Giving Compass’ Take:
• William Foster, Gail Perreault, and Elise Tosun examine the “how” of making big bets in philanthropy (rather than the “what”) so that funders and foundations can better understand their mechanisms.
• Many big bets can lead to success (the example given here is of Julius Rosenwald educating African Americans in the South). How can we mobilize resources to make more of them?
The world is rich in problems but poor in clear methods to address them. This article offers ten underutilized ways to place a big bet on social change.
Big bets on social change are relatively rare — despite the great desire of most major donors to advance such causes. That rarity is heart-wrenching, given that big bets can have extraordinary impact. They can radically change the organizations or social movements they support, creating leaps in their recipients’ abilities or long-term ambitions. Mind you, it’s not a quick process. The biggest bets generally come out of years of work and build on multiple smaller grants.
Our research has shown that a median of four smaller grants precede a big bet (with the big bet being 10 times the size of the previous grant), as the donors and recipients build relationships and trust, and gain knowledge of what’s required to get results. And those big bets nest within a broader arc of social change — one that’s more appropriately measured in decades than in years.
But ultimately, it takes a lot to do a lot. Indeed, historically, big bets have been a critical input to many of the nonprofit sector’s greatest success stories …
In this article, based on our research of 14 years of big bets by US donors, we describe the various “hows” donors are using — 10 distinct ways to place a big bet on social change. They include building a field, waging an advocacy campaign, founding an organization, and seven more.
Read the full article on how to make big bets on social change by William Foster, Gail Perreault, and Elise Tosun at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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