New Bridgespan Research Highlights Philanthropy’s Big Bets on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
First-of-its-kind study details how $42.4 billion of philanthropic giving between 2000 and 2016 helps advance United Nations 2030 sustainable development goals
BOSTON, September 18, 2018 — An international roster of foundations and philanthropists have sought to accelerate progress on social issues targeted by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), dispersing billions of dollars to innovate new solutions, scale solutions that work, and influence public systems, according to a new Bridgespan Group study Philanthropy Bets Big on Global Sustainable Development Goals.
“The UN estimates a need for new global funding topping $2.5 trillion each year, and philanthropy has a critical role to play in closing this funding gap,“ said Kim Odgen, a Bridgespan partner and coauthor of the study. “In addition to bringing much-needed money, philanthropists have a unique ability to innovate, take risks, and build collaborations. This study offers an overview of how philanthropists have supported SDGs and provides insight into how big bets can achieve large-scale social change.”
Bridgespan found that the majority of 90 leading US and international philanthropists made big bets of $10 million or more between 2000 and 2016 that aligned with the SDGs, collectively deploying $42.4 billion over the 17-year timeframe of our research. Although the SDGs did not take effect until January 1, 2016, and thus did not directly motivate the philanthropic activity, the SDGs provided a useful way to study 21st century big bets and track their results against the UN’s implementation targets.
Excluding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s (Gates Foundation) outsized funding (it gives away six times more money than the next largest global funder), Bridgespan’s research shows that donations of $10 million or more from 51 funders went primarily to SDGs in four broad areas—health, education, gender equality, and environmental issues:
- Good Health and Well-Being—Funding for global health towered over all the other categories, attracting 364 big bets totaling $21.2 billion. The Gates Foundation dominated this category with 300 big bets exceeding $14 billion.
- Quality Education—Funders invested $3.5 billion in 35 big bets targeting quality education. More than nine of every 10 dollars went to implementing and scaling access to quality educational opportunities. Much of this work involved building public schools and universities, and investing in teachers and school leaders.
- Gender Equality—One dozen funders in Bridgespan’s database made 82 big bets in gender equality, totaling nearly $3.3 billion since 2000. Gates accounted for almost half—$1.4 billion. Eight of every 10 dollars went to scaling effective programs.
- Energy, Climate Change, and the Environment—Twenty-six funders made 75 SDG-aligned big bets on energy, the environment, and climate change, totaling $5.8 billion.
“While the United Nations made international headlines in September 2015 when it adopted an ambitious set of SDGs, even supporters acknowledge that progress towards these goals is off to a slow start. Philanthropists are well-positioned to help pick up the pace. Our study offers guidance to funders who want to explicitly embrace the SDGs,” said Ogden’s coauthor Sridhar Prasad.
Bridgespan recommends that funders focus on three key areas:
- Clarify how their grantmaking aligns with SDGs and the appropriate development targets
- Identify the catalytic roles they can play to best advance the SDGs
- Consider how best to collaborate with others to support SDGs
To read Bridgespan’s study, including a comprehensive overview of how philanthropists are funding SDGs, as well as steps funders can take to more explicitly embrace SDGs, visit www.ssir.org/articles/entry/philanthropy_bets_big_on_sustainable_development_goals
About The Bridgespan Group.
The Bridgespan Group (www.bridgespan.org) is a global nonprofit organization that collaborates with mission-driven leaders, organizations, philanthropists, and investors to break cycles of poverty and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in need. With offices in Boston, Mumbai, New York, and San Francisco, Bridgespan’s services include strategy consulting, leadership development, philanthropy and nonprofit advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.