Gå tilbage

It started with a good idea

It started with a good idea

VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN are both non-profit foundations established by Villum Kann Rasmussen, an industrious Danish graduate engineer who invented the VELUX roof window.

The two foundations were established in 1971 and 1981, respectively, but their history stretches back to 1941 when Villum Kann Rasmussen founded the company we know today as the VKR Group.

The company’s mission was as simple as it was ground-breaking. The first products the company produced were glass roofs, but soon the idea of inventing a roof window product that could match the quality of standard façade windows emerged. Hence, an important milestone was the VELUX roof window, which was developed in 1942, and which has been the epicentre of many new products and initiatives ever since. 

A window on the future

A window on the future

Developing a high-quality roof window proved itself to be an idea with significant long-term potential. Along with enhanced conditions such as central heating and insulation it became possible to transform the often dark, damp attics of the day into bright, inexpensive and comfortable rooms. The VELUX roof window window hit the market at the right time, and the VKR Group has been growing ever since.

The rapid growth saw the VKR Group expand from a one-man business to an international corporation that today employs over 14,000 people in 40 countries.

Today, the VKR Group is owned by foundations and family members of Mr Kann Rasmussen, and its focus remains on providing people with more daylight, fresh air and a better indoor environment. 

A visionary with modern values

A visionary with modern values

Most companies today are focused on visions and values, but as far back as 1965, Villum Kann Rasmussen was already beginning to formulate his ideas for how responsible companies should behave.

Mr Kann Rasmussen was, in many ways, ahead of his time, including in his description of what he called the model company objective. The point of the goal was to ensure that the VKR Group was in good standing with its community, or as Mr Kann Rasmussen himself put it:

“The VKR Group’s goal is to build up model companies that can serve as role models.

“A model company deals in products that have a benefit to society, and it treats its customers, suppliers, employees of all types and its shareholders, better than most other companies do.

“A model company seeks to turn a profit, that, in turn, is used to finance growth and maintain its financial independence.” 
Villum Kann Rasmussen, 1965

 

Dawn for VILLUM FONDEN

Dawn for VILLUM FONDEN

The establishment of VILLUM FONDEN as a non-profit foundation was a turning point for Villum Kann Rasmussen. However, the thought of giving something back to society was far from a foreign concept for him as he was already the co-founder of a smaller foundation supporting the development of local conditions on his small native island, Mandø.

During the 1960s, due to the growing success of the VKR Group, Villum Kann Rasmussen began to consider how he could prepare the ownership of the company in such a way that it would survive as a consolidated and successful business for many generations to come.

Mr Kann Rasmussen therefore settled on the non-profit foundation as his solution. Such an organisation could be made the group’s primary shareholder, and in so doing ensure the company’s long-term survival, while at the same time allowing him to repay the society he felt had given him so much.

The decision to establish VILLUM FONDEN was made with equal parts sense and sensibility, two traits that Mr Kann Rasmussen had balanced successfully throughout his entire life. 

VELUX FONDEN is born

VELUX FONDEN is born

After selling all his class-B shares to VILLUM FONDEN, Villum Kann Rasmussen was made the organisation’s chairman of the board. He held the same position in VELUX FONDEN when it was established a decade later.

As the VKR Group grew, Mr Kann Rasmussen found the opportunity to establish a second foundation, entirely based on a non-profit charter.

In 1981, this led to the establishment of VELUX FONDEN, which largely took over the original non-profit charter of VILLUM FONDEN. VILLUM FONDEN remained the main shareholder of the VKR Group.

Today, both foundations use grants as a form of active support for non-profit projects.

A slow start to a bright future

A slow start to a bright future

During the foundation’s first few years, the grants it made were, as could be expected, relatively small amounts. That, though, would soon change.

Success for the VKR Group meant more profit that could be passed on in the form of ever larger grants, and, eventually, to projects outside of Denmark’s borders.

During its history, VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN have made a total of more than DKK 10 billion in grants to all manner of non-profit projects.

 

  

A new era

A new era

Villum Kann Rasmussen and his visionary ideas were provided much of the impetus for the developments that have made the foundations what they are today. Mr Kann Rasmussen passed away on 24 August 1993.

  • His absence had a noticeable impact on the foundations. Nevertheless, his leadership went a long way to ensuring that they could survive after he was gone. This is reflected in the fact that, since his death, only one significant addition has been made to the foundations’ trust deeds.
  • One of the things Mr Kann Rasmussen accomplished before his death was the adoption of a clause requiring that the two foundations’ boards of directors always include a direct descendant. In so doing, he hoped to ensure that his family would continue to contribute to the non-profit work of the foundations. 

A part of something bigger

A part of something bigger

The establishment of VILLUM FONDEN and VELUX FONDEN marked the start of an era of making contributions to support projects that seek to improve society.

The foundations neither can, nor will, claim responsibility for the many successful projects we have been involved with. It is satisfaction enough that we can give other the chance to make an active contribution to society.

In that respect, the foundations are a part of something larger. They are part of something that, in keeping with the spirit of Villum Kann Rasmussen, shows that self-interest and society’s interests are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

 

A portrait of Villum Kann Rasmussen

A portrait of Villum Kann Rasmussen

Even as a child, Villum Kann Rasmussen was driven by an incredible urge to innovate and an impressive talent for inventing.

Almost literally, if the young Villum boiled an egg he came up with a new egg cup. New ideas constantly came to him.

During the years, Mr Kann Rasmussen, clad in his white lab coat, put hundreds of ideas to the test. Many of them turned out to be ground-breaking successes, including the modern VELUX roof window, which over the years has brought daylight, cheer and fresh air into the homes of millions.

Learn more about the fascinating life of Villum Kann Rasmussen by watching our video (Danish).

See video