February 21, 2019

Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change

This collection of articles appears in a supplement to the Spring 2019 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review. It explores how big-bet philanthropy is changing the ways that social entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, donors, and advisors are working to have an impact on major social challenges. To download a free PDF of the full supplement, click here. 


IntroductionIntroduction to Unleashing Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change
By William Foster

This supplement brings together the latest thinking about how big-bet philanthropy is changing the ways that the nonprofit sector is working to address major social problems.


Becoming Big BettableBecoming Big Bettable
By William Foster, Gail Perreault & Bradley Seeman

Social change leaders can create more investment opportunities that can transform the world by following these guidelines.


Reimagining Institutional PhilanthropyReimagining Institutional Philanthropy
By Alison Powell, Willa Seldon & Nidhi Sahni

Historic growth in wealth globally and the rise of new philanthropists threaten the relevance of institutional philanthropy—while creating new opportunities for impact and influence.



David CallahanBig Bets Are Important. But So Is a Big Heart
By David Callahan
The founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy argues in favor of giving that addresses humanity’s most urgent needs.


Andrew YounBig Gift, Big Impact
By Andrew Youn & Matthew Forti
The cofounder and executive director of One Acre Fund and the managing director of One Acre Fund USA write about the role a big bet played in helping their organization expand its impact.

Kathy CalvinRenewing Common Purpose and Collective Action
By Kathy Calvin
The president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation reflects on the power of philanthropic collaboration.


Dan CardinaliEmpowering Nonprofits
By Dan Cardinali
The president and CEO of Independent Sector elaborates on how big bets can help redistribute wealth and rebalance the power dynamic between donors and nonprofits.


Cheryl DorseyHacking the Bias in Big Bets
By Cheryl Dorsey
The president of Echoing Green explains how to get more big bets to organizations led by people of color.


Barbara PicowerDoing More With Big Bets
By Barbara Picower
The president and chair of the board of directors of the JPB Foundation describes what the organization learned from a “hub and network” approach to big-bet philanthropy.


Rebecca Richards-KortumLearning From Competition
By Rebecca Richards-Kortum
The director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health explains how participating in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition helped transform her organization.


Nancy RoobFrom Promising Model to Major Investment
By Nancy Roob & Mark Edwards
The head of Blue Meridian Partners and the cofounder of Upstream USA discuss their partnership in using a big bet to transform women’s healthcare nationwide.


Jim SheltonInvesting in Population-Level Change
By Jim Shelton
Five insights about social mobility and the role of big bet philanthropy.



Searchable/Sortable Database of U.S. Donors’ 2015-2020 Gifts of $25 Million or More That Targeted Social Change
By The Bridgespan Group

Among the big donors were the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Profiles of Big Bets
By The Bridgespan Group

These five examples of large investments demonstrate the enormous impact they can have on the world’s most pressing problems.