November 30, 2016

Ten Most Promising Bets for Social Change

This list, created in collaboration with Forbes, shares the 58 biggest bets for social change from 2015, highlighting the most promising 10 big bets, and our methodology for selecting them.

In 2015, we saw a growing number of philanthropic big bets greater than $25 million go towards solving social issues. From funding scholarships for disadvantaged youth, to vaccinations for millions of children, to improving family planning services and contraception options to women globally.

This type of audacious giving is not yet the norm. Bridgespan research revealed that while 80 percent of the country’s largest donors seek to fund social change, only 20 percent of gifts $10 million-plus do. That is what makes this list extraordinary.

On this page you’ll find an infographic on where these bets went, as well as links to the Forbes feature story, the full list of biggest bets, our methodology in selecting the most promising, the advisors who voted, and several blog posts highlighting specific donor stories.

Philanthropy's Big Bets for Social Change in 2016
Philanthropic big bets aimed at solving some of the world's most intractable problems totaled $6.7 billion—a 15 percent increase over 2015. The investments on this year's list range from $25 million to $600 million and fund diverse, important work, from adoption services for youth in foster care to protecting millions of people from disease. Learn who funded what on >>

The 10 Most Promising Big Bets for 2015

Ten outside experts ranked our list of big bets based on six criteria: ambition, clarity of desired results, whether the bet offers a clear role for philanthropy to “move the needle,” whether the strategies are logical and realistic, the extent to which learning and improvement are built into the grant, and the strength of the relationship between the donor and the recipient organization. The maximum possible score was 18.

10 Most Promising List

The Full List

The 58 biggest bets for social change from 2015.

(Click the image below to download a PDF of the full list.)


Where the Big Bets Went

The 58 biggest philanthropic bets for social change spanned the globe.


Big Bet Philanthropy: How More Givers Are Spending Big And Taking Risks To Solve Society's Problems
By Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes

California philanthropists David and Dana Dornsife bet big to supply clean water and sanitation to rural Africans. Since 2010, the Dornsife’s have committed a total of $75 million to World Vision to get clean water and sanitation and teach hygiene to millions of people in Africa. Their remarkable goal: to ensure every rural African in the 25 countries where World Vision works has access to clean water by 2030. This would be a huge achievement.

In 2015, The Bridgespan Group noted 58 philanthropic gifts of $25 million or more centered on solving large-scale social problems such as the one the Dornsife’s are tackling. But does investing in a moonshot provide a higher social return on investment than spreading the wealth across multiple projects? To answer this, The Bridgespan Group and Forbes looked at 30 of the biggest bets aimed at social change in 2015. Using a methodology based on ambition, clarity, and potential, and enlisting a group of outside advisors, we arrived at 10 of the most promising big bets to watch. Indeed, our research leads us to believe that big bets can lead to big social change.

Read the full article, learn about our methodology, and see a list of our advisers on


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