$50 million].”
Individuals at home who are interested in supporting its mission can make direct donations online. “We need more people to show their support, and financial donations will allow us to provide even more funding to leading individuals and NGOs tackling the mental health crisis,” Angermayer says.
More than funds, though, AURORA is action-oriented, and is looking to increase its pool of collaborators who can further its efforts. “We're open to all suggestions and working with supporters, pledgers, and donors around the world,” Angermayer says. “I invite anyone to connect with us, no matter how big or small their idea is.”
WHAT'S THE GOOD?
AURORA has designated four initial prize winners to receive funds and disperse them to their own charities or projects. This includes NBA player Kevin Love and his Kevin Love Fund; The Klitschko Foundation from brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, heavyweight boxing champions, the latter of whom is the mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine; Adam Gazzaley, , a leading neuroscientist and founder of Neuroscape Lab; and The Weight of Gold, a 2020 documentary shining a light on the connection between elite athletic competition and psychological struggle.
Other initiatives will include an upcoming global concert series spearheaded by Williams, dubbed MIND AID, to raise funds and work towards de-stigmatizing mental health; Antetokounmpo's addition of mental health initiatives to his Charles Antetokounmpo Family Foundation; and a US$3 million pledge from Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi of fin-tech company BREX to support mental-health friendly workplaces.
“Mental health doesn’t discriminate; it affects all people in some way, across all parts of society,” Angermayer says. “AURORA has created an ecosystem of global leaders at the forefront of business, technology, science, philanthropy and the arts, who are all passionate about better mental health. I’ve never been around such a diverse group of people as we had at the [launch event]. I was amazed and encouraged by how unifying the common cause of mental health was.”
Drawing on his entrepreneurial background, Angermayer believes that the organization can rise to rarefied air within the global health and wellness community. “Being an investor and entrepreneur myself, my main hope for AURORA is that it becomes the equivalent of something like a 'unicorn,'” he says. “I hope we build momentum at an exponential pace so that we raise sufficient funds to have a real, measurable impact on the global mental health crisis.”