Big Bets Philanthropy and Social Change

It was just an ordinary day with lots of things on my to do list, until the email from The Bridgespan Group landed in my inbox with a TedX talk by Bridgespan partner William Foster.

In just 15 minutes, I felt more inspired about our work and the potential for change than I had in many months. Foster is calling for a fundamental shift in the way we think about funding social change and his ideas have legs.

Here are a few insights from the talk:

  • There are 500 billionaires in the United States and yet there have been only 100 gifts of $10 million or more to social change organizations—and 40 of those were made by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Eighty percent of philanthropists say they WANT to invest in big audacious goals; but most really big gifts go to safer, more traditional institutions like universities, museums, and hospitals.
  • Bridgespan research shows that 75% of the most effective social movements and 90% of effective nonprofits have a big bet investor behind them.
  • To encourage more big bets gifts to social change, donors have to embrace risk and recognize that they can take chances that governments cannot.

There’s tons more good stuff in this TedX Talk so check it out here.

I promise, you won’t regret it.

I’ll close with Foster’s words:

“Imagine if there were 2 to 3 times as many big bets on social change in the next decade as there were over the last. If we are able together to achieve that goal together, millions of people and generations of lives will be fundamentally different.”

Photo credit: © David Lofink. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

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